back to article Sat Navs

Whether you’re visiting relatives this Christmas - or trying to find somewhere to hide from them - then a sat nav is the one gadget that’ll ensure you find your destination on time. Register Hardware asked sat nav expert Martin McCormack, who sells these things for Maplin, to hunt down this season’s five most must-have models …


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  1. Fluffykins Silver badge

    Beware if you want to go on holiday in the Channel Islands, or watch the Isle of Man TT.

    Check your "UK" coverage satnav actually covers those bits.

    According to TeleAtlas, who supply mapping for lots of satnavs, neither of these areas exist.

    Nice, that.

    I believe TeleAtlas is American. If I'm right, the situation would be a bit like a British company omitting Hawaii from its maps.

  2. Lee Scrivens

    But how long will they last

    Sat Navs are a great way of getting around. However, new roads are always being built or altered. Not all of the manufacturers offer map upgrades for their models. I purchased a Navman a few years ago, and it is still working perfectly well, but the map software is now well out of date, and because the unit is now obsolete, Navman no longer supply any updates. Nowhere when you purchase one of these devices are you told that the maps would only be useful for so long, and you'll soon be faced with a new road layout or even a completely new housing estate and the unit not knowing where you are.

    Therefore, it is worth bearing in mind, that you might, like myself, have to throw away an expensive, perfectly working sat nav to buy a new one, because too many changes have occured, and you can't get updates for it.

  3. Adam

    re:but how long will they last?

    Good point, have to say that my Tomtom has been extremely impressive on this point, I have a tomtom one original model and have had it for over 2 years, since buying I have been able to update to the latest version of software and the latest maps (I believe you can do this on the older models tomtom gos as well).

    They have added several features to it since purchase, and I have been extremely satisfied with it, much better than my previous PDA based system and have never seen it freeze or crash.

  4. Roger
    Thumb Up

    Consider one with TMC

    We bought one for Christmas last year, and it's saved so many in car arguments it's worth it's weight in gold.

    TMC (Traffic Master Channel) is the real-time accident and traffic congestion data that is transmitted over FM-RDS. You get a receiver module (that normally needs a little FM aerial) that decodes the data, and passes it onto your sat-nav, so that it will route you around problems.

    Look at the Navman units, as their TMC includes a lifetime subscription, and the module is only about an extra £40. Most other manufacturers only include the first year subscription in the module cost, then charge £15-£25 per year after that.

  5. Myself

    Buy or rent, for a 2-week visit?

    I'm an American and my parents are visiting the UK in a few weeks. I'm greatly enamored of DeLorme Street Atlas USA, but as the name suggests, the maps are country-specific. I don't know whether to buy them a unit before they go (so they can practice with it on familiar ground), or just suggest that they rent a car with a satnav unit included.

    I'm looking to you, Reg readers, for advice. I know most of these units are available with US maps too, so should I look for a UK unit that I can add US maps to for training (and for use at home after the trip), or a US unit that I can add UK maps to for visiting? Do the menus and dialogs use dialect-specific terms that might confuse already-flustered fiftysomething travelers? Are there other options? Or is the rental car company just the most sensible choice?

  6. Mark Browell


    Actually, it's Traffic Message Channel.

    Friday pedantry over. :)

  7. Christian Berger

    Uneven comparison

    Well there's a little flaw in the article.

    Most of those sat navs are just dedicated sat nav devices. Some may be able to play MP3s, but that's all.

    On the other hand the Tomtom devices are fully fledged personal computers. All the software is stored on their SD cards and you can simply replace it by replacing the card. So if you are cought up in a traffic jam and your children are complaining, put in another SD card and let them play computer games.

  8. Anonymous Coward


    Most SatNav's you can choose your voice prompts, for example TomTom has a couple of most dialects including US. You have to think if they will use one in the US. If so, buy one. Just don't leave it in the car !

    I think your bigest problem will not be turning left, right etc, but when you hit your first Roundabout !

    A canadian friend came over and managed to drive 30 miles before encountering one, then just sat there very confused for about 5 minutes...

    Oh and don't worry about all those bendy things in the road, UK cars can go round corners without sliding or rolling over :-)

  9. Anonymous Coward

    @Myself - Buy or Rent?


    They are so cheap I doubt it's worth renting one.

    I have a TomTom that came with UK maps and when I went on holiday last summer I just bought the US / Canada maps for it. I think you can buy TomToms over there, so the same should work in reverse.

