Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: TomTom XXL 540TM 5-Inch Widescreen Portable GPS Navigator (Lifetime Traffic & Maps Edition)(Discontinued by Manufacturer)
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on May 13, 2010
History with GPS Navigation:
I've used built-in Honda (Alpine), standalone Garmin, and Ford 'Sync' audio GPS navigation devices.
I loved the Honda navi for its size, and I hated it because updates were sparse and expensive.
I loved the Garmin for being up-to-date but I hated it because it always seemed to change its mind a lot, or direct me into strange areas.
I didn't really care for the Ford Sync navigation, as it wasn't a visual navi. Included for free with the car, but I choose not to use it. Maybe only good as a 'back-up' in case the TomTom fails-- though I don't think it ever will.

I sold my Honda and needed a new navigation system.

I bought the XXL 540TM for...
1) Screen size
2) Frequent map updates (4x a year + Map Share)
3) Ability to customize it (lots of settings to play with)
4) Well Known & Quality (I've always heard 'Garmin' is the best, but when I've tried Garmin, I didn't like it!)
5) Lane Guidance
6) IQ Routes (figuring out which roads were best to use)

By the way, in case you were wondering the "TM" stands for "Traffic" and "Maps", indicating there are free traffic and map updates. I had NO problems entering the "Lifetime Maps & Traffic" code provided.

What's in the box:
-> GPS device itself
-> Window mount (with suction cup)
-> Dashboard 'sticky' pad
-> USB cable (to connect to PC)
-> Car Power adapter
-> Set Up Guide
-> Slip of paper with 1 code, valid for Lifetime Map/Traffic updates

The first thing I did was hook it up to my PC and run all the updates. (A newer map was available + GPSFix + Map Share.) It took about 1.5 hours to update all of it. After it was done, it took up about 96% of the 2GB built-in memory. (I didn't check how much it used before updating.) Not a lot of 'wiggle room' to add more features. No built-in SD slot to add memory, either.

One major downside is that I don't like how easily the device 'pops off' the windshield mount. (See further explanation under "The BAD" below.) I am considering getting a (non-adhesive) weighted/padded mount to put on the dashboard.

The GOOD:
+ Screen size met my expectations. Easy to see everything on the screen

+ Startup time (including time to lock onto satellites) seemed fairly quick

+ Roads were up-to-date and labeled properly. Didn't find any errors

+ Allowed me to customize just about everything I wanted to.

+ It functioned perfectly as a Navigation device. This is where I felt Garmin was lacking. With all the features a Garmin has, it never seemed to 'navigate' the way I liked. Of all the features, the 'Navigation' is the most important, and TomTom does it well from what I've seen.

+ It pronounced some 'hard to say' roads perfectly! I'm sure I'll find some that are not right, but Garmin/Sync had a hard time saying road names.

The "OK":
+- Traffic is only updated by RDS (sent by local FM radio stations). This is what I paid for. RDS updated only major roadways (Interstates) and marked some accidents / road construction / road closures. It only worked when the power cord was plugged into the accessory power port on the car (as the cord functions as the antenna.) I would have preferred TomTom's GO/Live line of products which has a built-in 'cell phone' to grab more detailed and current traffic information. But, these were out of my price range. The XXL 540TM does "just enough" traffic to make it useful.

+- It takes some time to calculate a long distance route. But, I also know that it is using IQ Routes to choose the best roads. It seemed 1 or 2 seconds longer than it needed to be, but certainly not a huge problem.

The BAD:
- Internal memory not expandable. 96% used up without any 'extras' installed? Hope I don't need more...

- When browsing maps (dragging my finger) it is a bit 'laggy'. I don't expect perfection, but it seemed sluggish. Fortunately, I don't plan to browse maps often, so I'll deal with it. I tried turning off Points Of Interest (POIs), and turning off 3D maps (using 2D maps instead), and it really didn't seem to make a difference. I'm impressed with the detail it showed, but wasn't thrilled about waiting 10 seconds for the entire screen to finish 'drawing'.

