Review: TomTom ONE Review by GPS Lodge
The TomTom ONE was recently announced with much hoopla here in the US, and then TomTom decided to send the new smaller form factor back to the Euro-land where the TomTom ONE debuted last year with a slightly larger form factor that did well in the market. They learned their lesson well; small form factor with basic features at an affordable price rocks (even without an MP3 player). Well, I have to say that the TomTom ONE does rock, it’s small size and sound feature set make it a solid contender in the market. I found the interface easy to use, and the unit easy to travel with.
I had a few days to play with the TomTom ONE before taking it to North Carolina for the weekend, where we traveled with the ONE guiding our trip. The ONE fits easily in your pocket or in your carry-on. Again, small form factor is a big idea. TomTom understands this, and packs a lot of functionality into the ONE.
Quick Start-up on the TomTom ONE
When the TomTom boots, you automatically launch into a map screen; the SiRF star III and the processor work to get you up and going quickly. Even when I flew to North Carolina, the ONE recognized the new location in under a minute, and we were off in the rental car quickly. When you touch the map screen, you come to the main navigation screen that offers several options, 6 per screen. I picked Lori the English US voice for a while, and then flipped over to Tim the English UK voice for a laugh. Tim kept talking about motorways, which can throw you, but not as bad as listening to a foreign language, like Marta in Spanish.
Navigation on TomTom ONE
After setting up the preferences to Daytime colors and setting the volume so that it links to the car speed (a nice plus that I wish all units had), I went to navigation. I needed to get to an address, which is fairly easy to input. I tapped on address, entered a city, then street and house number – I chose fastest route. The unit then asks if there is a certain time you want to get there. If you put this in, the TomTom ONE calculates the over/under time and displays that on the main screen; green if you are going to be early, red if you are going to be late. The route calculated in a matter of seconds, landing on a summary page. Tap done and you are off. The directions are good, warning you at appropriate times during your route of when to turn. The unit does not have text to speech capability – so it does not tell you want street to turn onto. The unit DOES however take into account some very nice details and shows you what street you are turning onto with nice detail. This includes showing you an icon of the interstate ahead, on a field of green, which is easily recognizable and easy to understand – nicely done.
Quick Access on TomTom ONE
Sometimes things get buried in deep menus that you need quick access to; sometimes not. What do you need a lot? Access to a route or the volume. Well, TomTom thought this one out. A quick tap on the lower left of the screen brings up a volume slider bar, while keeping the map screen up, for quick adjustments and then reverts back to the regular screen. If you need the route details, tap on the lower left part of the screen, which brings you to a route details page for quick route changes or information.
So, with the on-board battery you can also do a little couch-based planning. The nice thing is that there are some nice features here to allow for some flexible planning. Advanced planning allows you to select a starting point and a destination that are NOT where you are now. When you tap on advanced planning, you bring up a “Depart From” screen that allows you to enter your arrival airport let’s say, and then you proceed to enter your destination. Before you even depart for your trip, you already have your route planned and in the ONE, ready to go when you hit the ground. Very nice.
So, do you need to navigate to several places or do the same route again and again that includes several locations? You can easily do this with Itinerary Planning on the TomTom ONE. This allows you to stack up a queue of destinations and navigate automatically from one to another. You control the order (the ONE doesn’t recommend the best route to hit them all), and are able to move destinations up or down. When you reach a destination, you automatically get routed to the next destination in the queue. You can also manage this itinerary, by saving it for later use.
Nice Route Options on TomTom ONE
There is a solid set of options on the ONE that allows you to alter the route as needed. This is a GREAT capability; you are smarter than this thing and sometimes you need to tell it what to do. Now you may be scratching your head asking shouldn’t the ONE give me the best route possible? Yea, most of the time, but sometimes you need to add your 2 cents and the ONE is humble enough to let you. So, the other day I had to navigate to an early morning meeting north of Boston, and the ONE routed me right through Boston to my destination, which would have been fine, except that there’s no way I wanted to go through Boston in rush hour. [If I had the Traffic feature enabled, I am sure the ONE would not have done this.] So, you can tap on “Find Alternate [Route]” and then on “Avoid Part of Route” which brings up an easy to read text and icon list of roads. You scroll down and tap on the road that you don’t want, and out pops a new route not using that mess. I am now traveling around Boston instead of through it and I was early to my meeting. Great!
