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TomTom GO - GPS Made Easy !
Posté le 30 novembre 2004 à 11:08:38 par gpspassion.

TomTom GO - GPS Made Easy

Paul has been a moderator of our forums for more than two years and shares the perspective of an experienced PocketPC GPS user when using an "all in one" unit like the TomTom GO.

Sometimes I wish that I didn't have to lug my Pocket PC around to run a GPS. I use a Palm in my daily life, so the PPC is dedicated to GPS and it seems silly to carry around a unit 90% of whose features I don't use. Also, despite the improvements in recent years, the Pocket PC operating system is still not completely stable, and grafting a GPS card, be it CF or Bluetooth onto the unit does not give 100% reliability. For those reasons a dedicated GPS unit makes a lot of sense. Well, recently I acquired a TomTom GO and have been using it for about a month. The bottom line of this review is that I don't carry my PPC any more unless I need to test some new software or hardware or I want to have another mapset from a different provider (Navteq or ALK) with me for security.

Industrial Design
At the outset, I think that TomTom should get high praise for industrial design. The packaging of the unit, alone, is beautiful and very clever. The owner's manual is on thick, slick paper. The GO, itself, is sleek and exudes quality. No creaking when you squeeze it and it feels solid and reliable. The suction cup mount is a pleasure to use and the locking/unlocking mechanism of the mount is simple, easy to use and secure. Whoever did the basic design of the system should be really proud of themselves.

The Basics
The GO comes with the following: the unit itself, a suction cup mount which also powers the unit from the cigarette lighter, a "sticky" mount to stick on the dashboard, quickstart guide, 256MB SD card, a USB cable, a good owner's manual, a plug-in charger and a set of plugs for other countries. The suction cup mount is solid as a rock and the unit snaps in easily. It can be removed quickly be simply pressing the center button and tilting it towards you. Here is a picture of the unit in my car for size comparison. The GO is on the left next to my Ipaq 4155, my Toshiba 755 and XM satellite radio.

Also included are 8 CDs with various combinations of maps. The maps are from TeleAtlas and, at least in my area, are very up-to-date and include all the latest roads and developements. While there is some controversey over Navteq vs TeleAtlas maps, I have to say that I have used both in NJ, PA, NY, DE, MD, DC and LA, and find that TeleAtlas is just as good as Navteq. Your mileage may vary, however. There are so many CDs because TomTom breaks the country into regions - Northeast, Plains, Southeast, etc. The CDs contain the individual states and many different combinations of states together in many different files - for example AR, or AR+KS+MO+OK or AR+TX+NM+OK+LA or AR+LA+MS+AL+GA+TN. The GO comes pre-loaded with the Major Roads map and a 256MB SD card. By picking the various combinations you can fit all of the US onto a 1GB SD card. However there will not be enough room to install the Major Roads map, which is 68MB, onto the card. I installed the entire US onto my card and it works just fine. According to TomTom the unit can work with up to a 4GB card. However, this brings up one major drawback of the TomTom system. You cannot route between regions, only within them. For example, I can't route to Chicago to visit my daughter because NJ and IL are in different regions. To do a Chicago route I would have to map a route using the Major Roads map to Chicago city center and then when I crossed the boundary that contained the Illinois region then plot another route from my current location to her apartment. This is inconvenient, but the GO is so fast at routing that it is easily done. It is a shame, though, that we have to do it this way.

The setup for the GO is also a bit odd. There is no seperate PC setup program, but the setup is contained on each seperate CD and the GO connects to the PC with a USB cable. When you insert each CD you are prompted to Go Online for up-to-date information, Add maps, Remove maps, Backup/Restore settings, Add/Remove extra features, Install the application, Read the manual, Visit, Quit. The CDs don't tell you what maps are on them, so if you install one region and try to install one which turns out to be on another CD you will be prompted to quit Setup and insert another CD and then you have to go through the entire install process again. This has not been very well thought out. However, since you probably won't do it very often it isn't too big a deal. The first time you install a map TomTom will connect to the TomTom site and get an activation code which must be entered into the GO. This is simple and easy and highly automated. It works just fine. By the way, there is an update to the operating system on the TomTom site, so be sure to get it and upgrade to version 4.42. The GO also has an internal battery, hence the charging unit, that lasts about 5 hours in my tests. Very convenient.

Starting the unit

When you have loaded a map you will start up the GO and be greated by a grey map screen. The grey screen indicates that there is no GPS reception. As you can see there are no buttons, just a clear, sharp and very bright touchscreen. When you touch the screen you will see two basic screens. The first contains the Navigate to, Find alternative, Clear route, add favorite and Change preferences buttons. Navigate to is used when you have a GPS lock and it then will navigate you from your current position to your destination. Find alternate will compute an alternate route every time you hit the button, if you don't like the intitial route it calculated. The other buttons are obvious.

There is a second basic screen. Plan from A to B is what you use when to don't have a lock and are manually entering your origin and destination. The Show Status screen gives you the following information.

