Why TomTom Sucks

TomTom's latest Go 740 Live is piled with features, but I've tested TomToms for five years, and in that time, nobody has fixed the platform's inherent problems. In fact they're only getting worse.

This past week I drove around with the new $US400 TomTom Go 740 LIVE, both around town and on a road trip, and I was shocked to see that the problems I used to bitch about years ago still persist. What good are turn-lane guidance, connected searches and live traffic and weather—let alone user-editable community-powered mapping tools—when the basic experience sucks so painfully? TomTom is feature obsessed, but doesn't appear to care at all about actually improving the product. Here are the major gripes—mostly old and persistent, some new and freshly horrible:

• It still takes 5 clicks (and three different screens) to cancel—pardon me, "clear"—an active route. Even with voice command, you have to know the right lingo or you're SOL.

• The main screen is still a mess, mainly too much unnecessary clutter: Satellite signal strength? Minutes till turn and distance till turn and time at turn, plus time at destination? Traffic alert icons even when there are no traffic alerts? The road graphics still look horrible, and the refresh isn't always fast enough to tell you where you are.

• With the exception of the recently added highway lane guidance screen—which you only get on multi-lane highways—the actual turning instructions are unclear. There's no bar up top that says the name of the street you should turn on, and you only hear the street names and numbers aloud if you select the single (and relatively incoherent) "computer" voice out of many, many more pleasant voices. Also, when you're cruising on a long stretch of highway, it keeps telling you what exits not to take, even if you're going straight for hundreds of miles. Annoying.

• It doesn't turn on and off with ignition—like all Garmins do—so it's always sitting there on as you're leaving the car, and you have to turn it on manually when you remember to, generally after you've started driving.

• TomTom still just pretends to be US-friendly. The meaningless "international" icons, featureless line-drawing maps and the use of expressions like "motorway" make you quickly realise this is a one-design-fits-all-countries product—and the US is a low priority.

• Voice recognition is unhelpful, because in order to use it, you have to memorise all of the possible commands, and in my experience, the thing has a hard time figuring out what you're trying to say.

• Newfangled screw-in suction mount sucks in the wrong way. It's worse than TomTom's older mounts—which were a rare design win for the company, now apparently gone. Also, as you can see from the photo above, the matte screen is hard to see in bright sunlight, even with the backlight jacked up.

If TomTom isn't willing to address its products' fundamental problems, it deserves to fail in this business. Does that sound heartless? What's heartless is foisting sub-par hardware on unsuspecting mums and pops, who don't have the privilege of testing a bunch of stuff side by side. Because I have a heart, and care about your hard-earned money, it's my duty to tell you—and your mum and dad—to avoid TomTom like the freakin' plague. (In case you were wondering, Garmins are still the best—even the cheap ones.)

AU: Just to throw in my two cents - I haven't played around with a TomTom for a year or two now, but their older models all worked fine for me - the lack of Americanisms certainly isn't a problem, and I've found that the voice navigation is clear and easy to understand from units I've tested. I might just have to get a few satnavs in to play with to make sense of all this...


Comments

    Hey Nick, please do! I've always preferred TomTom and have found that the other units out there (Garmin and Navman) and have just found the interface to be bland and 80's looking... At least the TomTom has bright and easy to read icons!

    Tomtom's (in my experience) are faster at route guidance than Navman's, are faster at updating the screen than Garmin's, AND Tomtom's are based on linux so you can put aftermarket apps on them!

    My 720 came with a 'Free' 2008 map upgrade...

    Installed the map upgrade as soon as it was available(9 months later) and the TomTom lost voice recognition... Spoke with TomTom, they said tough... buy another newer map from us.... hmm $160 for a map 2 months newer... I don't think so. Won't be getting another TomTom.

    An American whinging about something that doesn't cater for the specifics of his country? Welcome to the world of the other 5.5 billion residents of this planet.

    Interesting, while my Tomtom is an older model, route instructions display the street-name of the next turn, the street-name you're currently on and the sign to follow for all instructions.

    It also turns on and off with the ignition, and you can easily turn off the exits to avoid in the preferences.

    Hmmm, does this tech reviewer actually know how to operate a modern gadget? (Actually, with this on, my Tomtom only tells me to avoid exit lanes where if you're in the lane you _have_ to exit)

    I suspect most of the reviewer's problems are PEBKAC and the Map data for the U.S. (Which Tomtom will license from a local supplier.)

    Garmin…the world’s biggest manufacturer of consumer gps and the name has almost become synonymous with the product. The company has a long and envious history of producing quality and versatile GPS.

    i drive one of six delivery vehicles in our company around London, four use garmin one a three year old tomtom GO non use traffic or bother updating their maps. I use a Go 540 live and find i can do more delivery's per day and get good bonuses I reckon it has easily paid back its cost of £247 after only six months. jK

    Well all the mentioned problems are adjustable!
    You can change the menu structure if you dont like it.
    You can change the appearance of the status bar and so on ...
    If Mr.Rothman would have used the manual to read it and not just to wipe his a... he would have know that!
    For the voices : only computer voices allow to speak street names because all the "normal" voices are recorded - that is not a Tomtom issue that is the fact for all other devices too.
    The map moves smooth and is very fine detailed (if you use the latest Navcore) and the screen is clearly visible.
    If you put any GPS into the right angle to the sun ,like he did , you wont see a thing - that is the fact for all LCD screens I've tested so far.

    It is pretty clear that Mr.Rothman has no idea how to use a Tomtom and his only intend is to make a good product bad.
    By the way : if your brain is too small to remember a few basic voice commands you should call a taxi anyway! Just get a life and stop wining about things you obviously don't know a thing about!

    As a TomTom GO 920(T) user, I too have a gripe. I don't think I'm being petty here either, as I have a bit of a following in this department (just visit the website I provided [http://www.petitiononline.com/tomlinux] to see what I mean).

    My gripe is that TomTom's run on a Linux kernel which is open source (free software), however they do NOT support their Linux users. That means people who purchase these units, can only update their GPS on either a Windows machine or a Mac machine. They cannot update their GPS units if they run a Linux machine, which in my opinion, is absolutely ludicrous given the fact that they themselves use Linux to run the GPS's! The link I provided is an online petition to get Linux users to rally together to get TomTom to get some Linux support going, but so far they refuse to help us out.

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