Navigation System Comparison: TomTom, Magellan, Garmin, RightWay

TomTom XL 340S $250
Despite its fairly reasonable price, the TomTom is disappointing. Its graphics are dated, it lost position numerous times during our test, and it takes too long to find its bearings. On the plus side, it is very user-friendly, with an easy-to-use touch screen and a neat EasyPort mount that folds up on the back of the unit, making the whole package easy to transport.

Magellan Maestro 4350 $300
The Magellan is impressive: The turn-by-turn voice pronounces the name of the road you’re looking for. With the couple-second delay these systems sometimes have, it’s nice to hear a street name rather than just “turn left ahead.” It never lost its signal during our test, and the estimated time of arrival was accurate within a few minutes. It looks good, too, with a shiny black finish that resembles a flat-screen TV.

Garmin nüvi 765T $500
You pay a lot, but you get a lot, as this Garmin offers every bell and whistle imaginable, including 3-D graphics and Bluetooth connectivity. There’s also an MP3 player, a currency converter, and a picture viewer. Advanced trip-planning navigation features allow you to save ten different routes, and a trip log provides an electronic trail of where you’ve been. It’s almost overkill; you could play with the 765T for a month and still not use all the features.

Rightway Spotter Dale, Jr. Edition $229
This one is fun for the first ten minutes. The unit itself is decent, and the graphics are good-you can even set the icon to look like either Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s Chevrolet or his eighteen-wheeler car hauler. But it tends to veer off course and can take a long time to get back on track. For real NASCAR fans, though, having Dale, Jr.’s southern drawl issue commands is all that matters.