TomTom Go 950 Live £299.99
8th Jul 2010 | 10:45
A premium sat nav at a premium price
TomTom Go 950 Live: Overview
If TomTom sets the benchmark by which other sat navs are judged, then life for the competition has been even tougher since the Dutch company introduced its Go 950 Live flagship last September.
Slim, smart, powerful and packed with useful features, it's simply the best in class at what it does, but you have to pay for the privilege.
At £299.99 direct from TomTom, it's certainly far from cheap, although TomTom has attempted to sweeten the deal recently by offering one year's worth of free 'Live' services when you buy one, with subscription costs for subsequent years slashed by 50 per cent to £47.50.
So what do you get your money?
On the hardware side, the TomTom Go 950 Live includes a 11cm widescreen touch display with a resolution of 480 x 272 – the same as the Mio Navman 575 – with 4GB of internal memory and a microSD card expansion slot.
The unit is slightly narrower, but thicker than the mid-range Mio Navman 575, measuring 12.7 x 8.5 x 2.3cm and weighing in at 224g. The unit is accompanied by an active mount dock kit, which enables you to attach the TomTom Go 950 Live unit to your windscreen much more securely than before.
It also comes with a built-in mini-USB 2.0 port for charging up the TomTom Go 950 Live's three-hour battery using your car's 12v power socket.
Since there isn't a USB 2.0 port on the unit itself (it uses a proprietary connector), TomTom's also thrown in a dock that means you can sync it with your PC or Mac – software for both platforms is included.
Build quality is excellent and the matt finish on the TomTom Go 950 Live's screen makes it easy to see, even in bright sunlight.
The really exciting stuff comes in TomTom Go 950 Live's features, which are packed with useful, stress-saving stuff for drivers, whether you're a 24/7 motorway mile-muncher or a casual weekend driver.
TomTom Go 950 Live:Features and performance
In recent years, TomTom has banished the frivolous stuff – like music and movie playback – so it can focus on making the driver's life easier.
That means you get IQ Routes, which intelligently works out which route is best for you at a particular time of day based on info gleaned from other sat nav users.
You also get TomTom's range of Live services, which pack in everything from safety camera alerts to local petrol price comparisons and even the option to search for items on Google – just the job when that obscure restaurant you're after doesn't come up on TomTom's own list of local Points of Interest.
Other goodies new to the TomTom Go 950 Live include Frequent Destinations – a menu shortcut that enables you to call up places like your home, work or school without having to remember to retrieve it from your favourites list or dig though your Recent Destination history.
To be honest, we can't quite see what real advantage this gives you over saving such things as favourites.
And, seriously, if you can't remember how to drive from Home to Work, maybe you shouldn't be driving a car at all.
What really puts the TomTom Go 950 Live streets ahead of its rivals is the way the user interface marries the system's complicated feature set with the beautiful simplicity of its menu system.
The most frequently used features are the ones you come across first, with increasing levels of control and granularity opening up as you drill down through the options. If only every gadget was made this way.
Out on the road, the TomTom Go 950 Live proves itself up to the task as well. The rear-mounted mono speaker conveys voices loudly and cleanly with only minimum levels of distortion at the upper volume limit, while the voices instructions sound natural, not robotic like those on the Mio Navman 575.
Not that hearing instructions in a robot voice is completely out of the question – a recent deal with Lucasfilm now means you can listen to C3PO, Darth Vader and other Star Wars characters (though don't expect R2-D2 anytime soon).
You can give the TomTom Go 950 Live voice instructions, which works surprisingly well.
The only real problems you're likely to encounter are the same ones that bedevil any sat-nav system. The TomTom Go 950 Live can sometimes confuse a fork in the road for a left or right turn, something that's especially confusing when lots of little roads meet.
It can also be tripped up by the speed at which densely-packed streets whip past as the GPS gyroscope and Enhanced Positioning Technology struggle to pinpoint your exact location.
But these faults only serve to remind you that no sat nav was ever intended to be a replacement for both brain and common sense – sometimes you just have to look at the 2D/3D maps and figure out these things for yourself.
TomTom Go 950 Live: Verdict
The TomTom Go 950 Live is a timely reminder of why many road warriors hold them in such high esteem. This sat nav brilliantly balances genuinely useful features, ease of use and good levels of tweakable options, putting driver power in your hands, while also helping you along the way.
The TomTom Go 950 Live user experience. It's easy to understate how good it is – an almost perfection combination of hardware and software. If Apple made sat navs, they'd probably work like this.
Newly established TomTom staples like IQ Routes and HD Traffic make a massive difference to your stress levels whether you're heading off on holiday, munching the motorway miles to visit a client or just popping out to the shops.
The TomTom Go 950 Live gives you a huge level of control over the stuff that matters most: things like being able to set waypoints, getting quick access to alternative routes, setting travel itineraries and even letting you use Google to find obscure POIs.
£300 is a big stack of cash for a sat nav – even one as good as this – and you'd have to do a lot of miles to really justify your investment.
Other models in TomTom's current line-up make more sense for casual drivers, especially because many of the virtues of the TomTom Go 950 Live will still be present.
Road warriors shouldn't forget that an even higher-spec model – the TomTom Go 1000 Live – will be available by the end of the summer.