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A Look at the Best GPS Systems of 2011

written by: M. J. Abernathy•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 9/29/2011

3D maps, Bluetooth calling, travel apps and hands-free voice commands are just a few of the features found in the latest GPS units for car and auto navigation. From Magellan to TomTom to Garmin Nuvi, we'll look at this year's top picks. Browse our gallery to explore the best GPS units for 2011.

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    Garmin Nuvi 3790LMT

    Garmin Nuvi 3790LMT 

    Garmin LMT models offer the most for your money when it comes to long-term use. LMT stands for lifetime maps and traffic, indicating that the unit includes unlimited real-time alerts and free map updates (released up to four times a year). All Nuvi models manufactured by Garmin offer a number of standard features. One of the most popular is ecoRoute, a tool to monitor fuel usage and suggest gas-saving routes.

    The 3790LMT also includes the following unique features:

    • Thin design (9mm thick) with a 4.3" touch display for horizontal or vertical use
    • Lane Assist with Junction View to ensure you are in the right lane at the right time
    • nüRoute Technology with trafficTrends to "learn" traffic patterns over time to more accurately determine arrival time
    • nüRoute Technology with myTrends that recognizes travel to destination favorites without user input
    • Bluetooth Technology for hands-free calling
    • Speech Recognition with customizable voice commands
    • 3D building and terrain view

    Garmin's suggested retail for the Nuvi 3790LMT is $399.99, with many retailers offering the unit for less.

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    Garmin Nuvi 3760LMT

    Garmin Nuvi 3760LMT 

    The Garmin Nuvi 3760LMT also offers lifetime maps and traffic. Overall, it is very similar in function and design to the Nuvi 3790. With a slightly lower price tag, it is missing only a few of the bells and whistles of its more advanced counterpart. Unlike the Nuvi 3790, the Nuvi 3760 does not include 3D mapping or voice activation.

    Features of the Nuvi 3760LMT include:

    • Thin design (9mm thick) with a 4.3" touch display for horizontal or vertical use
    • Lane Assist with Junction View to ensure you are in the right lane at the right time
    • nüRoute Technology with trafficTrends to "learn" traffic patterns over time to more accurately determine arrival time
    • nüRoute Technology with myTrends that recognizes travel to destination favorites without user input
    • Bluetooth Technology for hands-free calling

    Suggested retail is $369.99.

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    TomTom GO LIVE 1535M

    TomTom GO LIVE 1535M 

    The TomTom GO LIVE 1535M, scheduled for release in October 2011, is one of the first GPS units to offer a suite of well-known travel apps with connectivity through AT&T.

    The 5" touchscreen GPS unit includes one year of TomTom's GO LIVE service. Annual renewal is available for $59.95 for U.S. residents. Apps available with TomTom LIVE services include:

    • Twitter: Post estimated arrival times and destination check-ins
    • Yelp: View online reviews of restaurants, stores and service-providers
    • TripAdvisor: Locate reviews and information about hotels, restaurants and other destinations
    • Expedia: Search hotel details and availability
    • Google Local Search: Find online content and locations
    • Fuel Prices: Search for the best gas prices

    Standard GPS features include:

    • IQ Route determines more accurate arrival times based on traffic and actual speeds traveled
    • TomTom HD Traffic Service
    • Bluetooth hands-free Calling
    • Voice recognition and one-step address input
    • Advanced Lane Guidance depicting difficult junctions
    • Preloaded with 7 Million Points of Interest

    The unit is priced at $249.95.

  • slide 4 of 11

    Garmin Nuvi 3490LMT

    Garmin Nuvi 3490LMT 

    The 3490LMT is Garmin's latest release for its 2011 line of automotive GPS systems, currently available for pre-order. The model includes the company's upgraded Garmin 3.0 software for even faster searching and navigation. Another added bonus is Digital 3D Traffic, a free lifetime service offering live traffic updates via the HD Radio broadcasting system. In addition to hands-free calling, the ability to text from the unit is unique to the 3490LMT.

    Added features of the Garmin Nuvi 3760LMT include:

    • Slim design with a thickness of 9mm and a 4.3" touchscreen, including a pinch to zoom feature
    • Lifetime maps and digital 3D traffic updates
    • Speech recognition for hands-free, voice-activated navigation
    • Hands-free calling and texting
    • Faster route calculations and address searches with Garmin Guidance 3.0
    • Lane guidance with Bird's Eye and photoReal™ junction views
    • 3D landmarks and terrain views
    • Enhanced Exit Services
    • Powered dock allows unit charging while driving

    Garmin's suggested retail price is $399.99.

  • slide 5 of 11

    Garmin Nuvi 2595LMT

    Garmin Nuvi 2595LMT 

    The Garmin Nuvi 2595 was released in August 2011 with a 5" touchscreen and improved speech recognition. It includes lifetime maps and 3D traffic updates. Basic 3D traffic provides continuous traffic updates based on historical data and other current reports. Other features include:

    • 5" touchscreen for vertical or horizontal orientation
    • Speech recognition for voice-activated navigation
    • 3D traffic and map updates for the lifetime of the unit
    • Lane guidance with Garmin's photoReal™ junction view and enhanced Exit Services
    • Bluetooth technology for hands-free calling
    • Park position recall to help you locate your car
    • Preloaded locations with 8 million points of interest
    • Garmin Guidance 2.0 for faster address lookups and routing

    Upon release, the Nuvi 2595 was priced at $249.99.

