The GO 51 is the new entry-level 5-inch member of TomTom's fully featured GO range. The Start is the basic range, whereas the GO adds speed cameras and traffic. However, while the GO 5100 and GO 6100 feature built-in mobile data connectivity, this model and the GO 510/610 rely on your smartphone as the data conduit.
The primary new features of the GO 51 over its predecessor, the GO 50, is the addition of a lifetime subscription to updates of world maps, and a lifetime speed camera subscription for 36 European countries. Essentially, you won’t need to purchase any software updates for this device until it breaks, or you fancy replacing it with a newer model.
It can be a little difficult to discern the differences between the various levels of TomTom’s GO range. All levels are available in both 5-inch and 6-inch models (no 4-inch option is now produced). The GO 51 and 61 have a passive screen mount that's built into the device itself, so the car power adapter plugs into the satnav rather than the mount.
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The 510, 610, 5100 and 6100 all have the active mount with a speedy magnetic attachment. Usefully, though, the passive mount can be removed and inserted the other way round, so you can install the GO 51 either hanging down from your windscreen or jutting up from your dashboard. However, you can’t easily leave the mount in place and take out the satnav to carry with you; you'll have to remove the whole unit.
The other difference between the 51 and 61 is the use of a resistive rather than capacitive screen. As a result, firmer presses will be required; plus there’s no multi-touch, meaning no pinch to zoom or swiping gestures. Instead, the menu ribbon includes arrows that you have to press to cycle through the icons. The other GOs have capacitive, multi-touch screens. The screen resolution is the same in all devices, though – 480 x 272 pixels.
TomTom made a radical change to its menu system a few years ago, with the introduction of the GO 500. Where before there were screens of icons, now a ribbon of icons pops up over the map, with the most frequently used options in the first quartet. These include a unified search across address and points of interest (POI), which lets you find a location by keyword, rather than drilling down via town and street or POI category.
There are also Drive Home and Drive to Work icons, which you can populate with an appropriate favourite destination. The Recent Destinations list will be particularly handy, but you can also save a list of Favourites for usage later.
When you search for a location, you’re first shown it on a map, which gives you the option of saving it as a favourite before programming it in for navigation. Although the POI database has a decent range, I still miss the Google Local Search that was available on some earlier devices. This really was a very comprehensive database of locations.
Another method for programming in a destination is via the MyDrive service, which is introduced at this level of the range with the GO 51 and 61, but can be added to the GO 50 and 60 via a free firmware update. MyDrive is a Live service that you access via the web. Sign in with your TomTom Live account details, and you can then find destinations and send them to your GO.
Next time your GO connects to TomTom Live, it will download these destinations and you can then choose them on the device – without having to search for them first. It’s also possible to upload custom POI databases via MyDrive, using the OV2 file format. There are some fun ones available, such as a real ale pub guide (best used if you have a teetotalling designated driver with you).
Of course, all of these capabilities require a paired smartphone connection, but more on that in a bit.
There’s no significant difference between the GO 51 and its more expensive siblings when it comes to navigation. This is still the usual TomTom experience, with a subtly shaded map screen that semi-inverts in colour at night-time. Your current speed and the prevailing limit can be found at the bottom, with the distance to the next junction and details of which route you should take at the top.
TomTom’s earlier designs used to fill the screen with comprehensive information, but since the release of this redesigned generation a few years ago, "less is more" has been the order of the day. The right-hand side contains the estimated time of arrival and distance to destination, plus details of upcoming traffic, speed cameras or POIs.
As I mentioned earlier, the key difference between TomTom GO models and Starts is the inclusion of live traffic updates. But for the 51, 61, 510 and 610, this requires pairing with your smartphone.
This is done via Bluetooth, but once you’ve performed this action the experience is pretty much the same as the 5100 or 6100, which have mobile data built in – except that these also include free international roaming, which your smartphone service probably doesn’t.
The traffic service is provided for the lifetime of the device. As I’ve explained many times before, TomTom’s traffic service is the best in the business, and a cut above the FM radio-based RDS-TMC offering provided with some satnavs. It covers more roads than RDS-TMC, and – thanks to the mobile data link – is more frequently updated. I’ve been using TomTom traffic devices for years now and have found them effective at helping me avoid gridlock.
The TomTom GO 51 is only a mild update over the GO 50 in terms of features. If you’re an owner of the previous model, you'll be sad that your device doesn’t have world maps or a lifetime speed camera subscription – you'll have to continue to pay annually. However, there’s nothing much else missing that can’t be had with a firmware update. So you’ll be jealous of the new device, but it isn’t worth an upgrade.
If you have an earlier device, however, all the free lifetime subscriptions could make this a good-value new purchase, since you won’t have to buy anything else afterwards. At around £130, it isn't quite a budget option. But considering how good the traffic service is, you do get a lot of journey-saving navigational ability for your money.
The TomTom GO 51 is a capable, reasonably priced satnav. Just add a smartphone for great traffic updates.