- Windshield mount seemed to 'pop off' too easily. When suctioned to the windshield, I have to use 2 hands to 'hold' the GPS and keep it attached to the mount while I adjust. I suppose it is useful for people who leave the mount stuck on the windshield. I prefer to remove the device AND the mount and hide them when not in use. (I figure a thief will know that the mount is for a GPS, and that the GPS is hidden in the car somewhere.)

I have yet to try this out on a LONG or COMPLEX road trip, but I have no doubts from what I've seen so far that it will be just fine.

OVERALL, I'm happy with the device. Happier than I was with Sync, Alpine, or Garmin. I consider myself an 'Average' navigation user (not a beginner, not an expert) and will update the review after using it more.

Sidenote: I ordered through Amazon, using "Beach Camera" seller. It was delivered ONE (1) business day after I ordered it! I used 'Standard' shipping, and FedEx (Home service) had it delivered fast. Very pleased with Beach Camera's shipping emails and speed!

=========================
UPDATE 11/18/2010:
I thought I'd provide an update after 6 months of using this TomTom device:

1) I am still very happy! It's the 1st GPS I've used that "just works" and I'm glad I don't have to mess with it.

2) I've mastered the technique of adjusting the screen position while simultaneously holding the suction base. Back in May when I first reviewed it, I was concerned about how 'easily' it popped off. Now, it is still annoying, but I've minimized the amount of times it happens by holding it appropriately. It doesn't annoy me enough to buy a different stand/holder.

3) The suction cup still holds on quite well. It hasn't fallen off yet. (I attach/detach from the windshield every time I use it.)

4) Traffic Receiver: I've been satisfied with alternate directions/road closings. It is quite accurate, even in rural areas where I didn't expect road closures to be displayed.

5) Long-distance travel: I've used it for a few long trips (1000+ miles) and had no problems whatsoever with it. I found the 'estimate' of time to be extremely accurate. It was no more than 10 minutes off. (I calculated the time I stopped for gas and added it to the original estimate.)

6) Battery life: I've found the battery life to be holding a little less charge than it used to, but nothing that I feel is alarming. Most of the time, I have the power cord connected anyway (so I can grab the traffic updates with the antenna built into the cord.)

Overall, this is my favorite GPS. I've been hooking it up to the computer less and less (meaning I am forfeiting new 'map share' corrections). I even decided NOT to get the latest map update. Why? Well, I feel everything is working just fine the way it is. I may update if I have the free time. This is in sharp contrast to my previous GPS experience, where I'd pray for updates to fix stubborn issues. The TomTom is just fine and I have had no major complaints. I am NOT in the market to buy a new GPS because I'm finally satisfied.

=========================
UPDATE 06/03/2011:
Here is an update after 1 year of using this device!

1) The battery is holding less charge than last year, but it still lasts 6-8 hours without needing a charge. Not a problem for me, because I use the car adapter most of the time.

2) I drove to Canada, and the maps were accurate! In fact, I liked that TomTom still told me the speed limits of the roads. (Sign said 100kph speed limit, TomTom showed 60 mph limit.) I found this helpful so I didn't have to squint at the tiny "kph" on my car's speedometer. I've made this trip before in the past (without my TomTom), and I chose to "Avoid Tolls" on this trip. TomTom found a very nice route that I had not known about. It used IQ Routes to get me around the rush-hour traffic too! I used the "Itinerary" feature for the first time, and found it worked quite well. I programmed 6-7 destinations the night before my trip. The next day, I simply opened the Itinerary and it asked me if I wanted to travel to the 1st one. I also ended up re-ordering a destination to later in the trip, and found an option to re-order. Very helpful!

3) I updated my map just once (right before my trip to Canada). I installed this on a new computer. I was worried that TomTom wouldn't 'know' that I was eligible for free maps on my new computer. But, I had no problem whatsoever! For those of you who don't know, all your map updates, downloadable color schemes, icons (etc) are done through the TomTom HOME software. You create an account with TomTom, and the TomTom HOME software uses that account to 'know' you're eligible for Lifetime Map updates.

