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Thursday, December 10, 2009

First Impression Review Of TomTom One 130 GPS

This is a review of one of the four GPS units I bought on Black Friday for evaluation. I have been using this one for the past week or so, so this review reflects my own personal experiences with this GPS unit.

Bought at: Best Buy
Price: $79.99 + tax
Discounts: None
Final Price: $79.99 + tax

TomTom One 130 GPSPackage Comes With: GPS Unit, Car Charger, USB Cord, User Manual, Windshield mount, Dashboard mount adhesive disk.

Screen: 3.5", Color, touchscreen. 320x240 pixels. The touchscreen is operated with fingers, and does not require any stylus of any kind (none is provided). The screen does get noticeably smudged after several uses.

Battery: Lithium ion, non-removable. Takes 4 hours to charge fully, can power the unit for about 2 to 3 hours of normal use.

Charger: Only car charger provided. Straight, non-spiral cord. Plugs in through USB port in GPS unit. The car charger was somewhat normal-sized, not too bulky. The USB port on the GPS unit is hidden in a recess, making it unnecessarily more difficult than it needs to be to plug the cord into it.

Maps: Provided by TeleAtlas. Covers all of the United States and Canada. Extensive POI database. Map updates are free for the first 30 days after purchase, later updates (available on a quarterly basis) can be purchased from TomTom.

Spoken Directions: Navigation directions are provided through on-screen as well as voice prompts. The speaker is on the back of the unit. It was reasonably loud. The GPS provides several choices of language and voice to choose from. The spoken directions do not include street names, though.

Keyboard: No physical keyboard. On-screen keyboard appears as and when needed. The on-screen keyboard can be set to ABC, QWERTY, or AZERTY mode depending on user preference. I have never seen an AZERTY layout keyboard in my life before, and this GPS gave me my first view of such a keyboard!

Package: The unit comes in a small compact package that is easy to open (and repack). The GPS unit itself is about 3.8" x 3.2" x 1.0", and weighs 6.7 ounces.

User Manual: The user manual has the same information repeated in English, French, and Spanish, so it seems thick at first glance, but has only a few pages of relevant instructions in each language.

Mount: Comes with a windshield mount based on a suction cup, and a dashboard mount. The GPS mounts in the provided mount using a proprietary kind of mounting system called EasyPort.

Additional Capabilities: None (no bluetooth, MP3 playback, video player, etc.).

Detailed Review:

The unit was easy to unpack and relatively easy to set up. Once I plugged it into the car charger (this was actually a bit tricky since the USB port on this GPS unit is set in a recessed slot for some reason), I switched it on. It has some legalese to begin with (but you never see this again), then you go through a set of setup screens to set your basic preferences. You set the language (there is a choice of 25 different languages), the voice you want for prompts, etc.

After that, you are given the choice of setting home location (you can choose to enter an address, an intersection, choose a recent destination or point of interest as Home, enter a latitude and longitude, etc.). You are also provided the opportunity to join the TomTom MapShare Community when you set up the GPS, but you can skip these steps if you want to do them later.

This GPS unit has a huge number of options for doing any given task. For instance, there are 25 different types of preferences in the setup screens. This can be quite overwhelming and confusing. Most tasks require multiple inputs to reach the correct screen to accomplish. Sometimes it is difficult to remember how to accomplish a given task even though you know you have done it sometime in the past.

The user manual that comes with the device is completely inadequate, and is close to useless. Most of the screens are not mentioned in the user manual at all. The manual shows you the steps to set up and navigate a simple route, nothing more. But the unit is capable of such a lot more that even a detailed review like this would be inadequate to start exploring all of these capabilities.

