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|On the Road - Garmin nuvi 780 vs TomTom GO 930
NOTE BY GPSPASSION - this article was written by Rick, moderator of our nüvi forums under the NanaimoRick UserID. He shares his findings after a one-month long 8,700 mile real life comparison between the Garmin nüvi 780 with MSN and the TomTom GO 930T with TMC in the long GpsPasSion tradition of "you can't beat side by side comparisons" !
|ROAD TESTING - Garmin Nuvi 780 vs TomTom 930T
MSN, Navteq, SiRFinstantFixII <--> RDS TMC, TeleAtlas with IQR, SiRFinstantFixI, ALG
INTRODUCTION - In early May my wife and I embarked on an 8,700 mile road trip which took us from the Pacific Northwest of the US to Chicago, New York City, Washington DC, Charleston SC, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque NM, Seattle WA and back to our home on Vancouver Island in Canada.
During our trip we used a TomTom 930T, a TomTom 920T and a Garmin Nuvi 760 connected to an MSN traffic receiver, which effectively turns it into a 780. What this allowed us to do is give these units a month long, 8,700 mile road test comparison through some of the most and least populated regions of the US. As our trip progressed we updated this topic of the AIO (All in One) Comparisons forums with our findings as we compared these units and took questions.
What we would like to do now is to summarize our findings in regard to the TomTom 920T and 930 as well as the Nuvi 760 which we turned into a 780 by adding the MSN Direct receiver. If you have questions or comments you can use this topic of the forums.
What’s in the Box?
The 2 TomTom units had basically the same items included, with one exception:
- The device has a 4.3” touch LCD screen with built-in FM transmitter, preloaded with North America and Europe maps and Bluetooth support.
- Windshield Suction Cup Mount
- Dashboard Disk
- Desk Docking device. A USB connection for PC and Mac with a mounting base for the device.
- Car Charger
- Bluetooth Remote
- CD with TomTom Home software and user manual included
- Quick Start and other guides.
- NOTE – the 920T also includes a RDS TMC Traffic Receiver which also works on the 930.
The Nuvi 760 includes the following:
- The device has a 4.3” touch LCD screen with built-in FM transmitter, preloaded with North America maps and Bluetooth support.
- Windshield Suction Cup Mount
- Dashboard Disk
- USB cable for attaching the device to a PC or Mac
- FM traffic receiver with vehicle power cable
- Quick Start Manual
- NOTE – we also obtained a MSN Direct receiver with integrated vehicle power cable which turned the 760 into a Nuvi 780.
The TomTom units both come with TomTom Home software. Once this software is installed on your PC all updates of firmware and maps are handled through this feature. We updated the North America maps to a newer version using this software and it went very smoothly.
This software also allows you to update satellite information through a facility called QuickGPSfix. This feature helps the TomTom find your position quickly when you turn your device on. The downloaded file contains information about where the GPS satellites will be for the next seven days. So you need to get a new QuickGPSfix file at least once a week.
Another feature available on the TomTom and supported by TomTom Home is Mapshare. This is the facility which allows users to input map corrections and updates and then share them with other users. You can update your maps with all Mapshare changes inputted or just those verified by TomTom or something in between. We obtained literally thousands of updates using a combination of TomTom verified changes and those that had been submitted by many users.
TomTom Home also provides a consistent interface for fundamental maintenance and add-on functions. The software allows you to add additional maps, traffic services, voices poi’s etc. to the device. In addition you can backup the unit, add and remove files from it, even operate the device using your computer screen and mouse.
Overall the TomTom Home facility is a really great feature.
The Nuvi does not come with any software. To update the maps you must purchase an update from Garmin on an annual basis. Depending on when you purchase your device and when new maps are announced, you may be able to get the first map update for free. There is currently no facility from Garmin to update maps via user input as you can on the TomTom.
All firmware, voice, GPS, and other updates for the Nuvi are done by downloading the WebUpdater software from the Garmin website and installing it on your computer. Then you can attach the Nuvi to your PC or Mac and run the software. All available updates will be listed. You select the ones you want and the software downloads and installs them.