4) I did discover 1 piece that doesn't work for me. I cannot use the "Safety Cameras" add-in from TomTom HOME. I haven't researched it though. I got an error message when trying to add it. No big deal for me, since I only planned to add it for curiosity. A quick Google search didn't reveal it as a widespread problem. I'll update this review if I find a cause/solution.

5) Yes, the GPS still "pops off" the mount too easily. It bugs me from time to time, but still not enough to buy a different mount/base.

6) Am I in the market for a new GPS? Nope! Still very happy with this one. (I got sick of every other GPS within 6 months of using it. But, knowing I still love this TomTom after 1 year says a lot!)

Good job TomTom, you exceeded my high expectations. Thank you!

=========================
UPDATE 02/23/2012:

Aproaching 2 years with this GPS. Nothing much to report. Still going strong! I made 2 more 1000+ mile trips since my last update. I have had NO problems with this TomTom GPS. And, I am still receiving free map updates without a problem. (My fear was that the "Lifetime maps" would be a problem, but it has thankfully proven NOT to be true!)

I still recommend this GPS, after ~2 years of usage. I have no regrets and feel it is a good investment.

=========================
UPDATE 11/19/2012:

2.5 year update!
No problems. Still going strong. It is still being used regularly (5-6 times a month). The only thing I will add is some advice! Ever sit there and wait for your GPS to find the satellites? If you plug in your GPS once a week to your computer, TomTom will suggest 'QuickFixGPS' updates. Updating weekly will speed it up, because the updates tell your GPS exactly where to find the satellites that week!

=========================
UPDATE 12/03/2014

How about a 4.5 year update?
This thing is just amazing. I'm using it less these days (1-2 times a month) because I use Waze on the phone for short trips. (But, Waze is only good while you have cell service though, and it isn't as smart at routing as TomTom.) Battery life is probably about 50% of what it was, but it's not a huge problem because I usually have it plugged in. (After all, you need it plugged in to get traffic signal.) I'm still strongly recommending the TomTom. It has sure lasted a long life, and appears to have much more left in it! I have definitely gotten my 'Lifetime Traffic & Maps' worth from it.
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on May 17, 2010
I just bought it two days back. I was kind of skeptical with the map updates and activation code not working, after reading through so many reviews related with update failure etc.

So I started with a full explorer backup of the device at windows level. It took about 45 minutes. Then I took another backup using Home software. That was another 45 minutes.

Then I deleted unwanted voices to free up some space. It probably removed some 30-40MB of space. There was close to 400MB free after this step.

Then I entered the activation code for lifetime free map updates using the Home software. It worked fine (at least it did not give me any errors).

Then it detected that there is new versions of map available for download. I downloaded the new maps, which took another 20 minutes or so, and took further 30 minutes to update the device.

The downloaded size of new maps was about 1.7GB, whereas the previous versions of maps occupied 1.43GB. Now my device has close to 60MB free out of the 1.9GB memory it has. I think if I would not have deleted unwanted voices, I would have come close to filling up all the space.

I also downloaded the GPSquickfix.

For the safety camera, when I had entered Canada as the home country, it did not show any information available to download. But after I switched it to US (from within HOME software), then it showed the data for US-Canada safety cameras, and I was able to download them.

So overall, I did not face any issues earlier reviewers of TomTom XL/XXL series had mentioned.

Regarding performance, I was pretty impressed with the speed it took to acquire satellite signal. I have a four year old HP-IPaq GPS (which runs TomTom software), and this new one is much faster than the HP one.

Now before I made this purchase, I had bought Garmin 755T last week. I did not like it for one main reason that it did not have up to date maps of my area (especially it didn't show my home even after 7 years it is on TomTom maps). I updated the maps to latest, and still didn't show my home street. Contacting the customer support for Garmin was a pain, with 30-40 min. of wait every time I tried to call them. It was a breeze to contact TomTom support. First time I was connected instantly, and every time after that, it took only few minutes to get connected. Finally, I did not like the colour schemes and sounds which came with Garmin. May be that is my personal preference. But Garmin is not too much customizable, pretty basic stuff you can configure. So it went back within few days.

