December 10, 2007

TomTom GO 920/920T Full Review

tomtomgo920frontmain.jpg

I have been lucky enough to have been driving around with the TomTom GO 920T, their latest top of the line release that was unleashed onto the GPS market barely a month ago. The unit offers a pretty significant slug of features, wrapped in a nice but modest looking widescreen package. At its heart, the TomTom GO 920 is a very capable navigator, complete with North American and European maps pre-loaded, a bright widescreen, a high sensitivity receiver, TMC Traffic feeds (standard on the 920T; optional on the 920), Bluetooth handsfree, a remote control, and a voice activated control capability for address inputs.

The new GO 920/920T also have the ability to do dead reckoning when the unit loses a signal, like when you are going under the big dig tunnel in Boston, so it tells you where to go despite having lost a signal. Like the TomTom GO 720, the TomTom GO 920/920T has the ability to record your own turn commands through an easy interactive menu, making the navigation a lot of fun, especially if you used kids as your voice talent.

Navigation with Voice Recognition

I have to admit that with the TomTom GO 920T at an arms length away, I was not all that sure I would need to use the voice commands, but I found it pretty useful, and also found myself opting for the Spoken Address dialog". To be clear, you can't command the TomTom to do all of its functions right now (Maybe in the TomTom GO 930?), but you can enter all of your addresses. There are two different ways to enter voice commands: Spoken Address and Spoken Address (Dialog). The first has you interacting with both voice and taps on the touchscreen, which I found a bit distracting, as you need to figure out when to tap and when to talk. The second option of having the TomTom GO 920 walk you through the dialog of entering an address is a better experience.

TomTomGO920ReadytoListen.jpgThe Better Bet; Spoken Address (Dialog) - The Dialog version does a lot more work for you and starts by asking you to say your city. The key over about two week's of entering addresses was waiting for the little lips icon up in the right hand corner to come on, signaling that the TomTom GO 920 is ready to listen to you. This is key - wait for the lips to appear green before you speak. . Knowing that it isn't always going to get things right, the TomTom usually comes back with a list of options, where you can state the number of the correct option, or just OK if you want the best option on the list. I found the TomTom very accurate. TomTomGO920CitySelection.jpgThere were a few times when I got lazy and wasn't very articulate and the TomTom spit back an equally absurd example of what it thought I just said..... It was probably closer to with what I said than the properly spoken word. Once you pick your city, the TomTom asks you for the street and then the number in the same fashion. The only area where I felt a little conflicted about the quality was the street numbers. By that point, tapping a street address with only 10 buttons on the screen seemed faster than speaking the number "300". Overall, I liked the voice dialog input, and thought that it was very accurate. It was much less distracting than trying to tap out the name of a city and street as you are driving down the road. Curiously, if you need to change states, you will need to do this manually.

I strongly urge you to put the Spoken Address (Dialog) on the Quick Menu, which is a great shortcut to get the address dialog working fast.

Remote Control
TomTomGO920Remote.jpgThe remote control is a nice addition and comes in a pretty comfortable design, with a rubberized back. Small enough to hang out in a center console and big enough to be functional without looking at the unit or the remote. Again, with the unit at arm's length I thought that his would be unneeded, but again I was surprised to see that the remote actually changed how I interacted with the GPS, and allowed me to be a bit more comfortable in the seat. Certainly a big plus for those with the unit at more than an arm's length (i.e. RV-ers). The unit comes with a little holder that has an adhesive back; stick it where you need it.

Custom Voices
As I said when I reviewed the TomTom GO 720 the ability to record your own turn commands felt like a total gimmick, but one that I fell for; I'll admit it. The TomTom GO 920 has text-to-speech capability and will tell you the name of the street that you are turning onto through a computer representation of the street name. The performance is generally good. In order to use the custom voice recordings though, you will need to rely on the 56 set commands that do not say the name of the street.

The process of recording is simple, and involves going into the Change Preferences menu, then Voice Preferences, and Record Voice. The TomTom 920 then recommends that you go somewhere quiet to record the voice tracks. The process can take about 15 minutes, and records voice tracks as *.wav files.

The process essentially takes you through a list of commands that are listed on the screen, you tap "Record" and the unit then writes the data to its internal memory and you move onto the next phrase.