The 760/780 uses a facility called SiRFInstantFixII which, like TomTom’s QuickGPSfix, allows your Nuvi to find your position quickly when you turn on the device. This works without having to download updated GPS position information but requires a number of days to initially obtain all the information it requires.
Overall we liked the flexibility of the TomTom Home facility and the ability to update our maps on a daily basis with user inputted changes, additions and corrections to the map file.
As far as QuickGPSfix versus SiRFInstantFixII, in our month of daily use we found that the TomTom and Nuvi usually obtained satellite lock quickly and almost at the same time. Overall the TomTom was faster the first time we turned them on in the morning but after that there was very little difference.
TTS – Text to Speech
We used the American female voice Susan on both of the TomTom units. We found the voice to be clear and both TomTom units provided more volume than we needed, even at highway speeds. However, the TTS facility on these units does not compare favorably with the Nuvi.
We found that double or longer street names where often strung together so that we could not understand what Susan was saying. For example St. James would be turned into something like Stjames or as Gatorguy mentioned in one of his posts, where Avenue B would barely get the B pronounced at all. In other circumstances, words would be “clipped” so the full street name would not be heard. We also noted instances of inconsistent pronunciations. In these cases, St James Street would be pronounced correctly when Susan wanted us to turn in ½ mile but pronounced as StjamesStre when we actually got to the turn. There were also situations where the first announcement was clear and loud while the next one remained clear but seemed like we turned down the volume as the voice level was different.
The distances from turn announcements were also different between the TomTom and Nuvi devices. At highway speeds the TomTom always made its first turn announcement at 2 miles from the turn. It then remained silent until ½ mile from the turn. Further instructions came at regular intervals and always included the distance to the maneuver as well as what to do after it, for example “then stay in the left lane”.
The TomTom’s first turn announcement appears to be geared to the speed being travelled or the type of road. When travelling at lower speeds in a city situation the first turn announcement was always at ½ mile or less, compared to the 2 miles noted at highway speeds.
The TomTom never announces which side of the road your destination is on, only that you had reached it.
We used the American male voice Jack on the Nuvi 780. We found the voice to be clear and provided more volume than we needed, even at highway speeds.
Overall we were much more satisfied with the TTS facility on the Nuvi. Although the voice prompts on the TomTom may have been consistently louder, the voice on the Nuvi never “clipped” an instruction and handled all street names well, even if it did have some problems with the correct pronunciations sometimes. The pronunciation situation was not limited to the Nuvi however. In our neighborhood we have a street named Mostar Road. The correct pronunciation is Mow Star. Both the Nuvi and the TomTom call this street Monster.
At highway speeds, the Nuvi makes its first turn announcement at “around” one mile. We say “around” because sometimes it’s at 1.1 miles and sometimes it’s .9 miles while most of the time it’s 1 miles. Not sure why this small difference happens. Subsequent announcements usually include a street or highway name or number and when you reach your destination it announces which side of the road it is on.
Overall we liked the quality of the Nuvi TTS facility. Although we found that the TomTom provided more information about the next turn and what to do after you make it, the poor pronunciation and clipping of words was noticeable and became irritating. The Nuvi rarely if ever suffered from these problems. The Nuvi’s ability to announce that you have reached your destination and which side of the street it was on was very helpful and something we found we missed almost immediately when we started using the TomTom. The TomTom’s ability to announce the first turn at 2 miles out was something that we appreciated, especially at 75 MPH in areas that we were not familiar with. Others will find this announcement comes too soon but for us it worked out well.
Both TomTom units use a 4.3 inch transreflective LCD touch screen at a resolution of 480 x 272. We found this screen to be rather difficult to see in direct sunlight while walking but, although it was not as bright as the Nuvi’s screen, we were always able to see it clearly when mounted in the vehicle.
Additionally, we found that while travelling the TomTom presented more detail about interstate exits and roads we were passing over, under or turning onto from these exits. In most cases the exit number and cross roads were clearly numbered and named on the TomTom map screen. On the other hand, very little else other than the road you were travelling on was shown. Bodies of water and railroad tracks seemed to be the most often seen features. We always used 3D mode.