Hope this review will be useful to you all.
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on June 28, 2010
I am a long time Garmin user. Being too cheap to pay extra for map upgrades I decided to shop for a new GPS figuring to replace it every three years and live with the aging maps. I saw this GPS with FREE traffic and FREE map updates but hesitated because of the negative reviews about service, maps, etc.

SERVICE: Before I bought this unit I found and called the tech support number for TomTom (1-866-486-6866) to see if I would be on-hold for "6-hours". It was more like 3-minutes. The tech support rep was very helpful, answered my questions about Garmin vs TomTom (she owned one of each), and talked frankly about the problems they did have regarding the lifetime map updates.

After purchasing the unit I did have trouble with the lifetime map update codes and had to call tech support again. They picked up immediately this time. The trick is to upgrade the firmware and the one-time map update first- and then enter the code for the lifetime maps. Total time on the phone 10 minutes or less (and then it is 6 hours for the download).

FEATURES: They are covered in the other reviews. I'll just mention that my older eyes love the 5" display & the brightness. Sound is nice and loud too.

PERFORMANCE: We took a camping trip to Hocking Hills Park in rural southeastern Ohio this weekend. The unit worked great even in the rural hills. The route put us at the campground 15 minutes ahead of our friends who printed out a google map. When you are on a main road the unit displays the speed limit and your speed. When you get more than a few miles above the limit the display shows in red- usefull here in Ohio where they really like to write traffic tickets.

VALUE: I don't talk on my cell phone while driving so I would have no use for bluetooth. Given the free map updates, free traffic, large display, etc. it's hard to beat the bang-for-the-buck of this unit.

Brief update 7/10/2010:

Likes:

1.) The unit does a much better getting you back on track from a big parking lot than my Garmin did. When I start out parked in the driveway it even tells me to turn around when possible to start my trip.

2.) I really, really like the big 5" screen

3.) Comes off the windshield easier than the Garmin.

4.) The "Lane Assist" feature is great when driving in unfamiliar territory.

Dislikes:

1.) When looking for a store it would be helpful if the unit said the destination was on the right or left. In a commercial area it can be hard to pick up the address.

2.) I have to turn the unit on every time I start the car. The Garmin started up automatically unless I turned it off.

3.) The Garmin is much better at picking up Points-of-Interest. The TomTom could not find my Gym (which is over two years old) or a nearby Mcdonalds (about a year old).

UPDATE 8/02- Unit died after four weeks (just over the 30 day exchange-ugggh). Ok- that happens. But the Peoples Republic of Customer Service at TomTom are completely awful to deal with. They are excellent at reading you all the footnotes & exclusions in their customer dis-service policy though. The best thing about my old Garmin unit was that in four years I never had to call customer service. If I could have a do-over I'd buy another Garmin (even without the traffic & maps) and I'd buy it from Costco so I could just exchange it instead of the ordeal of dealing with manufactures.
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on May 10, 2010
I really like this GPS - I upgraded from another tomtom for the lifetime maps and lifetime traffic feature. Also tomtom has now integrated the traffic receiver into the lighter power plug (much sleeker then pictures I saw of older traffic receivers). The downside is that the lifetime map activation code that shipped with the product did not work. When I called tomtom they had me scan the activation code code and post it to them. After a week of not hearing from them and called again and the support rep told me they now need my receipt (nice of them to let me know). I posted that 5 days ago and I'm still waiting for them to notify me that they either the activation code that shipped with the box is now good or they assigned me a new working code. It appears that tomtom shipped these units BEFORE entering the activation codes in their database. This has cost me hours on the support line (two calls - so far and counting). Another negative was that the mount was defective. To tomtom's credit they shipped me a new mount right away that works fine. Hopefully, I will have my lifetime activation code soon and all will be good. I just find it pretty lame for any company to advertise some key new feature (like LIFETIME MAPS) and then actually ship a product where the feature does not work out of the box. Come on tomtom you can do better then that. That's enough to turn-off many current and future buyers. The performance of the touch screen (both typing and map browsing is very slow and primitive when compared whith an Iphone/Ipad/Itouch). But I wanted a standalone GPS - without the mount and map activation problem this would likely get a 4-star.
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on November 19, 2010
I would like to premise this with saying that I really wanted to like this GPS. Doing extensive research beforehand, I felt that for the value the Tomtom XXL 540 really can't be beat at the time of purchase. Unfortunately, I was let down to such an extent that I don't believe words can fully articulate how disappointed I am with this product.

