In-car GPS navigationJames Heffield | Tuesday, February 23 2010
Nothing screams road trip like the arrival of a new TomTom at the PC World offices. So when the entry-level Start turned up it was the perfect excuse to take a cruise down to Wellington.
The $299 device has many of the features that are built into TomTom’s higher end GPS models, but at a much lower price. It includes both Spoken Street Names, with better pronunciation than many digital devices, and the much-vaunted IQ Routes, which uses historical travel times uploaded from TomToms around the country to determine the fastest route from A to B at different times of day (taking into account things like rush hour).
Leaving Auckland on a Friday afternoon in heavy traffic, the TomTom efficiently guided us to the nearest motorway on-ramp and onto State Highway 1. It took us west at Ngaruawahia, onward through Taumaranui and around the western side of Mount Ruapehu, before directing us back onto SH1 at Waiouru and on to Wellington.
The device estimated the total travel time for the journey to within 15 minutes of what it took during testing (eight hours and 10 minutes) and its constantly updated arrival time removes the regular mental arithmetic required to determine if you will arrive in time for dinner. To make your journey more entertaining, the Start has a good selection of quirky personalities (including Homer Simpson) for its voice prompts and regularly updates with optional new route choices if you decide to be insubordinate and ignore its earlier advice. When it got dark during our roadie, we switched Start’s 3.5-inch touchscreen over to night mode, which dims the display to make it less distracting and easier on the eyes.
The TomTom was good but not flawless. The few hiccups included incorrect or out of date maximum speed limit readings in some rural areas and an instance where the TomTom failed to provide a “turn left” voice prompt, even though a turnoff was clearly shown on its graphical display. The Start also only warned about a few of the fixed-position speed cameras we passed, but that should improve as more Kiwis buy TomToms and report the cameras’ locations.
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