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TomTom Via 135 Review

Pros

  • Very effective voice control
  • Clear 5in screen with good viewing angles
  • Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity

Cons

  • No voice entry of post codes
  • No live services

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £149.99
  • 5in widescreen display
  • Maps for UK and Republic of Ireland
  • Speak & Go voice activation system
  • Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity
  • RDS-TMC traffic ready

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It’s amazing to think, considering how dangerous it is to fiddle with gadgets whilst driving, that few sat-navs offer truly capable voice control. Garmin has developed the most effective system so far, as seen in its nuvi 3790T. But TomTom was never going to let this lead remain for too long. So we have the TomTom Via 135, which launches the company’s new Speak & Go system, alongside the Via 130, the main difference between the two being that the 135 offers a 5in screen whilst the 130 settles for 4.3in.

Unlike the Garmin voice implementation, TomTom’s Speak & Go still requires a single finger press to get started, on the little microphone icon to the left of the screen. But after that, the vast majority of everyday tasks are accessible verbally. For example, you can enter an address this way, and TomTom has made this easier than other manufacturer’s voice systems. You simply state the address as you would in natural language – house number, street, and city, all at once. You don’t need to enter each individually. We found Speak & Go pretty effective with all the addresses we tried, and in fact quicker than entering addresses manually. You can also navigate to your home location or a Favourite. However, you can’t enter a post code verbally, which is a major drawback.

TomTom Via 135

The efficiency of entering a destination verbally is nice, but it’s not essential, as there’s a good chance you will be stationary when setting your initial destination. Where it comes into its own, however, is in those situations where you really should have your hands on the wheel. For example, you can ask to find the nearest petrol station, after which you are given a list to choose from verbally, by number, and you will be rerouted. For those times when you get too close to running out of fuel on a lengthy stretch of motorway, this can really make a perilous situation far more manageable. Having verbal control over the Avoid Roadblock functions will be extremely useful, too.

Similarly, you can search for a local restaurant or hospital, should
hunger or illness strike in a journey. You can zoom the map and mute the
sound, or control the volume. It’s also possible to add a favourite
using the voice commands. TomTom has made its Map Share and speed camera
reporting functions safer to use, too, by making this verbally
accessible. However, this is an example of where you need to know a very
specific command (“mark map error” rather than anything involving “Map
Share”), as only this will call up the correct function. On TomTom
devices with LIVE services, of which the Via 135 isn’t one, you can even
check traffic and weather by voice. But there is Bluetooth available,
so you can connect to your phone and operate it through the TomTom,
including placing calls and using the sat-nav as a hands-free device.

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.

Verdict
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.

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Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Battery Life 8
  • Value 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Design 8
  • Usability 9

Features

Screen Size (inches) (Inch) 5in
Display Type Color
General Features Speak & Go voice control, IQ Routes
Hands Free Bluetooth

Physical Specifications

Live Services No
Battery life (Hour) 2hr
Height (Millimeter) 95mm
Width (Millimeter) 119mm
Depth (Millimeter) 22mm
Weight (Gram) 181g

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