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I used this sat-nav for a week whilst in a borrowed car on holiday in Cornwall. As a Garmin owner, I guess this is crossing over to the dark side, although it's not like I'm a devout Garminite. I don't have the logo tattooed into my torso or anything. As it happens, I was pretty impressed with this model - it's not quite as sleek and sexy as my Nuvi, but looks aren't everything, are they?
First impressions were good - I didn't have to go through any of the installation rigmarole, but switching on, programming in a destination and fixing the unit to the windscreen was done in minutes. The widescreen's nice and clear, the touchscreen responds well without jumping about like an over-sugared child, and the whole layout and design seemed pretty sensible, logical and intuitive.
On the road, the good vibes continued. Directions are given early and clearly; even if the amount of repetition can grate a little after a while, you're not going to miss your turning. You're certainly not going to fail to hear an instruction - the recessed speaker built into the back of the unit could probably give quite audible directions to a whole convoy of cars, so loud is it. Obviously, this is broadly a good thing - and can of course be turned down to less deafening levels, but it certainly wakes you up first time round.
While on that theme, the CLANG!!! as you stray over the speed limit takes no prisoners. I assume you can turn it off - I didn't go fast enough often enough to need to (certainly on the 11-hour return journey to Kent ... grr!) - but it's good to know the feature's there if wanted.
Also on the back of the sat-nav is the apparently new Easyport system for securing the unit onto the windscreen. Operated by twisting a ring to increase suction, it's an easy to use little gimmick, and did its job more than well enough - there were no tumbling-from-screen moments, in any case.
My Garmin, for all its charms, has a real issue with signal strength - it'll be fine on some obscure mountain track when you're already on the only road for miles, but when it comes to navigation in the middle of a city's winding streets and confusing signage, you'll all too often left on your own as coverage drops off. This model, though, is much more impressive - at least from this limited trial. Admittedly, we didn't have to negotiate any sprawling metropolises, but not once did the signal fail, so it passes this test.
I was also impressed by its ability to gauge traffic and distances and come up with accurate arrival times - it would usually be barely a minute out from the start of the journey.
If there's a quibble, it was the weird tendency it had to send us down some remote, narrow little tracks that might have looked like short-cuts on the map, but ended up as crawls behind muck-spreading tractors. We checked the settings - it was calibrated to take the quickest route, not the shortest, but it persisted in finding the most obscure, overgrown routes. Scenic, yes - but not always especially convenient.
After a week's use, then - would I consider buying this model of TomTom if and when my Garmin gives up the ghost? (or gets thrown out of the window in the middle of Seville). Definitely - it's easy to use, it gives clear directions and provided I could figure out the issues with the scenic routes, seems thoroughly reliable. I guess I'd like to give it a longer test drive, but first impressions were excellent.