With smartphones able to do pretty much any job required, the days of sat navs may seem obsolete, but you would be wrong. These purpose-built devices are great for new drivers who haven’t yet bought a luxury car with navigation built-in.
Plus, you can take your dedicated sat nav away on holiday with you, letting you navigate your way through foreign lands with a comfortable device you’re already familiar with.
With so many available, it is hard to know what the best sat navs on the market truly are, but with our guide, we will help you decide the perfect model for you. Let us dive right in!
Garmins’ Smart Drive 55 is the smallest of the range; with an older phablet-looking bezel, this is a classic-looking device. The screen is a 720p, 5.5-inch capacitive screen with an edge-to-edge look. The overall design helps the maps on the Garmin easy to see, and finding your destination is made simple. Different versions of the Smart Drive are available, with the European edition offering complete voice control for extra convenience.
The further up the Drive Smart range you go, the more features you will receive, such as live traffic and weather updates through your smartphone, plus live parking and hands-free calling with onscreen notifications. Instructions are easy to follow, and the Garmin split-screen features notify you of food places, petrol stations, and other potential stopping points on the road ahead. Even better, the Garmin completes updates when connected to WiFi, keeping you up to date with the latest software.
- Lots of great features
- Compact design
- Older looking finish
- Extra features will be more expensive
If you’re looking for a satnav with the basics and no added extras, the Garmin Drive 52 is a great choice. This device offers clear directions, practical routes, and a 3D view providing help at junctions. Accurate directions give you landmark references to give the most precise instructions possible of your whereabouts. Features such as live weather and traffic conditions are offered, plus speed camera warnings. For any live alerts on the road, you will need to connect your smartphone via Bluetooth connectivity.
With the large number of features offered comes some compromise. The screen is a lot dimmer than other models, and the resolution is also lower. The display screen is resistive compared to other models that use capacitive. For any updates, you will need to connect to your PC via the provided USB cable.
- 3D view to help at junctions
- Speed, weather, and traffic warnings
- Lower screen resolution
- Screen brightness is noticeably dimmer
The Go Basic is the entry-level satnav from TomTom, and you can see even at first glance that this is a cheaper model. It features a suction cup that is one of the most fundamental areas of the device. A larger model gives you a 6-inch display compared to the standard 5, but neither of these screens are very responsive. Usability is a little strained with the Go Basic needing time to catch up, but the auto-complete tool is a welcome feature helping speed up the process.
Although there are signs of this being an entry-level device, there are surprisingly many features such as WiFI for updates and Bluetooth connectivity that links to your smartphone for live traffic updates. The TomTom Go will also read out any messages you receive on your phone. Compared to Garmin’s entry-level competitor model, the TomTom feels much faster navigating through menus and finding desired destinations. The traffic avoidance and lane guidance systems work just as well on this TomTom as on the more premium models. Still, sadly the traffic camera warning is only available for a 3 month trial period.
- Traffic avoidance features
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Cheap finish
- The screen isn’t the most responsive
TomTom Go Essential
The TomTom Go Essential is a slight step up from the Go Basic model for a few added extras. When paired to your smartphone, you can make hands-free calls, use voice assistance, and ask your satnav to read messages out loud. Voice control is available with the Go Essential but sometimes struggles with new locations, so it is advised to only use this feature on places you’ve already saved to the device.
The overall usability is more accessible than the Go Basic edition; although the screen is a little fuzzy with the 5-inch version, it is much more responsive. Scrolling, pinch zooming, and entering text is much easier, with the screen latency being much shorter than the Go Basic. TomTom’s active magnetic mount is included with the Go Essential allowing you to quickly snap into place when beginning your journey and then removing when you have reached your destination. The Garmin equivalent model has more of a modern look in comparison. Still, for users who are already comfortable with the useability of TomTom devices, the Go Essential is a great choice.
- Hands-free calls
- Voice command capabilities
- Fuzzy screen resolution on a 5-inch device
- Poor Battery Life
Garmin DriveSmart 65
For the most elite satnav in the Garmin range, there is the DriveSmart 65. With a massive 6.9-inch screen, voice assistance, and all the added extras you could ever want, this is a satnav with a difference. The enormous display offers a stunning resolution, impressive brightness, and while the large size may seem strange to some users, the ease of usability makes pressing buttons a breeze. The voice controls are much more advanced than other models on the market, including built-in Alexa, and can also give weather, news, and music updates.
The range of features seems endless with hands-free calling, live traffic, parking, and speed camera updates, plus real-time directions with 3D junction views and landmark guidance. Instructions are given much earlier than you need them, helping when in unfamiliar locations. The DriveSmart is arguably the best satnav available on the current market, that’s if you’re not distracted by the massive tablet size screen.
- Stunning display quality and resolution
- Alexa built-in
- Screen size could be a little large for some users
- One of the most expensive Garmins available
Garmin Drive 51
The Garmin Drive 51 is perfect for drivers with older vehicles only offering one power socket. It is both a satnav and a dashcam giving you more options in one convenient package. Not only will you get from A to B, but the camera abilities will keep you protected if you happen to be in a crash. Some of the other features added may not have been given the same care, such as lane guidance warnings, with users experiencing false alerts. Do not worry though, these can be turned off if you find they are a little distracting.
Other than these added features, the Drive 51 has all the usual strengths that Garmin satnavs offer, such as traffic warnings, weather updates, and parking information if your smartphone is connected. Hands-free calls can also be made, plus you will be notified on the main display if you receive a message on your phone. There are multiple versions of this device, with the European offering complete voice commands enhancing your experience that little more. This handy two-in-one device is an excellent choice if you want video recording capabilities, but it is much more expensive than a single-purpose device.
- 2-in-1 device
- Hands-free capabilities
- Some unneeded extra features
Although the TomTom Go Discover doesn’t offer the IFTTT programming functions found on the previous TomTom model, it outdoes nearly every other area. The running speed feels much smoother, while the 6 or 7-inch versions both offer HD viewing. Destinations are quick and straightforward to find, and the voice instructions arent just a gimmick, with use working really well. Visual feedback gives superb navigation through unknown locations, and the windscreen/dashboard mount is strong, holding even the larger 7-inch version firmly in place.
When connected to your smartphone, you can get live traffic updates, plus lifetime map updates through Europe and the UK. Off-road parking, live fuel prices, and speed camera alerts are offered in the first year of ownership, but a subscription is required anytime after that. Voice controls remain a little restrictive, just like all TomTom satnavs, but this satnav is the best for navigating around.
- Smooth and responsive display controls
- HD screen
- Voice controls are sometimes a little unresponsive
- The most expensive TomTom on our list
With so many satnavs to choose from, you are surely going to find the perfect device. There is a satnav for everyone from basic entry-level versions to the more advanced premium models and the 2-in-1 devices. Garmin and TomTom are the obvious giants of the satnav world, and with the advanced features they offer, they show the world that a smartphone simply doesn’t compete with the best satnavs available on the current market.