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Comparison of handheld aviation GPS units
and why I'll never buy anything "Lowrance" again!

 

First off, let me say that nothing on this site is trying to sell you anything. There are no links to Amazon - nothing. The information here is my opinion - nothing more - nothing less. This article was last updated in May 2015.

I initially created this article because I owned a Lowrance 2000c GPS and one day, out of the blue, Lowrance decided to stop selling and more importantly, stop supporting their aviation GPS units. They handled the situation totally wrong! Their decision to completely abandon the aviation community so abruptly was totally unacceptable and I will never have one of their products again - not for my boat, not for anything!

Now, for a replacement, here are my thoughts. This is a list of portable aviation GPS units and software solutions that I put together as a quick reference guide. It's not a complete comparison by any means. It is meant to let you know what is available and where to get more information about them. Please note that I place a very high emphasis on being American Made as this country is in dire need of jobs right now - I hope you'll take that into consideration when making your next purchase.

1. Garmin is a great company and the leader in aviation avionics but they tend to be pricey. I have included one of their models here that is somewhat comparable to the iFly 720 but look at the price difference. Plus, Garmin uses Jeppesen so updates can be expensive as well.

2. AvMap EKP IV is a portable aeronautical GPS with a 7 inch display and sunlight-viewable LCD. It's a foreign company (Italy) and updates are a pain to accomplish (by E-mail / web and ZIP files). At the price of this line of GPS units, I'd opt for a Garmin instead at $1800 plus. At least then I wouldn't have to worry about getting caught up in another "Lowrance" situation.

3. Anywhere Map has a unit that is very competitive in features and price. It's called the Quadra and comes in 'Basic, Max, and EFB' versions starting at $395. Control Vision has been in business since 1981 and also offers just the application program for your own iPad or Android Pad if you wish. They have been developing and marketing aviation based products since 1999. They are located in Pittsburg, Kansas.

4. The iFly Series (iFly 520, iFly 720, and iFly 740) by Adventure Pilot™ offers a 5 or 7 inch touch screen, low cost annual updates, and many unique features for a fairly reasonable price. Standard price includes STAR, Approach and Departure and other FAA charts (never buy Sectionals again!), airport diagrams, big buttons that fade out when not needed, zoom levels from 2 to 100 NM per inch, multi leg flight plans, and much, much more. Connect an ADS-B for free weather maps and aircraft avoidance system!

5. Low cost phone / tablet solutions: Are you looking for a Android/Apple phone or iPad/Android Tablet solution? Try Anywhere Map Freedom for $49.99 or WingX Pro (see note, below) for under $100.

6. Finally, if you have an Android Tablet (or even a android phone), you really should give Avare (pronounced Av Air) a try. Avare is a aviation moving map GPS system that also supports ADSB and AHRS (no kidding). It is TOTALLY free, wrote by pilots for pilots and it is evolving really fast. Avare's basic features include online or offline air field info, approach plates, and GPS moving map on all FAA VFR Sectionals, WACs, and TACs, plus IFR Low charts and airport diagrams. You can also manually browse all charts and all other materials even without cell service or GPS. Current FAA weather METARs, TAFs, and TFRs are provided too. You can get Avare from the Play Store on your android phone or tablet. There is no support currently for Apple products.

Before we look at the hardware and software, it's important to know about four terms thrown around today; WAAS, A-GPS, ADS-B, AHRS:

What is WAAS: Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) is an air navigation aid developed by the FAA to enhance GPS. WAAS improves its accuracy, integrity, and availability. It is important to me and should be important to all pilots, that their GPS be WAAS enabled. Not all GPS systems that claim to be intended for aviation are WAAS enabled so you might want to ask that question before you make the purchase. If you're not 'up' on WAAS and why it is important, check out this wiki on the subject. For iPad/iPhone users, you really might want to ask this question before buying the iPad! Certain iPad models don't even have any GPS at all and when they do have a GPS, they are not ever WAAS enabled. iPad users will want to purchase an external WAAS enable GPS.

What is 'A-GPS'? A-GPS means 'Assisted GPS' and is usually typed as 'A-GPS' or 'aGPS'. It is a GPS system that's mainly used on Pads and cell phones to quickly get a GPS fix using the internet. Normal GPS uses radio signals from satellites where A-GPS systems initially use the internet to arrive at a fix quickly then they change over to normal GPS after the cell phone / pad has had time to get it's normal fix. Having a A-GPS system gives the pilot NO features or benefit at all but they still work as a normal GPS. Under some circumstances, A-GPS can actually cost you money by using your cell service unnecessarily. A WAAS enable GPS is what pilots need, not A-GPS.

