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Garmin Nuvi and Magellan Roadmate Dual-Orientation GPS

Widescreen GPS navigation devices always seemed an odd design to me. Are Garmin and Magellan beginning to see the light?

While driving, the most important thing to me is seeing what is ahead. Obvious, I know. When GPS devices were enhanced from their 4:3 aspect-ratio screens to a widescreen format, I was puzzled. How does having a wider screen help me? Even my hand-held Garmin eTrex displays the map in portrait orientation so I can see where I am going.

As you can see in the image below, the top of the screen shows me where I am heading and a widescreen GPS does not improve this fundamental function of the device. I really do not care about seeing further to the left and right of my current position.

Magellan RoadMate 1424

Magellan RoadMate 1424 widescreen map view (image courtesy MiTAC International Corporation)

In time, the higher-end versions of these GPSes gained the ability to split the screen and display a map with additional information beside it such as a 3D model of freeway exit signs or lane selection guidance. You can see an example of this side-by-side use of the Garmin Nuvi display on the left side of the image below. This new feature, while helpful, still does not improve the main view of the map.

Garmin Nuvi 3590LMT

Garmin Nuvi 3590LMT dual-orientation screen (image courtesy Garmin Ltd.)

During the past couple of years, Garmin and Magellan began making a few models of GPS navigation devices that contain an accelerometer so that the device can sense its orientation, just like a smartphone does. This enables you to turn the screen into portrait orientation and the view aligns itself accordingly as shown on the Nuvi 3590 in the image above.

Finally! That long screen can now show more of what is ahead and where your next turn is relative to your current location.

If you are looking for a new GPS and want to be able to leverage this much-improved map interface, look for features named “dual-orientation display”, “portrait viewing mode” or similar, which indicates the ability to view the map vertically.

Do you like the wide, landscape view on most GPS devices or would you prefer portrait orientation?

Post image, “The right way”, by Fabrizio Sciami (Flickr)

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