TomTom has revealed the latest addition to its burgeoning range of personal navigation devices, the new TomTom Go series. The range features all-new hardware and software with features that are designed to make it more compelling to use on an everyday basis – even if you already know how to get from your current location to your destination. We got the chance to go hands on with all the new units at a TomTom launch event in Amsterdam and came away generally impressed, if not entirely blown away.
The new TomTom Go is available in a range of screen sizes. The TomTom Go 400 is fitted with a 4.3-inch display, the Go 500 uses a 5-inch panel, while the top of the range Go 600 packs a large 6-inch display. All three are attractive and slot into a dashboard-cum-window mount with a magnetic port that lets you attach and remove the device with the utmost ease. The suction-mounted dock is easy to fit and remove, too – a twisting lock mechanism generates the right amount of suction so you won't have to spit on it apply moisture.
Common across the latest TomTom Go models is a new user interface. Rather than present the user with a main menu, the device lets you access most functions from the map screen. You can tap, scroll, pinch and stretch your way to specific locations on the map, tap that location again and navigate to it. Alternative, you can tap a small icon on the bottom left of the display to bring up a quick search option. The map, and the user interface in general, felt a little clunky in our opinion – about a third as responsive as you might find on an iPhone – so you'll need to use slow, deliberate inputs and exercise patience or you'll end up frustrated.
To its credit, the user interface and the maps are very easy on the eye, with nicely rendered maps -- particularly in 3D mode. The 3D buildings are generic in nature so all houses, shops etc. across Europe look pretty much identical, but it does feature the odd uniquely-rendered 3D landmark such as the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben etc.
The search feature has been overhauled so it's now noticeably easier to get results. The user simply has to enter any part of the address they're familiar with and the TomTom Go presents a list of likely results. This feature works rather well, as it does away with the need to enter a street, city or postcode in separate fields, although if you're lazy with the amount of data you enter to start with, you may have to do quite a bit of option scrolling to get to the address you're looking for.
Points of interest have been integrated into the search, so if you're looking for for a shoe shop, for example, you simply type the word 'shoe' and the device will bring up a range of likely options. Points of interest can be narrowed down to those on your route, those near to your current location, or any that are available on the map.
The TomTom Go Live products will come with at least four full map updates every year throughout the life of the product, including changes to the road network and new points of interest. They also come with three-months of speed camera alerts, which is a little mean, we think.
One notable addition to the new TomTom Go Live series is a vertical route bar on the right side of the display, which shows your general progress between your current location and destination point, along with important events (traffic spots, speed cameras etc.) that occur along the way. As you approach traffic, the system is able to warn you to slow down, increasing safety and reducing the amount of time you're likely to spend bumper to bumper.
The 4.3-inch and 5-inch devices need a mobile phone to be connected via Bluetooth in order to provide live traffic updates (which may be a problem if you already regularly pair your mobile to a separate hands free or to your car's stereo system via Bluetooth). The 6-inch 600 model uses its own integrated SIM card, however, and can provide live traffic without hooking up to a mobile phone.
TomTom has done its best to promote the fact the new TomTom Go Live can be used even by drivers who already know where they're going. The device remembers and displays the destinations you visit on a regular basis (home, work, the hardware store etc.) and can plot the fastest route to these destinations, taking into account current traffic conditions. Previous TomTom models equipped with the HD Traffic feature can do this in a roundabout way, but the new Go Live handles the process in a slightly more elegant fashion by providing multiple shortcuts to your favourite places.
The system is far from perfect. At launch, the Go Live will not feature voice recognition (not that it was much good in the previous models) and the product samples we were shown lacked lane guidance, although retail models are expected to include both features.
TomTom has yet to confirm pricing for the Go Live 400, 500 and 600. We'll let you know how much they cost as soon as that information is available.