What is ADS-B? Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast (ADS-B) is a new technology currently being implemented by the FAA in the US that allows pilots in the cockpit and ATC to 'see' aircraft traffic with precision. ADS-B also broadcasts real-time weather information to pilots. This information significantly increases flight safety. The best 'feature' is that ADS-B is free of charge. To take advantage of this system, you will need a GPS capable of using ADS-B data and you will need an ADS-B transceiver that broadcasts your info and a receiver that receives other people's location information and live weather data. Currently, ADS-B 'out' is mandated nationwide by January 1, 2020 as part of the NextGen national airspace strategy for upgrading and enhancing the aviation infrastructure. ADS-B 'out' is where your aircraft broadcasts its position to other aircraft. ADS-B 'in' is the instrument in your aircraft that shows where other traffic is located. See the wiki for more info.

What is AHRS? Attitude and Heading Reference System (AHRS) is a system of sensors on three axes that provide heading, attitude and yaw information for aircraft. AHRS is designed to replace traditional mechanical gyroscopic flight instruments and provide superior reliability and accuracy. AHRS consist of either solid-state or microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) gyroscopes, accelerometers and magnetometers on all three axes. AHRS is usually part of what most people now call a 'glass cockpit'.

Here I attempt to compare some key aviation GPS units as well as software-only aviation navigation solutions:

Unit / Comments Price WAAS
Enabled?
ADS-B
Capable?
Picture
garmin

Garmin:

https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/in-the-air/portable-gps/gpsmap-696/prod14859.html

$1,799.00

(no, that's not a typo - it's one thousand seven hundred and ninety nine dollars)

Plus Jeppesen update costs!

Yes Yes garmin 696

AvMap, a TWS Holding company (Italy):

EKP IV is the portable aeronautical GPS navigator with ultra wide 7 display, a bright and sunlight-viewable LCD.

http://www.avmap.us/index.php?swt=0507&ipr=4

$1399.00 Yes

Yes

Bendix King

Bendix / King, AV80R: DISCONTINUED

 

      Image

Anywhere map

Anywhere Map, Freedom 7 System:

http://store.controlvision.com/freedom7.html#page=General-Info

Freedom 7 inch shown. Freedom 10 inch available.Android

Freedom software is also available alone for your own Android or iPad.

Software is very impressive and reasonable.

Runs on Android or iPad operating system, NOT Windows.

$395.00 hardware and software

or

$49.99 for the App for your own Pad.

WAAS No

Uses
A-GPS.

No but it's planned for the future.

anywheremap gps



iFly

Attention iPad Owners: Tired of fighting sunlight, glare, overheating, and weird apps that are difficult to figure out? This unit was designed by Pilots for Pilots and is the unit we recommend for a lot of pilots!

The iFly 720 / 740 has a hi-resolution 7 inch sunlight readable display (5 inch on the iFly 520), large buttons, adjustable everything, extreme operating temp range and can even control your autopilot and connect to your ADS-B! VFR and IFR updates are very cheap at $69 and $109, respectively, per year (not per month). WiFi enabled so updates are a snap.

iFly 520, the 5 inch version of the iFly 720: iFly520

iFly 720, 7 inch version: iFly720

iFly 740, the updated iFly version of the iFly 720: iFly740

iFly Watch a YouTube video by Aircraft Spruce on this unit.

iFly Also, see the write-up on the older iFly 700, Courtesy of EAA Chapter 663.

$399.00
to
$999.00


Recommended

WAAS Yes ADS-B
Yes

ifly720 gps

iFly 720 / iFly 740

 

 

ifly520 gps

iFly 520 Version



Wing X

WingX Pro (SOFTWARE ONLY): Provides a synthetic vision moving map aviation software program. To implement sythetic vision, you'll need to combine their software with AHRS hardware like iLevel provides for instance.

http://www.hiltonsoftware.com

This is currently primarily an iPad application. The Android version is missing many key features right now so if you are using an Android device, I would look at the Avare software instead. Compare the features of different versions.

$99.95 initial purchase and $99.95 per year for updates.

Pad not included.

 

Yes, supports ADS-B and AHRS wingxpro gps

Avare (For your hardware):

AndroidRuns on YOUR ANDROID): Avare

This software is free. Wrote by pilots for pilots. Very, Very nice and getting better all of the time as it is being actively developed. I installed it on my HTC android single core phone and it works well. You probably want a little bigger screen though so a tablet is more appropriate. This is very much worth a try.

Free initially

and

free updates


 

Yes, supports ADS-B and AHRS

navzilla

Navzilla:

For android. Appears to be a dead project.

Free

 

Unknown

navzilla

The End

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