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Chapter 4. The Ultimate High-Tech Car Owner > IN-DASH AUDIO SYSTEMS - Pg. 97

The Ultimate High-Tech Car Owner 97 Most automotive GPS systems come with either windshield or dashboard mounts and are typically battery powered, although some can also tap into your car's DC power. Most car GPS devices come specially configured for road travel, with a variety of points of interest--gas stations, restaurants, hotels, ATMs, and so on--preprogrammed into memory. You also get built-in road maps, of course, as well as those turn-by-turn driving instructions. When shopping, compare the many different kinds of displays offered by various devices. You typ- ically have your choice of traditional overhead-view road maps or text instructions; some devices even provide a 3D view of the road as you drive it. The bigger the display, the better. The other big difference between devices is whether the maps and points of interest are preloaded onto the device's hard drive or have to be downloaded from your computer (typically via media cards) as you need them. The advantage of preloading is convenience, of course; the advantage of load- as-you-go systems is that you can download updated maps as they become available. In any case, make sure you get adequate map coverage for whatever regions you frequently travel. You should also do a basic specs comparison. First, determine how many satellites a unit uses for navigation (sometimes described as the number of channels ); most utilize 12 satellites, but others use more for higher accuracy. Second, examine the base maps that come with the unit; make sure your home area is fully covered. Third, see how many routes the unit can store in memory; the more, the merrier. Fourth, find out how many waypoints the device can store. (A waypoint is a place or attraction along a route--like a gas station or restaurant.) Fifth, look for the largest number of track points, which are locations you manually add to your route. Finally, examine the GPS-to-PC con- nection and the mapping software that comes with the unit. Other features to look for are portability, which lets you take the unit with you when you change cars or use it in a rental car when you travel; audible alerts when you near turns; and the ability to quickly recalculate your route if you make a detour or take a wrong turn. Also make sure you're comfortable