So what's wrong with it? Well one thing I noticed during my research is that a number of owners of this product had issues with the updating of the software. Already knowing that Murphy's Law is my best friend, when I received my product I immediately took it out of the box and placed it next to my computer. I then proceeded to call Tomtom's customer service line (contrary to what some customers have said, the hotline is clearly and easily printed right at the first insert in the box) so that I can have one of their professionals guide me through the entire setup process just so I would not have to deal with a headache of a problem.

Here comes the ONLY GOOD THING ABOUT TOMTOM: Their customer service line is really quick. I mean, I have called them maybe 10 times and the longest hold time was 3 minutes.

Okay, so I go through the updating process while holding the rep's hand. A little while later, everything is downloaded and I am glad. Exceeept, no, something is off. During my drive, it became quickly apparent that my GPS is a bit slow on the response time. And by slow, this is a severe understatement. The lag was inconsistent, but often it would be about 5-6 seconds in delay. A turn two blocks away changes to route being recalculated because I unknowingly missed it. I head home and call Tomtom support once again.

So yes, as I said earlier Tomtom support is great... except it seems that the only courses that they have trained in is customer service, while totally omitting any technical engineering courses/product familiarization courses. Although they may all sound like they are blissfully happy to serve you, you will quickly find out that ALL that they know is to read from a long card that outlines a specific order in how to go about the troubleshoot process. They don't even attempt to think for themselves nor do they have any technical knowledge to even do so (i.e. one rep asked me what my internet connection was when I informed her that the transferring of the files from my computer to my GPS device was being abnormally slow).

Okay. So troubleshooting goes slow. Multiple steps, with each step taking a while because it involves deleting files, updating files, installing files. Every solution failed. By the time we reach the last troubleshoot step (formatting and reinstalling every file into the GPS) I've spent a collective total of 3 hours with Tomtom reps. The rep that was unfortunate enough to be talking to me by this point placed me on hold as she requested approval to format my drive. I was told the approval was necessary because it was the last troubleshoot step, which if it fails would result in a requirement to have the product replaced. Apparently Tomtom is apprehensive of going through exchange processes, and needs to make sure that there is no other option before doing so.

So after the format/reinstall process, I was surprised to find out that my Tomtom no longer lagged!! Well, it has a 0.2 second lag time, which according to Tomtom is acceptable in range (my 3 year old Navigon - ironically a company that pulled out of the US market - has superior reaction times to this GPS). But whereas my original problem was fixed, several problems took its place:
(1) constant blank white or yellow/green screens
(2) boot-ups would be frozen 3 out of 4 times
(3) gps would auto shut-off while plugged in during an active trip
(4) file access error message would continuously pop up on the top right
(5) a reboot from a frozen screen would result in me having to go through the entire initialization process again

After spending even more time on the phone trying to get the above issues fixed, the representative asked to allow them to exchange the product. Of course, it would be a 2 week turnaround. That is why everyone should always purchase from Amazon - they are fast at shipping replacements for defective products (usually give a 1 day shipping priority) and would ship a replacement before you even send in the defective product. Obviously I opted to go through Amazon over Tomtom themselves.

One of the Tomtom representatives told me that less than 7% of Tomtom customers report a lag issue. Another told me that less than 1% encounter extensive GPS functional meltdowns such as myself. Although I do consider myself one of the unluckiest people alive, please be aware that this issue still may also happen to you.
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on April 30, 2010
Information about the 540TM is currently pretty sparse, so I thought I'd list what you get.

In addition to the manual, USB cable and sticky mounting pad, you get the new combined power cord and traffic receiver. This cord looks like the old power cord (I have a 335S), with the exception of a small pod (about 1.5" x 0.75") near the GPS connector. The cord is also flat instead of round, probably because it has more wires in it.

