Whether you want a faster, less stressful way of getting from place to place or some guidance while expanding your horizons, you're spoilt for choice on the navigation front. PC Advisor tests eight GPS devices.

About this time of year we start getting itchy feet. Sitting at home watching YouTube clips and American Idol while the rain drips down the window just doesn't cut it any more - we want to be out on the open road or, failing that, at least out in the open air, exploring new lands and admiring previously unknown landscapes.

Travel: there's nothing like it. And, thanks to satellite navigation, it's easier than ever. Tell your portable device where you want to go and whether you'll be using pedal power or putting foot to metal, and it'll cleverly plot a suitable route. But whether this should be a PND - a portable navigation device that sits on your dashboard - or a smartphone with onboard maps remains to be seen.

Today's satnavs can work out the most pleasant route as well as the speediest, or even the most economical. We also expect our trusty TomTom or Garmin to be able to show us which lane to take when we negotiate a junction. In fact, what we now term a 'satnav' is much more than a mere 'get me from A to B' device.

Maps are updated by everyday road users, as well as by the companies that produce the maps and software interfaces. TomTom pioneered the concept of real-time navigation that varied according to the time of day and the day of the week. The result is that you may be shown a direct route through town on one occasion but a more circuitous one during rush hour.

An adjunct to this is the traffic management console (TMC), which receives frequent updates about traffic jams and incidents that may affect your journey. When choosing a satnav it pays to check whether the unit comes with TMC and whether this is offered as a separate unit with antenna, is built in or is an upgrade option. Also watch out for the subscription costs associated with real-time traffic updates.

NEXT PAGE: use your common sense

Index:

  1. The 8 best satnavs and GPS-enabled mobile phones
  2. Satnavs: no substitute for common sense
  3. Group test: personal navigation device reviews
  4. Group test: GPS-enabled smartphone reviews
  5. BlackBerry navigation app
  6. Desktop navigation app
  7. Navigating with your iPhone

Whether you want a faster, less stressful way of getting from place to place or some guidance while expanding your horizons, you're spoilt for choice on the navigation front. PC Advisor tests eight GPS devices.

Satnavs: no substitute for common sense

There's been more than a little backlash against satnavs, too. While reports of lorries getting stuck down narrow, unmetalled roads are no longer common, navigational mistakes still happen - whether because the driver blithely followed directions against their common sense or because the mapping information was at fault.

Look for a ‘lorry' or ‘biker' mode as a way to cut down on these sorts of mistakes. And remember satnavs aren't infallible. Sometimes they lose their way if they can't get a decent satellite fix; other times what looks like a through road actually goes through a field.

Handsets such as the Nokia N95, BlackBerry and iPhone have large screens that lend themselves to presenting maps. But they're not primed with all the mapping detail required for any given journey. Some smartphones need to pull this info from the web - a slower process than retrieving it from onboard memory or an SD Card.

Mobile phones have portability and convenience on their side - you'll probably have one with you in any case, so you're not adding to the amount you need to carry if you use Google, Nokia or BlackBerry Maps to help you get about. More sophisticated maps can also be added to smartphones.

We look at options from CoPilot and the AA in this round-up, along with specialist smartphone-based software for walkers and cyclists. PNDs often come with walking options, so don't discount being able to use yours for exploring unknown cities as well as driving.

Over the following pages, we look at what does and doesn't work with the latest PNDs and GPS-enabled smartphones. Just don't give up on your map-reading skills entirely.

NEXT PAGE: personal navigation device reviews

Index:

  1. The 8 best satnavs and GPS-enabled mobile phones
  2. Satnavs: no substitute for common sense
  3. Group test: personal navigation device reviews
  4. Group test: GPS-enabled smartphone reviews
  5. BlackBerry navigation app
  6. Desktop navigation app
  7. Navigating with your iPhone

Whether you want a faster, less stressful way of getting from place to place or some guidance while expanding your horizons, you're spoilt for choice on the navigation front. PC Advisor tests eight GPS devices.

Group test: personal navigation device reviews

NEXT PAGE: GPS-enabled smartphone reviews

Index:

  1. The 8 best satnavs and GPS-enabled mobile phones
  2. Satnavs: no substitute for common sense
  3. Group test: personal navigation device reviews
  4. Group test: GPS-enabled smartphone reviews
  5. BlackBerry navigation app
  6. Desktop navigation app
  7. Navigating with your iPhone

Whether you want a faster, less stressful way of getting from place to place or some guidance while expanding your horizons, you're spoilt for choice on the navigation front. PC Advisor tests eight GPS devices.

Group test: GPS-enabled smartphone reviews

NEXT PAGE: a BlackBerry navigation app

Index:

  1. The 8 best satnavs and GPS-enabled mobile phones
  2. Satnavs: no substitute for common sense
  3. Group test: personal navigation device reviews
  4. Group test: GPS-enabled smartphone reviews
  5. BlackBerry navigation app
  6. Desktop navigation app
  7. Navigating with your iPhone

Whether you want a faster, less stressful way of getting from place to place or some guidance while expanding your horizons, you're spoilt for choice on the navigation front. PC Advisor tests eight GPS devices.