There are a few things I wish that I could do, which include (I know they are minor, but I can dream can’t I):
1. Customizing the menus. I would bring the “Clear Route” icon up from the 3rd screen to the first screen. Sometimes you just need to get out of e route, and burrowing down to the third screen is a bit of a pain.
2. A bit longer battery life – in practice the 2 hour rated battery gives you a warning well ahead of time that spooks you a bit, and sends you scrambling for the power cord. I swear it feels like 15 minutes of use, but I know rationally that it’s probably closer to 1 ½ hours.
3. Sync the screen icon and voice commands on units. When a turn approaches, the screen may show “0.3 miles”, but the voice says, “Turn in 500 yards”.
4. I wish the unit was a bit easier to get on the windshield mount – the two grooves in the back are sometimes a bit hard to hit.
5. I wish the screen automatically flipped over to nighttime colors at sunset. This thing is smart enough to know when it gets dark, let’s turn down the colors to my nighttime color selection. Alternatively, it’s a manual process.
6. I wish it had a travel case. Other GPS units do, and when I was slipping the TomTom ONE into my carry-on, I was a bit worried about scratching the screen. There is one available for ~$20 after market though.
7. I wish that all GPS systems were this small – I have to say it again, I like the small form factor!
I consider all of these very minor quibbles, and don’t affect my overall opinion of the TomTom ONE device.
I have to say that I did run into a few missteps with the TomTom ONE that left me a bit disappointed with my experience. While in North Carolina, we went to a little place called the Lazy 5 Ranch, an interesting little place that allows you to take a wagon ride safari though a couple of miles of “pasture” that has many exotic animals like giraffes, bison, emus and others. You ride along and feed the animals as you go. Quite a fun time. Anyway, the POI for the Lazy 5 ranch was about 2 miles off from where the place actually is. As we passed the POI location, we were no where near the Lazy 5 ranch and had us scratching our heads for a while. I went to the TeleAtlas website and let them know through their consumer submission tool, so hopefully we’ll see a change soon. I also tried to navigate to a local supermarket, but it isn’t in the database. (This is an OLD shopping area.) Again, I submitted the details of the error to TeleAtlas, but this can get tiresome. TeleAtlas is improving their data in the US, but I think that TomTom is hobbled a bit by this arrangement and this unit would be a Rock Star if it had rock solid dataset under the hood. (See Update Below)
While mapping quality has been an issue for TomTom, they expect an upgrade to push through to users by the end of the year. Details to the public on this announcement should be coming soon. Hopefully this should erase a good deal of the skepticism around mapping and POI issues. I am looking forward to it.
Update: There have been some positive reviews of the TeleAtlas new mapping data, as TomTom has released an update for 2007. If you buy a TomTom ONE now, you will either get the data already loaded, or the ability to download this updated mapset for free. So, venture forth with this big issue very much taken off the table.
I really like the TomTom ONE, and love the size. It’s a solid GPS system, with a lot of the features that anyone should ever want. TomTom has a relationship and structural advantage with their TomTom PLUS services and their TomTom HOME computer program that serves as a conduit for new maps, voices and more. With a Bluetooth phone, you can get access to a lot of data from TomTom. Bluetooth phones are becoming more and more popular in the US, and will certainly set TomTom up to be strong here as people realize how easy access can be with their phone.
The navigation experience is good, with sufficient options and information to make me feel comfortable in its performance of navigating to addresses or city centers. I like being able to alter the route by avoiding sections of roads that I don’t like or want to avoid. The lack of POI support is concerning. When I am in a new city I rely on these to get me around, I don’t know what the address is of the local Mexican restaurant, and if the POI database is suspect, I get worried that I can’t use it all the time.
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Posted by Scott Martin at October 3, 2006 9:26 AM