So the Via 135 has some very useful voice functions. The necessity of touching the screen to get the ball rolling still means Garmin's system is that little bit safer to use, but the TomTom alternative runs it close, and is pretty seamless once you're inside the voice control menus themselves. This is certainly no gimmick. Other than Speak & Go, though, the 135 is a standard member of the Via range. It has the integrated mount the Via range has in common with TomTom's entry-level Start range. This makes the device easier to carry from vehicle to vehicle than a device with a separate mount, and the screen will flip depending on which way round you mount it, so it can be attached hanging down from a windscreen or up from the dashboard.
Without the voice control, the Via 135's menu is TomTom's current system, which is vastly streamlined compared to a few years ago. So a quick press of the screen brings up six main icons for the key functions. Here, you can enter an address by post code, as well as the usual city-street-number method. You can also store a home location and a list of favourites for rapid access. However, the address database cannot be searched by keyword, although the traditional category-based Points of Interest database can be searched in this way. The last few locations you have navigated to are held in a recents list, and the last stop is recorded, too, in case you need to find where you left your car. There's a multi-waypoint planner, and the Services option leads you to a Traffic icon, which is only enabled if you hook up the optional RDS-TMC receiver, a £49.99 extra.
Routes are calculated using TomTom's IQ Routes. This means estimated arrival times take into account a statistical analysis of historical road speeds taken from TomTom's traffic services. So the calculations are much more realistic than sat-navs without this technology. Having tested IQ Routes for a few years now, we can verify that it's pretty effective. The map screen is standard TomTom fare as well. A wealth of journey information can be found along the bottom of the screen. This includes current speed and limit on the left. The time to destination and estimated arrival time can be found on the right. In the middle you're shown the distance to the next turning, and lane details for complex junctions. Aside from the icon to enable voice control, there's another for reporting speed camera locations or map errors. When actually navigating, it provides single-touch marking for map errors.
TomTom's product range is starting to get a little confusing. For the same price as this 5in UK and Ireland Via 135 you can get the 4.3in Via 130 with European maps and otherwise the same features. But the entry-level 6in Start 60 and 5in Start 25 are more expensive with European maps. The Speak & Go functions are pretty capable, though, and you get Bluetooth, which the Starts don't offer. So if you do value the ability to use your sat-nav with minimal manual input, the TomTom Via 135 provides great voice control for a reasonable price.