Best Car GPS in India – Hunt is ON!

by · September 24, 2012

Car GPS

Long gone are the days of asking the nearest bystander or corner shop owner for directions, new ageGPS devices for Cars have changed the way Indians take to the roads. While there is a significant drop in “interesting” conversations one had at such journey pit stops, the new age Indian driver lets his GPS device decide the best route to destination and provide critical info on fuel stations, ATMs and emergency services. Coupled with turn-by-turn voice navigation offered in multiple languages including popular Indian ones, these devices represent a rising breed of electronic devices aimed at enhancing the overall driving experience.

I have been a witness to the changes happening over the last couple of years – launch of newer models, claims of maximum road coverage and entry of international biggies with pocket-friendly devices. We, as automobile enthusiasts, couldn’t love this ride more. From a “may-have” product category to a much popular segment, Car GPS devices have come a long way. Two things, according to me have revolutionized the Car GPS segment – availability of latest models by Indian and International brands at extremely affordable prices and secondly, the combination of “value-added” features like hands-free calling, music players, image gallery and others which result in a hard-to-be-missed toy which has turned out to be a near-necessity in all modern cars on Indian roads

Well, there is a downside of these positive changes too – we are now left with a plethora of options to choose from and with so many similar features, it’s time to end this War of GPS!

First, let’s look at the key features required in a great value-for-money Car GPS device:

1. Quality and Coverage of Maps/ Software –

Let’s look at the softer but critical factors. A good navigator device should offer maximum coverage of Indian cities and Points of interest (POI) and should be powered by a latest operating system to deliver the value. Currently, most GPS devices claim coverage of over 500+ Indian cities/ routes and POIs and the standard op systems are Windows CE versions 5.0 to 6.0 (latest). While most people generally don’t head off-road everyday but having decent coverage helps when you plan vacations to non-touristy locations.

A benchmark device should at least over this much coverage and critical info like nearest ATMs, Emergency services location, Gas stations etc

2. Under-the-hood features – This is the core of a device. Like with most tech products, following points are important:

CPU frequency – required for speedy Satellite-to-GPS fix time (the higher the frequency in Mhz is better)

FLASH/RAM – Most budget tablets come with 1GB flash/ 64 MB RAM and that’s the expected benchmark. This is important for quick loading of applications and while multi-tasking between navigation and other features. Premium ones come loaded with 128 MB RAM and upto 2GB flash memory.

Battery – Since most of us prefer our Personal GPS devices to be specialists in the directional domain, having a good battery back-up is as important as having turn-by-turn navigation! 800mAh – 1100mAh battery is the industry norm across devices with the higher value of mAh considered better. With general use, 800mah-950mAh battery can give you up to 2.5 hours of backup while the backup in an 1100mAh (or above) battery would be about an hour or more extra. (Note: All devices are accompanied by in-car chargers so use of back-up is mostly out-of-car or when you forget the charger!)

Display – Two things matter here – the screen size and the pixel resolution. Most budget devices offer 4 inches of screen while the premium ones generally come with a 5 inch screen size.

Resolution aspect ratio standard is at least 320 X 240 pixels while some newer models offer up to 480 X 272 pixels in budget range and premium ones offer more.

All devices are built for touch-screen options and jargons like TFT/LCD screen, VGA/ QWVGA alter the visibility/ viewing angles add to your overall comfort while these can be discounted when looking for budget option

3. Build Quality

Weight of the device is not a major concern since most of the GPS devices available in Indian market range from about 140 grams to 200 grams. Having a lighter device does help when you don’t have a co-navigator in the front seat and you like to carry your device along with you for value-add features or security reasons!

4. Value Add

Well we all love value for our money so extra features and freebies add to the overall buying process. Most modern devices let you enjoy some music/video playback, E-book reading option, in-built games. Packing these features along with add-ons like “locate device/ help when lost”, favorite locations etc give you long-term satisfaction.

Now having understood some key features, it was time for serious reality check. I evaluated most of the available options (the list is never ending), especially the ones easily available in the retail market and following represent the podium finish as per my understanding. (Disclaimer – Use the parameters and your usage criteria to arrive at the desired option!)

For anybody looking to start with a shoestring budget (less than INR 8,000), MapmyIndia Roadpilot(priced around INR 7990) packs in most necessary features and scores well on the above parameters. Powered by latest 6.0 operating system, faster CPU and extremely light weight, the device offers coverage in over 4000 Indian cities and 6.3 million unique destinations.

While it’s relatively poor aspect ratio (320 X 240) as compared to that offered by Satguide Navi andPrimo GPS does leave a bitter after-taste, the device is ideal for first time users and offers great value for money.

Moving on, the best device under INR 10,000 represents a close fight between Garmin 50LM andTomTom Via100. Both international companies have done their India research extremely well and this shows in the amazing map coverage and voice guidance in multiple Indian languages and that too in the much-loved voice of Shammi Narang (The Delhi Metro voice). If you need to choose, close your eyes and pick one!

Last but definitely not the least; the Indian customer is spoilt for choices between INR 10K to 20K with premium models from all companies vying for consumer mind space.

Rating purely in terms of the criteria given above and other specs, MapmyIndia Vx240 and Garmin 2565LM take the pie with host of innovative features, latest operating systems and exceptional under-the-hood features. Build quality of both brands is long-lasting and making a choice is tough. One aspect where there is considerable difference is the battery back-up where MMI scores with about 4 hours of backup (as compared to about 3 hours for Garmin).

Want to see them all together ? GO check out the latest range of personal Car GPS devices for yourselfhere

[ This post is reproduced from Carkhana Blog, written by Mr. Harneet Singh, CEO and Co-Founder at Carkhana.com]

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