TomTom 920 review

4 Comments | This entry was posted on May 21 2008

So after my ????????iPaq 310 experience I was pretty set on not getting burned on another GPS device. The easiest way I knew not to get burned was to buy the best available device. Obviously the two options that come to mind are either a TomTom or a Garmin. Garmins are known for being very customizable, almost too customizable for some, and the TomTom’s are just crazy easy to use. I was mainly looking at the TomTom One XL, 720, or the 920 for the TomTom options and the Garmin 650, 750, and 880 for the Garmins.  I ended up buying the TomTom for a couple of reasons.

1. The TomTom’s had all the features I needed. There were a few extra features the Garmin had, for example the parking locator, that the TomTom did not have but the basic functionality was all I needed. And in my experience the more features you have the more things are just bound to go wrong.

2. The TomTom’s were cheaper. And I don’t mean like $100 cheaper. The top of the line TomTom was $500 cheaper than the top Garmin.

3. I would probably have less tendency to break the TomTom. Being slightly less customizable I won’t be tempted to play with every button and make things more difficult to use. I don’t know why but this tends to happen with me.

So I got the TomTom 920 (obviously). I got this over the other two because it was still free, it has a FM transmitter, and it has the ability to get live traffic information through a special antenna or my phone data connection.

The first time I turned on the TomTom I knew already that this was going to be a good experience. Not only did the device get a GPS lock almost immediately but it did it while I was inside my apartment. I knew the device needed to charge so I was going to leave it plugged in its charger over night and play with it the next morning, but I noticed that it came with a car charger and a computer dock but no stand alone charger. While that was really odd I just went ahead and plugged in the dock to my computer and let it charge over USB. Since it was already plugged in, I thought I would install the software and see what it has to offer.

At first the software seemed pretty basic but one thing that I wasn’t expecting was how easy it was to use. As soon as I plugged in the TomTom with the software running I was it asked if I wanted to connect to the computer. I said yes and the device installed drivers and updated the maps. Hey that was cool! I didn’t have to do anything to get the most up to date maps. I also turned on the user maps corrections so I could get updated more frequently when there is construction or a road closed. This all was easy and I expected it from a top of the line GPS device. The parts I didn’t expect were the customizations.

I spent the next 3-4 hours customizing the voice on the device, changing the car icon, and setting up map colors. The voices were really cool. They had everything from user created voices and generic accented voices to Darth Vader and John Cleese. Some of the voices cost money however, John Cleese being the most expensive at $20. One thing to note about the voices is that the computer vocies will say street names but the human voices will say more generic things like street or motorway (the device has European maps so they say fun things like motorway instead of freeway or highway). The car icons was pretty fun too. Right now I fly around in the Starship Enterprise. The colors were pretty basic, along with the ability to make you own. I knew beforhand that most of these items existed because I did a lot of research on the TomTom website, but I didn’t realize how easy it would be to download and install the items or create any of my own voices, icons, colors, or maps. I still want to venture into making my own maps but I haven’t had the time. You are able to make a map of a area and then label areas for certian buildings/seating chart etc.

After all my customizations and actually taking it on the road a few times I found that using the device is a little less intuitive than I would have thought. I am able to get around in the device without problems but if I want to drive to a new location I am supposed to touch the map. While I understand that now, at first I was a bit confused by this. There also wasn’t any quick menu while navigating without setting it up in the options. I was able to add a few things to the quick menu but I can only add a handful of options that are already built into the device. One good sign is I have not had problems with people that have never used the device figuring it out with just a couple of taps on the screen. There have been a few occasions where I was driving and I had someone in the passenger seat find directions to a destination and they have been able to do so in just a few minutes.

Another great thing on the device is the route re-calculations. I was never able to get the iPaq to do that for me and the TomTom does it almost instantly. I do find that I need to use re-calculations more often than I did before. I think the TomTom isn’t quite as good at telling me exactly when I need to turn, but turning on one of the computer voices with street name announcements does help.

I have had 3 minor problems with the TomTom that I also thought I would share.

First is the SD card reader. All of my research said that you could put in a SD memory card with music on it and the TomTom would be able to play the music from there. I tried this multiple times and was unable to get the TomTom to even recognize there was a card plugged in. I may be doing something wrong, I still have yet to read the manual, but on the iPaq the music detection was instant when opening the music player.

The second thing is the FM transmitter. This is a fantastic feature that can broadcast turn-by-turn directions or music through your radio. The main problem I have had is the transmitter is not strong enough to make the audio come through without static. I have tried different stations and adjusting some of the power options but on my 2001 Civic and 1987 Mr2 the option is pretty unusable. The TomTom does still have a line out to plug it directly into my Civic which has a audio input, so this isn’t a big deal but it is somewhat of a bummer.

The third thing that doesn’t seem to work for me is my bluetooth headset. This could totally be a compatibility issue with just my headset but for some reason I cannot sync my Motorola H700 headset with the TomTom. There are two reasons I wanted to be able to do this. The first is the TomTom has the option to send different audio outputs to different devices. For example I want my music to play through the audio out and I want the turn-by-turn directions to go through my headset. While this option exists in the device, I cannot sync my headset to try it out.

Another a minor problem, still dealing with bluetooth, is that the TomTom has not been able to use my phone to get traffic information. I think this is mainly functionallity limitation of my phone (xv6800 with windows mobile 6.1) and not the TomTom and I still need to play with the settings to see if I am doing something wrong. One way or another I think I can get it to work I just need to set aside time to read the manual.

Overall I have been completely satisfyed with the TomTom. I have had two occations when it did not sucessfully get me to my destination but in both cases it was user error when I put in the address and not the device. I will be taking the TomTom on a road trip this summer to Colorado so we will see how it does on a long trip but I have no doubts it will continue to be my prefered way to get places I have never been before.

I would highly recommend a TomTom to anyone looking for a GPS device. And if you are looking to save a bit of money you can check out the One XL. It has the nice big screen but doesn’t have the traffic or FM transmitter.