Quick Menu
Perhaps one of the more intelligent features on the device is the idea of the Quick Menu. By electing to have certain features (up to 6) on the unit appear on the Quick Menu, you place a small icon right on the map page that gives you quick access to those features. This solves a lot of digging through the menus for often used buttons, and brings them to the top.

To enable and configure the Quick Menu feature, go to Set-up -> Quick Menu Preferences, and then check off the buttons you want on the quick menu. You can choose from TomTom Jukebox, Report Safety Camera, Mark Location of Map Error, Navigate to Spoken Address (Dialog), Navigate to a Zip code, Add position to favorites, FM Transmitter, Call (with Bluetooth Handsfree), Help Me!, Switch 2D/3D view, Switch Day/Night view, Show Weather (TomTom Plus Service), Switch Sound On/off, Show Work-Home traffic. If I could nominate one more to appear there, it would be the button to cancel a route.

TomTomGO920MainScreen.jpg Main Layout Screen: 1- Road you are navigating onto, 2- Green Dot indicates traffic was OK, 3- Quick Menu access - tap and you get to up to 6 functions instantly, 4- Bluetooth Mobile Phone Connection Indicator (Mine was not with me - thus the question mark), 5- Data Fields on the Vertical Mounted Menu Bar - Top = Turn Indicator, Middle - Key trip/route data, Bottom - Satellite Signal Strength.

TMC Traffic
The TomTom GO 920T is equipped with TMC traffic capabilities. I have written quite a bit about TMC traffic in the past, and the service is gaining some traction in the US, and while valuable to people who live and die by traffic jams, it is not yet perfect and infallible. TomTom has added some nice features that allow you to take advantage of the TMC traffic that I like. There are a couple of things I like about the implementation, and a couple of things I don't. On balance, the system is helpful, and shows some real consumer oriented understanding.

First off, TMC Traffic is not perfect, and traffic flow reporting relies on an ever improving system of traffic sensors, GPS equipped probe vehicles reporting back traffic situations, and for some companies who report traffic, anonymous mobile phone data. For me, if it saves me from disaster a couple of times a year, I am happy. TMC traffic is available over the FM airwaves that are broadcast by ClearChannel radio stations across the country. The Boston area has several FM stations doing the work, so coverage is pretty good. Traffic services available through TomTom PLUS and the TMC traffic receiver has the same data source, so don't fret about which will be better (although if you can use TomTom PLUS you can get weather reports too). If you want to read more on traffic, cruise through my Traffic Posts.

The TMC Antenna is a three-foot long wire that comes straight out of the bottom of the unit (not a 90 degree elbow like the power cord) so making it sit on/close to the dash is not really possible. The extra wire is a bit of a pain, and I found that I didn't really want or need to stretch it out across the windshield, and instead just let it dangle or lay on the dash. This won't fly for you Felix Unger types, but it works for me. I would love to have the antenna integrated into the unit of the power plug if possible.

Simply put, when driving the TMC Traffic service will pull in data and let you know if you are going to encounter traffic ahead. It will automatically re-route you if possible to minimize traffic. The slider and green dot down the right side show that the traffic receiver is working. A delay window will pop up if there is an issue with traffic ahead. Pretty simple.

There are a couple of things that are nice that are built in. The "Work Home" button. This essentially sets the route between your work and home and allows you to set this button on the Quick Menu. Pull out of the garage, hit the quick menu then the "Work Home" button, set which direction you are going, and the route pops up, collecting traffic in the background. This is a quick way to get going on what is going to be your most traveled route. If there are traffic issues, you can also elect to have traffic alerts read aloud to you after hitting a few buttons. The unit will also give you verbal prompts if the traffic situation has changed ahead of you.

MapShare
MapShare is the program that was announced with the TomTom GO 720 that allows you the user to update maps; pure and simple. The changes that you can make are limited in nature, so you can't draw a new road and then navigate it, but you can unblock roads, change their one-way status, and report issues with roads (not there, wrong place), as well as issues with points of interest (POI).

First, these general changes that you can make are immediately available to you on your GPS. If you would like to participate in the MapShare community, you can elect to opt in. If you do decide to participate in the community, you can share your changes and separately elect to receive changes from the community. There are different levels of scrutiny that you can set on your device. So for instance you can elect to include: Corrections made by you, Corrections that are Verified by TomTom, Corrections to a POI list that you subscribe to (think speed cameras), Corrections from trusted sources, corrections made by many, and corrections made by some. As you continue down the list you can see how the scrutiny goes down also. No word from TomTom on what the algorithm is to verify or set as a "Trusted Source". But when you do submit corrections they will be done and tied to your GPS unit, so if there are erroneous changes made by you, your input will probably be tossed out.

