I am a long time user of Garmin GPs systems. I had a Street Pilot C330 for several years and also have a nuvi 765T, so I will draw some comparisons between the TomTom and the Garmin below.
What's in the box?
* TomTom XXL 540TM portable GPS
* Windshield suction mount
* Adhesive mount disk
* Car power Adapter
* USB connector
* Instruction guide
Setup of this device is pretty simple. The instruction guide walks you through connecting it to a PC, downloading updates, etc.
On a high level, the TomTom gets me where I want to go and both visual and audio instructions were clear and timely. One note: when you near your destination, the TomTom tells you that you arrived and the display shows if the destination is on the left or right, but the voice does not tell you which side of the street it is on. This is not a huge deal, but its something I became used to with Garmin, which tells you "arriving at destination on left" and so on.
Two places where Garmin beats out the TomTom: Garmin seems to always give you fair warning of approaching turns, etc. The TomTom seems to occasionally offer the info a little late, like as you pass the turn. I noticed this issue during side by side testing. It doesn't happen real often with the TomTom, but it does happen. Also, if you miss a turn or intentionally alter your route, the Garmin is very quick to recalculate. The comparable 'replanning' feature on the TomTom sometimes takes a while, which means you drive around or sit there, waiting for recalculated instructions.
The "lane guidance" system, which points out which lane you should be in on multi-lane highways, works very well, It can automatically switch the display to a "blacktop" view, showing the lanes, dividing islands, and highway signs so that the display looks similar to what you are seeing on the road. If you have an older GPS, the lane guidance features alone should be enough reason to upgrade. My Garmin 765 has this same feature and it is similar on both products.
The TomTom controls are simple and intuitive. The TomTom does not seem to provide as much Points Of Interest information as I have become accustomed to with Garmin. The Garmin tell you the POI's address, city, etc. of each point (store, etc.) rather than just the distance and direction provided by the TomTom. Signal strength seems about the same on my TomTom 540TM and the Garmin 765.
The maps on the TomTom seem current/accurate. The big difference compared to the Garmin is that TomTom includes FREE map updates four times annually for the useable life of the device. Some critics have observed that only TomTom knows what they consider "usable life." However, I can tell you that Garmin makes you buy most map updates, "usable life" or not. It seems silly to pay $70 for a one time map update on a $200 GPS. To buy the same 4 updates per year that TomTom offers for free costs $119.99 at Garmin.
At 5" diagonally, the TomTom has a larger display than the Garmin. While certainly very portable, the TomTom does not have much "pocketability", outside of maybe a large pocket in cargo shorts, etc. I prefer the TomTom's larger screen, and at 4.3" the Garmin won't fit in many pockets either. Most of the GPS products in this size class will fit in a small carrying case, pocketbook, under your car seat, or in your glovebox.
Sound quality: Hearing directions is key when diving with a GPS. The TomTom pronounces words clearly enough to be understood, yet I would say pronunciation is slightly better on my Garmin. However, and it's a big however, the TomTom has far better volume. With the Garmin 765, if you are on battery power, the maximum volume is fairly low, especially when there is conversation in the car, radio, or road noises. The Garmin volume becomes decent only when you plug in the power adaptor. The TomTom's volume is fine, regardless of the power source. Speaking of power, the battery life on the TomTom is not great, two hours if you are lucky.
Traffic updates on the TomTom come via RDS updates, so you have to connect the device to an FM radio system to receive the RDS data. This means unless you plug in the car power adaptor, the GPS will not get the signal through your car radio, and you won't get the traffic updates. This is true of the Garmin 765 I own as well.
TomTom also includes their IQ Routes feature, which makes use of historical traffic volume based on the time of day of your trip. Route selections are made with this data factored in, which is a pretty nice feature.
When it comes to mounting the device on the windshield itself, the suction feature on the TomTom is better than the Garmin. The TomTom has a knob integrated with the suction cup so you apply the mount and turn the knob to create a firm adhesion to the windshield. With the Garmin you just push the suction cup on in a standard manner. The Garmin is a little more prone to fall off than the TomTom.
