Look, we all know "that guy / gal." The one that never seems to end up at a meeting place on time, who incidentally is the same one that always gets tied up at the local fuel station asking for "directions." We've always heard that true friends don't let friends drive sans a robotic navigator, and if your BFF is still traversing the highways without any sort of GPS device on board, it's time for that situation to be remedied. There's a whole slew of options out there, so we'll be breaking 'em down as best we can based on how much dough you're willing to spend. Whatever you decide, just make sure you get one with the maps of your own country; after all, you wouldn't want that special someone to end up like this guy, right? Read on!
Holiday Gift Guide 2009: GPS devicesSee all photos
Magellan SE4 - Magellan's latest may not be flashy, but it'll get you from point A to point
$180 - Buy from Best Buy
Mio Moov S501 - Mio may not be a household name in the navigation industry, but the Moov S501 is a diamond in the rough. You'll get a spacious 4.7-inch touchscreen, maps of Canada and the United States, text-to-speech, local fuel price search, voice prompts, integrations with Google Maps (import locations via USB) and 2GB of internal memory. Whoever's lucky enough to receive this can also spring for their own TMC accessory in the future if they get the itch to add real-time traffic support, and the NaxPix feature can guide 'em to locations found on geo-tagged photos. Best of all? It's just a buck-fifty, giving you a few leftover dollars to splurge on that extra shiny wrapping paper.
$150 - Buy from RadioShack
Navigon MobileNavigator app - Okay, so this one requires that your pal own an iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS, but considering that you're reading this right now, there's a better-than-average chance that he or she does. If it's convergence you're seeking, we'd recommend skipping over TomTom's historically tragic UI and going for Navigon's far more streamlined MobileNavigator app. You'll get NAVTEQ maps of North America (or Europe, if you spring for that version), lane / speed assist, support for multitouch zooming, iPod control, text-to-speech and a location sharing function. Who needs a standalone device these days, anyway?
$90 - Buy from App Store
Oh, you shouldn't have
TomTom XL 335S / XL 340S - If you've overheard that your bud prefers TomTom (for reasons unknown), the XL 335S / XL 340S is a solid mid-range choice. Boasting an industry-standard 4.3-inch touchscreen, this navigator also touts TomTom's IQ Routes, which taps into over 800 billion speed measurements on the map to plan the fastest route. Advanced Lane Guidance, a Help Me! menu and spoken street / place name are also included, with the only major difference between the two being the omission of Mexico maps in the XL 335S.
$240 - Shop for XL 335S
$160 and up - Shop for XL 340S
Magellan RoadMate 1700 - For whatever reason, those ho hum 4.3-inch navigators just look tiny within a late model wide-body Impala, so for situations as such, there's the RoadMate 1700. This one ups the ante with a 7-inch WVGA touchscreen and also throws in complete maps of the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, built-in AAA TourBook listings, a microSD expansion slot and text-to-speech. And who knows, maybe you can hack Android onto this thing.
$237 - Shop for RoadMate 1700
Garmin Dakota 20 - Look, we all need to a) get out more and b) exercise more, so there's really no better way to encourage that kind of activity than by surprising someone with an outdoor-centric navigation device. Sporting a rugged exterior, a battery good for 20 hours, a microSD slot, barometric altimeter and support for wireless data transfer between compatible units, this one is guaranteed to get you to your destination come hell or high water. Or maybe just high water.
$345 - Shop for Dakota 20
We can't afford the rent now, can we?
Garmin nüvi 1690 - The connected GPS may be going the way of the Dodo, but with two free years of services, why not -- right? Garmin's stab at the niche market is well appointed, with niceties such as Google local search, white page listings, real-time traffic and flight status updates at your fingertips. Besides all that, you'll get a 4.3-inch touch panel, ecoRoute planning (for Ma Earth's sake, of course), North American maps, Bluetooth and a microSD slot. Go on, splurge -- you can rest soundly knowing that you're making someone the coolest cat on the freeway.
$448 - Shop for nüvi 1690
Archos 5 Internet Tablet - Who says a GPS device has be just a GPS device? Archos makes some of the best media players in the universe, and its Archos 5 Internet Media Tablet just so happens to sport a built-in GPS chip. That means that one single gift can provide hours of aural / visual excitement, routing for those who've lost their way and a 160GB internal hard drive for capturing your favorite shows. 'Course, you'll probably have a tough time actually wrapping this and sending it off, but just remember -- it's always better to give than receive. Or so says the beneficiary.
$390 - Shop for Archos 5
Garmin Oregon 550t - The aforementioned Dakota 20 may be a good start for the budding adventurer, but the true argonaut in the family -- you know, the one that'll have to receive this via carrier pigeon atop Volcán Concepción in the middle of Lago de Nicaragua -- only the best will do. The 550t sports a tough chassis, 3.2 megapixel camera (with automatic geo-tagging), a 3-inch, sunlight-readable touchscreen, 3-axis compass and preloaded topography maps for the entire US. Feel free to include a note that demands he / she carry you along on their next expedition -- we've a hunch it'll work quite well.
$600 - Shop for Oregon 550t