By default, you are shown a map view with your current location marked on it. There are zoom buttons on the top left and right of this map view. However, the zoom is temporary, and after a few seconds of inactivity, the map zooms down to a default level. There is no scale on this map, so it is not easy to judge distances in the view of the map. If you are looking at the map while navigating a route, this view also includes the next turn direction and street, your current location, ETA, speed and other details. Tapping the bottom left of the map screen during navigation to a destination repeats the last instruction given by the GPS. The bottom right of this screen enables you to access the route summary screen (which is explained a little later).
TomTom One 130 GPS Map ScreenMap Screen

Tapping in the middle of the map screen takes you to the first page of the main menu. Here you can start navigating to a destination, find alternatives to the current route, find emergency information, add a favorite to your GPS, change preferences by going to the setup screens, or move on to the next page of the main menu. In the second page, you can prepare a route, browse the map, do corrections to the map, use "TomTom Services" or clear the current route if you are already navigating on a route.
TomTom One 130 GPS Main MenuMain Menu

When you choose to start navigating to a destination, you can pick a destination from among Home, favorites, an address, a recent destination, a point of interest, a point on the map, the position of the last stop or a given latitude/longitude combination. Addresses can be entered as a city center, a street and house number, a zip code or an intersection. Address entry always proceeds from the city name first (unless you choose zip code). If you know neither the city nor the zip code, you can not navigate to an address.
TomTom One 130 Navigate To Screen"Navigate To" Screen

The POI database of the GPS is very extensive. It has more than 50 categories, that include border crossings, car dealerships, etc. You can make changes to this database by using the map corrections screen, making this database very powerful and versatile. Each POI also comes with a phone number, so you can use the GPS as a local yellow pages throughout the country!
TomTom One 130 POI CategoriesPOI Categories Screen

After you pick the destination, the GPS calculates a route (there is a large number of preferences you can set in the setup screens to influence what kind of route is calculated), and shows you a route summary screen that has a map of the entire route. From the summary screen there are options to get details of the route calculated, or find alternates to the originally calculated route.

The details of the route can be presented in the form of text, or a series of images of the intersections ( to get a feel for what to expect in terms of road layout at each turn). The images are all map images, not real photographic images. You can also get a map browser with the route overlaid on it. The map browser allows you to pan and zoom the map as desired to get a feel for the environs of the route.

The details screen also allows one to see a demo of the route by simulating driving down the route. You can adjust the simulation speed from real-life (the simulation would take as long as the actual calculated time according to the GPS) to about 5 times real-life speed (thus the simulation would be over in one-fifth of the calculated time, which can still be very long for long trips).

The GPS then starts giving you directions. You can choose from a number of voices to get directions in. The directions include turn instructions, but do not include any street names. Turn instructions are first given about 1.5 miles before each turn, so when you turn onto a street on your route, if your next turn is more than 1.5 miles away, the GPS does not tell you what your next turn direction is going to be. You can look at the GPS screen to find this information, but there are no voice prompts. At the turn, you are given a voice prompt to turn in the appropriate direction.

If you are approaching a T-junction, the GPS tells you turn "at the end of the road", so there is an attempt to make the instructions as unambiguous as possible. But the lack of voice prompts that include the street name can be a disadvantage when there are many streets very close to each other or you are trying to navigate unconventional intersections that have more than two intersecting streets. The street name to turn on is provided on the GPS screen, so you can use that for guidance under such circumstances.

By default, you are navigating to the destination from your current location, but instead of choosing to start navigating, if you choose to prepare a route, you can actually choose an origin and a destination independent of your current location and have the GPS map out a route for you. You can then go into the route details screen and get turn by turn directions for the route. You can even lay in a route from somewhere else to your current location, so after you reach that other location, you can choose to follow that route to where you started from instead of fiddling with the GPS at that other location.

You can modify the route calculated by the GPS by asking it to calculate an alternate based on different criteria (for instance, shortest instead of quickest). You can also get the GPS to route you around parts of the route or detours on part of a road. You can also add a waypoint and have the GPS calculate a route to your final destination via the waypoint.

