June 10, 2007

TomTom ONE XL Full Review


- A Hands on Review by GPSLodge -

TomTom ONE XL - Recommended on my Father's Day GPS Buying Guide

The TomTom ONE XL is the follow-up widescreen version of the successful second generation TomTom ONE that was launched last year. Since the TomTom ONE was launched, the GPS world has gone widescreen, and like I had predicted, the widescreen version of the flat form factor TomTom ONE was a sure-fire sequel. For those who are familiar with the TomTom interface, this won’t be a big change from what you’re used to. TomTom has captured the key elements of success in a widescreen version that give you just a bit more to love on the dash as you’re traveling to your destination.

The TomTom ONE XL design is a nice clean design effort that has some clean lines and is definitely pleasing on the eye. The screen is bright and easily readable from a distance. The unit has a single power button on tip that is easily used with confidence. The back of the unit offers an external antenna outlet, the unit’s speaker and the mounting channels for the windshield bracket. The bottom of the unit has the mini-USB power inlet/connection, an SD card slot and an earphone jack.

The Windshield mount is simple in design and straightforward to use. When I used the original TomTom ONE I was not a huge fan of the mount as I thought it wasn’t as intuitive as it could be; above average, but not perfectly navigated by those who are only semi-attentive. I don’t know if the design has changed, or if my perspective has changed, but the channels seem deeper and the fit more obvious for a more confident mounting process. The mount does not use a cam lever but instead it uses fins to add pressure to the backside of the suction cup. The mount is easily removed from the windshield if your fingers are nimble enough to grab the ½ inch tab on the cup itself to break the seal. I am, but anyone with reduced dexterity, i.e. arthritic fingers, might have an issue.

To pick where you want to navigate to you drill into the easy to understand “Navigate To” button, and can get to “Home”, “Favorite”, “Address”, “Recent Destination”, “Point of Interest”, “Point on Map” (browse the map and then pick a place to go by tapping the map), and “Latitude and Longitude” (a nice addition that all GPS units should offer in my opinion).

Home is the easiest and potentially the most frequent place you will navigate to. A very quick configuration allows you to set your address as the home location. If you need to reset it (maybe you moved, but more than likely, you might configure the unit to navigate “Home” to a vacation rental or hotel), it is easy. Going into the Change Preferences” menu from the main screen allows you to “Change Home Location” for the alteration.

Favorites are going to be a listing of a lot of your frequently visited locations. It’s easy to add favorites from the main menu, just tap the “Add Favorites” icon. You can name the favorite in your list, which includes renaming any Points of Interest that you have as a favorite. This might include re-naming “Boston Logan International Airport” to just the locally known “Logan” terminology.

TomTomONEXLNorwood.jpgAddress entry is a bit of a disappointment here. I happen to like the hierarchy of asking what State first, including using the assumption that I want to stay in the current state, which isn’t a bad assumption most of the time. TomTom has you tap in the city, which can return multiple results if that city is present in numerous states across the country. The unfortunate thing is that you get to “scroll” through those cities two at a time at the top of the screen that is dominated by the keyboard. Even with the extra widescreen real estate, this is a tight configuration. The unfortunate thing is if you are heading to Norwood MA” you need to scroll down through all of the Norwoods in the country. My hunch is that this is an artifact of the Euro design heritage where the idea of a state is less pronounced than in the US. This factor may drive the current TomTom menu hierarchy.

The sub-menu of what address to navigate to is a good one, as there are ample choices to pick from including “City Center”, “Zip Code”, “Street and House Number”, or “Cross Street or Intersection”. I love the idea of navigating to a city center, as I often need to get to a downtown of a smaller town but don’t know the exact address of the store or business I am heading out to.

Recent Destination is another easy one as it lists in reverse chronological order the places that you have set routes to. Note, you don’t actually have to navigate to these places, so, if you need to hit a multi segment trip, you can easily search for the multiple destinations from your livingroom, and get a route to them, only to cancel after the route is determined. After you run through the few destinations, you will have them in your recently navigated to list. Of course if you want to elevate these locations a bit, you can also save them (even temporarily in the favorites list).

Point on Map is moderately easy if you are OK with panning through the map; I don’t like it particularly in general. The pan and zoom capability here is a bit tougher than usual, and I found that I was staying away from it. The fact that I can navigate to a “City Center” from the address input screen negated the need to do this frequently.

Point of Interest – I saved this one for last, as there is a fair amount to talk about here, and overall, if there is one area to improve on the unit, it is here. TomTom is a top shelf manufacturer of GPS units, and I raise the bar for them, expecting a bit more refinement and ease of use. The unit is very capable, don’t get me wrong, but it’s the implementation of the menus that make it a little more laborious to get through. Similar to the issues above with the navigate to an “Address”, you see them here in the POI menu.

When you tap on the POI button, you are offered to navigate to a “POI Near You”, “ POI in a city”, “POI Near Home”, “POI Along a Route”, “POI Near a Destination”. My preference is that the unit assumes that I need a POI near me, and then give me the option to change the reference point in a button. I love the ability to find a POI along the route, and TomTom gives you a great little icon next to the results showing if it is on your route, or off the route (with the distance off the route). Very nice and easy to understand.