The "Lifetime Maps" option comes in the form of a voucher card. You enter the magic number into the TomTom Home "use activation code" screen.

(Update 5/5/2010 - there were initially some problems getting up-to-date maps, but they seem to be resolved now).

Out-of-the-box version info:
App 9.051.503855.2, OS 483784 (1016, 2/27/2010) GPS V1.20, Boot 5.5237
Map: "USA_Canada_and_Mexico_P' v835.2419 (From August, 2009)

The traffic receiver worked well - I'm actually on Camano Island, WA, about 50 miles NW of Seattle. There are 4 RDS/TMC stations in Seattle. The receiver locked on easily once I got out from behind the 500ft. hill between me and Seattle. I requested a route to Portland, OR and it knew about traffic problems in Portland - pretty cool.

I had one problem - it kept continually replotting a route to Portland even after I'd told the Traffic Preferences to "ask before changing the route". Turning the GPS off and on seems to have fixed the problem.

There's also an option to decrease the time (in minutes) between traffic updates. It's possible that the traffic information was changing so rapidly it basically locked up the GPS, hence the option to slow down the updates.

I was able to transfer my Favorites from my 335S (copy "mapsettings.cfg").
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on January 3, 2011
Despite my best intentions, I don't often take the time to write a product review on Amazon. But I rely heavily on other Amazon customers' reviews, so I feel strongly that to not share my experience with this device would be almost criminal.

It's too bad Amazon doesn't allow zero-star ratings. The TomTom is certainly deserving of less. Oh, how I hate this thing. The TomTom XXL 540TM is the worst consumer electronics product I have ever used.

The initial software update and setup took 4 1/2 hours. Before using it, I connected it to the computer to install the latest firmware and maps. (This process can take quite awhile since a large amount of data has to be downloaded from the Internet and transferred to the GPS.) Part of the way through the device aborted the update, saying that it did not have enough free space to continue. I found a workaround on TomTom's web site, but this was a multi-step process that involved manually deleting files from the device. I performed the procedure, but I encountered several error messages throughout the whole process. I finally managed to complete the process and the device rebooted in Dutch. I found another workaround on TomTom's site, which was to perform a soft reset, and finally was able to complete the initial setup. Assuming my work was finished, I unhooked the device and turned it on. It told me that before using it I needed to hook it back up to the computer and install some unspecified file. So I did. And it rebooted again in Dutch. I did another soft reset and went through the initialization process again. This time all seemed better.

My wife and I tried the GPS out the next day on a five-hour trip to visit my parents for the holidays. After the second stop, the device locked up and I could not access the menu or power the GPS down. I performed another soft reset, and the device wanted me to perform the initial setup again. We stuck it in the glove box and my wife initiated the return process on her iPhone.

I later looked at the positive reviews, completely baffled. Could anyone have had a positive experience with this device? But then I realized that virtually all of the 5-star reviews were from people who plugged in the device without trying to update the maps or software.

Reliability: Zero. The device became unresponsive after about an hour.

Lane Assist: Zero. The device was constantly showing us taking exit ramps and traveling along service roads. It rarely showed us on the same road, let alone the correct lane. This was on a major interstate, so my confidence is low that it could help to navigate smaller highways or county roads.

Traffic: Zero. After I finally managing to install the firmware upgrade and update the base map, I tried restoring the traffic app I had backed up to the computer back to the device but the Home software told me a file was missing. I looked through the huge list of traffic apps for various countries and in various languages so I could download and reinstall this feature, but I could not find traffic for the U.S.

Mounting: I did not waste my time. But the placement of the USB charging cable seemed awkward and looked like it would limit mounting options.

Updating Maps: Negative fifty. When I first connected the device to my computer to update the map, the device reported it did not have enough space to complete the update. After searching TomTom's technical support web site, I discovered that it is necessary to manually remove content before the map can be updated. After several attempts I was finally able to update the map. But, as I mentioned above, the traffic feature no longer worked.

