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MacFixer, the iPhone, iPod, and iPad specialists

REVIEW: TomTom GO x50 LIVE (550, 750, 950)

25th March 2010

TomTom GO 550by Darren Griffin

 

Introduction
TomTom's x40 series (540, 740, 940) was received to critical acclaim back in Aug 2008.

 

Following on from the very popular x20 and x30 model ranges the x40 needed to be very good if it was to persuade existing users to dip into their savings and upgrade. And TomTom's LIVE services did just that.

 

Just over a year later, TomTom announced the x50 range (550, 750, 950). Although the external design remained unchanged, the finish has been subtly altered and the software upgraded to the latest Navcore release, version 9.

 

The x50 range is fully LIVE services enabled as you would expect with the subscription based service providing access to HD Traffic, Google Search, Fuel Prices, Weather and Safety Cameras.

 

TomTom claim the x50 range "calculates a route faster than ever before and ensures drivers are ready to go within seconds". Voice Command has been improved as has the speaker and of course, the latest maps are included.

 

The latest incarnation of Navcore adds an 'eco route option to the route calculation screen and with petrol approaching £1.20/litre and set to increase another 3p thanks to the Budget that could prove very useful.

 

But it's not all win-win. Unusually in an upgrade, TomTom have chosen to remove some of the features that were popular in the x40 range such as FM Transmitter and MP3 playback.

 

550 Box ShotIn the Box

For our review we had access to the entry level GO 550 and the range topping GO 950.

 

Unlike the x40 range whose feature list proved to be very confusing, the x50 has been simplified with the only difference between models now being the amount of on-board memory and the installed map.

 

The 550 is the single country model with 1GB of on-board flash memory and, in our case, the United Kingdom and Ireland map. The 750 increases the on-board memory to 2GB and has the Europe map installed and the 950 has 4GB and adds a North America map as well.

 

All models come with the same list of accessories in the box. You will find the active dock and a 12/24v cigarette lighter charger for in car power. Also supplied is a 'Connect' cable, a cable with a USB plug on one end and the x40/x50 dock connector on the other. This allows you to charge and update your device from a computer.

 

Also supplied is a quick start guide. Unlike previous versions, the supplied equipment is standard across all the x50 models. x40 models used to come with a desk dock but this is now relegated to the extra cost accessories option list. If you want one, you'll have to pay extra for it.

 

Active DockChargerConnect Cable

Active Dock, miniUSB Charger & Connect Cable

 

Anyone upgrading from an x40 device will be pleased to hear that the unit is identical in size and shares all the same connectors as the x40 before it. So any existing cradles and accessories will continue to work with the new model.

 

HD TrafficLive Services

TomTom's LIVE Services line-up remains unchanged with HD Traffic, Safety Cameras, Fuel Prices, Google Local Search, and Weather.

 

All the x50 models include 1 month's free subscription to LIVE services but TomTom have a current promotion which bundles 1 years access worth £95 out of the box.

 

The relative importance of each facet of the service is very much down to the individual user. Personally I find HD Traffic and Google Local Search to be the most useful with Fuel Prices being of only occasional benefit and weather and buddies rarely used. The TomTom safety camera data (supplied by Road Angel in the UK) is easy to use but the quality of the data continues to raise concern.

 

HD Traffic has had its ups and downs. When it works it is the best example of floating vehicle data available but the service has seen a number of outages and on a number of occasions I have received no warning of traffic issues on my route only to be faced with 3 lanes of traffic at a standstill. So clearly there are still a few bugs that need ironing out.

 

Overall it works well and is certainly a nice service to have when undertaking a lengthy journey. Being able to plan your route and then see an overview of any incidents on route whilst you sip a cup of tea in the comfort of your home is lovely.

 

Google Local Search is also useful and can be invaluable when looking for an address that is not catered for by a POI. Need to find a shopping mall, or a cinema? A quick visit to the Google Search screen will have the address for you in a few seconds and it can then be automatically set as a destination.

 

In-Use

The active dock remains unchanged from previous versions although it is now the standard version with mini-USB only, no aux-out or iPod Connect facility included.

 

It has proved a reliable dock and is simple to install and secure to the windscreen with a quick turn of the rubber wheel around the outside of the base to secure.

 

Navcore 9 sees a number of changes and improvements although not all will be met with approval.

 

Map Display

 

When you start up the device for the first time you are presented with the usual preference requests, language, 12/24h time and voice guidance options. You will also note a new addition, an option to configure three destinations that you use regularly i.e. Work, School etc so that you can select them with only a few taps of the screen, a nice touch.

