Product Tomtom Go Live 1000
System Specifications 4.3-inch touchscreen, 4GB internal memory, Western Europe map data, one-year traffic updates, 127mm x 80mm x 19mm
DESPITE THE ONSLAUGHT of smartphones and built-in car global positioning system (GPS) units, Tomtom is still plugging away and its latest effort represents the firm's best dedicated standalone GPS unit to date.
The firm that popularised GPS in Europe has in recent years faced the impending expiry of its product's shelf life thanks primarily to smartphones and the growing number of vehicles that come with GPS as standard. For years it seemed as if GPS manufacturers were happy to sit idly back, either believing their product would continue to rake in the cash or realising that the game was up. Thanks to some clever additions, the Tomtom Go Live 1000 does more than just prop up the firm's product line.
Given that Tomtom is asking over £200 for the device, it's good to see the firm has put some effort into making the Go Live 1000 feel worthy of such an outlay, let alone do the business of getting you to where you want to go easily, quickly and reliably. Those familiar with older Tomtom units will immediately appreciate the sense of quality the firm has put into the unit. The cheap plastics of yesteryear are banished by a high quality brushed metal finish and a solid-feeling touchscreen.
The windscreen mount is sturdy, easy to use and allows for good movement of the GPS unit. Perhaps the biggest blot on the Go Live 1000's physical characteristics is the firm's decision to change the connector from mini-USB to a proprietary connection.
While the widescreen display might feel like it came off an Iphone, the 480x272 resolution certainly doesn't. For the purpose of map display and basic directions it does the job, but no more. What the touchscreen does very well is respond to screen presses, making navigation easy, and entering addresses and postcodes painless.
Tomtom clearly realised it would have to raise its game when competing against products that provide superior functionality in the form of smartphones. The first aspect where the bar has been raised, at least by Tomtom standards, is in the user interface. Parts of the interface look like it is HP's WebOS, which by no means is a negative. The basic tile button home screen is still there but the way Tomtom managed to incorporate the wealth of added features as part of its Live package is a job well done.
The voice recognition feature should, in theory, reduce physical user interaction with the device while on the move. However, like almost every voice recognition software we’ve come across, the 1960's sci-fi utopia of talking to a box and it heeding your command is still firmly in the realm of Arthur C Clarke novels. Even in a relatively quiet cabin, the Go Live 1000's ability to parse voice commands is hit and miss, meaning you either end up checking whether the device has correctly understood the command or spend more time correcting mistakes and resorting to manual interaction.
The time taken for an adequate number of GPS satellites to be contacted allowing for triangulation is on the whole fast, even in built up and covered areas such as car parks. Compared to older GPS units, the difference can be anything up to the order of minutes, though pitted against the latest crop of smartphones, thanks to cell-tower triangulation assisted GPS, the time difference is in most cases inconsequential.
Of course no GPS test is going to be exhaustive when it comes to checking the accuracy of map data, but the Go Live 1000 fared very well in our travels. Motorways were, unsurprisingly, no problem though it is with some glee that we can report Tomtom will have to update its data on the M4 motorway when the bus lane is finally decommissioned. It was equally adept at navigating us through built up areas.
Particularly handy is the ability to report map errors or recent updates such as road works through the Go Live 1000. This so-called crowd-sourcing of data should mean users gain access to local knowledge that is often missed out when mapping on a countrywide scale. It's exactly this type of technology that Tomtom and other GPS manufacturers need to offer if they are to stay ahead of smartphone vendors.
Tomtom has made a great deal of fuss over its HD Traffic software, which polls users to calculate traffic on routes. It culminates in offering up alternative routes that the software believes will be quicker when taking traffic into account. The service costs around £50 a year, though one year's subscription is included with the Go Live 1000.
We found the quality of the traffic data to vary wildly. At times it was completely inaccurate, other times it was almost bang on. Often it overestimated traffic on routes and suggested detours that were longer not just in pure distance terms but also when traffic was considered. When compared against Google Maps' traffic data, HD Traffic was on the whole more accurate, though Google's data is of course free. After spending some time with HD Traffic and questioning its accuracy, you start to wonder whether it is worth shelling out for the service after the first year.
The Tomtom Go Live 1000 is a top standalone GPS unit. There's no doubt the firm has put significant effort into packing the Go Live 1000 with features to try and compete with smartphones. From the build quality right the way through to the inclusion of features such as live traffic updates and correcting mapping mistakes, the Go Live 1000 is an impressive collection of software and hardware.
Sadly for Tomtom, many people might find that the advantages present in a £200 GPS receiver are not enough to stop them from spending an extra £100 to get a smartphone that has 90 per cent of the navigation capabilities of the Go Live 1000. However, if you have the desire for a standalone GPS unit, then Tomtom's range topper is without doubt one of the most impressive we've seen to date.
A very solid effort by Tomtom to drag its standalone GPS units into contention against smartphones. For those wanting a dedicated GPS receiver, the combination of quality hardware and software is very hard to fault. Whether it does enough to dissuade potential smartphone buyers is another question. µ
Good build quality and user interface, fast GPS signal pickup.
Voice control needs polish, hit and miss traffic data, cost.