I have been an embedded software engineer at a major aerospace company for 12 years, and most of that time I have worked in R&D. I have done usability studies and have done some research into human factors. An embedded device such as this should never EVER require the user to manage storage or delete files. One shouldn't have to manually copy a cell phone's firmware to a computer to update the tower list, for example. Even the iPhone, as complex as it is, provides a straightforward interface to manage the contents of the phone, and it does not require manually copying or deleting files.
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on May 5, 2010
I was skeptical about buying a new product with no reviews but after using it a few times I think I did the right thing. It worked right out of the box and although it would not accept my map update code it did it anyway so I guess the code is not needed if you have the lifetime update model. It comes with a car charger and a USB cable to connect to a PC and also uses the USB's 5 volt power to charge, so you don't need to buy the home charger if you want to do it this way. When connecting to USB you have the option to make a computer connection or just charge. Today I used it to go to a place that I have been before and it directed me to a way I didn't know about that was a few less miles than my usual route. The spoken directions are clear and easy to understand. On major roads it knows the speed limit and shows both your actual speed and the limit, you can choose to be notified with a tone that you select if you get a little heavy with your right foot. The screen is big enough to use a finger to select menu options and type, on my last GPS I had to use a stylus due to it's small size. The only thing that I wish it did but doesn't is when you approach the destination it does not say which side of the street it's on, I found this useful with my Garmin so that you know which lane to be in. So far that's my only gripe.

UPDATE 27 MAY 2010
After extensive use for almost a month and with the two issues resolved I have upgraded my score to 5 stars. It has now accepted my lifetime map code and performed an extensive map download which took almost an hour and my gripe about not showing the destination side of the street is also resolved. I highly recommend this unit.
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on November 19, 2010
This seems like a good GPS, and it was available through Amazon at a great promotional price, but it's junk. The bells and whistles are as described above and in other reviews. I had no trouble applying the lifetime update code and installing the most recent maps (although it took a VERY long time for the internet download and subsequent USB transfer to the GPS), but within a few hours the GPS unceremoniously died. It just switched off and would not come back on, even after charging overnight and even after trying a hard reset by holding down the power button for a minute.

Both Tomtom and Amazon offered to replace the device with another new one, but after spending 6 hours applying the updates and getting the GPS set up to my liking, I have no desire to go through this all again with a device that might die at any minute. I'm sad to return it for a refund, but I must.

My other concern, as others have noted, is that the unit ships with almost no available internal memory and is not expandable. To install the operating system update, I had to move some of the supplied voices to my computer temporarily. The "lifetime" update coupon defines "lifetime" as as long as the unit is in use or until the maps no longer fit into its memory, whichever comes first. Since the 2010 map already takes up the entire memory, I worry that it won't be very long before the newest map goes over the device's memory limit, triggering its end of life. Data needs always grow, so I would have been more comfortable with enough free memory to be confident that this nebulous "lifetime" is more than a year or two.
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I already own a Garmin nuvi 265w that we use in my wife's car. I wanted to get a GPS for my car because I'm so good at getting lost. Having used both quite a bit now, I thought I'd compare the two.