If you choose to find emergency information, you are presented with a screen where you can choose to phone for help, drive to help, walk to help, find your current location or read information on first aid, car repair, etc. The POI database in this GPS contains emergency service providers like police stations, along with their phone numbers, so if you choose to phone for help, you can choose the kind of emergency service provider you need (police station, fire station, hospital, dentist, pharmacy, veterinarian, etc.), and the GPS provides you their phone number in addition to offering you the option of either navigating you there in your car or by walk.
TomTom One 130 GPS Help Me Screen"Help Me" Screen

The favorites list on the GPS can consist of places you might want to navigate to frequently. Favorites can be entered into the GPS the same way you enter destinations for routing. The manual does not mention how many favorites the GPS can store. There is no separate address book in the GPS, so the favorites doubles as the address book.

If you choose to browse the map, you get a map with a sliding zoom control. You can pan the map in any direction by dragging it in different directions with your fingers. You can use the sliding zoom control to control how much or how little you want to see. This map has a scale on it, so you can actually zoom out until the whole of the US is visible and use the scale to estimate distances between different locations.

The map corrections screen enables you to make modifications to your local copy of the map and POI database. You can change one-way and turn restrictions, add or remove POI's, change street names, change road speed limits and report other errors. You are encouraged to share your map corrections with other members of the TomTom Community. The corrections are verified and made part of the "approved" corrections, which you can choose to download to your own GPS at any time.

TomTom Services consists of several optional services that require accessories. They include weather, traffic, fuel price information, etc. Some of the services such as fuel price information require a subscription rather than a physical accessory.

The setup screens (there are 5 of them), as mentioned earlier enable you to change preferences in 25 different categories. You can change the color schemes used, the languages used, set up safety preferences (warn you when you drive over the speed limit, etc.), change the voice and its volume or mute it, change the map display, change the defaults used to calculate routes, set a password so that personal data is protected, set units, change keyboard preferences, etc.
TomTom One 130 Preferences ScreenSetup Screen

Most of these options are self-explanatory, so they require no great explanation. However, the user manual does not even mention these, letting users stumble upon them, and discover them by trial and error. A more detailed user manual that talks at least about the presence of these capabilities would have been helpful. On the setup screens is an option to take some basic tours of the functionality of the GPS unit. These tours are not very detailed, but they can help a novice get started on using the basic functionalities of the GPS. More extensive online help would have been ideal.

Most of screens on this GPS have a "Done" button that dumps you directly back on the map screen. There are no "Back" buttons to unwind the screens one by one if you navigated through a series of them from the map screen to where you currently are. This can be quite irritating, especially when setting up options, because every time you finish setting up an option, you are taken back to the map screen and have to repeat multiple keystrokes to get back to continue setting up options. There are a few screens though, where hitting "Done" takes you back to some intermediate screen rather than the map screen. Some consistency in user interface design with separate back and home buttons would have been helpful in avoiding possible user confusion and frustration.

When you switch off the GPS, and later switch it on, the GPS opens up at the screen where it was switched off. Thus, if you were in the middle of planning a route when you were called off and had to switch the unit off, you can resume right where you left off just by switching the unit back on.

The windshield mount uses a suction cup that is quite secure. However, the GPS is mounted on this suction cup using what TomTom calls "the EasyPort". This consists of a circular disk on the back of the GPS that fits tightly inside a circular ring on the mount. The GPS snaps into this ring securely, and is quite difficult to take out. Perhaps, I was not following the right technique for doing this, but it certainly seemed as if mounting and unmounting the GPS using this mount was quite difficult. Perhaps the advantage lies in the fact that the mount is much more secure than simple slide in/slide out kinds of mounts, but the chore of using this mount on a daily basis would tempt most people to leave the GPS mounted in their vehicle, which could be dangerous.
TomTom One 130 EasyPort MountEasyPort Mount

The dashboard mount simply consists of a plastic base that is supposed to be affixed to the dashboard with its own adhesive backing. The windshield mount's suction cup is then affixed to this plastic base. I did not test the dashboard mount since it is not clear how easy it would be to remove the plastic base off the dashboard once it is affixed there.


