TomTom Start 60 £169.99
7th Jun 2012 | 10:04
Sat nav gets a bigger screen but reasonable price
With the release of the Start 60 Europe, TomTom now lays claim to 13 different sat navs under four categories in car navigation alone.
That's a lot of GPS-powered devices, and with such a breadth of offerings from one manufacturer, the TomTom Start 60 Europe needs to offer something special in order to set itself apart from its brethren, let alone from the rest of the market.
The good news, on paper at least, is that the TomTom Start 60 Europe can be seen as the current pinnacle of sat nav devices for most drivers. It draws on the best bits of TomToms and other sat navs and throws them all into a bigger screen, while keeping the price tag at a reasonable level. There are no hidden subscription charges here, either.
The main selling point for the TomTom Start 60 is the screen - the 6-inch diagonal display makes a notable departure from the standard TomTom fare, which tend to measure 5 inches across for the more recent models, or 4.3 inches for older ones.
The display used by the TomTom Start 60 Europe is a 16:9 widescreen offering, measuring 132mm across by 80mm high. It isn't as big as the Navman Panoramic, which is a whole inch bigger, but in real terms you'd be hard pushed to notice the difference.
This extra screen space has enabled TomTom to up the resolution over previous models to a healthy 800 x 480 pixel display. This produces clearer text and images, and gives more room to display the information that is most useful.
The result is a sat nav that gives a clear indication of what you need to do on any given stretch of road, provides plenty of information on your journey and yet manages to stay uncluttered.
It is of course a touchscreen device, and while resistive screens wouldn't be seen dead on a decent tablet or smartphone, when it comes to sat navs they're fine - and this is one of the better ones we've used. Interacting with the screen doesn't require much force, but you won't be making accidental changes, either.
Sign up to get all the latest competitions straight to your inbox
Apart from the larger screen, the other physical feature TomTom is keen to promote is the mounting system. The TomTom Smart 60 Europe can be mounted on your windscreen or, thanks to an included adhesive disc, on your dashboard (if you've got a flat enough surface). The screen automatically flips to whichever way up the device is held, so there's no worries about having to get it the right way around.
The windscreen mounting system is the same as that found on the TomTom Go Live Top Gear Edition, which we found to be brilliant for that unit, but we're a little less convinced here.
The sheer size of the TomTom Start 60 Europe means that accessing the USB connector and the power button at the back of the sat nav is incredibly tricky when it's in place on the windscreen, since these are either side of the mounting system. It would be better if TomTom could mount these on the opposite side of the unit.
The suction cup system sticks well though, and if you have a big enough stretch of flat dashboard in your car, the alternative to attaching it to your windscreen is an interesting one and can give you more options for unobtrusive locating. We did find the arm on the Navman Panoramic a little more versatile, but it's not as compact.
The TomTom Start 60 Europe is attractive and convincingly robust in its styling, with a pleasing curve to the rear of the unit to keep the edges thin. We weren't sure that the standard 5-inch TomTom design would transfer to a large screen so easily, but as a whole the unit feels and looks great.
TomTom has a good reputation for its maps and software interfaces, and the Start 60 Europe makes for a great companion for any journey. Picking your destination, looking for points of interest, highlighting fuel stops and deciding whether you want the fastest or the most economical route are all handled logically and clearly.
When it comes to the maps, the clarity of the display and the accuracy of the maps mean that you can spot potential hazards and tight bends much easier than with previous sat navs we've looked at. Our driving style genuinely changed because of this, and since the display is so large, a quick glance is all it takes to see what's coming up.
Voice navigation is still important to any sat nav, of course, and here TomTom continues to set the bar. The default voice, Serena, is clear and precise, and while the more obscure B-roads can be a bit of a mouthful it doesn't break down into gibberish even with some of the odder place names. There are nearly 90 voices installed by default too, covering a range of languages, giving you plenty of choice when out and about.
Probably the most impressive aspect of the TomTom Start 60 Europe is the accuracy of the predicted time of arrival. This is thanks largely to data collected from TomTom's own IQ Routes technology - you'll get an indication of how much delay is involved on a given route at the set time of day, and you can adjust your route to ease or improve this. Even on a two-hour journey we hit the original arrival time to the minute, despite traffic queues, traffic lights and the like.
