Amongst the general public, the name TomTom has become synonymous with sat-navs in the same way that Hoover is with vacuum cleaners, iPod with MP3 players, and the country of Iceland with bankruptcy. Considering that TomTom's GO 720 has been our top sat-nav choice for over a year now, we can see why the company's public profile is so high. All good things must come to an end, though, and with the GO 930 TomTom began to move on from its x20 series. The GO 530 is its little brother. It still offers many of the best new features, but for quite a lot less outlay.
Where the 930 comes with maps for Europe, US and Canada, the 530 only includes the UK and Ireland. The 930 bundles a Bluetooth remote, but the 530 doesn't. However, they both have a comfortably sized 4.3in touchscreen TFT, and like the 930, the Traffic version of the 530 on test here includes an RDS-TMC live traffic receiver. You plug this into a minijack on the bottom, then route the aerial around your windscreen and up one side. This isn't particularly neat, but it does the job with no subscription to pay.
The new features in the x30 range are all found ‘under the hood', and the 530 has the same ones as the 930. Instead of just using shortest distance or fastest roads, the IQ Routes system uses historical traffic information to work out which roads are more likely to be quickest in the real world, based on average speed data, even differentiating between weekend and weekday. We found this generally effective, locating less congested routes than the obvious (but jammed) direct options, but we could still go one better in areas where we had particularly close experience.
The lane assistance system is most welcome, too. This tells you precisely which lanes to be in when you reach a junction where lanes split into different directions. Navigon-based models also have this feature, whilst Navman will be introducing something similar with its S100, and we all know imitation is the highest form of flattery. We found that although the image didn't always match the road exactly, and not every junction was included, it did cover the vast majority. It also always matched the number of lanes and popped up in plenty of time to facilitate finding the correct one.
The GO 530 Traffic also includes TomTom's MapShare system introduced with the previous generation. You can correct map errors, and download corrections made by others, in a Wikipedia-like collaboration.