February 15, 2010

TomTom Ease Full Review

TomTom_Ease_GPS.jpg
TomTom announced the TomTom Ease for the US market last month at the CES 2010 show; it's a US version of the Euro based TomTom Start, announced last year. The entry level devices are targeted at ease of use with a simplified menu, and some features that make it very competitive as an entry level device like Text to Speech spoken street name direction. The standard sized screen (3.5-inch), and simple EasyPort mount offer quick stowage in tight places, while the changeable backplates make for a potentially fun accessory play later to personalize the unit.

I picked up a TomTom EASE at Amazon for around $100 for the purposes of this review, and have been testing it out around town for almost a couple of weeks now. My concerns were around quality of the fit and finish - did TomTom cut too many corners, is the menu system easier to use, and does the performance stack up against other entry level devices.

TomTom Ease GPS Design

The design of the GPS itself is simple, and keeps true to the entry level look and feel. The fun, removable backplates offer some customization capability coming in yellow, blue, purple, orange, green and red.  The EasyPort mount on other TomTom devices has a rotating bezel allowing you to quickly pivot from windshield mounting position to dashboard mounting position. The TomTom Ease has a two position mounting capability allowing the unit to mount more easily actually to the glass - the bezel won't rotate unnecessarily as you are trying to clamp it onto the windshield. The ball in socket pivot at the hinge of the mount allows you to point the TomTom Ease in just about any direction you need.

TomTomEase_Mount.jpg
TomTom Ease - Note the On/Off Button that is on the upper right
side of the GPS when mounted

The dimpled underside of the EasyPort that sits against the GPS looks like a great speaker area, but it's not; the base is solid and the speaker is offset from center down in the lower corner, apparent when you take the bezel off. Another thing that is obvious when you take the bezel off is that the TomTom Ease has a removable rechargeable battery (Li-ion 650 mAh) which is something that is not at all common in the auto GPS industry. I like it, offering me an easy way to change it should it every start to grow old and die on me after a few years' use.

TomTomEaseBattery.jpg

TT Ease with Back Panel Removed - Speaker in lower right,

with removable battery in upper right


Navigation with the TomTom Ease

The TomTom Ease comes with a few features that can help make the navigation a better experience overall, including Text to Speech, IQ Routes and MapShare.

Briefly, IQ Routes includes data collected anonymously from users and it compares real-life driving scenarios with posted speed limits to understand really how fast you can travel along certain roads. This tends to give you insight into some slightly more accurate travel times; it does not take into account live traffic conditions.

The MapShare feature is something that TomTom initiated a few years ago to collect map fixes from users. It allows you to change a limited set of items on your device (i.e. edit a Point of Interest, Add a missing POI, Unblock a street, Edit a street name, Change turn restrictions, Change Road Speeds, etc). You can either keep them to yourself, or choose to share the changes with TomTom and other users the next time you connect the device to your computer. Likewise you can download verified changes from TomTom next time you connect with the computer.

Destinations - When picking places to go, you can of course navigate to Home (pre-programmed by you), Favorites, an address, a recent destination, a point of interest and a point on the map. TomTom remembers towns you have navigated to so that when you pull up the list of towns, there is the list of recent towns there, sometimes speeding your data entry.

A--> B planning - This is a feature that TomTom has had for a long time that I appreciate a lot. Allows you to set a departure point that is different than where you are sitting at the moment. I use it when I travel and want to see how long it will take to get from the airport to the hotel in another city. By hitting the "Depart From" button in the lower left corner, you can enter in your starting address or location and then move onto your destination - easy to do and helpful.

TomTomEaseDepartFrom.jpg

"Depart From" - easy way to plan ahead


Change your Route - The TomTom Ease GPS also offers you the ability to change the prescribed route when the summary screen comes up. This is a pretty good offer, giving you a little command over how you get to where you are going. A quick tap of Calculate Alternative gets you to a place where you can find a suitable alternative to where you are going. Travel Via is a good choice if you need a stop along the way, or if you want to force the unit to route around something, like downtown NYC; When I travel from the Boston area to parts south, most GPS units want to take me through NYC. Bad idea, so I force the things to take me North of the city across one of the bridges that keeps me out of downtown and all of the traffic mess.

