TomTom Start £89.99
18th Jan 2010 | 12:25
Nice and easy does it with this new entry-level sat nav
It's Saturday, the city is choked with traffic and you're in a hurry. There are juggernauts to the left of you. Cars full of shoppers to the right. You're queuing in the middle lane and there are four sets of traffic lights, two speed cameras and a coach full of gurning kids in front of you. Oh for the freedom of the open road.
You'll get there. And soon.
Stuck to your windscreen is the new TomTom Start sat nav - a back-to-basics sat nav that's blessed with all the features you actually need and very few you don't. A grin spreads across your face. You're actually starting to enjoy yourself.
As you negotiate the roundabout you think back to how your journey started.
COMPACT DEVICE:The TomTom Start is small, slim and very square
Straight out of the box, the TomTom Start put you in a good mood. It's slim, small, with a 4:3 colour screen and a great new windscreen mount that's easy to attach and keeps your sat nav secure.
OOPS:The road's empty now. But that's because all the cars roared off leaving us still taking pictures. The man behind wasn't best pleased!
On the back of the TomTom Start you find a grey recessed power button and underneath a USB port that not only recharges the built-in battery when you plug the supplied 12v adaptor in the cigarette lighter in your car, but also lets you sync the TomTom Start with the TomTom Home app on your Mac or PC.
We said it was simple, and it is. The TomTom Start's home screen presents just two main options - Plan Route and Browse Map.
TAKE ME HOME:The TomTom Start's home screen is simple and to the point
You hit the touchscreen and pick your route: type in the city, then the postcode, a physical address or a Point Of Interest (POI).
CLEVER SIMPLICITY:Finding your way from A to B couldn't be simpler
By the time you've done that, the TomTom Start has already locked on to the network of GPS satellites whooshing around the planet above your head. Which means you're very nearly good to go.
Well, in the UK and Ireland at any rate. Because this is an entry-level sat nav, you don't get any of the overseas maps found on other higher end models from TomTom.
You do have the option of buying them via TomTom Home though, which is handy if you fancy a driving holiday abroad.
Along the bottom of the home screen are five more icons, giving you more choices:
Switches the volume on and off.
Switches the display from day to night mode.
Pulls up a map and a list of emergency options that you can either drive to or call - AA breakdown or the nearest police station, hospital, doctor, dentist and so on.
EMERGENCY HELP:Calm down, dear. Help is only a phone call or short drive away
Takes you deeper into the TomTom Start's settings, enabling you to set the clock, change the language, choose from a range of built-in 'voices', colour schemes, and so on, as well as set your 'home' base and favourite destinations.
Within that is an Advanced mode that lets you unleash your sat nav geek and tweak keyboard preferences, enable/disable safety alerts, switch maps and so on.
FINGER FRIENDLY:The touchscreen keyboard is easy to use
But even here you don't get too fazed - the menus and sub-menus are beautifully laid out with large colourful icons and big text labels.
That's your lot.
You can't watch movies, ogle your photos, listen to music or any other feature-creep nonsense that bedevils many sat navs today. And that's a good thing. Trust us.
Anyway, so where are you - the roundabout? Nope, you cleared that ages ago. The pinging you hear, by the way, is for the built-in safety alerts. Speed cameras in other words. Works well, doesn't it?
The TomTom Smart also lets you switch between 2D and 3D map views - even if keeping both eyes on the road and another on the TomTom Start's screen appears to leave you one eye short. The voice prompts help, of course, but on the Start they're tinny and a little distorted.
CONFUSED?A roundabout. Wonder how magic it is
It's at this point that the TomTom Start starts to get confused. The map shows you a right turn, but the voice tells you to go left, and on roundabouts it suddenly forgets how to count.
You know this because the voice is telling you to take the fourth exit on the big roundabout you've been going around and around for two minutes. But there are only three. One. Two. Three. Erm. One. Two. Three. See?
JUST RE-CALCULATE:Don't like the way your journey's taking shape? Here's your get-out clause
To be fair, tackling the confusion of city streets is enough to trip up even the most experienced driver let alone a disembodied navigator trying to marry the maps in its database with the satellites tracking your little car. The TomTom Start's got you this far. Time for some common sense.
You pull over. Stick the handbrake on and pick a different route. 'Do you want to leave where you are? No or Yes?' asks TomTom. If only it could read your mind.
ARE YOU SURE?:Do you want to leave where you are? Yes please!
You hit Yes. The countryside and the open road await.
Now there's one less thing for you to worry about – The Start's stripped back interface and feature count makes it a joy to use. It's also easy to fit to your windscreen and stays there. You can even opt for swappable, colourful covers, if that's your bag.
Our biggest bugbear is that Start can sometimes get confused when whipping around busy city streets – but that's not always the fault of the hardware. The Start could definitely do with a better quality loudspeaker – the current one manages to make voices sound both distorted and tinny.
Given the price and its drop-dead simple feature set the TomTom Start's quite an accomplishment. We'd rather have this than some of the other more complex sat navs frankly. It really is that good.
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