Navigation device test (2022): leaderboard – AUTO BILD

Modern cars offer more and more functions, but mobile navigation devices are still in demand. Many of them can do much more than just navigate. They also take on the functions of a full-fledged infotainment system, such as a Bluetooth hands-free system or reading Whatsapp messages. But even in a car that is already fully equipped, an aftermarket sat nav for the windshield can be helpful. Because in contrast to GPS of the car manufacturer, most products from Garmin, TomTom and Co offer free map updates and many interesting additional features.

Test winner of the AUTO BILD navigation device test: DriveSmart 86

Of course, a navigation device is primarily intended to guide drivers quickly to the right destination. This is also the core competence of our test winner. But the top model from Garmin can do a lot more. With its numerous additional functions, it is also suitable as an infotainment system for retrofitting. In addition to the usual features of a navigation device, the Garmin DriveSmart 86 has a Bluetooth hands-free system, a message reading function and a music player. Particularly practical: This Garmin navigation device has voice control with Amazon Alexa on board. Like any conventional navigation system, it can be attached to the windshield with a suction cup.
In the AUTO BILD navigation device test, the Drive Smart 86 received a total of 74 out of 80 points, which resulted in the grade “very good”.

Price-performance winner: TomTom Go Essential

All-round talent at a low price The Go Essential is one of Tomtom’s cheaper navigation devices. Nevertheless, it offers a decent range of functions. For a comparatively low price, there is a branded navigation device that already offers many of the functions of a premium navigation device. The Tomtom Go Essential scores in the test with its high-quality workmanship and a wide range of functions. For example, the Bluetooth hands-free system and the display and reading of notifications on the smartphone are a real plus beyond navigation. Small deficits in the voice control and the speed limits are easy to cope with in view of the low price of this navigation device.

The TomTom Go Essential also scores 70 points and the grade “good”

Test 2022: These are the best navigation devices (best list)

AUTO BILD continuously tests navigation devices. Most recently, the top model from Garmin, the DriveSmart 86, was tested. The navigation system not only impresses with fast route calculation, a stable GPS signal and practical helpers such as lane guidance, but also with a large number of additional functions. If the Garmin DriveSmart 86 is connected to the smartphone via the DriveSmart app, not only is real-time traffic data available, fuel prices and weather data can also be called up – also via the integration of Amazon Alexa. In addition, messages from the smartphone can be displayed and read out if necessary. Anyone who likes to make calls can look forward to an integrated hands-free function. This turns the navigation system into a real multimedia system. Map updates are included for life and are installed via WiFi or a PC. (You can find the complete review of the Garmin DriveSmart 86 here.)

Navigation device test

This is how AUTO BILD tests navigation devices

Navis out of the packaging and brought up to date with the latest software. The evaluation starts here: How complex is the update process? Are map updates included? After that, the focus is on operation, which of course should work as intuitively as possible. The touchscreen and input must also run smoothly, otherwise there is a risk of deductions. Then it’s several hours in the car on the road. Routes are selected here that have a roadblock or construction sites on the actually most traffic-efficient route, so that the devices have to search for alternative routes. The quality of the navigation respected: Are all announcements clear and early enough? Is there help with lane guidance? Will the route be quickly recalculated when there are changes? The navigation system must not distract the driver, all information should be visible at first glance. Likewise, the bracket should be tight and that GPS be properly visible. In addition, the devices have to compete against Google Maps and show that they reach their destination as quickly as the market leader in navigation apps. The reliability of the assistance systems, any additional functions as well as the workmanship and last but not least the price are also included in the result.

Garmin vs TomTom – who does it better?

The market for navigation devices has changed significantly in recent years: with the bankruptcy of United navigation brands like Falk and Becker have disappeared. The smartphone is increasingly competing with the aftermarket navigation system, in contrast to the navigation system that is permanently installed in the car. If you are now looking for a suitable navigation device, you will find two brands in particular in addition to many Chinese products: TomTom and Garmin. The two providers have firmly established themselves on the market. AUTO BILD compared two products from each brand.