We found the screen draw on these units to be smoother than on the Nuvi but with the “trade off” that the maps appear to have jagged edges. Users have reported that this is because the Nuvi uses antialiasing when redrawing the screen while TomTom does not.
The TomTom 930 also introduced a new feature called “Active Lane Guidance”. This facility allows the 930 to display not only the direction of the next turn or exit off an interstate but a picture that shows all lanes and highlights the ones you should be taking. Even the road dividers are displayed. In addition the 930 also offers a static screen at ½ to ¼ mile from your intersection which blows the ALG part of the screen up to full screen with your useable lane flashing. This feature is a great help when driving on unfamiliar interstates with complicated interchanges. However, its appearance is sporadic and in our trip only appeared about 6 times and always around major cities, and not in all the major cities we drove through.
The Nuvi unit uses a 4.3 inch WQVGA color screen with white backlighting, and as reported, antialiasing which results in smoother map display and text than on the TomTom units. Resolution is 480 x 272. The screen on the 780 is bright and easily seen in all circumstances.
When travelling in 3D mode, the Nuvi displays more detail about your surroundings than the TomTom. Most roads within your immediate area are displayed on the map. There are usually no names associated with these roads however. As with the TomTom’s most bodies of water are displayed but no railroad tracks and although a road crossing an interstate will be displayed, rarely is there any data as to the name of that road or the exit number it represents. Note that the detail shown on a particular screen may change depending on the zoom level and map detail settings. We did not change this setting on any of these units from their defaults.
In our use of these devices we found that either will provide a decent, easy to view screen. However, overall we prefer the screen on the Nuvi. It is brighter and the text and maps are smoother looking. This comes at the expense of the smoothness of screen refresh however, as the movement of your vehicle along the road will show more “jumpy” on the Nuvi screen.
The TomTom does provide a little more detail on road names and exit numbers but the Nuvi provided more information on the whereabouts of nearby roads as you travel. If Active Lane Guidance appeared in more locations it could easily make the TomTom the winner in this category however.
The TomTom 920T had Tele Atlas North America maps version 710.1576 installed. While the TomTom 930 contained version 805.1801 of the same maps. The 920T could have been updated to the same version as the 930 but we did not feel the expense justified what we would gain. Note that both units also had Tele Atlas Europe maps installed but they were not used for this comparison.
TomTom offers a facility called Mapshare that allows users to input changes, additions, and deletions to the map product, and once verified by TomTom, these alterations are made available to all users through the TomTom Home facility detailed above. This makes paying for map updates less of an issue.
Overall we were happy with the map data in both these units. There were few errors noted and none of any consequence. The only major omission we found was also missing in the maps of the Nuvi.
The POI database however was another story. Although very complete, possibility more so than the Nuvi, at least more current, the accuracy of the POI locations left something to be desired. As you have seen in our daily updates we ran into problems on more than one occasion with the TomTom POI having an incorrect location for a listed site. This is frustrating and could be dangerous under certain circumstances. On the other hand, if you can use the POI listing to obtain an address for a location and then enter that address into the TomTom, it will get you there, or very near it consistently. Should be the same just selecting the POI.
Although not as complete as the Nuvi, the speed limit information included in the map data was particularly useful, especially when displayed along with the option to display your actual speed on the map screen along with an audible warning when you exceed a preset speed. Note, that the speed limit data was only available on the newer 930 map data.
The Nuvi 780 had Navteq City Navigator North America NT V2009 installed.
Garmin only provides a single map update on an annual basis. They currently have no facility such as TomTom’s Mapshare to provide more frequent updates to the installed maps.
Overall we were happy with the map data installed on our 780. We found only 2 occurrences when an address entered was not found (one was also not found on the TomTom). The POI database is large containing some 6 million entries. How up to date and accurate these items are has been a matter of discussion on the Nuvi forum for years but we found the few times we used it that it was accurate both to content and ability to route us the selected site.
The map data in V2009 is very accurate when it comes to speed limits. The unfortunate thing is that you can’t display both the speed limit and your actual speed on the same screen. This is really dumb although we have to admit we never realized it until we say it in use on the TomTom 930.
