GPS Newbie


Apr 30, 2010
Where needed.
Used a GPS extensively for the first time while on vacation. The wife really liked it and wants to get one. Any opinions out there re: Garmin vs. TomTom vs. ????
In reviews, I read a lot about annoying ads that come up on Garmin devices as a "user fee" for free traffic updates. I know I would NOT like this either.
This would be a unit needed for highway use, not any trail bushwacking, so a 5" screen is what I'm looking for.


Site Administrator
Jul 31, 2004
Ben's Branch, Stephen Creek
Personally I prefer Garmin since they are also compatible with a large number of free topo maps and other mapping products. TomTom units can only load their own road maps, no topo maps. This might not be an issue for many people however.

Nothing is free, so the ads support the Garmin traffic. They are very inobtrusive and do not appear when your car is moving, only at stoplights. In our area, I rarely saw any of them. If they really bother you, you can purchase optional ad -ree traffic services from either Navteq or Clear Channel. All of this being said, I don't think the traffic feature is particularly worthwhile. I don't use it at all even though it was included with the GPS.

Both TomTom and Garmin use the same RDS-TMC system where traffic data piggybacks on regular broadcast FM channels. This is a REALLY slow data rate. REALLY slow. If anyone is old enough to remember 300 baud modems, then think in terms of maybe half that speed. The result is that the information only covers the area near the broadcasting station and it takes awhile for it to update. FM coverage is really poor in South Jersey. I don't know where you live, but you might rarely see any reception.

Both Garmin and TomTom have "connected devices" also that use the cellular data network to receive traffic and allow other features like Google search, weather, gas prices, etc. They will give you traffic info over a much larger area, and as long as you have cell coverage they work fine. You need a data plan for these but typically the first year is included. I think Garmin then charges $50/year. These are Garmin's current connected models. The 1690 is older and has a 4" screen but a good deal since it include a 2 year subscription:

The newer model is the 1695 which has a 5" screen and more features:

I used one for awhile and wrote it up here:

Regarding screen size - realize that the bigger screens are just "bigger". They don't show any more detail, they have the same number of pixels.