route recalculations. Additionally, it put us at our destination within a matter of a few feet (rather than a few hundred feet, as with other devices). Because it’s integrated onto our phone, Verizon’s GPS service meant we could simply sync it with our Bluetooth-enabled auto (a 2007 Nissan Sentra) for hands-free phoning. You can also use the service to text your location to family members or travel buddies.
Price: $9.99/month or $2.99/day, phone prices and additional charges vary; www.verizonwireless.com
Key features: Clear, audible directions; great maps
Road block: Small phone screen
Using a software-hardware combination, Microsoft’s Streets and Trips 2008 with Connected Services application and its Streets and Trips 2008 GPS locator offer a host of features you’ll also find in high-end GPS devices, such as voice directions, automatic re-routing, multiple-destination plans, and points of interest (POI).
You can further customize your trip by building in rest times and sight seeing, which makes this the perfect device for family trips. Though we loved the price point and the tiny but powerful GPS receiver, the main drawback is, of course, the fact that you need your laptop (our test unit was a Dell Latitude). We also found that we frequently needed the help of a co-pilot (or an equally capable back-seat driver) to help navigate. This is fine if you can’t afford the investment of a GPS device, although at this price point, you’re pretty close to a decent entry-level one.
Of course, you are locked into a laptop running a Microsoft OS. To compensate, Microsoft has included some pretty neat features, such as a free one-year subscription to MSN Direct, local gas price updates, and a perspective map that gives you a “windshield view” from the laptop. To be frank, although Streets and Trips is a neat device and service for the family set, we prefer a phone-based GPS like Verizon’s. It’s practical and just makes sense.
Still, if you don’t want to make a heavy investment in GPS and want to get going quickly, Microsoft provides a good option. Key feature: Free one-year subscription to MSN Direct traffic and gas updates
Road block: Requires laptop to use
If you’re baffled by GPS technology or unsure about which one is best for you, here is a quick primer.
What is GPS?
GPS is short for global positioning system (also called GPD, global positioning device). Without going into complicated details, GPS, originally developed by the U.S. military, works by using a system of satellites orbiting the Earth to aid in navigation, mapping, and “geotagging,” for example. The device you purchase is a receiver, which picks up information from orbiting satellites in its “view” to help guide you as you drive.
How do I use it?
Most GPS devices are relatively easy to use. Out-of-box solutions such as Navigon’s let you simply plan and go. Most have a “find me” feature that lets the device find your current location; you can then create a