Our handheld marine GPS review page covers a wide-ranging list of units, not just those marketed to power boaters and sailors.
Most of todays portable GPS handhelds are outfitted with generic mapping and operational software not specifically designed or always very useful to boaters and mariners.
Even a number of units that carry a marine designation seem more about marketing than content or design. Still these compact units seem to do very well at tracking boat position using the latest technology features of the GPS satellite system.
For the mariner, they can serve as the main navigation computer or be a viable backup to permanently installed onboard gear.
Accurate position, speed, and course information supplied by a handheld GPS used in conjunction with a paper chart should be all you need to complete any voyage.
When they are so equipped, many of the handheld marine GPS review units we tested are also good at supplying accurate lunar, solar, and tidal data in user-friendly format.
Some of this type of information can be critical to a new navigator or novice boater arriving in an unfamiliar port or marina.
One thing these units don’t do very well is display easy to read charts like you’d find on a large screen fixed-mount chartplotter. Early handhelds were especially lacking here for two reasons.
First, screen size on a handheld is simply not large enough to display the huge volume of data needed to make a map display useful and accurate. Increasing screen sizes on recently released handhelds have help here.
Second, memory and processor capability was very limited in the earliest mapping handhelds. Newer handhelds have made significant strides in the hardware arena with big increases in computing power and lots more memory.
The units we’ll review here have prices ranging from under $100 up to near the approximate $400 starting price of a fixed mount chartplotter.