Published on March 16th, 2009 | by Mike


Best portable GPS systems and units

When traveling a lot, a GPS unit is a must have. That if you don’t want to get lost, of course. And the best GPS units are the portable ones, the ones that come with a battery and can be easily carried around with you, if needed.

Nowadays, these portable GPS units can also be used in vehicles, have big screen and tons of functions and options. That if we’re talking about dedicated portable devices, cause there are also handheld gadgets with GPS receivers inside (all the modern PDA’s and smart phones can be included in here).

But today, we’re only going to speak about the options you have when trying to buy a portable dedicated GPS unit. Below are some of the best models on the market. But first, let’s see what are the things to look for in a GPS device:

  1. Screen size and screen quality: since we’re looking for a portable thing, choosing a device with a screen bigger than 4.3″ in diagonal will be a problem. The bigger concern is the quality of the touch-screen, as you want something precise and responsive, but also something that will last over time.
  2. user interface: being able to make your GPS work is a must. So, the easier and lighter the interface is, the better for the GPS user
  3. functions and accessories: hands-free function, Bluetooth connectivity, text to speech, traffic congestion support, etc – all these might come in handy on a portable GPS, so we’re taking a close eye on them too
  4. price: yeah, we’re looking for the best option we can get for the least amount of money. And that will not be easy.

So, these being said, let’s see our 5 picks in the Best portable GPS units top:

Garmin StreetPilot c330 – great price/performance report

The pros: The StreetPilot C330 has almost all the features you will need. It comes with a high quality 3,5″ screen and a high quality GPS receiver , preloaded maps of the US, Canada and Puerto Rico with millions of interest points: gas stations, restaurant, ATMs, hotels, etc and text to speech navigation feature. It has all the accessories needed for vehicle usage and the best part, has a battery that will ensure a 8 hours juice free life. And that’s more than most of the models on the market.

Garmin C330

The cons: The Streetpilot C330 for Garmin is a little bulky and heavy, measuring 4.4 x 3.2 x 2.8 inches and weighting a little over half a pound. This makes it less portable then other models, but if you can get past this inconvenient, the C330 is a very good option.

Price: This one retails for around $500 , but you can find it on Amazon discounted, the brand new version. Also, there are factory refurbished versions for as low as $74.99 .

Magellan RoadMate 1212 – very cheap and ultra portable

The pros: The Magellan RoadMate 1212 is small. As small and slim as a 3,5″ GPS units can be. That, combined with the 4 hour battery life, makes it the most portable GPS device from the 5 presented here. The screen is bright and clear, can be easily used in direct sun light and the navigation is precise.

Has some interesting functions, like QuickSpell (helps you search things faster, giving you good results even when miss-pelling) and SmartDetour (traffic congestion control). Oh, and it’s very cheap, as you can find it for less than $130 on most stores these days. Amazon has the best price though, as you can see below.

Magellan RoadMate 1212

The cons: The interface is good but a little odd, so it might take a little time to get familiar with it, especially if you had a different brand of GPS units before. It doesn’t come with a wall charger (only car charger) and the maps preloaded are from 2008. But you can update them easily.

Price: While it retails for $300 , you can find this one on Amazon for about $150. And it’s brand new and in stock, so can be yours in just a couple of days.

Sony NVU73T – great screen and navigation options and affordable

The pros: First of all, it’s a Sony. So it’s great looking and well built. Then, it comes with a very good screen: it has 4.3″ , 480 x 272 px resolution and Anti-glare/Anti-fingerprint features. Has maps of US, Canada, and Puerto Rico pre-installed and uses a memory stick, but only a Sony proprietary: Memory Stick Pro Duo. And of course, it has a very good price: just $99.

Sony NVU73T

The cons: This one has quite a poor battery life, just around 2 hours. But the biggest problem is that sometimes it can be very slow when searching addresses, especially in highly crowded cities. Oh, and sometimes it make take a couple of tries to find them. If you live in a smaller town though, you won’t have such problems.

Price: It usually sells for $350.

TomTom ONE 125 – just a Tom Tom: very good and inexpensive

The pros: This TomTom One 125 has a little bit of everything.  It has a good 3.5″ screen, it’s very accurate, comes preloaded with US maps (and has an auto-update function, free of charge). It has a very easy to use interface and comes ready to use from the box. It also has lots of accessories available for it, although some are sold separately, like the traffic update receiver. And it’s compact and affordable: just below $100.

TomTom GPS unit

The cons: As for the bad parts, there aren’t any major ones, but we can list the following: has no Bluetooth connectivity, no SD card slot and no text-to-speech function.

Price: The list price for this model is $175 , but you can get it for a little below $100 in some stores.  A very good price for an all-round good GPS unit.

Garmin nüvi 760 – all the things you’ll ever need

The pros: This Garmin is the best sold portable GPS unit in the US. And for good reason, as it has almost all the things you will ever need from a GPS, plus more. So besides the good screen, accurate navigation with multiple helpful features and good battery life (5 hours), the Garmin nuvi 760 comes with Bluetooth connectivity, memory card slot, FM transmitter and one of the best user interfaces on the market. It is after all a high end GPS unit, and one of the best on the market, if not the best. So, if you have the money, we’ll recommend you’ll go for one of this.

Garmin nuvi 760

The cons: The only bad part is the price: above $200.  But it’s a very fair price for what you get.

Price: This model has a 4.2 out of 5 rating on Amazon (from ~900 reviews) , where you can get it for $230 (that’s $370 off the list price of $600). And this speaks a lot of its quality.

And that’s about all for today. We’re sure there are other good GPS units available on the market, but these ones are our best 5. You can see they don’t come in the given order and try to satisfy all the potential clients: we have a high class unit, a couple of medium ones with very good prices, an ultra-portable one etc.


Also, you should know that a lot can change in this domain from month to month. So, the above portable GPS systems might not be the best anymore, that’s why i advice you to follow this link, where you’ll find the most popular GPS devices in the US, in a top updated hourly and where all the devices come with very good prices and discounts.


So, hopefully, you’ve enjoyed our guide here and found it helpful. If you have any questions about these portable GPS units, or others, just post a comment via the form below.

About the Author

Hey guys, I'm Mike, the guy behind this website, a tech geek always looking for the latest pieces of tech to gets his hands on. Here on Mike's Quarter I mainly publish guides and reviews, but I tend to put most of my efforts in my other project: . You can also follow me on Twitter for the latest updates.

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