As with the most recent TomTom XL release before this, the XL LIVE also incorporates IQ Routes. So instead of using the speed limit or distance alone to calculate the optimum route, it will take into account real average road speeds at particular times of day. If a route is always jammed during rush hour, IQ Routes may calculate a quicker option via less frequented streets when travelling at that time.
The XL LIVE also incorporates Advanced Lane Guidance, TomTom's take on the now-ubiquitous full-screen graphic which makes sure you know which carriageway to be in at a complex motorway junction. This pops up in plenty of time to avoid the mad scramble across from the fast lane when you realise your turning is rapidly approaching.
The overall interface follows TomTom's standard design, and hasn't changed significantly for a few generations, although the menus have been streamlined for recent iterations. The map takes the lion's share of the screen, with a bar along the bottom providing pretty much every piece of information about your journey you could want. The plain presentation of this bar makes the morass of details feel rather opaque at first, but it's extremely handy when you get used to it. The traffic bar down the side is similarly functional.
So the XL LIVE lacks none of the important innovations which have made the last couple of GO generations the best all-round sat-navs on the market. But there are a few things missing. Gone is the excellent voice activation system, which allowed you to control most aspects of the GO LIVE verbally, after just an initial finger press to kick off the process. There is also no Bluetooth connectivity or FM radio transmitter built in. Of all these omissions, Bluetooth will probably be the most sorely rued, as this means you can't hook the XL LIVE up to your mobile phone and use it as an in-car hands-free kit.
It's great to see LIVE already filtering down to less pricey members of TomTom's sat-nav range. But with the subscription costing the same this isn't yet LIVE for the masses. We can't really criticise TomTom for wanting to maximise its income and not annoy those who have already purchased a GO LIVE. Nevertheless, this does dilute the XL LIVE's argument somewhat. On the one hand, it's £100 cheaper than the equivalent GO LIVE with full European maps (the 740). But the identical monthly fees mean this isn't quite the value proposition it seems, even if it is still a great sat-nav device.