The Good
  • Excellent screen (good colors, good touch sensitivity)
  • Huge number of POI's, categorized for easy access and search. POI's have phone numbers making the GPS a mobile yellow pages
  • Ability to navigate to a set of coordinates entered as a latitude and longitude combination
  • Maps for all of the US and Canada
  • Ability to plan a route from A to B even though you are not actually at A
  • Ability to modify the map to a limited extent by blocking and/or unblocking roads, changing the direction on one-way streets, adding items to the POI database etc.
  • Ability to share your changes with a community of users and take advantage of the community's changes
  • Free map updates for 30 days (updates are issued quarterly and any updates after the first 30 days have to be paid for)
  • Very extensive set of options to fine-tune every aspect of use of the GPS. This can be an advantage if you are into tinkering with the gadget and getting the most out of it. It can be a disadvantage because it can be confusing and distracting
  • Multiple languages and voices to choose from
  • You have the ability to simulate driving on your route once you have put in your destination. This can be a useful trip-planning exercise when you are going somewhere unfamiliar over unfamiliar roads. The simulation speed can be varied from real-time to about 5 times as fast as real-time. Unfortunately, there is no way to just have the simulation go from turn to turn without navigating each road in full
  • Ability to navigate in pedestrian (no one-way or turn restrictions, avoid freeways) or bicyclist (all restrictions obeyed, but freeways avoided) mode
  • Basic functionality explained through quick function tours loaded on the GPS itself, and accessible through the setup screens
  • Information about first aid and car repair in the help section of the GPS
  • Address book to store frequently visited locations (the manual, however, does not mention what the capacity of the address book is, or even whether it has one)
  • Reasonably loud speaker that can be heard over road noise, radio, etc.
  • Choice of voices in different languages
  • Has emergency locator to find nearest police station, hospital, repair shop, etc, along with phone numbers
  • Power supply through USB port rather than proprietary plug (this may be important because third party power supplies are available for this architecture)
  • Ability to take real-time traffic and weather input even though it requires the purchase of a separate product
  • Can guide you to the cheapest gas prices around if you subscribe to the fuel price service of TomTom
The Bad
  • No street names in the spoken directions (this can be a big problem when there are cross-streets very close to each other, or if there are more than 2 streets at an intersection). The street names are on the GPS display, but never said out loud
  • Can not route to a series of destinations (only one destination at a time), but you can add a stopover destination to an existing routing
  • No announcement of next turn until you are within 1.5 miles of it
  • No nice-to-have features like parked car locator
  • No scale on map display. There is a scale if you choose to browse the map
  • The user interface can be somewhat confusing and intimidating because of the large number of screens and options
  • Does not come with carry pouch, etc. Thus if you want to carry it around with you rather than leaving it in your car, you have to get your own pouch or risk the screen getting scuffed or scratched because of being carried around in your pockets with other stuff like keys and coins
  • Easyport mount is a little tricky to take the GPS in and out of (even though the GPS is very secure once it is mounted in it)
  • Very basic user manual (though it is in 3 languages, making it more bulky than it needs to be). Most functions are not fully explained, or even mentioned. This makes the extensive capabilities of the GPS a bit of a liability because you have to guess what all the features do rather than having a definitive answer
  • The GPS provides you no way of retracing a particular route, either in the original direction or in reverse (so, for instance, if you discover a scenic route by accident and want to store that route to drive on once again, you can not)
  • No way to download previous routes or driving history (locations, routes, speeds, etc.) to your computer for record-keeping or analysis purposes

1 comment:

Brenda Holguin said...

Impressive review thank you very much.
I've been using tomtom one for my travels for a long time.
And now with the new updated maps it's much better.


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