TomTom Go 520T

On Christmas Eve Laura apologised to me because the gift she had ordered for me online over two weeks previously had failed to arrive from Dixons. When she handed me a printout on Christmas morning with a picture and the tec specs of the TomTom Go 520T that was on it’s way for me I was more than happy.

The unit finally showed up on New Year’s Eve so and I spent much of the evening being an anti social geek and playing with my new toy.

The TomTom Go 520T looked like being exactly the sort of device I’d been waiting for, as well as being an Sat Nav it supports hands free calling, has an FM Transmitter (for playing your iPod or MP3 players tunes through your car stereo) and free traffic updates with the included RDS TMC receiver.

I hoped that this would mean that with this one device I would be able to do away with my Bluetooth GPS Receiver (the TomTom software never worked that well on my phone anyway), my Griffin Itrip Auto (iPod Transmitter) and my bluetooth headset that people complained was echoey and not very clear.

A few issues:

On the day the TomTom was due to be delivered I popped down to Halfords and picked up an iPod cable for it so that I’d be all set for listening to tunes as soon as I got my grubby mitts on it. Unfortunately I very quickly discovered that the TomTom only has one port for you to plug in peripherals, so you can have your iPod Cable OR the RDS TMC receiver. The other disadvantage of the TomTom iPod cable over the Griffin Itrip Auto is it doesn’t charge the iPod which could be an issue if you are on a longer journey.

I had issues connecting my phone to the TomTom, they paired perfectly for hands free calling but there is a problem with using Windows Mobile 5(AKU3) devices which prevents you from uploading your phone book to the TomTom or taking advantage of TomTom Plus services. I’ll tell you how I got round that in a later post.

TomTom Traffic

My TomTom came bundled with an RDS TMC receiver; I think Laura chose this version as I’ve been caught in some pretty nasty traffic delays on my commute over the last few months and frankly anything that could help me avoid them is a good thing. RDS TMC information is transmitted in what is effectively a sideband alongside Classic FM. Unfortunately coverage for the roads I use most often is shockingly bad. I managed to travel from my inlaws’ to home along the M4, M25, M23, A23 and A27 and only very briefly get any reception at the top of a hill on the M23 near the M25 junction. Not good. Having read a few different forums it seems that I am far from alone in suffering poor coverage. It seems that iTIS (the company responsible for the TMC transmissions in the UK) are trying to improve coverage by bringing other radio stations on board but in my opinion they are not moving fast enough; this image shows the transmitters (red current, green future) – there seems to be a gaping hole in the south east corner. I decided that despite the fact the TMC signal was rubbish I’d still like to receive traffic updates on my TomTom so signed up for the TomTom “Plus” Traffic service, this is a payed for service (about £25pa) which receives traffic data through your mobile. This (for the most part at least) does seem to work although it failed it’s first real test when it allowed me to end up in the back of a major queue after an incident on the A23 yesterdayevening. Fortunately I was right next to an exit and managed to dive off cross country to get home.

The good stuff:

It may sound like I really don’t like this device, but that isn’t true – it redeems itself with a number of good features.

TomTom have joined the web2.0 user generated content age by allowing users to share corrections to their maps using the imaginatively named “mapshare” system. I got to try this out the other day when TomTom tried to send me the wrong way up a one way street. A few taps of the screen later I had told TomTom exactly what the problem was and that I would like to share the data, once home I connected to my PC and the update was uploaded to TomTom using their TomTom home software.

Hands free calling works pretty well although it’s taken me over a week to work out how to adjust the speaker volume (hint: tap the bottom left corner of the TomTom screen); having the TomTom auto answer the phone after three seconds is also useful.I have suffered a couple of dropped calls which I never experienced with the Nokia headset. I’m not sure if this is down to the TomTom, the phone or the mobile network.

Overall I’m pleased with my new toy, it’s just a shame it didn’t live up to it’s original promise

Update  21 April 2008:

The RDS TMC reception seems to have improved a bit on my commute. I still can’t depend on always getting a signal – but it’s an improvement none the less