This one is pretty much a draw. Both the Tele Atlas and Navteq maps will get you from A to B with little difficulty. POI data is suspect on both units but could be a bigger problem on the TomTom’s because of the inaccuracy of where they route you to. However, the ability of those maps to be updated continuously with user input is intriguing.
The TomTom 920T did not have any advanced routing system as the 930 did as we quickly found out once we began to use it. Although the routes calculated by the 3 units were never very different in our experience, the Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) was very much out of wack on the 920. We suspect that we didn’t see any major differences in the routes calculated because in a lot of the areas we drove in, there were very few alternatives. In all cases we had the units set to “Fastest Time”.
The TomTom 930 comes with a new feature called IQRoutes that takes into account speed limits and known travel times to help calculate the best and fastest route. This makes the ETA calculations very accurate. As we have read, TomTom has gone from having some of the worst ETA estimates (920) to the head of the line in this area with the 930.
Here is an example of the difference IQroutes make in the calculation of our entire trip using the 930 with the IQroutes option turned on and with it off. Also the same trip as calculated by the 920 is shown for comparison. Note that we could not provide the same calculation for the Nuvi as it ran out of internal memory before it could calculate the entire route:
With IQroutes turned on
With IQroutes turned off
On the on the older 920
One feature that we like about the Nuvi is that once you have a route calculated you can quickly add one other location on the fly as a ‘waypoint’. The Nuvi will recalculate the route, taking you to your waypoint first and then to your destination. We never found this feature in either TomTom. It is possible to build a route but to add a stop into the middle of an already calculated route was something we never found. If you can do this on the TomTom we’d appreciate someone pointing us in the right direction (so to speak) [ED - Yes, you can tap on the alternate route menu and add a Via]
Both TomTom units provided for building routes and itineraries in a straight forward easy way. Both can be done using addresses, POIs, recently selected locations etc. The difference seems to be that a route is from point A to point B while an itinerary is a calculated route to more than one location.
Garmin has always been noted for its very good routing engine. The Nuvi 780 continues this history. Without additional features like IQRoutes, our Nuvi consistently calculated the “Faster Time” route faster than and just as accurately as the TomTom 930. Also on a daily basis, the routes calculated and the ETA displayed on these two units where virtually identical.
As explained above, the Nuvi allows for a single waypoint to be added to a calculated route. For quick, on the fly, changes to your planned trip (like finding a restaurant along the way) this is a nice feature to have. Unless we missed something, it isn’t available on the TomTom. If we missed it then it’s a lot easier to find and use on the Nuvi.
The 780 also allow for the creation of routes which are like itineraries on the TomTom (multi stop trip planning). We found the interface more difficult to use on the Nuvi but the one advantage that it does have is that you can actually create the route using the PC software Mapsource and download it to the device, thereby skipping inputting anything via the device.
Again, pretty much a draw in this category. Both the TomTom 930 and the Nuvi provide very accurate route and ETA calculations, which is why you want the GPS in the first place.
Overall the TomTom may provide a slightly easier way to input locations for multi point calculations but the Nuvi offers an “on the fly” way to have a waypoint added to your route and the ability to construct routes on your PC or Mac.
Both the TomTom 920 and 930 are seemingly endlessly customizable. For many people the number of options maybe simply overwhelming. For those that like to “tinker” with various settings and how the interface looks, the TomTom is for you.
Tapping the screen in the map area brings up the Main Menu. There are in fact 3 main menu screens, each with 5 options to select ranging from Navigator To, making manual corrections to the installed maps which you discover or caused by road closures and the like, to planning an itinerary.
One of the selectable icons on the main menu is Change Preferences. Tapping that will bring up 8 pages of 5 icons each all of which allow you to make some kind of change to the way the TomTom works by default. Of course tapping any of these 40 icons brings up additional pages where you select the specific change you want to make. Thankfully, when you become completely lost the very last Change Preferences icon is Reset Factory Settings.
There are of course some drawbacks to all of this customizability. Things like it requiring 9 screen taps to get to the screen that lets you set the time. Like the Nuvi, the TomTom knows nothing about time zones, so on our trip we needed that screen a fair bit.