Things I like better about the TomTom
1) the TomTom has a bigger screen by about 1 inch (measured diagonally). This is a feature I would have thought would make a big difference, but in everyday use, I didn't really notice much difference. Overall, yes, it is a positive feature, but it just doesn't carry as much weight as I would have guessed.
2) The TomTom does a much better job of acquiring satellites than the Garmin does. Not only is it able to determine my position when I'm in my house (most parts of it, anyway) which is something that the Garmin has never been able to do, but it acquires satellites much faster than the Garmin does when I'm outside. This is a huge plus!
When you first power up the TomTom, it walks you through some quick tutorials so you can quickly familiarize yourself with its features.
3) When you are on the highway and you come to an interchange, you get guidance on which lane you should be in, and many times even get a generated picture complete with green and white signs showing you what the interchange should look like. In all cases that I've seen, it was 100% correct about all the important things--number of lanes, which were going to exit, and even correctly denoted the HOV lane. I was very impressed.
4) The TomTom allows you to go in and edit the maps. You can set/change the speed limit, mark roads as impassible either temporarily or permanently, etc. You can then opt to share these changes with other TomTom users. TomTom verifies these changes (not sure how--I'm guessing they just wait until a designated number of people all make the same change) and then lets other users download the changes, if they want. I found changing the speed limit a little challenging because you have to mark the section of road that the speed applies to and once you start marking, scrolling around and zooming in/out was not very easy (maybe I was just missing something). Marking a road as inaccessible was very simple.
5) Both the Garmin and the TomTom allow you to specify if you want to avoid toll roads, ferries, etc., but the Garmin only allows you to set "avoid" or "don't avoid" whereas the TomTom allows adds another option for each avoidance category, "ask me every time". This makes an awful lot of sense for carpool lanes because sometimes you have someone else in the car and sometimes you don't; I want the GPS to ask me which it is if a carpool lane exit on the freeway, for example, would save me some time.
6) If you get the "TM" version, the TomTom will provide free map updates and traffic data for life (T=traffic, M=maps). I haven't found much use for traffic, but the maps are great because buying maps for GPS units is expensive. I recommend the TM version for this reason.
7) There is one (and only one that I've found) place where the Garmin tells me to turn where there wasn't a road. The TomTom has never done this (even in the same place).

Things I like better about the Garmin
1) You can change the voices on the TomTom, but if you want it to read street names, you really only have 1 choice and it doesn't sound as natural as the Garmin does. Also, the Garmin does a better job in general at pronouncing street names. With very few exceptions, the Garmin gets the pronunciation just right just about every time. Also, like I said, the Garmin sounds more natural--like a human speaking to you instead of a computer. The TomTom sounds more "computerish" in many cases.
2) I prefer the timing of when I get directions from the Garmin over the TomTom. They both give verbal directions at about the same time, but I find the Garmin does a better job at telling me what I want to know when I want to know it. I think this is just a personal preference, though, and others may disagree. Related to this, the TomTom tends to give 2 or 3 steps in a row when they are close while the Garmin tends to do 1 at a time (example "turn left on A Street, then turn left on B Street then you have arrived" from the TomTom vs. "Turn left on A Street" from the Garmin. Both will then tell you to turn left on B Street as you approach it). The Garmin will do 2 instructions at a time if necessary (like if you are getting off the freeway and you need to be in the correct lane--both will say something like "Take exit 100 on right, then keep left") but the TomTom does it more and I prefer the Garmin approach. I also prefer Garmin's way of telling me what to do at a round-about.
3) Sending locations to my GPS via a service like Google Maps is easy on both units, but easier on the Garmin than the TomTom. I also don't like that once you install the TomTom software, it always runs on your computer. As far as I'm aware, the Garmin software is nothing more than an Active X plug-in. This is actually why the transfer is easier--with the TomTom, you are sending data to the stand-alone application whereas with the Garmin, it's just a browser plug-in.
4) The suction cup on the Garmin is easier to use--it operates with a lever while the TomTom has a little knob or dial that you have to turn and it's a little awkward. I've also never had the Garmin fall once it was mounted, but the TomTom has fallen off once or twice. Also, the Garmin swivels better once it is mounted than the TomTom does. Finally, the USB plug is easier to plug in on the Garmin than on the TomTom. None of these are huge deals, but worth noting. On the other hand, the cigarette lighter power adapter for the TomTom fits more snuggly than the Garmin. In one of my cars, the socket is a little loose and the Garmin plug frequently loses its connection, but I haven't had that happen with the TomTom's yet.

Notes about both
Both my Garmin and my TomTom come with lifetime traffic updates. I have never seen any benefit to this on either unit, so I wouldn't get too excited about this feature.
Both GPS units are easy to navigate and intuitive to use. They are different from each other, but I found both pretty easy to use.

So which is better? Gee, that's a hard one; I love them both. They both have strengths and weaknesses. I think the TomTom has more/better bells and whistles but the Garmin is better at the basic GPS functions with one blaring exception--the TomTom acquires the satellites better/faster and that's important. I think if I was forced to choose between the 2, I'd go with the Garmin, but if the Garmin suddenly disappeared and was replaced with another TomTom, I wouldn't be too upset; both are great units!
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