Can TomTom improve their already well respect range of ‘Go’ products?
The x20 range is the latest Portable Navigation Device from the market leaders TomTom. Thanks to the guys at Clove Technology, we’ve managed to get our hands on a Go 720 to review.
The 720 was launched in Europe alongside its little brother – the 520. A 920 is noticeable by its absence currently, but there are a few pointers to suggest an announcement won’t be too far away.
These new x20 devices come pre-installed with the latest firmware, and navCore7 software. The x10 range, and indeed the PDA/Smartphone software currently runs navCore6 – which lacks some of the newer features found here.
The first improvement we see with navCore7, is an improved GUI. It’s really only a different skin – but for what its worth – it is an improvement.
As you may have seen from Matt’s unboxing video, the TomTom branding is omnipresent as usual, and the box is packed full of pretty much all the main peripherals. A car charger (rather obviously), and a natty desktop docking station found on the newer model – I assume because they are now so slim they won’t stand up!
The spec sheet for the 720 is really quite impressive; a 4.3in widescreen TFT ‘matt finish’ screen using a 480×272 resolution, and backed up by a 400MHz CPU and 64meg of RAM. The TomTom 720 comes with 2gb of onboard memory, but the vast majority of this is taken up by the supplied maps and addons. Bluetooth, and, a first for TomTom, a built in FM transmitter. The battery life is stated as 5 hours, and it weights just 220g.
This device has been used for the past 2 weeks on every journey, as a direct replacement for TomTom Navigator 6 running on my personal iPaq PDA (A rx3715 from a few years ago). Consider this a comparison review between these methods of satnav, and my experiences with other brands.
Form Factor: At 118 x 83 x 24mm, TomTom have managed to shave a fair bit off the older 710 model, and I can’t really see them being able to go much smaller, since a decent size screen is mandatory on a satnav device! It’s still not exactly easy to carry about with you though – especially if your a male without your manbag! Luckily this problem goes away if your partner is with you.
FM Transmitter: Finally! This feature is a real winner in my opinion. It works well, its easy to turn on and off – and unlike those cheap things you buy off ebay, there is no sign of crackle or interference. It just works, and works well. You are able to select whether music and navigation announcements are made over the FM transmitter, or either or. Music is stopped during announcements, and resumes automatically when it’s finished telling you what to do!
Speech Recognition: To be honest I was expecting this to be appalling. Having been around the IT industry for the past 10 years or so, I know that by default, all voice/speech recognition products are 1) appallingly bad; or 2) none-functional. Surprisingly I’ve not managed to get the 720 to get anything wrong! Once again, rather like the FM transmitter, it just works. It seems like a simple thing to say, but it amazes me how TomTom have managed to get it to recognise my voice, in a clapped out 10 year old car! By selecting the navigate via speech option, you are told to say the city you need to get to (as per usual TomTom define any city, town or village as a city!). A list of possible matches is displayed, to which you say the number.
Text-to-Speech: The TomTom 720 has also applied some massive improvements to the core of the satnav system Road name are now spoken by the new “computer voice”. This feature was also seen on the Go 910, but the 720 massively improves on even that. Its got a few bugs, a few oddities, some street names just don’t quite work, but the majority of the time, its very clear, and does help out over the standard “Turn left” style commands.
Package: As I’ve already said – the whole package is pretty impressive. A carry case or sleeve would have been nice, but the inclusion of a dock is welcomed, and I can’t really fault the content much at all really.
Screen: The screen seems to be covered in some sort of matt finish cover. This might sound nasty but in practise it works well at keeping the screen visible in strong sunlight. Although its perhaps not as clear in normal lighting because of this, on the whole, the cover does improve things.
Battery Life: Still not ideal in my eyes. The advertising spiel says 5 hours, and it is a bit less than that I reckon. I would normally always use this plugged into a car charger – but clearly the fact its got a battery suggests that not everyone works this way. I guess the screen size limits what can be done about the battery life. Hopefully 5 hours is enough for the majority though
Sound quality: This was the biggest problem I had with the TomTom. I’ve used quite a few of these PNDs, and PDA software navigation system from TomTom, and the early PNDs such as the Go 300 had excellent loud and clear speakers. Much better than my iPaq’s speaker. These new systems, presumably because of the smaller size suffer from very poor quality speakers. They aren’t particularly loud either. While I’m sure it will be bearable to most – its extremely disappointing after the quality of the earlier models.
No Bluetooth Network Connection support: Since we like our Windows Mobile 6 devices here at TracyAndMatt, It very, very disappointing to find that these new models STILL don’t support Bluetooth PAN. It has the usual Dial Up Networking profile, and will work with most normal phones. However WM6 supports a new Bluetooth profile – The Bluetooth PAN connection. Effective this allows ‘Internet sharing’ within WM6 to act as your internet router – no messing about with dial up – connect to the PDA and you’re connected. Unfortunately even the brand new x20 range doesn’t support this, and what’s worse, because WM6 no longer includes the old DUN profile, you cannot use it for Internet Sharing with the TomTom
Speed: Oddly the system isn’t as quick as refreshing as my iPaq – even with all POIs turned off. I’ve noticed this before, and I not 100% why this is the case. However, its perfectly usable, the GPS fix is found ultra quickly, thanks to the software downloads available via TomTom Home.
Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get the MapShare technology to work at any point. Everything seemed to go ok, my own fixes appeared to be uploaded OK, but nothing even changed on the map itself. I tried many different options to get it going but nothing seemed to give me much success. I do have the device for a couple more days, so I’ll update this should I make any progress!