One nice feature is that you can setup a Quick Menu. On this menu, which appears on the map screen once created, you can put 5 of your most used or hardest to find menu items. Once on the Quick Menu, tapping that icon immediately gives you direct access to the 5 items you have selected.
Finally, there is an option to “Show Fewer Menu Options”. This hides a number of the main menu icons, bringing it down to only 2 pages. As well the Change Preferences pages are reduced to 3 from 8. If an option you need is now not displayed you must revert back to the full menu system to reach it, as there seems to be no way to customize what is shown in “fewer menu options” mode.
Unlike the TomTom the customizability of the Nuvi is limited. All available features and options are reached by tapping the “Tools” icon on the opening screen. Most of the 2+ screens of icons under the Tools menu are used to access Nuvi features. These include things like MSN Direct, Media Player, Stored Routes, and Currency Converter.
Access to any customizable setting comes from tapping the Settings icon. This makes available 10 icons for customization. These include setting your language, what maps to use, volume controls for media and navigation and route preferences like faster time and avoidances.
The Nuvi has basically a “What you see is what you get” interface.
If being able to customize the interface and how the GPS operates is important to you then your choice here is the TomTom. If, however, your happy to turn the device on and have it calculate a route for you without having to make a lot of choices then the Nuvi fits this bill.
The 920T also includes a RDS TMC Traffic Receiver which is a separate cable you attach to the unit and then suction cup mount to your windshield. The Traffic Message Channel (TMC) is a specific application of the FM Radio Data System (RDS) used for broadcasting real-time traffic and weather information. Data messages are received silently and decoded by the 920, and delivered by alerting the driver of a problem on the planned route and calculating an alternative route to avoid the incident. Although the TomTom 930 did not come with this receiver, it does support the service and uses the same receiver as the 920T.
To receive traffic data you must attach the TMC receiver cable to the bottom of the TomTom and then suction cup the antenna wire to your windshield. This is not very convenient although once installed you don’t really need to take it off on a daily basis.
We found during our trip that reported items included construction ahead and traffic congestion ahead. The readout on the screen displayed an icon to represent the type of incident being reported. Tapping the traffic bar on the screen brings up additional options for seeing where the problem is and routing around it.
During our trip there was very few times that the service reported anything. In those cases when a traffic situation was reported we never actually saw what was being reported on the highway.
Maybe we were lucky, maybe the system doesn’t work all that well in the areas that we drove in, we simply don’t know.
The Nuvi 760 also includes a FM traffic receiver which is integrated into the vehicle power cable. We had also obtained an MSN Direct Receiver and that service also provides traffic data. We made the decision to use the MSN Receiver in place of the supplied FM traffic receiver.
Unlike the TomTom, both the FM and MSN Receiver cables are integrated into the units car charger. This is much more convenient than the separate power and traffic cables used by TomTom.
The MSN Direct service provides data on traffic, weather, gas prices and movie times in the area you’re driving in. It also provides updated news and stock prices.
The service on the Nuvi is much more user friendly than the TMC service on the TomTom. Traffic and weather events appear as a fairly large icon on the map screen. Traffic events appear as an estimate of the delay in minutes while weather is depicted with different icons depending on the type of weather warning.
As far as traffic is concerned, again we didn’t find it all that useful. Delays were reported but in some cases they were on the south bound lanes of an interstate and we were travelling south. Delays reported were either not there or cleared before we got there. Once a road closure was reported on our route but well past where our route ended. The one time we asked it to route us around a reported problem it continued to ask us to leave the interstate, at every exit, for over 25 miles even though there was no obvious traffic problem.
Again, we don’t know if we were lucky or if the system needs some tweaking but for traffic we could have done without the service. Where it did help was reporting on weather conditions. In South Dakota , the service reported that we were heading in an area under a tornado watch. This allowed us to get off the highway and to a safer location as the storm passed.
In our experience, neither service is one that we would renew and pay for. Possibly both would be worthwhile if you lived and worked in a specific area and needed to know the traffic conditions for your daily commute. If you’re just passing through, we don’t believe it does the task.
