Time for toy shopping. I’ve been looking into buying a GPS for awhile. My first instinct was to look into what Garmin had to offer. Why Garmin? Well I actually couldn’t find anyone who owned a TomTom to ask them about their experience.
So off to the big box electronic store. We were going on a road trip the next day, so we went up to a mid-range Garmin and an equivalent TomTom and entered in our destination. Right away there was a clear winner – TomTom.
In order to enter an address on the Garmin, you first enter a city, and after a few letters, it proposed a choice of cities. So far, so good – it proposed our destination city. For some reason, entering streets is not so easy. One would assume that the same predictive approach would be used. In fact, it isn’t. You need to actually enter the first few letters, and press ok. If it finds something, it will prompt you, if not its has you try again. The Garmin had no trouble finding the city of Sherbrooke, but, when you try to find Du Conseil street, if fails. I tried the following permutations:
- Du C
- Du Con
- Du Cons
In fact, the only way to find it, is to enter Cons, and press ok. This finally will result in a result of Du Conseil. This is not a great user experience.
The TomTom was very nimble in predicting both the street names and the city. In fact it used the same predictive approach for both city and street name.
Fast forward a few weeks, and its time to buy a GPS. I am suffering from a bad case of shopper paralysis, as I am in a constant debate over features and price. I happened upon a great deal at Walmart for a Garmin nüvi 255 at $168, my rationale being to start with a base model and figure out my needs from there. I was comforted in the high rating on Amazon.com and ConsumerReports.org. It was returned inside of four days. Why did the Garmin fail out?
- It found a local address, inside of 10 km fine.
- When entering an address 30 km east, the Garmin indicated a route that took me west on the closest highway, then doubled back, exited highway to loop around a roundabout, then merged back on to follow an appropriate path.
- Tried an address on a private road just off a rural highway, and the Garmin only returned the directions to the main street of the town.
- Attempted to find an out of province address on the north part of a street, and it insisted that the house was on the south part.
So it failed on two tests out of four, and was erratic on one of the two “successes”.
So I went out and bought a TomTom Go 720 which was only $30 more than the Garmin. We put the TomTom through the same tests as the Garmin. It returned the proper directions on all four test destinations, plus it got the directions to the address in Sherbrooke right.
Time for a road test. The Tom Tom Home software allowed for the trip planning and the setting of Favourites. The Go 720 quickly calculated the paths, reacted swiftly to course changes and found POIs with ease. In contrast, my new iPhone 3GS provided similar performance in large urban areas as the 720, but the 720 excelled in finding POIs in small towns and country roads. For now, phone based GPS is convenient in large metropolitan areas, but a true standalone GPS device is by far the most reliable solution.
With a handy USB dock, car charger and car base included, the TomTom Go 720 offers a wide screen, with an easy to use interface and handy customizations.
In conclusion, the TomTom Go 720 offers a GPS unit that provides accurate directions, updatable maps, crowd-sourced map correction, celebrity voice downloads, itineraries based on actual travel times (as opposed to times based on the posted limit).