The Ultimate Guide to Sat Navs

CAC Admin |

Sat Navs, AKA Satellite Navigation devices, have completely revolutionised navigation by bringing military grade satellite positioning to the comfort of your car. The market share of these systems in the UK has enormously grown over the past few years and as a result, there are many different models on the market.

There are many good reasons behind the great success of Sat Nav devices. Over the years, these systems have evolved from giving a little concise map up to showing exactly where you are and providing the fastest routes to take when travelling to your chosen destination.

When going on an unfamiliar trip, Sat Navs can act as a thoroughly informed and truly reliable travel guide. They save you from the old, and often misleading technique of asking the locals for directions when visiting a place for the very first time.

How do Sat Navs work?

All modern Sat Nav systems currently use the American military Global Positioning System (GPS) known as Navistar. Since its launch in the early 1990s, civilian use of GPS has exploded. It's now used for everything from tracking family pets to guiding ships.

The Global Positioning System is powered by a network of 24 satellites that orbit the Earth, transmitting signals to receiver equipment on the ground. Each GPS satellite is equipped with a highly accurate clock, which continually broadcasts its time and location. A Sat Nav system in your car receives this data from the GPS satellite and compares it with its own time and location data, which helps the device to calculate its distance from the satellite.

This by itself is pretty useless for pinpointing your position, but a Sat Nav system receives signals from several satellites simultaneously, which is extremely helpful in triangulating its precise location. Sat Navs contain compasses and accelerometers, which allow them to combine the triangulated precise location of your car with mapping information. This enables a Sat Nav device to establish an accurate position of your car and display your route.

Benefits of using Sat Navs

Sat Nav system was first regarded as an accessory found only in luxury cars. However, portable Sat Nav devices have made this technology more affordable and easily accessible for everyone. If you still don't use a Sat Nav system in your car, then here are a few reasons why you might just consider investing in one of these intelligent little machines.

1. You can explore without getting lost

This is the most obvious benefit of this device as it gives you precise directions to reach your destination. Some devices also give you the option to choose the shortest route or the route that will take you through several scenic locations. In short, a Sat Nav system empowers you to make your travel more efficient and enjoyable.

2. It saves you money

A Sat Nav system not only allows you to find the shortest route possible, but also alerts you about traffic jams and ways to bypass them. You are able to also take advantage of access to live traffic information and detailed maps, which allows you to avoid trouble spots during your journey. By driving shorter distances and avoiding traffic jams and toll roads you can significantly cut your fuel bills and travel expenses.

3. You benefit from Sat Nav camera awareness

The location of fixed speed cameras are public knowledge, so Sat Nav devices can alert you when you're approaching a fixed speed camera, a handy reminder to slow down, and completely legal too. Although speeding is not something to be proud of and careful driving is always safer, sometimes this feature can be extremely helpful.

4. It fulfills your urgent needs

When travelling through unexplored areas, small issues may seem like big problems. For example, finding the nearest restaurant when you're hungry, or the location of the nearest petrol station when your car is running low on fuel can turn out to be a major problem on a journey. However, Sat Nav systems are of great help in such situations as they can tell you the exact location of your nearest restaurants, petrol stations, garages, and many other similar establishments.

5. It can save travel time

A Satellite Navigation device allows you to choose the shortest route, avoid traffic jams, and gives you instant access to the precise location of many useful establishments. With their clear screens and easy-to-follow voice instructions, these devices leave no room for any confusion. All these features of Sat Navs can help you save on time while travelling.

In addition to this, the latest Satellite Navigation devices can double-up as hands-free phones and MP3 music players. With these features, they can make your driving safer and travel more entertaining.

What's the difference between Sat Nav units?

The price of Sat Navs currently ranges from about £100 - £1000. While the basic functionality of all these devices is same, there are various factors that influence the price of a device. Proper understanding of these factors can help you in choosing the best satellite navigation device for your needs. Some of the features you'd expect to cost a little extra include:

  1. Larger screens
  2. Live traffic information and speed camera positions.
  3. Maps of Western European countries, in addition to that of the UK and Ireland.
  4. Built-in camera, Bluetooth, mobile phone compatibility.
  5. More advanced route-planning functionality.

Tips for choosing the best Sat Nav

Consumers sometimes wonder when initially purchasing a car whether they should go for factory fitted Sat Nav or buy it later. It's usually better to avoid the factory fitted system, as they can be quite expensive, often costing up to £1000, some of these factory fitted Sat Navs supply you with maps will go out-of-date in the future, meaning you will need to spend hundreds of pounds just for an upgrade.

Therefore, buying a portable Sat Nav is a much better option. You can get a decent portable Sat Nav for as low as £100 pounds. Also, you can use it in any car you like and even when you are out walking. Although these devices also require you to upgrade maps, the cost of these upgrades is usually relatively cheap.

So, what are the things that you should consider before buying Sat Nav?

Where are you travelling?