If we had to make a choice then the MSN Direct service on the Nuvi would be our choice. The additional services make it more worthwhile but the coverage areas are somewhat limited at present.
The following are a number of miscellaneous items we thought we should point out:
On the TomTom 930 you can enter street addresses to route to by speaking the address to the unit. The interface is a little strange as you have to go though the menu system to turn it on and tap the screen to actually use it then tap it again to select done at the end of the process. We used the system a few times and in each case were able to input the address. It did however take some doing. You have to insure that the unit is ready to receive each command by watching the screen and only speaking when it indicates you can. This was a bit frustrating as you were usually ready to speak before the system was ready for input.
Overall we could have done without this feature but admit that it may have worked better if we had given it a longer test drive.
The Nuvi 7XX devices do not offer Voice Recognition.
Both the TomTom 920 and 930 came with remote control devices that allow you to make menu selections. Initially the remotes are a bit frustrating as there are numerous buttons that are not marked so you’re really pressing things and not knowing what will happen until you memorize what each button does. The various actions of the remote buttons are explained in the User Manual and in a separate sheet included in the box the device came in.
Again, we used the remotes on a few occasions. We found them particularly useful in selecting tracks to play via the MP3 player. Although we did use them to input address we found, at least for beginners, it was just as easy to use the touch screen.
A remote is not available on the Nuvi 7XX series.
Both the TomTom and the Nuvi units come with suction cup windshield mounts. We used the one from the TomTom 930 on this trip. It is larger than the one we have for the Nuvi and seems to stick better and release easier as well. It holds the unit securely and overall we were pleased with this mount.
Since the layout of our vehicle did not allow for a second device to be placed on the windshield and be easily reached, we used a Garmin Bean Bag mount for the Nuvi 780. This allowed us to place the device much closer to the driver. This is a rock solid mount that we could recommend to anyone not wanting to use the windshield mount that Garmin supplies.
All of these units have Bluetooth support. In fact the remote controls for the 2 TomTom units are Bluetooth. We have used our Samsung cell phone with all 3 units. Pairing was no problem with any of them. In our limited use we found that the Bluetooth support in the Nuvi was better for us. Our phonebook was downloaded and useable on the Nuvi but this didn’t happen on the TomTom, as an example. We are not heavy cell phone users and to be honest have had a Bluetooth phone for less time than the 3 GPS units so we are really no experts on this topic.
Well, that's it, we have given you a detailed review of how we used these units and our feelings about most of their many features. Since this road test was never going to be a competition but rather a comparison we would like to close by hopefully helping you determine which one of these units is best for you.
It is our feeling that there are no two people that are going to use, or want the same thing from their GPS. What we can give you are our thoughts about which unit is better for you depending on how you will use it.
First, let me say that you will probably be very happy with either the TomTom 930 or the Nuvi 760/780. They are both excellent units. As you have seen in our posts, we had some fairly significant reboot problems with our 930. I have no indication that this is a problem that affects a large number of these units as I have not seen any talk about it on TomTom forums. If it is a widespread issue then I’d eliminate the TomTom until the problem is addressed by the manufacturer.
Given that our issues with the 930 were isolated occurrences, we would offer the following:
You would be happier with the TomTom if
- You want a completely customizable interface
- You want to have frequent map updates and be able to update your current maps with user inputted changes.
- TTS isn’t as important to you as other GPS features.
- Features like voice recognition and a remote control are important to you.
- Lane assist would be something that would be of assistance when you are driving in large metropolitan areas.
You would be happier with the Nuvi if
- You want a unit that has a simple clean user interface with only a few options to deal with.
- You want a clear easily readable screen under all conditions.
- You would be happy to use the maps supplied with your unit and only update them on no more than an annual basis.
- You want a clear understandable TTS voice under all conditions.
- You live in an area with MSN Direct coverage and the services offered would be useful to you.
Hopefully you have found this thread helpful and we have made your GPS buying decision a little easier. Again we thank you for all the kind words and encouragement. It has been one heck of a ride and we have loved every minute of it.
If you have any further questions we’d be happy to attempt to answer them for you in this topic of the forums.