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I have always been quite good at finding my way from a to b by checking on Google maps before I leave but sometimes the journeys are too complicated and I get lost. I remember the days when my father used to ring the AA and ask them to post him a route! Nowadays we have Sat Navs and although I have put up a fight, reluctantly I have admitted defeat and joined the TomTom club and bought the TomTom Via 135.
What does the product do?
The product promises to get you from a to b easily and in the quickest way possible making journeys safer and less stressful. It will talk to you and tell you what to do, show you on a map where you need to go and count down how many minutes you have to do before you reach your destination and what time you will arrive.
This TomTom works on voice commands which I hadn't seen before which makes me feel like I am down with the cool kids. It also works by touching the screen to select your relevant choices. It has all maps of the UK and Ireland preloaded in the machine so you can find your destination and you can view them in both 2D and 3D. You can choose from the quickest route or the most fuel efficient route if you'd rather save money instead of time.
The TomTom lets you know when you are approaching a speed camera and promises to give you traffic updates. It will save your previous destinations so you don't need to give putting in the save address and it will let you find the points of interest around the area that you are going. You can also make phone calls through the machine which blows my mind a little bit. It comes with a car charger and it promises you a battery life of around 2 hours when you are not charging the product. It comes with a USB cables for updating and also a suction mount so that you can stick it to the car screen.
The screen is 5 inches in size from corner to corner and I can easily see it as I am driving. It has a height of 134 mm and a width of 94 mm with a depth of 20 mm. It looks like a mini TV with a black border around the screen. It is very thin and looks classy and expensive.
The product will cost you around £150 but I got mine on offer for £119 from Argos. It can be bought from a range of electrical and car stores and also from a variety of online websites.
The voice command function is quite useful and it is easy to use. On the left hand side, there is a microphone button. You simply push that button and then give a command like 'take me home' or 'nearest petrol station.' It always checks to see if it has heard you correctly before taking you anywhere. If you want to tell it to take you somewhere new, you have to give the full address as it won't accept a postcode. I've usually put in the address before I start driving anyway but this would be a bit of a time saver. You push the microphone button to use it as a hands free phone too.
The machine is easy to set up. You can programme your home address into the product as you will be using that most frequently and you can also save a group of your favourite. It also saves your recent destinations or if you are going somewhere new then you can click on 'address.' The touch screen is responsive and I haven't had any problems with it. When choosing a new place, it finds the route in a matter of seconds and will tell you how many miles away it is and how long it will take.
The voice on the TomTom is clear and easy to understand and you can adjust the volume according to your preference. The product gives you plenty of notice when your next instruction needs to be followed and other than when it changes to yards, it is easy to follow. I haven't got lost while using this machine and if I do take a wrong turning then the machine quickly reroutes for me or tells me to turn around when possible. The timing of the journey is accurate and it is useful for being able to tell people what time you will arrive.
All in all, this is a very handy machine to have when making unfamiliar journeys. I haven't got lost when using it and it lets you know what time you will arrive at your destination and how much longer you have got left to travel. It is easy to understand and follow, and it does help to reduce the stress by giving you plenty of notice about what you next move will be. It is easy to programme and removes all your last destinations. I do really like this, as much as I hate to admit it, and I probably won't make another unfamiliar without it.
I have worked previously in the delivery business, mainly for Parcel Force, where a sat-nav is an absolutely vital part of your days work, and, having owned two previously, this is the latest navigation device to add to my collection.
Like all sat-navs it uses touch screen technology to bring up the menus, from where you can select your route, sound level, display type, points of interest etc. This particular model also makes use of TomTom's IQ routes technology, which will allow you to avoid any congested roads, and guide you to a quicker alternative if one is available.
The unit is pleasantly designed with a good sized 5"screen, which is clear and easy to read, and the whole mounts to the windscreen using a suction cup, which has never come unstuck on me so far, even on some of the rougher country lanes. The sat-nav can easily be removed from the cradle when you arrive at your destination and slipped into your pocket if you wish, which makes it safe from any would be thieves.
The main selling point for this particular model though has to be the use of 'Speak and Go' voice recognition, which is not something I had ever used before. The first thing to note is that you still have to push a button on the sat-nav to turn the recognition software off and on each time you want to use it, which seems to detract a little from the hands-free boast on the instruction manual.
The unit is supposed to recognise up to 1000 different commands, but in reality you only use about half a dozen common ones such as 'where am I?', 'navigate to....' and 'locate nearest petrol station.'
The sat-nav can also sometimes pick up background noises and you find yourself having to repeat yourself, which can be frustrating.
All in all it has the feel of a 'not quite ready for the public' technology about it; as though another few months work by the boffins was really needed before it was made available for purchase.
Strangely, the voice recognition also doesn't recognise postcodes alone, so you end up having to say the full address of every destination, again almost defeating the purpose.
A solid little sat-nav then and one which has rarely steered me wrong, but I think given this evidence a truly hands-free sat-nav is still a little while away.
OK, I know what you're going to say, the SatNav looks old and clunky, and I admit it does, but that's only physically, once you get it switched on your opinion of it will change dramatically, as you see how easy it is to use. As I say in the title, I actually trust this satnav to get me to the place I want!
The screen on the SatNav is just under 5 inches, which is a great size for the product. The problem with the display however, is the quality, without understanding the technical detail (it's 480 x 272 pixels for those who do), I can tell the quality on my SatNav is around two years behind the times! But to be fair, we're not using the SatNav to watch HD films, and as long as it can get me to my destination easily, I'm happy!
The menu is not much better and it appears quite clunky and old fashioned, but this means it is not complicated and is very easy to use.
The base model of the SatNav only has UK and Republic of Ireland maps built in, but can be expanded by buying TomTom SD cards or downloads.
When you enter the menu, you can do the old fashioned process of keying in your destination, but if you frequently navigate to the same place, you can set favourites and presets, which have their own icon, for example in my case, I have "Home", "Work" and "Mum and Dad's".
Another great feature is the Lane Assist service. It is fantastic! When you are driving up a big motorway (not like we have many in Belfast!), you can get a 3D view of the road, whereby it shows all the lanes, the corresponding actual roads signs, and arrows to get you into the right lane. I was really excited about this feature when I read about it, but I am so glad to say... IT ACTUALLY WORKS! So far I have not had any problems with it.
It also has spoken street names, so not only will it tell you to 'turn left' but will add the 'onto Green Road', this helps the stress out of trying to determine which out of the 10 possible left turns is the one they mean 700 yards away!
There is also Parking Assist which is a special service set up to help you find car parking spaces, to be honest, it's not that great and often I am driving past a car park that it failed to register.
There is inbuilt hands free car calling, which helps you to answer your mobile phone, but to be honest, It is no better than loudspeaker on my actual handset, or using a headset which can be bought for under a tenner!
The product really surprised me, it doesn't look like much, but there are lots of great features like the Lane Assist and the Spoken street names. On the other hand, being an Apple fanboy, I am used to very touch sensitive and responsive products, but here sometimes you really have to press the screen in, in order to get it to register.
But for the price of under £150, one cannot complain, I really would recommend this as a first time SatNav, but not if you already own a fully functioning, fairly up to date TomTom model.