    It even has the option to change the dialect (and the voice) to US English instead of UK, so the nice lady says "turn left at the rotary" instead of "roundabout". Even if your parents speak Swahili, there's an option for them.

    So I don't think they're going to have a problem. If they can handle driving on the left with a manual gearshift in a car 1/4 the size of the one at home, going 50% faster than they usually do, then the satnav will be the least of their problems.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Beware - Isle of Man and Channel Islands

    It's not just TeleAtlas. AND (Automotive Navigation Data), based out of the Netherlands, also classify in the same way. They've got a helpful interactive coverage map on their website which allows you to click on countries (Isle of Man and Channel Islands included) and see the kilometres of road network detail they have for each one.

  11. Jonathan

    Get it right

    The TOM TOM One XL featured does not have a round back, at least it didnt when I slipped it into my pocket this morning.

    Its a bit unfair to say it does when comparing to the Garmin.

    One thing I would say is Bluetooth SCHMOOTOTH... lots of people selling say "ohh any bluetooth phone" my bottom any bluetooth phone the list is very small and very old so check it out first. You may be lucky or you may not be..

  12. galbak

    on the other hand

    if you use a mobile phone with gps, you can get google maps, free, always updated, route planning, but no voice directions, or nav4all, also free, updated, route planning, and voice prompts. low data costs as well. or just install tomtom for mobile <grin>

  13. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    I have a TomTom 700, very useful.

    I bought mine in preparation for a holiday on the isle of wight knowing that it's full of tiny back roads and it was extremely useful. It would have been fine to rent for the week, but I didn't see that option available anywhere.

    Since then though I've used it a lot more than I expected looking for shops/garden centres/hotels out in the sticks here in east anglia. It's not the easiest place to navigate by map around here and on the whole the satnav has been great. I've had a couple of hairy moments with tiny tiny roads though, so it's not all great.

    One time I was going down a narrow road which the satnav assured me would join a B road in 2 miles. It started to look like a dud when the tarmac ran out but I couldn't get the car turned in the space and I was already about a mile down it - too far for reverse gear! I ended up driving across a field (slowly) and eventually out onto the B road as promised. Turns out it used to be a road about 20 years ago but the maps haven't been updated.

  14. John H Woods Silver badge

    @Evil Graham

    Apparently the Swahili word for roundabout is 'keepleftie' ? Can you confirm?

  15. Anonymous Coward


    Traffic circles my favorite Minerva Circle in Guadalajara Mexico go as fast as you can till centrifugal force shoots you out a hole. Traffic flows in spite of these damn things, no one I know can tell you why they can't be avoided with better planning. Dangerous stupid things.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    tomtom for the win

    because the tomtom go series run linux - see for other stuff you can do with it!

    I added a tracker program to my Go 500, and I can overlay the tracks onto google earth. It surprised the wife when I asked how often she went to Waterbeach, and showed her the track she'd made a couple of days before!

    You can also copy your tomtom software off the Go and run it on arm-based linux handhelds like the zaurus.... shhh!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TomTom Traffic > TMC

    When I was wanting a SatNav a couple of months back I went for a TMC-enabled one and it was utter rubbish! The TMC signals are transmitted so weakly in the UK that you often can't pick them up - I never got them at all on my usual M3 commute (though from what I've read TMC is a bit better up north). So I took it back and instead got one without TMC but a bigger screen instead.

    Recently I saw one of my friend's new TomTom units, which has a much better system of using bluetooth to get traffic data from a paired mobile phone's data connection, which means you aren't reliant on TMC signal strength.

  18. Jeremy Hooks

    >> But how long will they last

    The maps are out of date/plain wrong the minute you buy the Sat Nav. I have found countless mistakes on my brand new TomTom which aren't on my five year old road atlas.

    I remember reading once that, many years ago, cartographers used to protect their maps using intentional "cartographers' error". If they found a map some else claimed to have created and it had the same errors as their's, it was clear that it was a copy. I think TeleAtlas have taken this to a whole new level for the DRM age - a cartographers' error these days would be to map a roundabout where there is actually a roundabout.

    I don't understand the need for companies like TeleAtlas and Ordnance Survey, when it comes to mapping our roads. You would have thought that some government agency already has the correct information - after all roundabouts, one way systems, speed limits and height restrictions don't just grow out of the ground where they please.

  19. Peter Tynan

    re: >> But how long will they last

    The Ordnance Survey is a independent non-ministerial government department with Executive Agency status and is accountable to Parliament though the Secretary of State in Communities and Local Government.

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