Let's take a look at the Preferences section of the first screen, because TomTom has clearly done a bit of thinking about how to make the machine easy to use. The first screen is pretty obvious. The second screen contains the Maintain Favorites and Manintain POI buttons. Maintain Favorites allows you to add or delete your favorite locations. Maintain POI is one of the main reasons for the update I mentioned above. This screen allows to to add and delete your own Points of Interest. You can do individual ones or set up categories and organize them that way. A very interesting feature is the Warn POI. You can set the GO to warn you of a POI, such as a rest stop, for example. You can customze the type of warning and even set the distance from the POI where you want the POI to occur. I have set up a warning of a half-mile for rest stops, for example.

Continuing with Preferences the next screen contains some interesting items. You can actually turn the screen upside down if your mounting requires it. TomTom has a number of map colors, for both day and night screens, that you can play with. For setting the clock, TomTom is the only program I have seen that can acutally set the clock from the GPS signal. You can't get more accurate than that. Moving on to the next screen note that the GO actually recognizes the existence of left handers! On the final screen note the ASN button. The GO contains some form of inertial navigation system that is supposed to allow it to maintain it's position through tunnels or other areas where signal is lost. In my tests I have never gotten this to work. It doesn't work in the Lincoln Tunnel or the lower level of the George Washington Bridge (both about 1.5 miles), but lock is regained so fast that it doesn't matter much. GPSPassion has found that it works very will for him in Paris.

Using the GO

The GO is simplicity itself. It takes no special expertise and several non-cumputer types I showed it to were using it with only about a minute of explanation. The manual is also excellent. Tap the screen and plot a route. If you hit the Navigate To button you get the following screen. The Plan A to B screen gives you the same thing, but first you get a Departure screen and then a Destination screen. Your route will be shown in either a 2D mode or a 3D mode.

The 3D mode is perhaps the best I have seen on any program. It is clear, easy to follow and now contains street names. The GO contains TomTom's version 4 GUI and is a real pleasure to use. Route calculation, and recalculation, is fast and, in areas I know follows generally the routes I would take myself. The voice guidance is clear, easy to understand, and can be very loud. No external speaker needed. You can call up written directions, which are customizeable and view the GPS status. There are a couple of drawbacks, however. TomTom has removed the ability to plot a route by type, fastest, shortest, avoid tolls, etc. So the only thing you can do is to use the Alternate Route button if you don't like the original choice. Secondly, the GO does not have a large cache of voice commands. It will not speak the name or number of an upcomming exit. It will simply say "Take the exit" or "Take the exit and get on the highway". In this area, with many crowded roads and exits close together this is a real drawback. I sincerely hope TomTom will do something about this in a later software release. Also it still talks in yards, which is not what most Americans are used to. Finally, for some odd reason if you want to navigate to a POI as a destination, the GO only seems to allow you to pick one within the nearby area. From NJ I can't select a hotel in Pittsburgh. This makes no sense at all.

As far as the display goes, once you have plotted a route the route screen will show you your next turn instruction, the name of the next street to turn onto, the current time and estimated time of arrival, zoom in and zoom out buttons, the next highway and the name of the current road you are on. Also, it will show the strength of the current GPS signal. The Go autozooms the display depending on your speed, location, closeness to a turn, etc. I must say that I have never had any reason the change the automatic zoom setting. It is very nicely designed. You can also turn off the map completely and just display and just get turn arrows and basic information. You can set this to automatically hide the map if you are going over a certain speed.

On the other hand, aside from the Find Alternate, the GO has a number of useful route management functions. Avoid roadblock allows you to choose a preset distance and avoid all roads for the chosen distance along the planned route. The idea is to route you around a blockage in the road. I have not had an opportunity to test this. Avoid part of route calls up the written directions and you then tap on the road you want to avoid and get a rerouted trip. This works well. Travel Via allows you to pick a location that you want to pass in your route. It is not a true waypoint, more like the "stopover" of Mapopolis.

One thing that should be emphasized is that everything you do on the GO is fast and simple. The touch screen is very responsive, the software speeds along. The use of a fingertip and the large icons make the machine a pleasure to use. No fiddling with styli. You can use the display as a map and scroll around with it, but this is one thing that is a little clumsy to do. The fingertip is a bit big for this, in my opinion. The screen is bright and will not wash out in sunlight. However, one major problem is that it is highly reflective and I have had several occasions where reflections have made the screen impossible to see. Covertec has glare-reducing screen savers for the unit, but they are not available in the US.

I am told that the unit uses XT2 and it certainly is very sensitive and fast to achieve a lock. I locks perfectly on my tree-lined drive (see my SysOn review for pictures), but I have had it loose lock several times in New York City. There is a connector for an external antenna, but TomTom, though they mention it, don't seem to have one for sale. Overall I would say it is better than ST and almost to the standard of the SysOn, but not quite.

Final Thoughts
As I mentioned above, I am very happy with the GO. It is fast, easy to use, accurate and well-thought-out. Kudos to TomTom for the thinking that has gone into the design of the unit. My biggest problem with the unit is the failure to speak exit names or numbers, but that may not be a problem in your area of the States. Highly recommended.

  TomTom GO v5 Preview >>

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