The TomTom uses a very small stand, which is very portable, and much less bulky than on the Garmin products. It does tend to limit you to mounting on the windshield, unless you prefer to use the mounting disk, which to me is a general no-no, putting an adhesive disk on your auto interior. That is a personal choice though, and obviously many people will be fine using the disk. The larger stand on a Garmin allows you to place the device in a cup holder or other front console/dash compartment. Personally, I find the bean bag type accessories an excellent alternative. I would recommend one from Garmin or TomTom, depending of course on which product you own.
I found the mount itself on the TomTom to be annoying, coming off more than half the time when I adjust it or remove the device from the windshield. The mount reattaches easily to the back of the GPS though.
When it comes to overall features, the Garmin is more loaded at a price of $20-$40 more - Bluetooth/phone compatibility, redirection of audio through car radio, MP3 capability playable through your car audio system, and photo features. The TomTom sticks more to GPS mainstream, lacking most of these features.
If you want celebrity voices on your GPS, TomTom provides the ability to download these. The Garmin does not. Keep in mind celebrity voices will NOT read you street names, just general instructions.
All in all, I really like the TomTom and in general, would choose this item again, although I can't say it is better than the Garmin. Garmin's map pricing policy makes me lean toward the tomTom, but the few buggy items on the TomTom (occasional late instruction, long time to recalculate) make it a toss up.
on August 10, 2010
The marketing information clearly implies that if you buy the "TM WTE" edition, you get lifteime updates for the maps included in the product, i.e., North America _and_ Europe. However, buried in the TomTom support files you'll find this hedge:
"Lifetime Map Updates cover the countries of the United States, Canada and Mexico. Updates are limited to the regions that are pre-installed on the device.
If your navigation device has maps of other countries, for example, Western Europe, these will not be updated through Lifetime Map Updates."
Really pretty cheesy, and makes me hesitate to buy what otherwise looks like a good-value product.
The TomTom 540TM World Traveler is one of the nicer GPS units you'll see, due to the world maps, traffic & map updates, and 5" screen. I've been using this unit for about a month now and have been very happy with it. I've used it in city environments (Atlanta and New York), as well as rural areas (parts of Georgia and Tennessee), and it's delivered consistently good performance.
One of the best features about it is the 5" screen. As long as you can afford it, the 5" screen is a no-brainer pick over the 4.3" screen that is popular in the GPS world. I drive a compact sedan and never felt that the 5" screen was taking up too much space on my windshield. The screen provides plenty of real estate for all the data you need. You are able to customize what data appears on your screen. I set my standard screen to show this info:
- The map (obviously)
- Name of current road you are on
- Name of road you are going to turn on to
- Distance until next turn
- Direction arrow of next turn
- Hours/minutes until arrival at destination
- Current time
- Estimated arrival time (I liked seeing if I was making time or losing time as I drove)
- Your current speed (others in the car can see how fast you're going- this could be a good or bad thing!)
- Speed limit where you are driving (very useful- however this feature is not available on a lot of city roads)
- Signal strength (never saw it go below full bar strength)
Obviously, that is a lot of information. But with the 5" screen, it never feels cramped nor crowded. And you can always disable some of these if you feel there is too much data on the screen.
There is a lot to like about this unit other than the screen:
Suction cup: the detachable suction unit folds into the back of the unit, which is convenient for transporting. Best of all, I thought it was easy to apply to my windshield. And very importantly, it never fell off while driving. I bought a Magellan Roadmate GPS in 2004 that always fell off, which was highly annoying.
Lifetime Map Updates: TomTom will publish map updates for the life of the unit (which is up to their discretion of course). I assumed the updates would be yearly, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the updates are released every 3 months. The updates are easy to install as well via a USB cable and a computer. However, keep in mind Europe is not included in the lifetime updates.
Traffic Updates: This only works via the traffic receiver that is built into the power cord. So you will need to plug in the cord when you want traffic. The Traffic Updates drive the IQ Routes feature, which is very cool. This will route your directions based on the day and the time of day in order to avoid traffic. The great thing about this feature is that it's constantly on. For example, I was driving into NYC and in the middle of my drive, a message popped up saying something to the extent of "By taking an alternate route that will add 1.7 miles to your drive, you can save 6 minutes. Would you like to make this change?". Then you have a "Yes" or "No" option. This is a fantastic feature in areas where there are multiple roads to get around.
