By Debbie Murphy/autoMedia.com
So, if this peaks your interest, what do you need to look for? One suggestion: for the directionally impaired, look for a viewing screen format that rotates as you change directions, as opposed to one that stays on true north. That way, what you see on your screen is a virtual version of what you see in front of you.
No manufacturer likes to admit it, but the features of the aftermarket systems we checked out were similar—they've all taken advantage of the latest technology and incorporated these advances into their units. So, for simplicity's sake, we'll look at the Garmin Streetpilot C330, which was well reviewed by both consumers and professionals.
Probably the most encouraging statement from reviewers is that the system is easy to use and ready to go out of the box. Unless you love to devour owners' manuals and have a photographic memory, you want a system that operates in a logical way—assuming you, too, are logical. This unit has a minimum of buttons—a volume control and on/off switch—the remaining functions are controlled by touch pad and are voice activated.
The C330 is small (the screen is 3.5-inches diagonally), which could be a negative if you're short sighted, but since it mounts with a suction cup on the windshield, the size does not hamper forward visibility. The package also includes an adhesive disc to mount the unit on the dashboard. The routing instructions roll across the top of the screen in large letters or you can opt for verbal instructions, so, in this case, a smaller screen size is not that much of an issue. Since the unit is not permanently mounted, it can be moved from one vehicle to another.
The system comes with over five million points of interest (restaurants, ATMs, gas stations, etc.) and includes maps of the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. If you miss a turn or off-ramp, the system adjusts, re-routing you back on track. The C330 also keeps track of your 50 most recent selections, saving you the trouble of keying in often-visited destinations.
This particular Garmin unit, which shares features with a number of other intuitive-based, simple navigation systems, lacks the more sophisticated features like the ability to process and display information on traffic congestion—a real plus in some urban areas—or integration with mobile phones and access to TV broadcasts or DVD movies. But if you balance out what it does well—getting you where you want to go without requiring a master's degree in computer science—these systems are more than worth the relatively affordable price tag.