TomTomEaseChangeRoute.jpg
Easy ways to alter the given route to your liking

As usual, the turn prompts were good and loud enough to hear from the TomTom Ease. When you select the voices in the TomTom, you need to make sure you select one that has a "Computer" next to it, as this is a computerized voice that says the street names. The other ones without the indication are simple voices that will not say road names. TomTom does this by recording a few dozen discreet commands and then plays them in sequence to get the turn by turn commands. So, if you change voices and you lose your Text to Speech capability, you may have selected a voice that doesn't have the word "Computer" next to it. There are six english voices on the unit with two "Computer" ones - a male and female.

TomTomEaseVoices.jpg
Plenty of Voices - 2 "Computer" ones for Text to Speech

Ease of Use - The Interface on the TomTom Ease

TomTom made a big departure in their standard menu offering here with the TomTom Ease, giving people a quick way to get to the things that they typically want. Gone are deep layers of menus, replaced with a more shallow set of menus offering quicker access to the most needed options.

TomTomEaseMainScreen.jpg
Main Menu - Simple Layout, some misses

The Main Menu starts out with quick access to Plan a route or Browse the Map, as well as a smaller set of icons across the bottom of the screen offering you a decent set of options to get what you need; Mute, Night/Day colors, HelpMe menu, Options, and Done [go back to the map].

Overall, the menu structure works, but I have to ask who the heck came up with the idea to put Browse Map in such a prominent position, because I rarely use it. In asking a few others they don't like to use it either. I use Browse when I can't find the address, POI, or anything else that is close to where I want to go; it's a last resort. I don't want it as the big huge icon on the front screen. I did not find any Brightness controls - I wished I had the ability to dial it up a bit in the bright sunlight.

The "Done" button will be your friend, as it is how you get to the map from the main screen. The Day/Night button is an unfortunate reminder that the lower end units con't automatically switch over from night to day colors - I really wish that all makers would offer this on low end models. It's hardly a reason to move up the ladder of GPS value chain and its just such a basic feature that it should be universal.

The simple Help menu works for me, and is a smart offering. Offers a quick readout in an emergency of finding places like a police station or a gas station nearby. Finding a hospital can be tough though as the TomTom offers all kinds of clinics and health clinics co-mingled with hospitals which can cause some issue as you try to flip through the list. I guess though if you really want a hospital in an emergency, you should be calling for help and giving your location that TomTom offers you.

TomTomEaseDriving.jpg
TomTom Ease While Driving

TomTom Ease - Review Summary

With a few exceptions, I like the TomTom features and design choices making it a solid entry level GPS product that should be a strong contender for anyone considering a GPS. While it is not a widescreen unit, something I recommend moving up to if you can afford it, it does offer text to speech which is a must-have feature in my mind for making navigation in unfamiliar areas much less stressful.

The Menu layout offers quick access to often needed features, and gets you on the road quickly. I can't appreciate the prominent featuring of the "Browse Map" button, but maybe there are a few million people out there who disagree with me. If you do, leave a comment and let us know why you love the Browse Map button.

The performance of the unit is solidly TomTom through and through, and they didn't cut corners in the navigation experience on the TomTom Ease, offering a strong product for what should be a very good price for a long while to come. While the unit is priced just above $100 now, I firmly believe that we'll see this as the basis for great deals and special sales getting prices down to the pocket-change level sooner than later.

At Amazon - TomTom EASE GPS


What's in the Box - TomTom Ease

The TomTom Ease comes with:

  • TomTom Ease - 3.5 inch screen GPS pre-loaded with US maps
  • EasyPort Mount
  • Adhesive disk to mount the GPS on the dashboard (not shown below)
  • 12-V Car Power Adapter
  • Quick-set of directions

TomTomEaseInBox.jpg

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Posted by Scott Martin at February 15, 2010 7:37 PM

Recent Comments

nice review,,,does anyone know if this system is capable of avoiding freeways?


Posted by: aas at April 20, 2010 1:26 PM
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