 

Regular destination prefs Regular destination prefs

A new feature, create a list of regularly used destinations

 

The main map display screen has had a refresh too. Now the main information bar running along the bottom is split into three distinct sections.

 

On the left is speed, compass direction and time. In the middle are the turn instructions and distance to next turn whilst on the right is displayed your ETA, time of arrival and distance to destination.

 

The new information bar

 

Each section of the info bar has another function as well. Tap the left hand section to get the volume adjust bar and to hear the last turn instruction repeated. Tap the middle section to switch between 2D/3D view modes. When no route is planned the middle section shows the 2D/3D buttons as shown below:

 

Info Bar

 

Tapping the right hand section pulls up the route overview page:

 

Route Overview

 

The overview page has a 'LIVE' tab which allows you to an at a glance view of the traffic situations on your planned route.

 

The changes are minor but are welcome improvements. All the information is logically displayed and presented in an easily digested format. It's one of the features I like most about TomTom that all the information is displayed on the map display at all times in a way that neither clutters the screen nor results in tiny fonts that cannot be read.

 

HDTRasffic Info StripAs before, HD Traffic information is presented in a small strip running up the right-hand side of the display. The strip displays all the incidents on your planned route with your departure (or current location once moving) at the bottom and your destination at the top.

 

In the example on the right here you can see there are three incidents on our route.

 

The incident flag shows you that the first issue is queuing traffic, 39 miles from our current position and it is estimated it will add 2 minutes to our journey time.

 

You will note that there are a further two reported issues affecting our route further ahead and again, queuing traffic. At the top is a flag that shows the total delay for all the incidents on our route, in this example, 16 minutes.

 

Tapping the HD Traffic info bar pulls up the HD Traffic page:

 

HDTraffic Menu

 

The map colours have also seen an update with the colours being much warmer and easier on the eye in my opinion.

 

Voice Control has been much improved in this release and if that is something you use a lot then you'll be pleased to hear that it works much more effectively than in earlier versions. Personally I don't see the point in such a facility when it requires you to press the screen to activate it.

 

The rest of the software is all very familiar to users of other TomTom's. Despite TomTom's claims about improved route calculation speeds I found it could be sluggish on occasion even when calculating relatively short local routes. It is also particularly slow when re-drawing the Traffic Map and overlaying all the HD Traffic incident data.

 

The removal of a music playback facility on the 950 is clearly a move to reduce costs. Similarly, without the facility to play music, an FM Transmitter becomes surplus to requirements (and indeed possibly illegal). Whilst many of us have iPod's, the facility to load up a memory card with some MP3's was popular despite TomTom's belief that it was rarely used but the need to keep the shelf price low has meant it is no longer available. In the end I agree that it is much better that these devices concentrate on navigation.

 

The only media options now remaining are a document reader and photo gallery, both rather pointless.

 

I only briefly tested the hands free facility as I am of the belief that mobile phones should not be used when driving full stop. But for the purposes of the test I paired my Blackberry and made a test call. Voice quality was good, the other end reported my voice was acceptably loud with only minimal engine/road noise etc.

 

Menu Screen 1Menu Screen 2

 

Menu Screen 3

 

Voice Command Eco Route


Conclusion

TomTom's user interface has always been a model of user friendliness. They got it so right from the very first release that subsequent updates have been able to offer little more than new features. It is still seen as the benchmark against which all others are compared.

 

As for the x50 hardware, it's well made, nicely designed and svelte enough to slip into a pocket or handbag without any issues. The dock works well, it's easy to attach the device and similarly simple to remove so full marks there.

 

Points were deducted for the removal of MP3 playback capability and the loss of FM Transmission in the higher end 950 model. Personally I never had much success with any FM Transmitter and if I want to play digital music I have my iPhone/iPod hooked up the car stereo.

 

The software features offer a great set of services, HD Traffic still has some way to go but has come on in leaps and bounds since it was first released. Google Local Search is a boon when you need to locate an address that is not covered by the pre-installed POIs.

 

I have purposely not covered the safety cameras as we will not be seen as unbiased in this area. I will simply say that despite TomTom's purchase of Road Angel data for the UK, there are still some very surprising omissions and errors.

 

In conclusion then, another very good product from TomTom, still the best user interface available and some very useful services from the LIVE subscription. if you are in the market for a new satnav then this ticks all the boxes. If however, you already own an x40, this is not an upgrade but at best a side-step. Keep your x40 and update the maps instead.