Interacting with the interface is straightforward, too. Tap the centre panel of the display, and you can quickly change the volume level or mute it entirely, which can be useful if you've got little ones about to nod off, or you know the route well enough to not need audio cues. It's worth noting though that the volume is linked to your speed by default as well, which means it gets a little louder the faster you go.
By default the screen shows a 3D representation of your journey, zooming into areas as you slow down, so that you can see more detail when you need it, which is useful as you reach an unfamiliar destination.
Tapping the bottom-left navigation panel switches this view to a top-down 2D view, which again can be useful in certain situations. We do wish the pinch and stretch motions that are familiar to some smartphones would work here - instead you have buttons to zoom in and out, but since it's a mode we tended not to use much when out and about, it's certainly not a deal breaker.
One of the selling points for the TomTom Start 60 Europe is the access to the free daily map changes that are harvested from the TomTom map share community. These include updates to speed camera placements (or more accurately where mobile speed cameras have been spotted, since static cameras are becoming less common).
This information can be added yourself easily too - if you spot a speed camera, you can tap the icon on the main screen to quickly add it to the database. There is a problem with this, though, and with it turned on we were getting alerts every few minutes, yet we couldn't see any static or mobile speed cameras. This in turn meant that we started ignoring such alerts, and eventually simply turned off this feature.
It isn't completely useless, though, because you can selectively turn on warnings for static, mobile, traffic light cameras and more in the settings. Getting the right balance here will take some fiddling depending on where you live, and it's a shame it isn't a little more intelligent about how many of these warnings are relevant, but with some care this could be really useful.
You will need to connect the TomTom Start 60 Europe to your computer using the supplied USB cable in order to download the latest updates, maps and other software, but the process is straightforward enough and the web-based interface is clear enough of your options. This same cable is used to connect to the standard in-car charger too, which is useful.
When connecting the TomTom Start 60 Europe to your computer, it's worth noting that the unit ships with a guarantee from TomTom that if there are any new maps released within 90 days of first using it, then you can download these for free.
These aren't the location updates, but the core set of maps that TomTom devices work off - and seeing as some parts of eastern Europe are still having their road maps updated, this is a good addition. Be warned though, these can be quite chunky - a hefty 2.8GB in our case.
Overall, there's a lot on offer from the TomTom Start 60 Europe, but can it hold its own against a crowded market of sat navs?
The screen is so large that you can genuinely see hazards ahead easily and clearly. You won't just be driving by voice with this unit.
It makes stunningly accurate arrival time predictions. The TomTom Start 60 Europe's ability to take into account road conditions and average travel speeds means that your anticipated arrival time barely shifts even over country-wide journeys.
The voice navigation is probably the clearest currently in the market, with spoken street names, clear instructions for junctions and lane changes and plenty of notice about up and coming junctions or roundabouts without being repetitive.
For such a large screen and a healthy feature set, this sat nav offers good value for money, particularly given that the maps cover Europe and include a sizable map update within 90 days of purchase.
The map share community updates are a nice addition, although they do take some tweaking to make sure you get the warnings that matter most to you.
The suction mechanism may be neat on the tinier models, keeping everything self contained so you can take the unit with you, but it's more unwieldy here - making it difficult to unclip the sat nav from your windscreen and access the on/off button.
The constant pinging of potential speed camera sites undermines the usefulness of the Map Share community feature. This needs tweaking so as not to be overloaded with warnings.
The TomTom Start 60 Europe is easily one of the best sat navs we've reviewed. The large screen, clear navigation and accuracy of the maps makes it a joy to use. The voice navigation, complete with spoken street names, is calm and clear, and it's easy to switch to a different voice if you're not happy.
We did find the mounting a little fiddly, and would have prefered the power button to be allocated on the opposite edge to the mounting system, but you will get used to this with time. The camera warnings from the map share community need some fiddling with to get right as well, although again it isn't too difficult to get this right over time.
Overall, these minor negatives don't upset the fact that this sets the standard for car navigation right now.