TomTom Club

OK – I’ve had the new satnav five months now, and I did promise you a review…

I first decided to buy the TomTom One because I’d been running TomTom software on the PDA for years, and wanted to upgrade: the maps were out of date, and unlike the newer versions corrections weren’t available (I’ll come on to that): Also the PDA I was running it on was mind-numbingly slow when it came to adding new destinations. The TomTom One, with Traffic add-on, was on sepcial offer in Halfords, so off I toddled.

I like the fact that if you find something on the map that’s wrong, you can change it: almost the first time I used it, it tried to take me on a road that’s not publicly accessible – and it told me that the real public road to that destination was private. It was a matter of a few seconds to change the map, and all you have to do is connect the device to a computer that’s online, and you share the correction with all other users, and can download corrections submitted by other people.

The same thing applies to the Speed Camera add-on: This is a device that honks at you when a traffic camera is coming up: It tells you whether it’s a speed camera or a traffic light cam, and if a speed camera it reminds you what the speed limit normally is on that road. Again, user updates can be shared online.

About the only thing I don’t like is that the traffic plug-in isn’t as useful as you might think: It’s a separate bit of kit that plugs into the box and listens to local radio travel news: If there’s a hold-up on your route, it warns you about it and offers an alternative – which you can either accept or ignore in favour of the original route. In practice it takes a long time to lock on to the local station, and you can complete journeys up to half an hour without a lock ever being obtained. Worse still, it only works when plugged into a live 12V socket, so if you’re doing a stop-start journey – making multi-drop deliveries in town for example – it has to start looking for the local radio station every time you turn the engine back on. And finally, it only seems to know about unusual traffic conditions: it once warned me about a twenty minute delay caused by roadworks, but then re-routed me through a major traffic jam in a town centre: Because that jam is there every Saturday morning, the local radio weren’t reporting it and so the gadget didn’t know about it.

Aside from that, it’s just a couple of niggles: I’ve already downloaded a database of height restrictions, and I’d like to be able to tell the device to avoid these when it does route planning. At the moment you have to let it plan a route, then look for problems on the route and tell it to avoid those, and re-plan. Since when I use it for real I’m often either driving a minibus, or towing a 9 foot high caravan, it would be useful.

The only other thing is that at the moment you can have sound on or off: With sound off, you not only lose the sexy lady giving you route instructions, but also the alarms for a speed camera coming up, or a detected traffic problem. Since PF finds the spoken instructions a bit annoying (they keep her awake, and she likes to sleep when I’m driving!), it would be nice to be able to turn off directions but keep the warnings.

Would I buy another TomTom? Yes, although I’d like the features I’ve suggested to be included in a future upgrade. I don’t think I’d get the traffic gadget again unless it was made to lock on to stations much more quickly, and keep the lock when the power is turned off.

TomTom engineers…anyone reading?

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