Specification

 

Dimensions   127 x 85 x 23mm
Display   4.3" wide screen
Display resolution   480 x 272 pixels WQVGA
Weight   224g
Battery   Rechargeable - up to 3hrs quoted life
Memory 550 1GB internal flash plus ext microSD card slot
  750 2GB internal flash plus ext microSD card slot
  950 4GB internal flash plus ext microSD card slot

 

 

References

Manufacturers Web site http://www.tomtom.com
Pocket GPS Contributor

Darren Griffin

   
Forum Comments:

 

 

Comments
Posted by dougproctor on Thu Mar 25, 2010 7:04 pm Reply with quote

I swop or sell my GPS units like the wind but this one feels like it is going to stay. Well, for a while anyway. Have had the 720, 730, 740 and now this and they all get better and better.
The biggest jump for me has been in Traffic. I regularly travel through Hindhead and we know what happens there. With all my previous TT's, the RDS TMC data was never right and was just ignored. With the 950, it told me there was a traffic jam and it counted down the miles and was spot on where it started!
I have also used the Google search and, when working, is an excellent addition to the unit's services.
An all round excellent unit with, I believe, free 12 months Live services if it is still on.
Doug Wink


Returned to a proper Garmin although still have Co-Pilot on a Galaxy S3!

 
Posted by Darren on Thu Mar 25, 2010 7:15 pm Reply with quote

I presume you have an x50 now but what persuaded you to upgrade from the 740?


Darren Griffin - Editor

 
Posted by dougproctor on Fri Mar 26, 2010 8:23 am Reply with quote

Hi Darren,
I probably had about three sat navs between those two! I had a Becker Z205 before the 950 but just fancied the Live Services. As I said, the standard RDS-TMC is pretty rubbish and have been caught out on numerous occasions and in the end, it was ignored as the information being so out of date.
Probably tried out most brands although not all models of sat nav and always come back to TomTom although mine has a Garmin map overlay so have the best of both worlds!! The Becker was a bit of a change from the usual but support was very patchy to say the least. At least TomTom will answer you although they may or may not redress your problems.
Doug
Wink


Returned to a proper Garmin although still have Co-Pilot on a Galaxy S3!

 
Posted by Darren on Fri Mar 26, 2010 8:36 am Reply with quote

Ok, let me re-phrase the question then....

What made you drop the 740 which had LIVE services, only to return to the 950?

And what is a Garmin map overlay?


Darren Griffin - Editor

 
Posted by nickjwhite on Fri Mar 26, 2010 9:16 am Reply with quote

Hey...It's great to see that there are people out there with money to burn. A new SN every time one comes out? and a few others in between?
I am still using my original Go, which I have to say has never given me any trouble at all for many years. The maps get updated 4 times a year and it still does what it says on the tin.
That said...I would sell my soul for a x50, but Mrs Nick thinks we should spend the little we have on such irrelevancies as food and council tax etc. That's women for you.
Anyone with loads of wonga want to sell me their x40 for a couple of pints and a kiss (if you are female)?
I will continue to covet an x50... and thanks Darren for not only excellent reviews, but for a fantastic service provided by your team on cams etc.
Nick


 
Posted by karzi on Fri Mar 26, 2010 9:33 am Reply with quote

Nice little review and to the point.
I think the question is, why did they bother to release an X50 in the first place, apart from the software, it is a backwards step.
Almost makes me loose a little respect in TomTom as a company to be honest, really why bother with the hardware refresh?
They should have made the device faster and slimmer with smoother graphical refreshing , I think my IPhone 3gs is actually quicker.


 
Posted by Darren on Fri Mar 26, 2010 9:49 am Reply with quote

karzi Wrote:
Nice little review and to the point.
I think the question is, why did they bother to release an X50 in the first place, apart from the software, it is a backwards step.

Indeed it is. But every company has to continually release new product in order to generate income.

There is very little profit to be made from updates to existing hardware and so the cycle continues. But yes, the x50's are a retrograde move in hardware terms.

But MP3 functionality in the 940 was bug ridden and I'm told that the load that IQ routes places on the processor means it would have been even more flakey if it had been offered on the 950; and so it was deemed much simpler to remove.

I'm no fan of all these non-satnav add-ons. Picture viewers, MP3 playback, text readers etc. They're used by only a small fraction of the user base and I'd far rather they concentrated on the core functionality and getting that right.