OK, so I admit I’m a bit of a SatNav obsessive (according to Matt!) and I am a big big fan of TomTom stuff. I prefer it to iGo and CoPilot. I’ve never used a Garmin device, but I think in terms of ease-of-use – nothing comes close to TomTom.
I’ve tried to use the device as a ‘noob’ but to be honest its a bit difficult since I’ve used these products in various forms for years. Even so, I’ve tried to remain impartial.
However, the first thing to say is that this is a damn good satnav. The new features are well thought out and genuinely improve an already good range of products. TomTom appear to have listened to the community as well. The system allows a much greater level of control over the look and feel of the built in OS. You can (finally) change the position icon (formally the blue arrow), to a logo or images of your choice, or one of the built in ready made pictures. I went for an orange F1 car.
Equally useful is the ability to move the status bar from the bottom of the screen to the right hand side. I wasn’t sure if I’d like thus, having been used to the standard look of TomTom, but its a great idea – certainly on widescreen models like this. It seems to use the screen space better, and still allow a large driving view.
There are many other minor improvements, that I’ve seen people moan about in previous editions of navCore. You can turn on an audible alert when travelling x% over the speed limit. You can now turn off the speed limit monitoring completely – something missing from earlier versions. A built in light sensor allows you to choose to automatically dim the screen when it gets dark. All minor updates, but it shows an attention to detail that was perhaps lacking in the early TomTom releases.
The current version of the software (7.0) is, being honest, a bit crash happy. It doesn’t seem to want to open some of the photos I’ve uploaded to it, and just jams itself until I’m forced to press the reset button. The menu also has a tendency to hang either permanently, or for a few seconds at a time. Unusually though when on a route, and the device is left to its own.. erm.. devices, its perfectly stable.
The suction cup and mount is somewhat different to the old Go models. There is no built in charger, or any port replication. Many people believe this to be down to the problems TomTom faced with the old active mounts. The suction cup is, as ever, very strong, and ‘parking’ the device takes a bit of getting used to, but very intuitive once the learning curve is complete! I can see the mount being a pain in the **** for people having to plug the charger, an external GPS aerial, and a FM Traffic receiver in every time they set off!
There are improvements to the way TomTom handle SD cards. In older models, the SD card ‘replaced’ the onboard memory – so a complete copy of the software and maps had to be loaded onto the SD Card. This is no longer the case, and the TomTom combines any folders called the same on both memory areas. This allows you to use all the space on your memory card. As ever though, images have to be in /images, mp3s have to be in /mp3s etc etc. Otherwise they just aren’t seen in the Jukebox or picture viewing software.
The overall operation of the device is exactly like any other TomTom. I think the buzzwords are evolution not revolution. If you can handle your current TomTom device, you’ll be fine with this. There are minor improvements, for example the user-configurable quick launch menu, and depending on how old your device is, you’ll be surprised to find Postcode navigation now hidden in the ‘address’ area. Routes can, as ever, be calculated by the quickest route, shortest routes, various different methods for pedestrians and fixed speed vehicles. Routing seems good, if not perfect – and the mapshare technology will only improve this.
Disappointing to me was the recent announcement that TomTom are to buy TeleAtlas mapping. Having used one of the few TomTom rider units supplied with NavTeq mapping, I think in comparison, the TeleAtlas stuff is lacking – even in Europe. Routing also seemed much better using the Navteq maps. However, I fear this is something that we’re gonna have to manage with. It’ll be teleatlas all the way from now on.
A minor gripe is the car mount. It’s a little too small, and too short. This means that the unit is held firm, and shake-free, but it a long way away from the driver – especially for control with driving. My PDA mount for example sits a lot further away from the windscreen, and closer to me – meaning its much easier to control without stretching.
Overall stability is pretty good while routing, but as stated earlier, its prone to crashes, especially when modifying settings within the large menu system.
Ease of Use
Its TomTom. Its like the rest, and I don’t believe its that steep a learning curve for people new to satnav. For a new entrant to the world of satnav – you won’t find a much easier starting point than this.
TomTom have really raised the bar with the release of the 720. 2gb onboard memory, and a wide variety of major and minor fixes and feature improvements. While I have a few issues with it, I can’t help but heap praise on TomTom who have made possible the biggest improvements to the devices since the original TomTom Go.
It’s a great device for both new users, and old pros looking to improve what they already have. The FM transmitter is exceptional – and space saving since it’s all built into the small case. The text to speech, and speech to text systems are the best I’ve ever used. They are highly useful, and I think that’s the main plus point for me – all the new features are genuinely useful to the end user. So silly gimmick here – just solid feature requests being added to an already good base product.
In conclusion, if you are looking for a new satnav right now – this is the best on the market. It’s well supported both officially and unofficially, and the ‘fan’ sites have large communities of experts ready to help out with any problems. The pricing is highly competitive, even against its stablemate the Go 520.
TomTom GO 720 Specification:
- CPU – 400MHz
- Memory – 64MB Ram, 2GB Internal Storage Memory
- Screen Size – 4.3″ 480 x 272 pixels
- Dimensions – 118 x 83 x 24mm
- FM Transmitter
- Built-in speaker and mic
- SD memory card slot
- Weight – 220g
- Battery Time – 5h
- Pre-installed maps of Western Europe
Note: Since writing this, I noticed Clove have reduced their price again – just £255 (£299.62 inc VAT)
Review by: Mark