Laptop GPS systems are often overlooked in favor of separate GPS systems like vehicle GPS and handheld GPS units. What many people fail to realize however, is that Laptop GPS receivers are often both handy and more economical than other GPS units.
Laptop communication and navigation systems were originally developed for military use. Experts providing technical support to troops would use laptop GPS to provide topographical information to troops. In the late 1990s GPS technology was finally released for use by the general public. Although slightly more cumbersome than mounted in-vehicle units, laptop GPS systems are nevertheless used primarily as in-car navigational systems. Due to the fact that they can operate from anywhere around the world, they are also widely used to by professionals such as geologists and archaeologists to map the topography of specific areas.
Unlike integrated units like car GPS units, Laptop GPS systems are made up of two separate components - a GPS receiver which pinpoints the location of the laptop at any given time and the mapping software which is essentially the 'brain' of the system. The GPS receiver will be useless without the mapping software and vice versa, so it is essential to purchase the two components together. The majority of GPS receivers come with standard software, but you may wish to purchase additional maps.
The more advanced the mapping software, the more accurate and visually clear the maps will be. It is therefore often worthwhile to outlay a bit of money on additional software so as to ensure that the GPS system as a whole is able to function optimally. Keep in mind however that most mapping software is only compatible with a Pentium II or higher. GPS manufacturers like Garmin, Palm and Delorme are known for producing both accurate receivers and high quality software.
The Delorme Earthmate receiver comes with complimentary software and is an economical choice at under $200. On the downside, the Delorme Street Atlas software has been criticized for being out of date and not containing sufficient detail. This problem can be solved by using other mapping software, as the Delorme receiver is compliant with software programs other than the Delorme Street Atlas. You will need a laptop with a USB port and a good battery life to use the Delorme system.
Slightly more expensive systems include the NAVMAN GPS110 and CoPilot Live USB units. The NAVMAN receiver is accurate to a distance of 6.8 meters and is compatible with the majority of NMEA software programs. The CoPilot Live comes with updated mapping software of the United States , voice navigation and friends and family tracking software that allows for Internet tracking of friends and family around the United States . Both systems retail for approximately $400
Laptop GPS units are advantageous in the sense that unlike many portable and car units they have large screens and highly developed graphic cards which are able to display high quality images. In addition, sound cards built into laptops are usually more advanced than those built into other GPS units and thus voice prompts emitted from laptop speakers are likely to be clearer. Due to their extensive memory space, laptops are also able to store far more information and maps than other GPS units, which eliminates the need to constantly download new maps. Things to check before investing in a laptop GPS system include the battery life of your notebook and the compatibility of the software program that you are running with various brands of mapping software.