Darren Griffin - Editor

 
Posted by Lui-G on Fri Mar 26, 2010 10:11 am Reply with quote

I've owned TomTom on a Palm T3 for a long time, only to then move onto TomTom on my Nokia N95.

The move to the N95 was a backwards step (no touchscreen), but at least I always had it with me, and could get traffic updates without tethering.

Late last year, I decided to finally buy a 'real' TomTom.

I bought the 930T - to avoid LIVE monthly payments and get the Traffic data I was paying for, for free.

Kept it for a week and sold it on. - RDS NEVER worked despite having the areal in different positions, at home, at work, around the M23 and M25... I also somehow managed to buy Traffic updates for the device TWICE - yet they never activated! - oh and also, in the process, accidentally bought their traffic cams database - ironic since I use PocketGPS. Oh and the Map up-to-date promise DIDN'T work and told me I had to buy the latest maps, but had to buy the 1 year update service! - this was another bug in the software.

So I decided to buy the 940, but then the x50 had just been announced, so I waited and bought a 750 as soon as it was available.

Due to the hassle I had with the 930T they exchanged all my add-on purchases for the 930T into Live service, so I ended up getting about 1.5 years LIVE services & Map updates for 2 years.

So, is it nice? - Yes, I like it. The sound quality (compared to the Palm T3 and Nokia N95) is TERRIBLE. Getting LIVE services & Google search as i walk to my car is brilliant.

The touchscreen is a little TOO sensitive - compared to the Palm T3 version. Sometimes pressing on one item, it selects the next screen's item too.

I use it with the bluetooth remote - as my windscreen is too far away to reach comfortably - and here the voice control can be a nice feature. Also, having a tactile interface (the remote), then you can navigate through the menus without taking your eyes off the road.

Will I sell it on when I get an iPhone this Summer? - Most probably, now that the iPhone TomTom offers the same features (LIVEServices), and at a more flexible rate since I don't need 24/7 coverage. Although I will miss the remote feature.


 
Posted by Juniper on Fri Mar 26, 2010 10:38 am Reply with quote

I have had a TomTom One v1 for ever. I am seriously thinking about the 750 (though only really tempted because of the free 12 months offer on the Live services). Is the rest of the device that much better than the One?
I am not interested in MP3, text, picture viewing - just Nav.
Intrigued by talk of the remote control in the last comment...


 
Posted by Darren on Fri Mar 26, 2010 10:41 am Reply with quote

Juniper Wrote:
I have had a TomTom One v1 for ever. I am seriously thinking about the 750 (though only really tempted because of the free 12 months offer on the Live services). Is the rest of the device that much better than the One?

Slightly larger screen but not massively better.
Quote:
I am not interested in MP3, text, picture viewing - just Nav.
Intrigued by talk of the remote control in the last comment...

The Bluetooth remote is an extra cost option. I would have suggested the XL LIVE but that does not have a remote option.

750's are very cheap at the moment, see here.


Darren Griffin - Editor

 
Posted by DeLorean on Fri Mar 26, 2010 10:55 am Reply with quote

A great Darren review, thanks Smile

I’ve previously owned a 300, 500 and currently a 910.
The winning feature for me was the windscreen docking mount.
Plonk it on and off you go (hopefully).

However the x10 models were initially plagued with issues surrounding the windscreen mounting shoe.
Personally found the 910 heavy and wobbly, so waited in anticipation for the next range.
It arrived and what a nice form factor… but the windscreen docking shoe had disappeared!
TomTom’s winning feature (for me anyhow) had gone!

Friends buying subsequent series were constantly complaining about having to connect the power, RDS-TMC and external antennas connectors separately.
They looked scruffy with wires trailing all over the place whereas mine could be cunning routed through the dashboard as there was no need to disconnect them.

So I stuck with my 910...it went up in smoke and melted it’s case…I had it fixed…then the hard disk failed…I had it fixed again…but I still persevered with it!

Then after years of waiting the x40 range appeared and the windscreen docking shoe was back and looked the business!

I agree that MP3 playback and the photo gallery features are a little pointless (I’m sure other would disagree), but I personally find the document reader useful for displaying notes & simple language dictionaries as I use my 910 extensively in mainland Europe.
The 910 can display HTML documents which is a bonus (sorry I don’t know about other models).

I think the next time my 910 packs up I’ll call it a day.
Hopefully this will coincide with a 950 price drop or special offer Wink

A quick question?
Does the live subscription allow roaming and its use in mainland Europe?


>> Currently using a TomTom Go 910, 710, TomTom for Android & Trumpion TR-G1 <<

 
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