Advanced Lane Guidance: On highways where there are splits or exits, a screen will pop up with huge arrows indicating what lane to stay in. This is especially useful on crowded highways so you can avoid having to make last second lane changes.
Customization: You can pretty much change anything on this device. You can select map colors. You can go with a 2D or 3D screen. You can pick one of the pre-set voices, or buy celebrity voices through the TomTom website. For about $15 per voice, can you get directions from Homer Simpson, Darth Vader, or Knight Rider's KITT (there are dozens of different voice options). You can even change the icon of the car that is driving. You can upload your own picture or select one of the hundreds that have been uploaded by other users. It is pretty cool to see my actual car on the map screen!
Carpool/HOV option: If your drive involves carpool/HOV lanes, the unit will ask you at the start of your trip if you want to take or avoid carpool lanes when available.
Directions: Of course, the primary purpose of a GPS is to take you to the destination as efficiently as possible. Granted, this quality will vary from user to user depending on where you live. And I wasn't able to test how well the unit would work in Europe, Canada, or Mexico. But in my experience, I never had any problems with the unit giving me bad or inefficient directions.
Though it's a great unit, there are some problems I ran into:
Touchscreen: The unit does not provide instant feedback. So basically you have to touch the screen, then wait a second or so before the unit responds. I found this to be fairly annoying when having to enter in long city names or street addresses. In this age of touchscreen cell phones that respond instantly, I'm not sure why some GPS units cannot do the same thing.
Mute: I couldn't find a way to mute the device without going into the menu options. There is a volume slider you can access by touching the main screen, but moving the slider all the way to the left still left 10% volume. All the way to the left should mean Mute.
Airport Codes: I found it didn't handle airport codes well. When you use an online service like Google Maps, you can just type in a 3 digit airport code as your destination and not have to worry about an actual address. With this unit, you cannot do this. My work-around was going into Points of Interest and selecting Airports.
Points of Interest: It did not provide great detail for POI's. And for some reason, I found it difficult to click on the icon to bring up data. I understand the POI feature works much better on Garmin units.
However, even with these minor annoyances, I consider this unit to be a great GPS option.
on September 13, 2010
This is a review of the newest TomTom XXL540TM World Traveler Edition versus the Garmin Nuvi 1370T.
I recently spent a week in Naples Italy fighting my way around one of Europe's dirtiest cities...on streets that are often disorganized and worse.
I had the the TOMTOM XXL540, my wingman had a new Garmin 1370T. The TomTom in my Fiat...the Garmin in his Alfa Romeo. We switched GPS devices daily. Who are we? I am an engineer. My wingman is a jet pilot. We are both Gadget guys.
The TOMTOM was the hands down winner. I need go no further. If you haven't bought either, but need a GPS with both North America and Europe capability...ONLY consider the TOMTOM. Why? Here are the reasons: Larger and clearer screen, more detailed roads on the maps. Fewer errors in navigating. However, the most important feature is the Green flashing arrows that make it clear when you need to turn from a main road to an exit ramp...and which lane you need to be in. Or when coming onto a main road. THis didn't occur always, but usually when on the Autostrada. Garmin didnt have this...and that was the decisive blow. IF you weren't listening, you could easily miss the turn. I also enjoyed the TomTom's subtle but suggestive voice...."bear left", "bear right", "exit now".
The Garmin has a better mount, and bluetooth. However, we never used bluetooth. The main reason to have the GPS is to get where you're going...and the TOMTOM couldn't be beat. We drove Naples, Amalfi, Rome, and small towns around Naples. With the TomTom, we would put in the town, and select restaurants, and a list would quickly come up...thus leaving the Rick Steves guide on the floor. The TomTom mount isn't necessarily bad, it mounts to the glass nicely, however, getting the unit to click into the mount is a bit tricky...that's not the case with the Garmin...it mounts securely. However, the mounts for both units worked well and were not a problem. The TOMTOM is a larger unit in size...though it is fairly thin.
I don't write reviews...but this was an easy one. If you bought the Garmin...try to return it. If you bought the TomTom...congratulations.
"You have the controls".