“I could have sworn it was this way…”
It’s happened again. You’re lost. You need direction in your life – literally. Well, you’ve found your way to the right location. Welcome to TechRadar’s guide to the best sat nav systems on the market right now.
These are the devices that rise above your smartphone’s GPS and the free maps you’ve been using. Fold those up, buckle your seat belt, and get ready to obey the digital voice commands emanating from the machine on your dashboard.
The following sat navs are dedicated to giving directions, so will get you from A to B or C to G, if you ask them really nicely.
We’ve done our best to highlight devices that straddle a number of price points and offer a bundle of features that will make you want to get in your car right now and just drive (with a planned route, of course). To be honest, we’d be lost without the following recommendations.
TomTom Via 53
TomTom‘s mid-range sat nav offers a host of features to tempt smartphone users.
Screen size: 5-inch display **Maps:** Lifetime maps Lifetime TomTom traffic **Updates:** Updates via Wi-Fi Smartphone messages **Extras:** Hands-free calling **Storage:** 16GB internal memory
Easy to use
Live traffic updates
Only around an hour of battery life
Slow to boot up
TomTom’s Via 53 very much sits in the mid-range category of sat navs. It offers connectivity options via a Bluetooth smartphone connection.
Through this connection, you get live traffic updates, can take advantage of hands-free calls and your text messages can also be read out by the device.
When it comes to mapping, the TomTom Via 53 is very good – the 5-inch touchscreen that requires light gestures, while voice control is warrantedEverything is clear and precise.
The design is a bit too chunky, however, and the one-hour battery life is a touch disappointing. Those niggles aside and what you have is a well-specced and connected sat nav that comes at a decent price.
Garmin DriveSmart 61
Premium GPS experience that will make you think twice about just using your smartphone.
Display: 6.95-inch edge to edge | Maps: Lifetime Maps & Live Traffic | Connectivity: Built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth calling | Extras: Navigate from your Garmin watch
Fantastic build quality
Great touchscreen controls
Battery could be better
With the Garmin DriveSmart 61 has created a premium-looking sat nav that’s packed with features you’ll want to use. Its screen is responsive, the information it offers clear and concise.
Yes, it’s expensive but it’s one of the best GPS systems available to get you from A to B.
Garmin Drive Assist 51
A great phone-free sat nav for those who don’t want things too complicated.
Maps: LIFETIME MAPS & HD DIGITAL TRAFFIC: | Size: 11.1W x 6.3H cm; 12.7 cm: | Display type: WQVGA colour TFT with white backlight: | Storage: Dash Cam memory card: min 4 GB data card included:
Clear, responsive display
Accurate visual and voice directions
Battery life only around 30 minutes
The Garmin Drive Assist 51 is a fine, premium = alternative to getting maps on your phone. If you want a dedicated sat nav that doesn’t rely on a handset then the Drive Assist 51 is an excellent choice.
It’s wide feature set, ease of use and simple docking means it’s a great for those less tech savvy.
The Garmin Drive Assist 51 is laser focused on the navigation experience, and it’s one that excels when you’re behind the wheel. It’s hard to say if it’s better than your smartphone, they’re very close, but it’s certainly no worse.
TomTom Go 5200
The TomTom Go 5200 is a league above most other sat navs, but the price tag is in another world too
Battery lifetime: Up to 1 hour | Vehicle mount: Active magnetic mount | Storage: 16GB | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, built-in SIM
Sophisticated phone integration
Intuitive to use
Screen feels delicate
Voice controls leaves you wanting
The TomTom Go 5200 has a 5-inch touchscreen that sits neatly within a sleek plastic chassis. It feels solid in the hand, and the magnetic connection gives a reassuring click into a robust connection with the stand.
It’s a wonderful top-of-the-range sat nav that is a pleasure to use, with a bevy of additional features for the frequent driver. If you’re looking for a world-class driving aide, this is the one for you.
TomTom Go 520
The TomTom Go 520 is a super-smart sat nav that will have you navigating in style.
Battery lifetime: Up to 1 hour | Vehicle mount: Active magnetic mount | Storage: 16GB | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, needs a phone for real-time traffic updates
Battery life is poor
Needs a phone for all the features
The TomTom Go 520 is a smart well built sat nav that’s simple to use. It comes with voice functionality – both integration of Siri and Google Now and its own voice system – and some of the best maps around.
It does lack connectivity while on the go which will be an issue for some. You can get around this with a simple hook-up to a smartphone, though.
Battery life is a problem. Up to an hour is quoted but we never really got past the 45-minute mark. In a real-case scenario, though, most will use the supplied charger, given that a sat nav is usually used on longer journeys.
If you are looking for the premium smarts of the TomTom Go 5200 at a smaller price, then this is for you.