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Once you’ve chosen your destination the GO calculates the route and then shows an overview of the journey. The main display presents a 3D view of the road ahead, with your vehicle’s position represented by a blue triangle. As a safety precaution you can set a speed at which the display switches from 3D into a basic 2D display with just an arrow, in order to reduce distraction while driving. If you move off the route, the GO recalculates the route without fuss.
Touching the screen provides a number of options. The ‘Find Alternative’ icon calculates an alternative route if you need to navigate round traffic jams, while you can also choose to avoid part of the calculated route. However it’s not possible to avoid a whole motorway in one fell swoop, which is useful when you know in advance that the M25 has become a car park rather than a motorway. Instead, you need to remove each junction at a time, which is quite a clumsy workaround.
It’s fortunate then that voice instructions are delivered clearly and in good time for each turning. The volume level is surprisingly high for such a small box being loud enough to hear over a car stereo playing at reasonable volume levels. What’s more the latest software update enables the volume to be accessed with a single touch of the screen, without having to delve into the preferences. However, a dedicated hardware volume wheel would have been even better.
Underneath the main display the screen has information such as an icon that shows the next turn, as well as the current time and an estimated time of arrival. It also has a battery remaining indicator, signal strength and current speed.
Another great feature are the Points of Interest (POI) databases. A large number of POI are already provided by default across a huge number of categories such as parks, cinemas, and post offices and it’s possible to choose the ones that you wish to that appear on display the whole time –the default being petrol stations.
What’s really fantastic though is that the latest software update adds the ability to create custom POI. This is a major boost for the product as it gives access to the many databases that are available for download from www.pocketgps.co.uk, including gems such as ‘Hobby Craft Superstores’ and ‘Doctor Who Film Locations’.
The most significant by far though is the completely free Speed Camera Database. You can instruct the GO to give customisable visual and audio warnings as you approach a POI so with the Speed Camera Database POI installed the TomTom GO can do a similar job to a dedicated speed camera detector costing several hundred pounds. This could help you avoid getting points on your licence, as well as encouraging you to drive slower and more safely, and could justify the cost of the TomTom GO alone. For a free download this isn’t bad going. In reality, the database isn’t fully accurate and I passed a few cameras that weren’t on it. Additionally, dedicated detectors can pick up the hand-held devices used by police at the roadside, so the speed camera database POI shouldn’t be viewed as a panacea.
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Despite minor flaws the TomTom GO is a very impressive piece of hardware. After several weeks use its one I wouldn’t want to be without. Future revisions could do with a brighter screen, and a dedicated volume button and it would be fantastic if it could be used along with live traffic information, perhaps by integrating Bluetooth for hook up to a mobile phone. Other future possibilities could include an even slimmer hand-held version so you could take it out of the car and use it while walking
While it might not be perfect the TomTom GO is undoutedly a fantastic GPS system. For similar money you could pick up a GPS enabled PDA and navigation software, and some may prefer the extra functionality that this method provides. However, the GO’s simplicity and ease of use make it a perfect match for the mass-market that TomTom is aiming for. With its compact design, slick interface and overall excellent performance the TomTom GO comes highly recommended.