- Review Price: £287.99
Social networking and file sharing is revolutionising the planet it would seem. Not a day passes without some mention of Facebook, YouTube or MySpace in the technology news. It certainly seems that everyone I know is using one or other of these three services. But when you think about it, networking and sharing has always been an essential driving force in the world of technology, it’s just the way in which we’re doing it that has changed over the years.
The Internet itself is the ultimate expression of this where computers are concerned, and mobile phones became ubiquitous because of our desire to stay connected and share information years before people began to join these services and make friends. But what’s next? According to TomTom it’s sat-nav’s turn to get the treatment.
TomTom’s latest device – the Go 720 – introduces a function it calls Map Share to the in-car navigation party. With the 720, and other devices in the latest range, users can add to or make changes to mistakes in the onboard maps and upload them for other users to benefit from. The intention, of course, is to put an end to those moments – or at least reduce the frequency with which they occur – where your sat-nav asks you to turn right on a no-right turn junction, make a U-turn in the middle of a motorway, or drive down a private road. Not that you’d ever blindly follow such plainly wrong instructions, of course.
As a system it works pretty well too. Correcting an error or adding your own ‘missing’ points of interest is simply a process of going to the map corrections screen and choosing from one of several options – anything from unblocking and blocking streets and reversing traffic direction to editing street and place names, and even adding missing streets. And with plenty of options to choose from, downloading changes made by others is a doddle. Just pop the Go 720 into its USB cradle and it’ll automatically upload your changes and download the ones you’ve specified. You can choose to download all corrections, just those that are ‘popular’, or those that have been checked and ratified by TomTom’s mapping teams.
TomTom has clearly put a lot of thought into the feature and it’s certainly an innovative step forward, but despite all that it does have one major flaw. As it stands, the system is only likely to be used by those who know an area very well as it’s impossible to mark errors on the fly. Driving past a no-right-turn junction in London after the 720 asked me to drive down it, I’d have liked to have marked it on the map to remind me where the error occurred. But there’s no way of doing this and the number of people willing to stop and pull over just to correct a map error, I suspect, is going to be few and far between.
Of course the Go 720 isn’t just about map sharing – it’s absolutely rammed to the gills with other great features too. It has a bright, high resolution 4.3in widescreen with a light sensor that dims and increases brightness automatically. It has automatic volume control that increases the volume of audio instructions depending on the amount of noise in the cabin. It’ll not only tell you to turn right and left, but also has a text-to-speech engine that will read out road names and numbers to you as you approach turnings.
And if you’re unhappy with the volume output of the excellent built-in speaker (unlikely), the Go 720 also has an FM transmitter in it so you can pipe the sound through your stereo. In theory this means you can use the TomTom as your in-car MP3 player (yes it has one of those too), and hands-free phone (using the integrated Bluetooth adaptor) and have everything running safely through your car radio. It’ll even use its text to speech engine to read incoming text messages out to you.
In practice, though, I found myself sticking to the built-in speaker as the volume wasn’t quite as strong as I’d have liked it. I had to turn the volume right up on my stereo in order to hear music and directions clearly, and this made small FM scratches and glitches extremely annoying. It’s also a feature that isn’t much use in dense urban environments where every inch of the FM signal band is swamped with hundreds of pirate radio stations vying for space. The Bluetooth features still work fantastically well in non-FM mode, but you’d have to use the headphone output to listen to your MP3 files on it effectively.
More impressive, for me, is the speech recognition engine, which seems to work well even with a fair amount of background road noise going on. I shouted Borehamwood, Sheffield and various address details while driving around the North Circular road in London and it picked up each one instantly, providing a list of options to choose from each time. Again it’s not perfect – you still have to tap the screen two or three times to get to the voice recognition option, and sometimes if it doesn’t recognise what you’ve said it pops out of voice recognition mode, but this is nitpicking. With a little practice it allows you to enter new destinations without having to pull over and off the road and that’s a fantastic bonus.
You can even record your own voice instructions if you get fed up with the stock TomTom options. And this hints at another of the 720’s excellent features – its customisability. Unlike most sat-navs you’re not limited to what comes out of the box. Almost everything can be turned off or on. The screen layout, for example, can be changed so that information is displayed along the bottom or side of the screen. You can choose what information to display in that information bar. The automatic volume adjustment can be switched on or off, and the list goes on…
Routes can be customised for walkers, bicycles, limited speed, motorway avoidance, speed or shortest distance. You can set alerts up for specific types of POI, so that as you pass a petrol station or hotel an alarm sounds. And one really handy feature lets you add shortcuts to your favourite option to a screen that you can access via a dedicated button on the main screen.
Finally, it goes without saying that the route-planning, ease of use and driving directions are excellent. As with other TomTom products the voice directions are clear, giving advanced warning about the next one or two turnings; and the maps are very good indeed, offering building footprints in big cities and the facility to have the viewpoint automatically zoom out when arriving at a turn so that you can see the road layout more clearly. This is a feature I particularly like about my Mio e510, and combines the advantages of having a 2D map view with the ‘realism’ of a 3D one.
I drove over 1,000 miles through England and France, in London and in rural areas, and I found the 720’s directions almost impossible to fault. One wrong instruction in the time I tested it in London cropped up and a roundabout was replaced with a standard crossroads in Alsace in north east France but that was about it.
The 720 is also quick, updating the map smoothly and not in great big jumps as some other products do. It recalculates routes quickly when you stray off track and allows you to browse the map. TomTom’s first-rate Home software makes it a doddle to upgrade the system too, and adding the excellent TomTom Traffic, which uses your phone’s Internet connection to receive traffic updates, is absolute child’s play and a much more effective method than using TMC traffic information.
Is there anything wrong with this product? If I had to point it out I’d say that the night mode graphics aren’t very clear, but then with the automatic brightness adjustment this is not as necessary as it is with other devices. Planning complex itineraries isn’t as easy as it could be either – you can’t simply keep adding via points to your current route as you can with a Mio sat-nav, for instance. Instead, you have to start off by planning it as an itinerary rather than a standard route, but at least the feature isn’t missing.
I must apologise if this review has at some points read a little like a big features list, but in order to give you a good idea of just what the TomTom Go 720 can do, it has to. And I haven’t covered every single feature here either. Suffice to say, the TomTom Go 720 is the most capable, feature-packed, easy to use and innovative in-car sat-nav device on the market today. And at under £300, it’s not hideously expensive either. If you want the ultimate in satellite navigation, buy one of these. You will not be disappointed.
Score in detail
|Screen Size (inches) (Inch)||4.30 in|
|General Features||Voice Prompt|
|Battery life (Hour)||5 Hour - Lithium-polymer batteryhr|
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