Top positive review
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Good Straightforward GPS Navigator at a Good Price Point
on April 27, 2012
I am very familiar with GPS units, though most of my experience with them is with hand-held sport units. I gave my wife a Garmin Nuvi for Christmas and it has been a great navigator so I was excited to work with the TomTom and compare it to the Nuvi. So far, while I cannot say one is better than the other, they are both different in the features they provide and they both navigate well. I do prefer the TomTom though that is a matter of personal preference at this stage.
The TomTom Start is a very solid unit and feels very well made. I am very pleased with the construction of the TomTom. It is built to handle a little jostling and a few bumps though I would make very effort not to drop it regardless. One thing I do not like, though, is the mounting cup. Yes, it does hold the TomTom in place very well and it is unlikely that it will "let go", but it is a little awkward to attach to the glass and the swivel is very stiff. Also, while trying to adjust the angle the mounting cup popped right off the TomTom and I had to reattach it.
Though I am no fan of the mounting cup, it does remove easily and this particular TomTom is no too big to fit in a third-party window mount. I have such a mount so I can work with that and be happy.
On power-on the TomTom comes up very quickly and is ready to go, a lot faster than I expected as the Nuvi is a little slower at acquiring satellites before it's ready.
The menu system on the TomTom is very simple and easy to use. The large, colorful touch buttons on the screen make finding the desired function straightforward. The first screen offered (after the welcome screen) gives just two choices: Plan Route and Browse Map. I especially like the Browse Map feature - when in an unfamiliar area it quickly shows proximity to gas stations, restaurants and other point of interest (which is very configurable). However, the points of interest list is not necessarily complete - there are at least two chain restaurants within a mile of the house that do not show at all on the browse map.
When not actually navigating, most of the time a user will spend is with the Plan Route function. There are a lot of options here. There is a selection for navigating Home, regardless of where you are, and since entering your home location is part of the start-up process this feature is at the ready almost immediately. Entering an address is likely going to be the normal method of selecting an endpoint, though there are other choices such as navigating to points of interest, a point on the map or even a latitude/longitude location. There is even the functionality to save a location in a Favorites list.
There are six choices for voices, though only three speak the street names - and of those, only one is in English (one of the others is Canadian French and the other is Latin-American Spanish). If you don't care about street names and you speak English you have choices. If you do care but do not like the built-in voices then you can go online and get more though there are associated fees.
I ran into some difficulty when I attached my TomTom to my computer, a Windows 7-based laptop. After messing with it I finally connected it to a 32-bit Vista machine and had no issues at all. I am not sure why it fought me on the Windows 7 machine but I am relatively sure that it has to do with my configuration, not the TomTom itself. (UPDATE: It was definitely on the Windows 7 side as I have had similar issues with other devices.)
Getting updates is easy. Once connected, TomTom Home (the application that interfaces to the TomTom) goes out and finds the updates, then with a minimum of interaction takes care of making said updates. Updating the map takes a while, which should be a given.
So, all this is great, but how does it navigate?
Voice aside, the navigation is good. The TomTom does a fine job of getting you from point A to point B using the conditions you stipulate: fastest route, shortest route, no highways, etc. The screen is acceptable in size to allow clear viewing of the map and the voice augments the visuals. I have not yet used it in the car to go to work; I am eager to see if it selects a better route for me than the one I have been using for the last 2-3 years.
The Tom Tom Start is my first exposure to TomTom's line of navigators and so far I am pleased with it. It's a little different than my wife's Garmin Nuvi, in ways I like. It's perfectly fine for navigation and finding points of interest, and the map updates on this model make this a device I will use for a long, long time.
UPDATE 03/20/2013: I recently had a good reason to use my TomTom in North Carolina - a family gathering in a neighboring town that was 10-12 miles away from the starting point. I was not at all familiar with the area so this would be a good test. All had printed directions, but we chose to allow the TomTom to take us there instead. The result was that we arrived sooner than others that left before us; we were guided on a very straightforward path that seemed more logical than the printed route (which came with a map). Going home that night, we again configured the TomTom to take us on the fastest route and it did so without a hitch - we knew that route very well already and the directions we were given were spot on.
And, I did use it to track to work to see if I could improve my route. With the exception of the first couple of miles (my commute is roughly 65 miles one-way), the route lined up almost exactly with the route I have been taking for years.
My opinion of the TomTom remains unchanged. It's a good navigator at a good price point and it has served me very well. My experience with TomTom has been very positive and I would not hesitate to recommend one.