Before you buy: Car tech and GPSIf a new car isn't in your budget right now, maybe some new accessories would do the trick. CNET's Brian Cooley has some suggestions you should consider before heading to the store.
^M00:00:01 [ Music ] ^M00:00:14 >> Mr. Cooley: Hey, folks. Brian Cooley here to help you give the gift of in-car technology this holiday season. Before you buy there's some things I want you to be aware of in the big three categories. GPS navigation, hands-free calling, and iPod integration. You can give the gift of GPS navigation three ways. First, you could give a portable GPS navigation device, or you could give someone a new in-dash car stereo that includes GPS nav, or you can give them GPS navigation for their smart phone -- we'll talk about that in a minute. Now these portable nav units very poplar partly because they can be had for as little as $150 these days for a name brand. The built in car stereos that have navigation in them start around 400 and can go to 1500 with all the bells and whistles plus an installation fee. The portable units can be taken from any car personal cars, rental cars, friends' cars, that's nice but the built in units are a tidier installation without any wires and cables and they integrate with the entire entertainment system with can have its benefits. And the other hot trend is one that I mentioned earlier which is not to buy a GPS device at all but to do GPS navigation on a smart phone. All the major carriers now offer a service you can pay for, $3 a day to $10 a month that will let you enter destinations, get turn-by-turn directions, even hear voice prompts just like the other types of larger, bulkier GPS devices. The downside of course is you do have to pay a fee each time or each month you use it and that will eventually add up to more than the cost of buying a unit one time. No whichever these systems you decide to go with here's some things to think about and features to look for. First, does the unit offer live traffic information? And is there a fee for that traffic data? And beyond that, if there's a traffic problem, will the unit automatically reroute around it or just tell you it's coming and take you right snack into it? Next can you enter a destination while you're moving? This isn't a dangerous thing because it's ideal for the passenger who wants to enter a destination while you're drive and you don't have to pull over that way just to punch in address. That can get real annoying. And finally does the unit let you easily dial in way points or addition destinations between where you are and your final destination. That's a very nice feature. Now there are two hot new trends in GPS you're going to here about when you shop. The first one is connected at GPS systems like this one that has a live wireless internet connection. That can be uses to update things like gas rices and local movie times which is good but even better is when it offers an actual live search, like with Google in this case, to search for just about anything you want and then when you find it if it's a place let the unit take you there in just a couple of quick clicks. That's a nice complete system. Next is the gift that says I care enough to make sure you don't blow through an intersection distracted and kill someone. Yes. Bluetooth hands free. Very poplar are these portable often clip-on visor type units. This is if one from Motorola and these will either have an internal speaker built in or they'll use your car radio as a giant speaker phone. Then there are installed units that work with the existing car stereo but do get installed in the car and don't go vehicle to vehicle. They tend to sound a little better and they tend to have controls that are easier to use because they are affixed to the dashboard and really have an integrated look and feel. Now on the cutting edge for hands free look for what's called stereo Bluetooth. This is separate from the Bluetooth technology used to make the calls which is just mono and low fidelity. Stereo Bluetooth lets you connect an applicable smart phone or other cell phone that can hold music wirelessly to the Bluetooth hands free device and the person who's using this needs to have that stereo Bluetooth technology on their phone as well not just on the Bluetooth product that you buy for them. Those options all sound and work pretty good. The main choice will be how much do you want to spend and does the person you're giving it to really value transportability or will they give that up to have a little better performance. Finally let's connect an iPod or iPhone to the car of someone on your giving list. This is a real poplar request. Consider getting your recipient this rather ugly thing called an FM modulator. It may not look like much but it works wonders. What it does is put the iPod or iPhone on an FM frequency like a transmitter but does it with closed circuit wired connections. That means almost no interference and better sound quality. These can be had for as little as $40. Better units are about 100 bucks that will actually put some iPod track information right on the radio display and factor in a little bit of money for a quick installation at the car stereo place. Now better still are adapters that are specially made for your recipient's car stereo. These create a direct link from the iPod, closed circuit, no FM involved. They often have better fidelity than an FM modulator and they can let you use the car stereo buttons to control the iPod in many cases. And those tend to run $100 to $200 again plus some installation. Finally you can really go whole hog and get your recipient a great new car stereo that has iPod integration built in plus a lot more including latest generation features like USB for audio, HD radio, satellite radio, and auxillary jacks. So just about everything can plug in. One of the hot trends there are what are called Mechless car stereos. They have nothing mechanical in them hence the name. And that means no CD or optical drive but everything else that I've mentioned. It's really kind of the latest trend in today's car stereo. Those kind of units will cost $250 maybe as high as 400 for the sweet spot and again there's some installation involved, but you're really going to renovate someone's entertainment system, iPod connectivity, the entire in-car experience. Oh, by the way, if the person you're giving a gift to doesn't have an actual iPod but some other media player, that's okay. Most of these products I'm telling you are about will also use a standard analog auxillary connection and that works with any kind of media player made. Well there's some ideas before you buy and give what I think is a great gift for holiday season car tech toys. I'm Brian Cooley for cnet. ^M00:06:10 [ Music ] ^M00:06:17