Firstly, you must consider what you are going to do with your device. Like most electronic gadgets, it's easy to end up buying a device that has more features than you really need. Therefore, if you plan to use your Sat Nav mainly in this country, go for a system with UK maps only. However, if you are planning a holiday in Spain or France, then buy one that includes European maps, but expect to pay a little more. You can also get Sat Navs with US and Canadian mapping, if you are likely to use it across the Atlantic.

Always remember that you can add other maps later to your device whenever you want. Maps are usually stored in memory cards, so it's just a case of buying another card that has more relevant maps for your purpose.

What do I need to find?

Aside from maps, there are other features also that you must consider. Much like TV sets, Sat Navs have also adopted wide-screen formats in recent years and these devices are easier to use. They are certainly much better at showing detailed navigation instructions at complicated junctions.

All Sat Navs have points of interest (POI), which allows you to look up for hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and other such places. Some of the devices offer more sophistication by allowing you to also view the phone numbers of such places. Some of these Sat Navs are like handy portable yellow pages, but again, if you only want to go from A to B, it's unlikely you'll need all this.

What connectivity do I need?

You can also wirelessly connect your Sat Nav to your mobile phone usually via Bluetooth. Some Sat Navs have an in-built FM radio transmitter, which can broadcast the audio prompts to your cars radio and some have the feature of storing mp3 tracks, which you can then listen on your car's audio system. There are Sat Nav devices that will meet some, or all of your needs. The best thing is to compare a few so you can get what you really want.

After you have decided what features you want in your Sat Nav, you should look at various Sat Nav devices and check their reviews. Like most things, when it comes to buying you will usually find the best prices for Sat Navs by shopping online.

Top-rated Sat Navs for cars

Below are the most popular Sat Nav systems, which all offer great value for money. The prices and features of these Sat Navs may vary, but if you know your requirements, you will find the ideal system that both satisfies your needs and fits your budget.

1. Garmin Nuvi2240 WEU with western European mapping

The Garmin Nuvi 2440 comes with predictive routing and spoken street names, which makes this device a must-buy. With a large 5-inch touchscreen you can view the navigation and GPS reception system clearly and easily. In addition to this, the trip log feature allows you to manage your vehicle on the road.

The rechargeable lithium-ion battery of this device lasts up to 3 hours, which is a rare feature in Sat Navs. It has the Garmin Lock feature that works as an anti-theft device too. The ecoRoute feature tracks fuel usage and suggests the most fuel-efficient route, which means less fuel consumption.

Other important features of the Garmin Nuvi2240:

  • Preloaded mapping for 24 Western European countries.
  • PhotoRea - Junction View and Lane Assist displays right lane with realistic signage and landscape detail.
  • Trip Planner - To visually compare multiple routes available.
  • MyTrends - Learns your driving habits to predict destinations based on time of day and location.
  • Unique Cyclops - Directional safety camera alerts with speed limits.
  • Where am I? - An emergency locator feature.

3. Clarion NX501E Double Din

The Clarion NX501E has a 6.2-inch touchscreen and a visual display that uses W-VGA technology and delivers 800x480 resolution. This Sat Nav comes with an "Active Icon" function that can be customised to suit your preferences.

The 8GB micro SD card of the NX501E hosts map data for 44 European countries as well as any possible POI and radar map addition. It comes with the Bluetooth Parrot module that allows you to view your entire phonebook on its display screen and also lets you stream audio through your mobile.

The NX501E supports DVD/CD players and has a USB port compatible with iPods, iPhones, and all MP3 players. In addition to this, it has a 3.5 jack socket, 18 FM-6 MW radio station pre-sets, 6-channel audio pre-out and 2-channel audio output for 2-Zone, a built-in microphone, and a subwoofer volume control, all of which makes it a gateway of entertainment.

Other important features of the Clarion NX501E:

  • Built-in High Pass Filter & Low Pass Filter.
  • OEM steering wheel remote wired interface capability.
  • 3D display mode.
  • Lane information.
  • Free TMC traffic information.
  • Signpost information.
  • Speed limit information.
  • Simple mode / advanced mode.
  • Safety camera compatible.

What's better-Sat Navs or mobile apps?

Smartphone owners are usually tempted to use a free or cheap mobile app to fulfill their navigational system needs, instead of paying for a Sat Nav device. An App can be installed on your existing smartphone, but you will have to purchase a cradle for holding your phone.

Purchasing a satellite navigation device is like making an investment. You get many more navigation features than you get in any mobile app. With an app, your phone's screen size, display quality and speaker volume need to be top-quality so that it's useful in all conditions. However, with Sat Nav systems you don't need to worry about these aspects.

Drivers who make regular journeys will find these standalone navigation systems highly beneficial, and should really look at buying a satellite navigation device. Even if you are someone who goes on journeys occasionally, you will realise that a standalone device is much more reliable than a mobile app.

Sat Navs are among the most useful accessories for today's driver. Whether you are travelling across the continent, or taking a Sunday drive, a satellite navigation device can make your journey to your destination effortless and entertaining. It can be said that Sat Navs have come out as the latest "must-have" gadget for frequent travellers as well as globetrotters who trust in using the best that technology can offer.