Types of GPS Units

Types of GPS UnitsWhether you are traveling to an unknown destination in your car or hiking in the backcountry, it is always useful to have a device that tells you where you are. Compasses may tell you where North is, but Global Position System devices do much more--they pinpoint your exact location using satellites in Earth's orbit. Since the GPS system was made available to the public, many devices utilizing it have been produced. Depending on your intended use, you can find GPS units that are light and fit in your pocket or larger devices that have full screens.

Portable Systems

Portable mapping systems are a compromise between large, expensive car dash systems and small handheld devices with small screens. Like a large PDA, the dedicated portable GPS come in basic versions that don't do anything but navigate and more advanced systems that can show traffic and connect to other devices via Bluetooth.

Car In-Dash Systems

In-dash systems are integrated into the car's dashboard, have larger screens, and are not portable. Some in-dash systems come with the car when purchased from the manufacturer and others are after-market systems that are generally packaged as a part of an advanced stereo system. All of these systems are capable of turn-by-turn navigation.

Cell-Phone and PDA GPS

Smartphones and PDAs with incorporated GPS receivers use mapping software just like other portable GPS devices. The only real difference is the smaller screen size and because they are not dedicated GPS devices, they can be less intuitive to use. Currently, the Apple iPhone is the only smartphone capable of turn-by-turn navigation.

Handheld Hiking/Outdoors Devices

Handheld GPS devices are used primarily by outdoor enthusiasts on the trail. They include a compass and often an altimeter. Many allow you to input a trail and program your route. The map on these devices is not very detailed but can help you locate the nearest roadway if needed. One important feature of these devices is the safety they provide. If you get lost, you can use the device to share your exact coordinates with rescuers.

Article Written By Jason Gordon

Jason Gordon is a professional writer and editor. In addition to online work, he has written for "Texas Highways," "AAA Southwest," "Glimpse," the "University of Washington Daily" and the "Dallas Morning News." Gordon's passions include animals, reading and finding the perfect pairings of pastry and espresso.

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