TomTomONEXLPOIDist.jpgThe other speed bump on your way to finding your POI is that when you do tap let’s say a POI near you, then search “Any POI Category”, it asks you to estimate the distance from you in a series of buttons: within 3 miles, 15 miles, 30 miles, 60 miles and 150 miles. Honestly I don’t know, can’t we skip this or make an assumption that works for most of us?

Itinerary planning is a feature on the TomTom ONE XL that will allow you to plan out a set of destinations and then navigate them in a series. This is a nice feature that can allow you to skip over that workaround I mentioned about storing recent destinations above. That’s more of a contingency planning method, whereas this Itinerary Planning allows you to set a definite set of destinations. The basic set-up is easy and allows you to stack a set of destinations in a list and then navigate to them in order. You can save your itinerary and recall it to navigate it again. The TomTom ONE XL treats these as a series of destinations and not as an entire route, so you get a read on the travel details to your first destination and then once there you navigate to the next location. You don’t get a read on the entire trip duration. The TomTom ONE XL does not optimize the route for you. By using the itinerary features, you can also build routes that do NOT start in your current location, which is not possible with every GPS.

On The Road
The TomTom ONE XL is very solid on the road, and navigates well. Overall, I found that the TeleAtlas maps were up-to-date and sound. My issue with missing roads that I had in the last TomTom (and others) map versions is gone. I generally get the feeling that POI data is up-to-date too. The routing was good, and I didn’t see issues there either.

Voice prompts were clear and articulate. The TomTom ONE does not support Text to Speech (TTS) which will speak street names, but it feels like its vocabulary of spoken words is larger than most, and is more descriptive in its navigation aids. So, while driving down a fairly bend and winding road with a lot of forks and other roads merging the other day (I live in Massachusetts, these things used to be cow paths), the TomTom showed off a bit. So while other units might tell you to go “Go Straight” until it says “Turn Right in 500 yards”, the TomTom added some color that was more intuitive and refreshing. TomTom came at me with “Turn right at the end of the road”. This combined with the indicator that tells you the distance to your turn, seems to instill confidence in the unit that it is aware and intelligent.

When navigating, you may not want to be very far from an available power outlet, as the battery life is limited to a few hours instead of the 4+ that makes me feel more comfortable. The widescreen must chew up that battery pretty good. The TomTom ONE XL doesn’t automatically switch over to night colors, which is too bad, and something that should be easy to add and configure. TomTomONEXLDynamicVolume.jpgThe unit does have adaptive volume that can automatically raise the volume level the faster you go, which is very well done and I rarely touched the volume control with is gotten to quickly by tapping the lower left part of the screen. To turn on Dynamic Volume, just go to Preferences --> Volume Preferences --> and check the Link Volume to Car Speed box.

In my torture test of planning a route from my home in Massachusetts to Dodger Stadium, the TomTom ONE XL was very slow. It returned a route that was about the same distance as other GPS devices. This long calculation time surprised me as the unit feels very fast when planning more normal routes that I navigate to on a daily basis. The time it estimated for the route was 3 hours longer than other GPS route calculations, and while I might be quick to jump on it as a less desireable route, I don't think I should. In my navigating around Boston, the TomTom ONE XL typically estimated a few minutes long for the trip (i.e. perfect enough for someone crazy enough to drive the speed limit around here). For trips of about 30-40 miles, mostly on the interstate, It was easy to pick up 5 minutes. This isn't the case with other GPS units I have used, so maybe they expect me to speed and TomTom doesn't. This may be a key reason that the time estimate to Dodger Stadium is longer in hours but the same distance in miles.

Review Summary
The TomTom ONE XL is a strong GPS, and certainly earns a spot on the top shelf with the better GPS units that have strong features, sound maps, and are easy to use and navigate with. I firmly believe that overall a widescreen is a better overall experience, but it does come with the drawback of limited battery life in this model. The TomTom ONE has a lot of nice features and design touches that are helpful and intuitive, like finding POI’s along a route and offering quick little icons that let you know if the POI is actually on the route or if it’s not that it’s only a fraction of a mile off the route. I would like the address picking and POI interface cleaned up a bit so that the unit makes smart use of assumptions and alternate menus and that it can be a more intelligent machine, helping me instead of asking me what I need at every turn. TomTom is a premium GPS manufacturer that is good at design and I expect that they can engineer a better experience here. To be straight forward, Garmin has a better treatment of picking addresses and POI’s than TomTom. That’s not to say that TomTom falls down overall or is a bad choice. The TomTom ONE XL is a very good GPS and for the money, is hard to beat.

TomTom ONE XL at Amazon

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    Posted by Scott Martin at June 10, 2007 11:08 PM
  • Recent Comments

    Thanks a lot for the info, i was able to reset my home location :)

    Posted by: custom web design at January 26, 2009 3:35 PM

    I've got the 0ne XL for xmass & it is a really good unit for road's & Highway's but thats it. I have a 4wheel Jeep group in va., well I thought it would be good to have for some of the trail's we run but thats not the case at all it goes blank when I go offroad, so I called TomTom to see if I could get offroad map"s for the unit & guess what? they don't make them for any unit.... So here's the deal I want to either sell it or trade it for a Garmin nuvi, is anyone interested? Terry

    Posted by: Terry at February 13, 2008 4:05 PM
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