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TomTom GO 540 LIVE Sat-Nav review



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Satellite navigation has always felt slightly magical - a real-time blend of the conceptual world of maps with the physical world around us. But we're still only scratching the surface of what is possible with a location-aware device. Now TomTom is promising to unlock a new generation of capabilities via its LIVE system.

Lots of sat-navs offer extra features if you hook them up to your mobile phone, but the TomTom LIVE devices have a Vodafone GPRS connection and SIM built in. We tried the system out in the guise of the GO 540, the model which ships with UK maps only, and were rather impressed.

LIVE turns the TomTom GO 540 into more of a personal information device than just a sat-nav, adding a host of new features. Foremost amongst these is something which TomTom is rather confusingly calling HD Traffic. Pretentious name aside, this does offer a significant improvement. In the past, we've not been entirely bowled over by traffic updates.

On the one hand, you will find yourself nose-to-tale but the sat-nav has no indication of the jam, and conversely you could be told of an hour-long delay which actually only takes a few minutes to get through. But most importantly, if the traffic report matches what's ahead, the best route round the situation isn't obvious, and will almost always involve manual changes to the route. Not exactly safe, even when stationary in traffic.

The GO 540 LIVE is different. It gets traffic updates over its mobile connection as well as via an RDS-TMC receiver. Where the latter only updates every 15 minutes and covers mostly major highways, HD Traffic updates every three minutes and includes many more roads. The extra information is derived (anonymously) from mobile phone signals as they move along roads, for a much greater sample. So the LIVE system can be much more proactive.

For example, as we travelled between the TrustedReviews office and North London, a message popped up asking if we wanted to try an alternative route which would save us 55 minutes. Of course we did, so a quick prod of ‘Yes' calculated the new direction.

We discovered the reason why half an hour later, as we travelled down the M4. Active road signs began to mention an accident ahead, causing a major tailback between a couple of junctions. Just before we reached these junctions, the 540 suggested we turn off and take a route we hadn't thought of before. We followed the advice, and although it proved to be a slightly longer way in distance terms, we encountered no traffic jams at all. This kind of active suggestion is precisely what you want from a sat-nav, and far safer than anything we have used before.

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john kennedy

December 6, 2008, 2:59 am

Just got my go 540 live from Dixons on-line for 𧶮.76 including vat and delivery. I used a promotional code (vat3) and got 3% discount first road test was very good.


December 19, 2008, 11:40 pm

What is the difference between the 540 740 and 940, I cannot find a single website that gives a comparison on features? Looking at the 740 at the moment but not sure how often I would use the Europe maps with the Euro as it is at the moment.

James Morris

December 22, 2008, 3:00 am

The only real difference between the 540 and 740 is the latter has European maps. The 940 has North American (inclucing Canadian) maps too, plus a remote control. That is pretty much it.


January 22, 2009, 7:31 pm

Can I ask where is it stated that this can also receive RDS TMC traffic - I can't find this mentioned in any of the official specs?

james easdon

April 7, 2009, 4:00 pm

i have just got the 540 go live i must say not impressed with it its hard to use takes me a long way round to find addresses i had a cheap sat nav before and i must say it was better than this as for the blue tooth it wont stay connected my opinion its a load of junk so get a cheap sat nav not a tom tom unless you are a layer to try and understand how to work it i asked tom tom for support about 11 days as yet not heard a thing back from them

James Morris

April 17, 2009, 5:27 pm

@phil5743 The LIVE system doesn't receive RDS-TMC traffic directly - there is no FM receiver. The information is collated with the HD Traffic mobile phone data and delivered over the mobile data link.

@james easdon Each to their own. TomTom's interface is not the absolute best. IMHO Garmin is the easiest to use. But I'd hardly call it junk. Address entry has never given me any problems.

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