Old enough to know better
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Beacon, NY
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Re: Best handheld GPS/Chartplotter under $400?
Well a good Tablet or cell phone should work fine. They do get a quicker fix on your location if they have a wifi/cell phone connection but will get a fix without as well. It sometimes takes a few cycles through the GPS cycle to get a good location though. I do think they really should be secondary to a dedicated GPS though as they do tend to be bit more flaky, and batteries can run out at the worst time. The handheld GPS often uses AA and if they do run out you swap in another set.
One other thing the handhelds can do is connect to a laptop and you can run open CPN on that to get more functionality for free if you have an old laptop laying around. Open CPN will run on quite antiquated hardware and will run on Windows or Linux. I think there is an Mac version as well but I have no experience. I have played with the Linux version as well as the Windows. I use a GPS puck on mine.
If you want to use an iPad though you need the one that can get cell phone service, or else you will need a Bluetooth (or other compatible) GPS unit. You don't need the data service it is just that the GPS chip is bundled with the cell phone chip-set, and either not there, or deactivated on the WiFi models. (I have not taken one apart to see if the chip-set is there or not)