Sunday, 22 February 2009

TomTom Go Live 540 GPS - Review

Following the purchase (and return) of a Navman S80 Deluxe GPS, I plunged for the TomTom Go Live 540, and haven't regretted it since.

Conclusion

GPS - 9/10 - A well engineered device, with good quality accessories. Flexible, adaptable, re-configurable.


There is a different blog entry for the Live services, which can be found here.

Series

The TomTom Go Live series in the UK has the TomTom Go Live 540, Tom Tom Go Live 740 and Tom Tom Go Live 940.

These devices have similar functions, and the main difference is the maps:
  • The 540 covers the UK and Republic Of Ireland
  • The 740 also Includes Europe
  • The 940 also Includes the US and Canada
You can buy add-on maps at a later date, so it is possible to buy the 540 and add the Europe Maps with an online download.

One other difference is the MP3 license. The 540 does not come with an MP3 license, so you can't use it to play music whilst you drive.

Build Quality


The GPS itself is extremely well built, with a slightly rubberised casing, which makes it easy to grip. The large wide screen is extremely clear and easy to see.

The GPS comes with a windscreen mount, which has a screw-fitting to enable / disable the suction cup, making it very easy to fit and remove, and very secure once installed.

The docking station is robust and heavy, and doesn't slide around on the desk when the wind blows the USB cable.

Navigation and Map Accuracy

I have had the GPS since December 2008, and have been extremely happy with the quality and accuracy of the maps, and the navigation method.

When driving, you can use either the 2D or the 3D view. You can configure the screen to show key navigation information, such as time to go, road speed, and guidance for the next junction. Touching different parts of the screen brings up different menus - many of these menus can be moved to your liking, but in the images displayed on this blog:
  • Middle of the screen brings up the main menu.
  • Bottom of the screen brings up the current route navigation meu.
  • Right of the screen brings up the traffic menu.
  • The Arrow icon shown on the screen brings up a configurable quick menu.
  • You can also add a Voice Control icon to the screen (see voice control below).
Planning

Planning a route is extremely easy - you can just hit the screen, and select 'Navigate To'.

Or you can pre-plan a route, which is particularly useful if you are inside and out of GPS reception.


You can then choose to navigate to:
  • Home
  • A Favorite
  • A Point of Interest
  • A Town / Street Name / Postcode
  • Recent Destinations
  • Position on a Map
  • Latitude / Longitude
  • Position of Last Stop
When using the TomTom Services, you can also do an online search, and navigate there.

Voice Clarity

There are two different types of voice you can use on the GPS, Sampled Voices and Computer Generated Voices. If you use the Sampled Voices, you can have characters such as John Cleese telling you to "turn around and place the car in the opposite direction to the way you were previously facing", however, John's voice cannot synthesise all of the road and street names in the country.

Hearing street names means that you don't need to look at the GPS at all to check which turn it actually means - this makes driving with this GPS even safer. When I drive in to work, it will say to me things like "Go around the roundabout, second exit, A1, towards Stevenage".

Technology has got to a stage where it is beginning to be difficult to tell when the voice is computer generated. The two UK English voices (1 Male and 1 Female) are very clear and easy to understand.

Navigation

With the clear screen and the comprehensive voice directions, it makes things very easy to drive, and you rarely have to interact with the GPS itself.

The only real time that you may need to look at the device is to navigate complex junctions, to verify that you are in the correct lane, going the correct direction. For this, the advanced lane guidance comes to your aid. This system presents a large full-screen image of the exit, so all that is needed is a glance.

Map Updates

This is one of the areas where the TomTom comes into its own, up and above the other offerings, such as the Navman S80, reviewed earlier on this blog.

Maps are procured by TomTom from various different map providers around the world. For the UK, the map provider is the same as the one which supplies Google Maps.


I have used the "Report Map Error" feature a number of times, and recently checked on Google, and saw that one of the modifications I had made (identifying a road as being a footpath, and naming it "Old Tram Road") has made it from my GPS to TomTom, to the Map Provider, and to Google within about 6 weeks.

It is highly likely that you are on the road when you spot a map error. It is possible with a quick link on the screen, to bookmark a site which needs correction, and make the correction when you get home. This includes renaming roads, changing road directions, renaming or moving points of interest, and reporting new safety cameras.

Bluetooth and Voice Control

Voice Control

The GPS can be controlled by voice, using the in-built microphone, or through a bluetooth headset, so rather than navigating through the menus to get what you want, all you need to do is hit a microphone icon on the screen, and use one of the many pre-defined commands to directly drive the GPS. The GPS does not need any voice training, it just works, out of the box. There are dozens and dozens of commands, which include:
  • "Calculate Alternative"
  • "Calculate Original"
  • "Avoid Roadblock"
  • "Add Favourite"
  • "Brightness Up"
  • "Call Home"
  • "Map Error"
  • "Minimise Delays"
  • "Navigate to a Postcode"
  • "Navigate to the Nearest Cash Machine"
TomTom Live Services

TMC Cables


I bought a TMC cable with the TomTom - these contain an FM radio aerial, which you drape around your windscreen. In the UK, Classic FM transmits the TMC traffic messages for motorways and major roads.

If you have an active subscription to the TomTom Live Services, this will always override the TMC traffic function. The TomTom Live Service now works in other countries without any additional subscription, so all you need to have are the maps.

There is little need for a TMC cable (it is only useful if you do not have any Live coverage, which is rare). I would recommend buying a TMC cable when you need one (perhaps travelling to a country that supports TMC, but not Live services), not when you buy your Go Live GPS receiver.

The Live Advantage

When I bought my GPS, I intended to use the live services for the free 3 months, and then go on to using the TMC cable, however, the Live Services have a much better reception than TMC, far better coverage, and other useful features, such as an itegrated Google Search for locations. See the Live Blog Entry (comming soon) for more a much more thorough write-up.

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