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    TomTom GO 2535 TM WTE

    TomTom GO 2535 TM WTE 

    The GO 2535 TM World Traveler Edition boasts more mapped roads in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Europe than any other GPS manufacturer. It includes lifetime traffic and map updates for the United States, Canada and Mexico (up to four times per year). With a slim design and 5" touchscreen, it offers a magnetic mount for more secure placement in your vehicle.

    Subscriptions to LIVE Services include local search, gas prices and weather. Special functions include hands-free calling with Bluetooth and TomTom's unique IQ Route technology.

    Features include:

    • IQ Route determines more accurate arrival times based on traffic and actual speeds traveled
    • TomTom HD Traffic Service
    • Bluetooth hands-free Calling
    • Voice recognition and one-step address input
    • Advanced Lane Guidance depicting difficult junctions
    • Preloaded locations with 7 Million Points of Interest

    TomTom's suggested retail is $349.95, but units are available from retailers in the mid $200s.

  • slide 7 of 11

    Magellan RoadMate 5175T-LM

    Magellan RoadMate 5175T-LM 

    The Magellan RoadMate 5175T-LM includes unlimited lifetime maps and traffic updates. The Wi-Fi browser is unique to the Magellan 5175T among those in our list, allowing users to connect to nearby hotspots. Magellan also offers exclusive access to AAA TourBook® destination reviews and information. A 5" touchscreen is part of the Magellan's sleek user interface and design.

    Features include:

    • 5" touchscreen allowing vertical or horizontal viewing
    • Lifetime maps/traffic updates
    • Wi-Fi connectivity allowing users to search for destinations and automatically update software
    • Pre-loaded maps of the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico
    • 6 million searchable Points of Interest (POI), including searchable highway exit POIs
    • Exclusive TourDirector, a guide that helps you explore attractions and travel activities
    • Built-in AAA TourBook® that include descriptions and Diamond ratings from AAA-approved locations

    Suggested retail is $299.99.

  • slide 8 of 11

    Garmin Nuvi 2460LMT

    Garmin Nuvi 2460LMT 

    Released in early 2011, the 2460LMT also offers the wider 5" display. In addition to lifetime maps and traffic, it also includes voice activation capabilities. With an appealing price tag for users seeking a GPS that fits within a more moderate budget, the unit includes all of the most practical features without a few of the more advanced functions:

    • Lane Assist with Junction View guarantees that you are always in the correct lane
    • nüRoute Technology with trafficTrends discovers traffic patterns over time for improved accuracy and efficiency
    • nüRoute Technology with myTrends recognizes travel patterns for predictive routing
    • Speech Recognition with customizable voice commands
    • Bluetooth Technology for hands-free calling

    Suggested retail for the Garmin Nuvi 2460LMT is $299.99, with many units priced much lower.

  • slide 9 of 11

    TomTom GO 2535M LIVE

    TomTom GO 2535M LIVE 

    The TomTom GO 2535M LIVE was released in early 2011. It includes one year of LIVE services connecting you to HD Traffic, real-time gas prices, weather and local search. The 5" touchscreen GPS unit includes maps for the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

    Updates for additional GO LIVE services, including apps like those of the 1535M (Twitter, Yelp, TripAdvisor and Expedia), are to be available for download with Fall 2011 software updates. The following features are included with the initial release:

    • TomTom’s LIVE Services, including HD Traffic that provides more accurate routes with traffic updated every 2 minutes
    • Advanced Lane Guidance depicting difficult junctions
    • Preloaded locations with 7 Million Points of Interest

    TomTom prices the GPS unit at $299.95.

  • slide 10 of 11

    Garmin Nuvi 1490LMT

    Garmin Nuvi 1490LMT 

    The Garmin Nuvi 1490LMT is the most affordable Nuvi model in our line-up that still includes a wider 5" screen with lifetime maps and traffic. In addition to standard Nuvi tools like ecoRoute, world clocks, converters and calculators, its extra features include:

    • Lane Assist with Junction View guarantees that you are always in the correct lane
    • Preloaded City Navigator street maps that include 2D or 3D maps, speed limits for most major roads, and nearly 6 million points of interest (POIs)

    Suggested retail is $259.99, with GPS units in Fall 2011 selling on Amazon.com for $139.99.

  • slide 11 of 11

    Garmin Nuvi 1350LMT

    Garmin Nuvi 1350LMT 

    The Garmin Nuvi 1350LMT includes lifetime map and traffic updates. It offers a 4.3" touchscreen that includes all of the same basic Nuvi functions like ecoRoute.

    For those who are seeking the basics together with maps and traffic in a more affordable Nuvi unit, the 1350LMT is a straightforward and recommended choice. Standard features include:

    • Lane Assist with Junction View
    • Preloaded City Navigator street maps that include 2D or 3D maps, most speed limits, and nearly 6 million points of interest (POIs)

    Suggested retail is $209.00, with many available on the market for less.

References

  • Pricing and product specs as represented by the respective manufacturers.