Once you have set the GO 920 to participate in the MapShare community, you can elect to have a reporting button right on the map screen that will allow you to tap it and input an issue at any time. Might be overkill, but if you are encountering mapping issues that frequently, we might have a lot more work ahead of us than I first imagined. Once you do elect to make a correction, let's say report a road in the wrong place, the process is easy to submit the change. The process is easy to walk through, pick a street off the map or by entering a name, and then type in the error from a pick list that includes items like wrong speed limit, in the wrong place, house numbers are wrong, etc. You also get the option to type in a short note that would be included in the submission, detailing further the issue.

Dead Reckoning - Enhanced Positioning Technology (EPT)
The TomTom GO 920 and 920T have dead reckoning capabilities. This means that when they lose the GPS satellite signals, they can still sense acceleration and determine where you are in a tunnel. I was able to test this in Boston's Big Dig tunnels, and am happy to say that it still gives me a reasonable estimate of where I am in the tunnel and on the map. It's good enough to deal with the bends and the turns that I need to take when I hit ramps, etc. It instructed me to get off one exit ramp, and I intentionally missed it, and sure enough it knew that I didn't turn and instead kept going straight. Recalculated and then got me to the next exit popping up in South Boston.

Design

The TomTom GO 920/920T holds true to the design principles of the TomTom GO 720 and TomTom ONE XL units. Overall, pretty nice, although the curved back still keeps it from slipping into a breast pocket of your shirt, and makes for a tighter fit in a jacket pocket. It's still easily stowed in a bag, a glove box, or a briefcase. The unit comes with Maps of North America and Europe. TomTomGO920Mounted.jpgTomTom is committed to up to date maps, not only with MapShare, but this unit came with a coupon to get a free upgrade for maps within 1 year. Both TomTom and Garmin have excellent map release schedules that allow you to get up to date maps, and both differentiate themselves with excellent customer service. Last year, TomTom released their maps at the end of December to much fanfare, as they represented a big step forward in the quality of the TeleAtlas underlying maps.

The unit uses the same/similar mount to the GO720, which is a little on the hard side to get the unit on and off. It is a big upgrade from the older TomTom ONE XL. The bottom of the unit includes the TMC input, the USB power input and a headphone jack (as well as a reset button). The mount is a simple push on, pull off variety. Again, the unit has the TMC Antenna coming straight out the bottom.


Review Summary
The TomTom GO920/920T represents one of the best GPS units on the market, and is clearly a top choice for those who love the TomTom brand. The 920T is a decent step up from the 720 in price, but adds the TMC antenna, remote voice recognition capability, and for the dead reckoning capability. The enhanced capability may just be the thing that people who travel through tunnels a lot need. That qualifies a lot of people who drive around Boston to start. The extra maps of Europe are a big plus for the folks who go back and forth. Pre-loaded is the way to go for people who don't want to work to get maps loaded, etc. There are always some things that I would like to change on a GPS, and the TomTom GO 920T is no different, but the items are minor, and overall it's a very solid GPS.

At Amazon - The TomTom GO 920T and the TomTom GO 920


What's in the Box? - TomTom GO 920T

  • The TomTom GO 920T
  • 12 V power Plug
  • TMC Antenna
  • Adhesive disk for dash mounting
  • Suction Cup Mount
  • USB Based desk stand for connecting to TomTom HOME
  • TomTom HOME CD
  • Free Map Upgrade Coupon (within 1 year)
  • Quick Start Guide

    TomTomGO920WhatsintheBox.jpg

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    Posted by Scott Martin at December 10, 2007 7:22 AM
  • Recent Comments

    One of the reasons I purchased the Tom om 920T was that it had Text to Speech and also Bluetooth capability.That tells me that if I have a bluetooth enabled Cell phone i,m good to go. WRONG! my cell phone is an LG model VX8350,the bluetooth works great in my 2006 Nissan Maxima.I followed the set up procerure to no avail. After i looked on the Tom tom web site to find compatible cell phones, i found out my 920T is only compatible with one LG phone, and sad to say ,its not my VX8350. The buyer has no way to tell in advance if his or her Bluetooth capable cell phone will work with the 920T.Anybody have any advice. My cell phone recognizes the 920t but noe vice versa.Does Tom tom work on making a wider array of cell phones compatible with their GPS units, once they are on the market? Any information would be helpful, thanks in advance, Bob Nelson


    Posted by: Bob Nelson at October 1, 2008 7:48 PM

    What about the MP3s and the Blue Tooth for the cell phone? Can the transmitter transmit them on an FM channel for your car?

