Best sat nav: the ultimate GPS units on the market right now

Techno


The best sat nav of 2018 isn’t necessarily your phone. We know that’s a bold statement, but look no further than this page for some of the best sat navs on the market, GPS gadgets for your car that will ensure you won’t get lost the next time you’re in an unfamiliar place.

Few things are more frustrating than becoming hopelessly lost, especially when you’re on your way to do something fun, or have an important appointment to get to. The stress of driving around aimlessly just isn’t worth it for most drivers.

Smartphones may have supplanted sat navs for many people, but phones don’t have the same robust navigation capabilities as a dedicated GPS device. Plus, running navigation drains your phone’s battery to unusable levels.

Welcome to TechRadar’s guide to the best sat nav systems on the market right now, a list we’ve compiled to help drivers who are prone to getting off course, as well as those who want to make sure it never happens to them.

We tested each of these devices, putting every GPS on this list through the paces to ensure it’s worth of inclusion and didn’t just end up here by accident.

We’ve done our best to highlight sat nav devices that straddle a number of price points and offer a bundle of features that will make you want to get in your car right now and just drive (with a planned route, of course). 

To be honest, we’d be lost without the following best sat nav recommendations.

Garmin Drive 51 LMT-S review

An easy to use and compact alternative to using your smartphone.

Screen size: 5- or 6-inch display | Maps: Lifetime maps Lifetime TomTom traffic | Size: 5.5 x 3.3 x 8 inches | Battery life: Up to 1 hour

Compact size

Intuitive navigation

Outdated interface

Doesn’t always take the best route

If you want a relatively sophisticated GPS system to help get you from Point A to Point B, then the Garmin Drive 51 LMT-S is, in our view, one of the best GPS on the market. 

It’s easy to use with big buttons and compact, fitting nicely on your windshield. 

Search is generally good, and you’ll nicely get direction commands like, “turn left at the light,” instead of a specific street name, which you might not know if you’re in an unfamiliar place. 

Our biggest qualms are with the outdated interface and voice, which sounds like an old-school Siri, circa 2011. Other than that, this is a worthy little sat nav that, while not necessarily better than your phone, has some nice perks of its own.

TomTom Via 53

TomTom’s mid-range sat nav offers a host of features to tempt smartphone users.

Screen size: 5-inch display | Maps: Lifetime maps Lifetime TomTom traffic | Updates: Updates via Wi-Fi Smartphone messages | Extras: Hands-free calling | Storage: 16GB internal memory

Easy to use

Excellent mapping

Live traffic updates

Only around an hour of battery life

Slow to boot up

Chunky design

TomTom’s Via 53 very much sits in the mid-range category of sat navs. It offers connectivity options via a Bluetooth smartphone connection.

Through this connection, you get live traffic updates, can take advantage of hands-free calls and your text messages can also be read out by the device.

When it comes to mapping, the TomTom Via 53 is very good – the 5-inch touchscreen that requires light gestures, while voice control is warrantedEverything is clear and precise. 

The design is a bit too chunky, however, and the one-hour battery life is a touch disappointing. Those niggles aside and what you have is a well-specced and connected sat nav that comes at a decent price.

Garmin DriveSmart 61

Premium GPS experience that will make you think twice about just using your smartphone.

Display: 6.95-inch edge to edge | Maps: Lifetime Maps & Live Traffic | Connectivity: Built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth calling | Extras: Navigate from your Garmin watch

Fantastic build quality

Great touchscreen controls

Expensive

Battery could be better

With the Garmin DriveSmart 61 has created a premium-looking sat nav that’s packed with features you’ll want to use. Its screen is responsive, the information it offers clear and concise. 

Yes, it’s expensive but it’s one of the best GPS systems available to get you from A to B.

Garmin Drive Assist 51

A great phone-free sat nav for those who don’t want things too complicated

Maps: LIFETIME MAPS & HD DIGITAL TRAFFIC: | Size: 11.1W x 6.3H cm; 12.7 cm: | Display type: WQVGA colour TFT with white backlight: | Storage: Dash Cam memory card: min 4 GB data card included:

Clear, responsive display

Accurate visual and voice directions

Pricey

Battery life only around 30 minutes

The Garmin Drive Assist 51 is a fine, premium alternative to getting maps on your phone. If you want a dedicated sat nav that doesn’t rely on a handset then the Drive Assist 51 is an excellent choice. 

It’s wide feature set, ease of use and simple docking means it’s a great for those less tech savvy. 

It also has a built-in camera for on-dash video recording and for tracking things like lane placement and how close you are to the car in front of you. 

The Garmin Drive Assist 51 is laser focused on the navigation experience though, and it’s one that excels when you’re behind the wheel. It’s hard to say if it’s better than your smartphone, they’re very close, but it’s certainly no worse.

TomTom Go 5200

The TomTom Go 5200 is a league above most other sat navs, but the price tag is in another world too

Battery lifetime: Up to 1 hour | Vehicle mount: Active magnetic mount | Storage: 16GB | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, built-in SIM

Sophisticated phone integration

Intuitive to use

Screen feels delicate

Voice controls leaves you wanting

The TomTom Go 5200 has a 5-inch touchscreen that sits neatly within a sleek plastic chassis. It feels solid in the hand, and the magnetic connection gives a reassuring click into a robust connection with the stand.

It’s a wonderful top-of-the-range sat nav that is a pleasure to use, with a bevy of additional features for the frequent driver. If you’re looking for a world-class driving aide, this is the one for you.

TomTom Go 520

The TomTom Go 520 is a super-smart sat nav that will have you navigating in style.

Battery lifetime: Up to 1 hour | Vehicle mount: Active magnetic mount | Storage: 16GB | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, needs a phone for real-time traffic updates

Voice control

Fantastic maps

Battery life is poor

Needs a phone for all the features

The TomTom Go 520 is a smart well built sat nav that’s simple to use. It comes with voice functionality – both integration of Siri and Google Now and its own voice system – and some of the best maps around.

It does lack connectivity while on the go which will be an issue for some. You can get around this with a simple hook-up to a smartphone, though. 

Battery life is a problem. Up to an hour is quoted but we never really got past the 45-minute mark. In a real-case scenario, though, most will use the supplied charger, given that a sat nav is usually used on longer journeys.

If you are looking for the premium smarts of the TomTom Go 5200 at a smaller price, then this is for you.



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