Although any small global positioning system could be referred to as a portable GPS, the term generally refers to those units which give driving directions and are meant to be mounted in cars. Others, used for outdoor activities, are generally referred to as handheld GPS units. Still, there could be some times when the terms are confused and a portable GPS and handheld GPS are synonymous.
The advantages of a portable GPS are numerous. Many drivers appreciate the turn-by-turn directions offered through a portable GPS. It saves the hassle of referring to a map for every turn. Further, many offer voice instructions, allowing the driver to keep eyes focused on the road.
Portable GPS systems work by receiving a signal from satellite to determine where they are on Earth. That signal is then pinpointed on preloaded road maps that help provide directions. From there, after a destination point has been entered into the map, it is simply a matter of following those directions.
Most portable GPS systems come loaded with a number of different features, the most basic of which are the map views and the way the map is oriented, with either north being at the top of the display or the direction the driver is going being at the top. Many also offer the chance to find local restaurants in the vicinity and may even offer contact information for getting to those restaurants. In some cases, the system may activate your Bluetooth® device in order that you may call the restaurant, in case you need reservations.
Some of the higher-end portable GPS models will even be able to receive information concerning traffic delays and road construction updates. This will allow the system, or the user, to quickly re-map the route so that the delay is avoided as much as possible. However, the user should always have the option of following the original route, if desired.
While many GPS systems used to be out of the price range of many car owners, portable GPS units have become increasingly affordable. It is now possible to get an entry level portable GPS for less than $200 US Dollars (USD). While these may not come with all the features of the upper-end models, they basically accomplish the same thing. However, there is likely to be no voice directions and the screen size is likely to be somewhat smaller. In the end, these could be major considerations for a driver and encourage him or her to get a slightly upgraded model.