Product Type: Tomtom in GPS Navigation
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Take me home, country roads
TomTom Go 720T
Member Name: count_zero
TomTom Go 720T
Date: 14/03/08, updated on 19/03/08 (565 review reads)
Advantages: Neat design, good screen and comprehensive maps
Disadvantages: A decent road atlas is about £250 cheaper
SatNav devices remind me a little of mobile phones in the early nineties. They are a little bit pricey, a little bit niche and until recently the preserve of gadget freaks and those who drive for a living.
These days they are a lot more prolific and I can foresee a time when they will be just as ubiquitous as mobile phones and everyone with a car will have one, and no doubt more than one if they have more than one car in the house.
This is my second SatNav device and I can't imagine ever not having one now. They keep getting better and I rarely consult the A - Z now except to get the broadest idea of where I'm going and how to get there. I've become accustomed to using it even for relatively short journeys to places I've been many times and have regularly been taken on routes I hadn't been aware of in the past, and usually these routes are quicker and easier. It's amazing how set in your ways you can get and it takes some courage to put yourself in the hands of these little machines, but once I did I haven't looked back and can't recall a time when I've been poorly, let alone incorrectly, directed.
There are a number of choices for SatNav devices; inbuilt systems, usually factory fitted on new cars but presumably also available as an after market option. They are also available as add-ons for hand held computers or as dedicated self contained units like this one.
In built systems are usually only supplied as standard on high end or prestige models. Otherwise they are an expensive option, often in excess of a thousand pounds which is a lot especially on sub-£20k cars. I'm not convinced about in built systems, Okay they are tidy, with no trailing wires or recharging problems, but given the pace of change in this market I think they will too quickly be out of date and many of those I've seen recently are already off the pace with this year's dedicated units.
The next option is the add-on for a hand held computer, or PDA. This is a good option if you have or need a well specced PDA as the SatNav package will probably only cost £100 or so extra. This gives you a pretty good device but there are downsides, you'd need a separate GPS receiver (which should be supplied) and this means another bit of kit floating around the car and more trailing wires. My first SatNav was like this and without anything to compare it to I was very happy with it for a couple of years. That is until I got this dedicated unit which pretty much beats the PDA one in every department.
The third option is to go for the dedicated unit. These will have the GPS receiver built in, usually have a bigger screen and may also have better battery life meaning less time plugged into the cigarette lighter meaning fewer cables hanging off the dashboard. These come in a variety of options ranging between £100 - £400 depending on size and functionality.
TomTom 720T ~
Costing £260 from Amazon, before Christmas 07, this unit comes well recommended in the review magazines and has a lot going for it. It has a large, bright screen set in an attractive metal and plastic case. It uses clear, well presented maps and has a large choice of voices with which to issue directions. This model will also receive traffic updates and offers you the option of incorporating these into your route selection.
In the box ~
The TomTom comes in one of those tricky Chinese puzzle type boxes. Very discreet and pretty with lots of smaller boxes inside it is a joy to unpack but an absolute bugger when you want to put everything back in. Still, tucked away in its many compartments you will find the unit itself, car charger, desk stand for connecting to the PC, windscreen mount and the usual CD and documentation. This model also comes with the RDS TMC Traffic Receiver.
Look and feel ~
The 720T is well designed, slim and lightweight it packs in a large 4.3 inch screen using the 16:9 widescreen format. As it's touch screen operated there are no other buttons or switches beyond the on/off tab on the case. The screen runs at a resolution of 480x272 and is supported by a 400MHz CPU and 64MB of RAM. It comes with 2GB of onboard memory, which is mostly taken up by the supplied maps and add-ons including Bluetooth and a built in FM transmitter. There is a free SD slot if you need to add more memory. The quoted battery life is five hours which is probably optimistic but it has seen me through a couple of three hour round trips without alarm. Weighing just 220g means that it can sit on a discreet windscreen mount that is hidden behind the unit out of sight of the driver.
The screen has a coating on it to improve visibility in strong daylight and this works well. My old PDA would quickly become impossible to view in sunlight but this screen remains clear and bright at all times.
In use ~
The 720 uses the latest navCore7 software which although offering significant improvements over the previous iteration will still be familiar to owners of older TomTom devices.
Destinations can be entered in several ways; by post code, address or selected from the large list of named places in the units memory. This is all achieved through the easily navigated touch screen menus but can also be entered via voice commands.
The software allows a lot of configuration. Icons for start and end points, your car and various other things can all be changed. There are a number of choices stored in the unit and many more available on-line. You can also select from a range of voices, again with many more on the web site, including many regional and comedy accents.
The driving map view is clear and easy to read, showing the road for a few hundred yards ahead in 3D. There is a lot of additional information on the screen, not intrusive but quickly readable all the same. The standard view includes the road you are on and the next one you need. The next junction is shown with an icon (a roundabout for example) and the distance to it. You also get distance remaining, current time and estimated time of arrival.
The maps included cover Britain and Western Europe and are updated annually, these are available as downloads but will have to be paid for each time. Your initial purchase includes one free download within 30 days of purchase in case they have been updated after the unit left the factory.
There are various little additional features, too many to list, but one that stands out is the speed limit alert. If you go too far over the speed limit an alarm will sound, unnervingly the alarm is a police siren and the first time I heard it it scared the hell out of me. It can be turned off though.
TomTom provide an additional service called Mapshare, this allows users to make changes to their maps and upload them to the website. They are then verified and made available to all other users, keeping everyone current.
For someone who hates asking for directions I love SatNav devices and the TomTom 720 far exceeded my expectations. I was worried I wouldn't see much improvement over the old PDA but the fact is it's better in every way. Screen and voice instructions are clearer and timelier, the screen is visible in all conditions and it is yet to be stumped for an address. I can't actually find a fault with it and although I'm sure it will be all out of date in a couple years for now it's perfect.
Summary: As good a SatNav as you can buy today
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