Technology: TomTom Go

By: Dave Lorimar, Photography by: Dave Lorimar


TomTom has gone back to the basics for its new PND (personal navigation device) and has made a unit that lets you start navigating with as little as two taps on the screen.

Technology: TomTom Go
TomTom has gone back to the basics

For the first time TomTom has included both lifetime maps and traffic updates in its new Go range of devices, however, to get the traffic updates feature, you need to have a smartphone synced to the device. This is an easy process and once set up, the unit will automatically update with traffic every time the smartphone is in range. Testing has shown that if you use the traffic feature for around an hour per day, five days a week, the monthly data usage will be approximately 7MB. I don't see this as a problem as most plans start with 500MB anyway.

When you turn the unit on, the first thing you see is an overview of your location, including the latest traffic flow information around you. So before you even start driving, you can get an idea of what areas to avoid. You'll also see any favourite locations you have added (TomTom now calls these My Places). It makes navigating to these spots super easy. Just press and hold the favourite icon and a tag will appear, showing you the details of that favourite. Then just tap the steering wheel icon next to it and the device will automatically start navigating you there. If you have lots of favourite locations you frequently go to, you can now start navigating with just two taps on the screen.

Interacting with the display is similar to a smartphone or tablet. You can move the maps around by moving your finger around the screen, and if you want to zoom in or out, simply pinch your thumb and finger together or apart, and the map will zoom in and out as required. When you find somewhere you want to go, tap and hold, and a tag will appear with details of that location and a steering wheel option to drive there.

It's possible to navigate to new locations by typing in the details, just as you always have, but again, it's been made easier. You can input the street number, street/road and the suburb in any order. The unit is smart enough to understand what you mean and will search its database for any match. It will list both physical addresses plus any points of interest (POIs) that it has found. For example, start typing McDonald and it will not only find any street/road called McDonald but also any McDonald's restaurants or anything else with the word McDonald in it. As long as TomTom keeps its database up to date, you can now search for businesses directly.

The unit

Every pixel of the screen is utilised to provide the user with an enriching experience, with floating layers and pop-up boxes now semi-transparent, enabling users to still see the map below. Every icon and point on the map is interactive. Tapping a traffic incident, your route or a random point on the map will open a pop-up box with additional information. You can now also change your destination or add waypoints without leaving the map view.

Once you enter a city the map will start to show 3D buildings that have a similar design and shape to the real thing. The buildings are set slightly back from the roads to provide a clearer view of the roads, enabling the user to easily find small hidden lanes that are often found behind large buildings.

The unit has what's called an active mount, which basically means it attaches to the base using magnets. No more having to find and press a button to release it — simply pull hard and the unit will detach. I really like this feature. The Go can also connect to both the American GPS and the Russian GLONASS service.

The features

Besides the new user interface, the big difference about this unit is the inclusion of lifetime traffic updates. This makes the information the device provides relevant for every day travel and navigation. When in the 2D map view, the delays around you are displayed in different colours and include a delay estimate in minutes. When drivers are approaching a traffic jam on their route, the route bar on the right-hand side of the display will zoom in on that incident and provide information such as the length of the jam, the speed of the jam and how many metres before you reach it. This alert feature appears about 30 seconds before you reach the tail of the incident, based on your speed, and is unique to the TomTom Go. TomTom Traffic covers nine times more roads in New Zealand then other providers. The unit comes with maps for both New Zealand and Australia and are updated four times per year.

The new route bar provides all the essential route information in one place. The ETA, distance to go and time delay expected are shown, plus a summary of the next 50km of your journey. Incidents, speed cameras, etc. are displayed giving drivers an overview of what's ahead and when to expect it. Any suggested changes to your route are also displayed here. It works very well without being distracting.

Conclusion

This is the best PND I've tested from TomTom. The interface is more intuitive than any other PND I've used. It displays a lot of information in a simple and unobtrusive manner. I think it suits someone who travels to the same locations frequently. When these are set as My Places (favourites), you can drive there with just two taps on the screen. I think it would be better if a 'recent destinations' button was added to the main screen options. This would reduce the taps on this frequently used feature, from five to two.

If you have no smartphone, or data plan, then this is not the PND for you. But if you do, then this unit is a winner.

Units retail at: TomTom GO500 five-inch RRP $349.00, TomTom GO600 six-inch RRP $399.00. n

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