BlackBerry navigation app

Telenav on BlackBerry smartphone

We were given a 30-day trial of the Telenav satnav software with the T-Mobile Pay Once BlackBerry Pearl 8110 handset. If your handset doesn’t come with the link preinstalled on the handset, it can be downloaded from ota.telenav.com/ota/europe.

Downloading over 3G took around 5 mins; we then accepted the licence agreement, entered our mobile number (including international dialling code) and created a PIN code to access it. All rather long-winded.

However, it is a comprehensive satnav program with more than 10 million POIs, over the air updates and a solid built-in search function that helped us find specific hotels and businesses.

We also liked Telenav for its waymarking options and swift rerouting. We used it to guide us on foot to a BlackBerry event and tried to fox it by deviating down side streets. It had our number, and soon corralled us back to where we should be.

BlackBerry AppWorld is the name of the download store for BlackBerry users. On a large-screen device such as the BlackBerry Bold, which we used to try it out, it’s a model of simplicity. There’s a link straight to the App Store, and you can browse recommended apps and read reviews of them as well as searching by keyword.

It takes quite some time to load up the reviews, so it’s helpful that there are also star ratings alongside each. By comparison, you can scroll through comprehensive product details and user reviews about iPhone apps very efficiently.

Verdict: Setup feels like a needlessly lengthy process, but this is otherwise a quick and competent navigation app.

NEXT PAGE: a desktop navigation app

Index:

  1. The 8 best satnavs and GPS-enabled mobile phones
  2. Satnavs: no substitute for common sense
  3. Group test: personal navigation device reviews
  4. Group test: GPS-enabled smartphone reviews
  5. BlackBerry navigation app
  6. Desktop navigation app
  7. Navigating with your iPhone

Whether you want a faster, less stressful way of getting from place to place or some guidance while expanding your horizons, you're spoilt for choice on the navigation front. PC Advisor tests eight GPS devices.

Desktop navigation app

WalkIt

Walkit, described as an 'urban walking route planner’, is designed to encourage those of us who’d happily dump public transport and switch to foot power. You can check how far and how long you’ll be walking, not to mention the number of steps involved (the NHS recommends 10,000 per day).

Walkit currently works in 14 UK cities, and you can ask for routes that will be most direct, least busy or best for avoiding pollution.

Suggestions for interesting walking routes and sights worth a quick detour are also included.

We’re not convinced it knows all the best routes, so it’s worth dropping the site creators a line if you know of a handy shortcut. A response came back in no time when we emailed some questions and suggestions. A smartphone version is high on the priority list.

Verdict: It’s still a work in progress, but we’re keen to see how Walkit will develop. You may find yourself tempted to try new routes, now you know what you’re letting yourself in for – and the health benefits you’re likely to get.

NEXT PAGE: navigating with your iPhone

Index:

  1. The 8 best satnavs and GPS-enabled mobile phones
  2. Satnavs: no substitute for common sense
  3. Group test: personal navigation device reviews
  4. Group test: GPS-enabled smartphone reviews
  5. BlackBerry navigation app
  6. Desktop navigation app
  7. Navigating with your iPhone

Whether you want a faster, less stressful way of getting from place to place or some guidance while expanding your horizons, you're spoilt for choice on the navigation front. PC Advisor tests eight GPS devices.

Apple iPhone apps

The Apple iPhone doesn’t do satellite navigation as such – it offers Google Maps but not real-time turn-by-turn navigation. This is because Apple’s Google Maps licence doesn’t currently allow for turn-by-turn navigation.

The handset is location-aware (take a photo and it will ask your permission to geo-tag the shot) and has an accelerometer that knows the angle it’s at.

We’re eager to learn how much the likes of TomTom, Garmin and others will charge for their satnav apps via the iPhone App Store. Of the 20 or 30 GPS apps already available for the iPhone, some basically take advantage of the magnetometer in the handset and let you tilt the screen to various effects – a flight sim game, for example. However, there are also some good-looking mapping apps for those with the tendency to get lost. Here’s one we really like.

GPS Trails

GPS Trails on the iPhone caught our eye and was recommended by several iPhone-owning friends. It’s able to show you your current location and where you’ve been, but is also able to log and export that information so it can be plotted on a PC or Mac.

Similarly, it can be used to import routes and can even tag photos so you can log where they were taken (although the Apple iPhone 3GS itself can now do this, after a fashion).

What’s more, one reviewer found it noticeably more accurate than a standalone satnav device in terms of pinpointing where you’ve been. It works as a timekeeper too: add a route and set off and it will begin timing you as well as showing the distance you’ve been. Waypoints, elevations and pace are all logged along with the start and finish time – great if you need to work out a more efficient time of day to travel by bike or foot.

Verdict: GPS Trails shows what’s possible with GPS and the iPhone. It’s a rock-solid, supremely crafted app with detail aplenty, but it still maintains the clean interface for which the iPhone is famous.

Given the size of the screen and the volume that the 3G version of the iPhone kicks out, we don’t think you’ll have trouble making out which direction your future satnav is telling you to take, either.

Index:

  1. The 8 best satnavs and GPS-enabled mobile phones
  2. Satnavs: no substitute for common sense
  3. Group test: personal navigation device reviews
  4. Group test: GPS-enabled smartphone reviews
  5. BlackBerry navigation app
  6. Desktop navigation app
  7. Navigating with your iPhone