At TomTom, there were only a few differences between the premium and mid-range. Both sat navs, the TomTom Go Essential and the Go Premium, have the same high-quality feel, an equally good screen and similar functions. Both cases include voice control, Bluetooth hands-free calling, smartphone notifications and Wi-Fi updates, among other things. The price difference here is more in the subtleties: This is how it can be done TomTom Go Premium interact with smart home devices, among other things, and offers worldwide maps.

At Garmin, the Drive 52 & Traffic were chosen as the entry-level navigation device, as well as the high-end DriveSmart 86 device. Here the difference in price ranges is far greater: The base model focuses on that navigation. There is an app that supplies the device with data and thus provides live traffic information. However, the Drive 52 does not offer any smartphone integration. The DriveSmart 86 is different: the smartphone functions are fully integrated here. There is also good built-in voice control and the ability to work with Amazon’s Alexa. In addition, there is the significantly higher quality processing of the premium product.

Mobile sat navs are good for that

Fluid touchscreen: Garmin’s test winner feels like a tablet.

The winner is the Garmin DriveSmart 86 with the grade “very good” and 74 out of 80 points. This puts Garmin ahead of TomTom. And rightly so: the navigation system is of very high quality, runs smoothly and offers many useful functions. It can take on almost all the tasks of a modern infotainment system in a poorly equipped car. However, Garmin’s advantage is quite small, because the TomTom Go Premium – the direct competitor – only gets four points less and the grade “good”. The four points less for the TomTom are mainly due to the poorer voice control, which only works with ready-made commands and understands you quite poorly while driving.
That TomTom Go Essential also scores 70 points and the grade “good”. Thanks to the comparatively low price of around 150 euros, it also wins the price/performance ratio. With the large range of functions and the high-quality workmanship, the navigation system can score in the test. On the other hand, the result for the inexpensive Garmin is not quite as good: Here it is “only” enough for a “satisfactory” with 55 out of 80 points. The main reason for this is the touchscreen, which makes it a bit difficult to use. In addition, with the Go Essential from TomTom you can see what is possible in the price segment, that’s where it works Garmin Drive 52 rather weak in direct comparison.
Mobile sat navs are good for that

On the test drive, the navigation systems had to show what they can do.

By the way: In matters navigation the two brands are in no way inferior to each other. All four candidates managed to avoid road closures and construction sites on the test route thanks to real-time traffic data. In all cases we arrived at the desired time at the destination – sometimes even before the time predicted by Google Maps. All Navis make clear announcements and sometimes include concise landmarks from the area, which make orientation even easier for the driver. With the premium devices Garmin DriveSmart 86 and TomTom Go Premium you have another advantage: They offer detailed lane guidance so that you always choose the right lane.

FAQ about navigation devices

Advantage of permanently installed navigation devices?
A permanently installed navigation device often has a larger display than mobile devices and more extensive map material, but is often associated with a hefty surcharge when buying a car.

Advantage of mobile navigation devices?
Mobile navigation devices are not only useful in the car, but can also be helpful on bike tours or hiking. They are often cheaper than permanently installed navigation systems. Free map material is also available for many devices.

What does PNA mean?
If a navigation device is marked with the abbreviation PNA, it is simply a mobile device. PNA stands for Portable Navigation Systems.

Many manufacturers, such as Garmin with its DriveSmart app, offer the option of connecting their navigation devices to a smartphone. Not only does this give you real-time traffic information, you can also call up weather data, for example, or use your own playlist as a music fan. With many car manufacturers and their permanently installed navigation devices, this also works via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

Conclusion by Lena Trautermann: And? Now who is better? If you just look at the points, Garmin gets the crown. TomTom gets third place and the price/performance win. Ultimately, however, the navigation system has to fit the user. That’s why you should first think about which functions you value and if in doubt: try them out. They all lead to the goal!

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