    I currently only have a radio/cassette combo, and the added functionality of MP3s could be something I want.

    Thanks!

    Vincent


    Posted by: Vincent B. at August 10, 2008 1:31 PM

    I now have a 920T and as compared to all the Garmin units I have had it is OK but not mind shattering. I figured it would have more features than my Garmins have had but there are some I miss. I would like to pan around on a map with the remote and the TomTom doesn't allow this. Also in looking up area POI's it only has limited POI's. The Garmin would allow me to look up a business name and it would find any of that business name within a 200 mile radius. Overall the TomTom is OK but if I could get my money back I would probably buy the Garmin again.


    Posted by: TJ at April 26, 2008 9:44 AM

    Levi,

    No on all accounts. Generally, car navigation devices are not set up to go offroad for rough pursuits. Think of them as more fragile than the handheld units that are set up to be waterproof with some capability to deal with bumps and drops better than the car navigators.

    There are a couple of units in the marketplace that have this crossover capability (car to hiking) but haven't gotten good reviews.... One was the Magellan Crossover.


    The unit does not transmit radio through an FM tuner. It transmits its commands through the radio in your car.... if you have one.

    -Scott


    Posted by: Scott Martin at April 20, 2008 8:34 AM

    Does the 920 have the capability of being used with topo maps, for things like Hiking, mountain biking, or off roading?

    Is the FM tuner a actual fm radio?

    Say I would like to use this in a vehicle with no radio could I listen to the built in radio?

    Thanks for your help.

    Levi


    Posted by: Levi at April 11, 2008 10:26 AM

    Thanks, Vinnie and others...I just, today, purchased the 920 and am excited to learn from you all about your initial experiences. Glad to let you know that they have now included a European antenna as well as a US one with the package. I have several friends that swear by Garmin, but I believe this is mostly because of what they hear is the better seller, and not from their own experiences. As this is my very first GPS, I am hoping that I have done my homework. Like you, I want the best for the money. Hopefully, none of us will regret our decision.

    Good luck!

    Marshell


    Posted by: Marshell at March 31, 2008 12:13 AM

    *********************************************
    Vinnie,

    Wow, thanks for the write-up on your TomTom.

    -Scott


    Posted by: Scott Martin at March 26, 2008 9:59 PM

    I did my research on a new GPS after my Navigon 5000 died in less than 6 months from purchase. My requirements were simple;

    1. A good GPS unit.
    2. User friendly interface with aesthetically pleasing design, maps and interface.
    3. US and Europe maps because I am in the Air Force stationed in Germany and travel frequently back to the states.
    4. TMC-RDS traffic capability which is free and robust throughout Europe
    5. European speed camera POI database

    Homework. My research to include user ratings narrowed my choice down to two units; the TomTom GO 920T and the Garmin Nuvi 660. The main reason I went with the TomTom GO 920T besides getting it on sale for over $200 off tomtom’s MSRP were its features and design that met more of my requirements. I have had my TomTom GO 920T for 2 days now and am overall very happy with my purchase but I wanted provide some good-bad data points for you to consider prior to purchasing yours.

