Product Review: TomTom GPS navigator


10 Jun 2008

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As someone who spends too much time in his car due to Ireland’s notoriously clogged-up road networks, a device that helps navigate around traffic jams ought to be a godsend.

And in fairness, the boffins at TomTom think of everything. Its satnavs now come with MP3 players and you can connect up your mobile phone or iPod. And by connecting the newest TomTom device to your laptop, you can also download the latest traffic warnings and even coordinates of Garda speed checkpoints.

The latter ability is still something of a legal and moral grey area in Ireland. While it’s not something satnav makers like Garmin or TomTom actually promote here, there are websites like www.speednanny.ie which allow people to download GPS coordinates of speed traps onto their devices.

While still pondering the rights and wrongs of this, I was delighted to observe that the latest device from the TomTom stable – the GO 930 Traffic – at least comes with a warning system which alerts the driver if they’re driving too fast in certain areas.

When overtaking on the M4 this week, I exceeded the 120kmph speed limit for a moment and the device elicited a harsh beeping tone that made me think twice and slow down.

My love/hate affair with satnav devices began several years ago when I was asked to try out a device new to the Irish market at the time. This wasn’t one of those nice, cutesy, slimline devices you could clip onto your windscreen but was built primarily for a truck or, as I thought at the time, an Abrams battle tank.

I chugged around in a little, red, 1.0 litre car with this massive TV screen-like device partially blocking my view, thinking I was all that. But you should have heard the howl I made as gravity intervened and it fell off the dash into my lap when I stopped at traffic lights, all of which made the girls in the car next to mine scream with laughter. Yeah John, real cool.

Satnavs today are smaller and come jampacked with services and features, but the one word of warning is to update. My own satnav spends most of its time in my glovebox and I can’t remember the last time I plugged it into my computer to download road updates.

While driving through Belfast last week, the device told me to go through an intersection when it was obvious I would have been smashed to smithereens. If I updated the device, I might have been warned. So, no matter how advanced the technology, the basic cop-on of the driver should always remain foremost.

The TomTom GO 930 Traffic comes equipped with maps for western Europe, as well as the US and Canada.

It also comes with a little radio receiver device that you clip to your windscreen, which downloads the latest traffic updates every three minutes. The device also features technology that allows you to choose smart routes to save time, money and, of course, in the current economic climate – fuel.

Some of the smart and clever new features you can expect to find on the GO 930 Traffic include a buddy system where you can see if friends of yours are in the neighbourhood, a scenic route option and my favourite: celebrity voices. You can download voices like John Cleese or Mr T to instruct you as you go about your business on the roads. I can imagine it now, my attention wavers and a voice bellows: “Listen up Fool! You drive down that one-way street, you’ll meet my friend PAIN!”

Pros: Easy to use, warns when exceeding speed limit
Cons: Requires internet connection to unlock new features
Price: €500

By John Kennedy