TomTom GO 930 Full Review
The TomTom 930 is the new top of the line TomTom that is starting to gain some steam these days in the stores. TomTom has folded in Historical Average Speeds into the GO 930 to make the unit more accurate in setting travel times, especially when traffic is concerned. While TomTom's map supplier, TeleAtlas is teamed up with Inrix, and has the ability to fold their traffic speed data into the Map offering, TomTom went out and grabbed their own historical average speeds from users like you and me. If you agreed to submit anonymous user data when you sync'd your TomTom to TomTom HOME, you sent up some data that presumably included some road speed data; including traffic hot spots and slow downs. We will see how broad the coverage is and how it affects our usage of the unit.
Other than the TomTom IQ Routes, the unit offers "Lane Guidance" which shows you what lane to be in when the going gets tough on the highways.
The TomTom 930 still encompasses a lot of features that were rolled into the GO 930, including membership to the MapShare community, a Map guarantee for up to date maps for the first 12 months that you own the device, enhanced positioning that helps to track your position through an accelerometer when you enter tunnels, Bluetooth Handsfree and voice address input.
The Design of the TomTom 930 is very similar, if not the same as the GO 920. Standard size TomTom GO issue, with a nice black case, almost ebony in its blackness. The bottom of the unit shows a line out audio jack, the traffic port, the mini-USB power and data connection, as well as an SD card slot for plugging in data. The power plug has a nice 90 degree angle to it allowing you to rest the GO 930 right down on the dash.
Since the TomTom GO 930 comes with US and Euro maps, you may not need to add maps via the SD card slot unless you are heading off to a more exotic location. The back of the unit features a single speaker of good sound quality, with the slot for the mount above it. The top of the unit has only the power button, while the front of the unit has a microphone hole. That's it; pretty clean. The mount hasn't changed and is a push on/pull off variety.
The TomTom 930 evolves the Voice Command slightly with a new interface from the GO 920 that I reviewed back in December 2006. There are two ways to use the voice controls, the Spoken Address and Spoken Address (Dialog) - I recommend the "dialog" version. The other has you saying things and tapping the screen, which seems to mix saying and tapping.... I found myself saying a word over and over, only to realize that I was supposed to tap the screen.
The Dialog version does a lot more work for you and starts by asking you to say your city. The look of the interface has changed since the GO 920, which makes me think that it was tested and improved so that people interact better with the voice command. The key is to still wait for the little lips icon, but it has a little sound meter below the lips that shows you how well it received your command. The basic scheme is to say a town, or street, and then the TomTom will post a list of options, and you say which one.... all voice commands and you get through with reasonable success.
I will say that I like IQ Routes for the promise, and the idea of Historical Average Speeds, but I am a little uncertain about the amount of data behind the project. When you play with setting up a route from "A to B", which now allows you to choose where you want to start, end and when you want to travel. This takes into account the IQ Route capabilities. So you get the option of navigating the route Today, Tomorrow, Weekday and Weekend. The thought is that you can now use the Historical Average Speed information to let the TomTom plan during different potential traffic conditions. Here's the concern; they only average this data across two scenarios, Weekday and Weekend.
So, does every weekday get treated the same, and every time during that weekday get treated the same (i.e. Morning Rush Hour and 9PM)? That's not a perfect solution. I found that using the IQ Routes, it had some effect on routing times, that were an hour and under, but did not see dramatic changes in routing or travel time. I did see more accurate travel times for the trips I took at various times of the day and across the days of the week.
There may also be some holes in the data set, which should get filled as the units send more data in about traffic, but when I planned a route for a weekday from Lincoln MA down to Norwood, MA, along Route 128/ I-95, one of the busiest roads around, I got this warning: "Please Note: The Fastest Route is now being planned for you. However, please note that in MA, there is not enough traffic history available to optimise this route using IQ Routes." While on a recent business trip to NJ, I found the same thing.
Despite all of this, IQ routes has an effect on route planning. In this example, I used the "A -> B" route planning to go through NYC to NJ. The IQ routes planned a faster route with them enabled, versus when they were shut off.
Faster Route with IQ Routes enabled.
Slower Route with IQ Routes Disabled.
Advanced Lane Guidance
Advanced Lane Guidance includes the ability to pop up an image of confusing highway intersections and indicating which way to go. The image differs from the map by stripping out all of the other moving parts and just shows you in a simple diagram what the heck to do while you are approaching some road engineer's evil concoction at 65MPH. Overall, I like the capability, and found it helpful on a recent trip to NJ, where I found myself rushing back to the Newark Airport needing a little guidance where the roads started offering merges and multiple exits at the same time. The Lane Assist does not come up during most normal exit and intersection situations, but when things start to get really dicey.
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 930 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. Since I already did this, and saved my file set, I was able to load that onto the GO 930 for "old time sake"
The process of recording is simple, and involves going into the Change Preferences menu, then Voice Preferences, and Record Voice. The TomTom 930 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.
Subtle Features - Nice to have
There are a bunch of features that are subtle and really show that this is a top end unit allowing you to tweak and customize the unit to your liking. I thought I would run through a few to show you what TomTom isn't talking too much about, but are baked into the product.
- Adaptive volume - Got a lot of road noise? The TomTom will raise the volume automatically when it gets noisy.
- Commands or Music or both over Bluetooth - A reader recently wrote in asking about this capability, and I was happily surprised to see that TomTom will allow you to pipe your turn commands and/or your music to a Bluetooth "HiFi" device.... assume that means the stereo.
- Send/Receive Files - Got a friend with a TomTom 920/930? You can send itineraries to them if needed to get you both from here to there.
The TomTom GO 930 represents a new age of smarter GPS units, and expands on TomTom's crowd sourced approach to navigation. The recent moves to get Map corrections (MapShare), and the move to crowdsource travel times is a great way to leverage their scale in the marketplace. The move should pay off as more and more people take the step to use then connect their GPS. Shy of a true, live connection to the internet while driving, this is a good start. The IQ Routes do in fact give better routing times, and help where traffic data exist. Definitely a concern about the lack of data in all areas. The interface continues to be one of the best in the industry, as more GPS makers come to the market, it is more obvious that it is not easy to design interfaces as easy as TomTom's.
At Amazon - TomTom GO 930
and TomTom GO 930T
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Posted by Scott Martin at July 7, 2008 7:45 AM