    Good. The TomTom GO 920T is an awesome looking unit that is well constructed. The window mount (compared to my Navigon 5000) is very simple, sturdy, stylish, and small, it secures the GPS unit with very well and with ease. The software provided, exceeded my expectations (again in comparison to my Navigon), it allows you to update your maps, POI database, software, download voices and choose your GPS user preferences like your home location, but it’s operation is somewhat glitchy (see bad in the next para.). The desktop cradle is very good quality and allows easing charging/syncing with my computer and the internet. The TMC-RDS is awesome here in Europe and a must have once you get the right antenna (see bad para.) The GPS sync took about 3 minutes the first time turned it on but only takes 30-45 seconds on average for subsequent startups. The user preference menu is awesome and very extensive allowing you to set up the quick reference menu and bottom menu bar how you want them to look and feel. When you press the GPS strength bar it displays the battery meter, number and strength of satellites signals receiving and lat/long coordinates that you can display in mins/secs and decimal format. The “help me” icon is truly amazing, it displays verbatim “I am on xxxxx street between xxxxx street and xxxxx boulevard”; awesome when you might be in shock from an accident and need to phone this info in. It also offers a few other sub-menu icons like walk to or drive to the closest hospital, public tranpo, police station, auto repair, gas station, vet, etc. The enhanced positioning Technology is awesome, this allows your GPS unit to keep your position moving down the road and voice upcoming turns even when you don’t have a GPS signal, like in a tunnel. You normally only find this feature in GPS units that are built into the car.

    Bad. When I put the TomTom GO 920T to the test for the first time, everything worked great except the TMC-RDS feature. I plugged in the antennal that came in the box and a message came up on the GPS screen stating “the TMC antenna was not compatible with the map selected”. Like I stated earlier, I am stationed in Germany so the Europe map was being displayed. So I called the TomTom 1-866 number and explained the problem. They said that because I purchased the unit from a US vendor, the system comes with a US TMC antenna that works on a different frequency than the one in Europe. They said that if I wanted TMC-RDS traffic updates in Europe, I would have to purchase a European capable antenna. So for an additional $60, I now have both antennas. Buyers Beware – there are 2 separate antennas and you will have to purchase the other one you don’t have if you travel between continents. The European antenna costs about half the price of the US one. So if you want both, I would recommend buying the 920T US version. I highlighted to TomTom customer support that I felt this was misleading and false advertising because nowhere is it stated anywhere on the TomTom website, the box or literature provided with the unit does it state that there is a US frequency antenna and a Europe frequency antenna. They didn’t seem to really care and said I could purchase the European antenna if I wanted TMC-RDS in Germany. Bad customer relations if you ask me.

    Like I stated in the good paragraph, the software that I loaded on my computer had quite a few glitches the first time I used it. When syncing it with my TomTom, I received multiple error codes but most were actually solved by selecting the back key and letting the software restart. Somewhat annoying considering the price of this unit but still workable. Other bads; no case, I purchased a third party case, a Covertec Universal GPS Nylon and Neoprene case for GPS with 4.3" LCD - Size 3" for $19.99, it’s a great, high quality case that doesn’t appear to have the same “zipper problems” user reviews highlighted a flaw in the TomTom case.

    Other/Summary. There a lot of gadgets on this device that I will probably never use, like the remote (I mean come on people the thing is within arm reach), picture viewer, MP3 player. I will probably try out the FM transmitter and Bluetooth phone sync eventually but it’s not why I bought this GPS. I bought it because it is truly the best GPS device that had all the features I wanted and then some. So in conclusion, I highly recommend the TomTom GO 920T, I am more than satisfied and my wife loves its ease of use.


    Posted by: Vinnie_D at March 26, 2008 6:51 PM

    Another sucky BS review. I could have written the same review from the specs


    Posted by: wombat at January 29, 2008 7:14 PM

    I would say garmin is the leader of gps but since tom tom go 910 to 920 came plus map share and there maps are improving big time tomtom is catching up to garmin specially when they introduced voice activated and dead reckoning and map share to their units no doubt garmins route engine may be a bit better than tomtom but beware garmin fans things may turn around you never know i like garmin too but I think tomtom is improving big time nothing against garmin fans beacause i still think garmin is more accurate because they deal with airplanes but here we are in navigation and tomtom made big leaps in thier maps because i do agree their maps were horrible indeed but thats slowly changing and i think since their 9oo range gos who knows may be they may become number one you never know so garmin be on the look out


    Posted by: norman at January 5, 2008 8:58 AM

    Never mind on the number 2 issue, I found plenty of info on that topic.

    -Stephen


    Posted by: Stephen at December 10, 2007 10:33 PM

    Thanks for the review! I have a couple questions:

    1) Did I read that right that you can't create a new road by driving it? If that's true, the usefulness of this feature isn't nearly as good as I was hoping.

    2) Can you enter vias? If so, how easy is it?

    Thanks,
    -Stephen


    Posted by: Stephen at December 10, 2007 10:00 PM
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