The GO 520 is the first satnav from TomTom to roll out Wi-Fi to the company’s mid-range. This is a 5-inch unit offering similar features to the GO 5200. The notable difference is that where the latter has a built-in mobile data connection, the 520 relies on your smartphone for its Live Services.
However, this omission means you pay £90 less, making the 520 a much more keenly priced satnav – albeit still not a particularly cheap one.
Apart from the lack of mobile data, this is still a premium satnav. So instead of the all-in-one mount that TomTom uses for its budget devices, the 520 boasts a magnetic quick-release mount. This makes it easy to leave the mount in the car and take only the satnav with you for safekeeping – although some argue that even the mount is an incentive for thieves, since so many people simply lock their satnavs in the glove compartment.
Unlike devices of a few years ago, new models don’t expect you to fork out dosh every couple of years to update maps and traffic locations. The 520 comes with a lifetime subscription to map and safety camera location updates, and also to TomTom’s brilliant Traffic service.
Related: Best Satnavs
This is where the Wi-Fi comes in. Once you’ve logged into your Live Services account and connected the 520 to your home Wi-Fi, it will check for updates every time it's turned on, and then offer to download the updates wirelessly. I found this surprisingly quick, even with a complete map update of nearly 7GB.
This huge update only took about 30 minutes to download and install, which in theory means it will work on battery, since that lasts an hour when fully charged. However, I’d always recommend doing any update with external power connected.
The 520, like 5200, comes with a world map subscription as standard. However, only one region is preinstalled, which in the UK means 48 countries in Europe and less detailed “connecting roads” for a couple more. There's detailed traffic and safety cameras for most of those countries – although, of course, French law now means that you get only “danger zones” in that country, rather than exact camera locations.
If you want to download maps for other regions, you can do that over Wi-Fi as well, and TomTom’s available maps include Africa, Australia, the Middle East, New Zealand, South America, North America (including Mexico, despite the wall) and Southeast Asia. The unit comes with 16GB of memory on board, which isn't enough for all the regions, but can handle a couple at a time, depending on which ones you choose. There’s a microSD card slot as well, with support for cards up to 32GB.
It's been a couple of years now since TomTom completely overhauled its menu design, after quite some time honing the previous version. The current TomTom menu focuses on the map, and this is still visible when you call up the menu, which consists of a strip of icons along the centre of the screen.
The first four icons let you search for a new location, drive to a home or work location (if you've set these up), or browse recent destinations. You can swipe along using the capacitive touchscreen, which also supports some multi-touch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom. The display is relatively responsive.
The next menu section along allows you to browse saved locations and routes, record your route, or call up the voice control system. When enabled, the voice control system can also be activated by saying “Hello TomTom”. It’s a pretty capable system, powered by Nuance’s speech-detection technology, and can help you access many of the navigation features without touching the device.
Further along is quick access to parking and petrol station points of interest (POIs), reporting new – or removed – speed camera locations, and the settings sub-menu. Finally, there are options to get help with using the device or customise the menu appearance.
The main destination search uses a unified keyword system, which means that you can effectively just search for a road name or POI name and choose from the list. Roads are shown on the left and POIs on the right. This has been available for a while, and it’s so much easier than the old system of having to drill down from city name first.
A relatively new feature is Destination Prediction, which allegedly learns your navigation habits and makes suggestions, although I’ve not seen this show itself during testing. Maybe it needs more regular usage to trigger.
Once your destination is configured, navigation is the usual slick TomTom experience. The 5-inch screen provides a resolution of 480 x 272 pixels, which isn’t exactly current smartphone standard but enough for the intended purpose, and it’s also pretty bright and easy to see – even in sunny conditions.
The map is clear and not cluttered with extraneous information, although there are 3D buildings and landmarks when driving through town centres. It takes up most of the screen, with an information strip down the right-hand side. By default, this shows the estimated arrival time and distance to destination at the top, with the current time at the bottom.
Directly beneath the distance is an estimate of how much additional time will be added to the journey due to traffic, and then a bar schematic showing where the incidents are along the route. Also displayed are nearby POIs such as parking and petrol stations, so you can re-route to these if need be.
As I’ve said before on numerous occasions, TomTom’s Traffic is extremely effective. In this case, you'll need to pair your phone with the 520 via Bluetooth to get the live updates. However, I found Traffic was also available when the satnav was connected to the internet via a Wi-Fi connection, so presumably if your car has a mobile hotspot that would work too.
Since it uses mobile phone data as well as TMC information, TomTom Traffic is pretty accurate and timely. If a better route is found as you drive, it will be shown in green when you get to an appropriate turnoff, showing how much time will be saved. Or you'll be voice-prompted to select the new route, using a simple “Yes” with the voice command system to make the change.
The TomTom GO 520 offers most of the functionality of the 5200, apart from the built-in mobile data, for a £90 saving over the latter. While regular commuters will probably want to avoid the extra faff of using your smartphone for data, and still opt for the top model, you can now get the same excellent Traffic and features for a cheaper outlay. This makes the TomTom GO 520 a decidedly tempting option.
The TomTom GO 520 provides Wi-Fi updates and great Live Traffic, although you’ll need to add your own smartphone for the latter.