Amazon.com Review With an effective in-car navigation system at your side, you can say goodbye to the good old days of pulling over and asking directions. But designing an effective system, one that brings together the right mix of speed, accuracy, and simplicity has been a long, hard road for many manufacturers--leading many folks to stick with the human touch of the gas station attendant. The latest in-car GPS units deserve a serious look, though, especially by those who've sworn them off as too inaccurate, too complicated, and too expensive. The TomTom GO 910 embodies much of what's really great about the next generation of systems, and in many ways it's successful at making drivers feel as if there's a helpful guide along for the ride.
Detailed, pre-installed maps of the whole of Europe, the USA, and Canada offer seamless door-to-door navigation across half the globe. View larger.
The GO 910's intuitive interface and user-friendly touch-screen offer a great navigation experience. View larger.
When used with a compatible Bluetooth phone, the unit offers full hands-free functionality. View larger.
Optional TomTom Plus services offer safety camera warnings, real-time traffic and road condition information, and weather reports, as well as downloadable funny and famous voices. View larger.
Enjoy MP3s and Podcasts through the high quality speaker or via your car stereo. Load up image slideshows, too. View larger.
The heart of every GPS device is its receiver technology, and the TomTom GO 910 has the best in the business -- the highly sensitive SiRF Star 3 GPS chipset, which boasts fast satellite acquisition times, and extreme accuracy, even when you're driving through dense forests or tall buildings. Also under the hood is a 400 Mhz processor supported by 64 MB of RAM, which gives the GO 910's interface a zippy feel. An internal 20 GB hard disk is pre-loaded with maps and points of interest (POIs) for the US (including Guam and Puerto Rico), Canada, and Europe. Pre-loaded maps and points of interest are a big plus, allowing you to get going right out of the box. There's no fussing with memory cards and map uploads from your computer.
Weighing in at 12 ounces and measuring 4.2 x 3.1 x 2.5 inches, the GO 910 is about the size of a softball. TomTom is known for keeping things simple, and that's the case here; there are no buttons or other doodads on the front of the device -- just a big, bright widescreen (480 x 272 pixels) display that's controlled by touch. There's also a microphone for hands-free phone calls (more on this later) just above the display. A single button for power is placed on the top of the device, while a single speaker is placed on the bottom. There's a docking port here, too, which supplies power and data connectivity.
Installing the GO 910 couldn't be easier. A rotating suction cup mount attaches to the windshield and the GO 910 clips into it securely. Positioning the mount for easy viewing is a snap, and after some initial setup procedures you'll be up and running.
The mount accommodates an array of connections, including power, an external GPS antenna, an optional RDS-TMC traffic receiver for FM radio-based traffic updates, audio out, and a microphone connector. In addition to a car power adapter, The GO 910 ships with an external microphone for Bluetooth hands-free calls, as well as a 3.5 mm audio cable for connecting the unit to your car stereo.
While the GO 910 does have an internal rechargeable battery, it should be treated as a backup in most cases. Battery life was relatively short during testing--about 3 hours. The device also ships with a home USB docking cradle, as well as an AC wall charger. Using the included TomTom Home software on your PC, you can upload songs and photos to the GO 910, manage POIs, plan routes, purchase and manage additional TomTom services, and more.
The GO 910's easy-to-read display, logical menu and navigation functions, and excellent voice prompts bring the whole hardware and software package together nicely. You'll feel like you're using a tool intended for the job, not a piece of software cobbled together to run on generic hardware.
The navigation screen is made up of three quadrants: The main map display, which shows a three dimensional view of the road and maneuvers ahead; a distance and turn indicator section, which lets you know how far you have to go until your next turn; and a trip computer with odometer, time, and GPS signal information. The bottom of the display also lets you know the name of the street you're on.
The anti-glare widescreen display offers a clear 3D view of the road and maneuvers ahead. The screen uses a built-in sensor to adjust to changing light conditions.
Pressing on a quadrant brings up one of three additional interfaces. The most important is the main menu, activated by pressing the map quadrant. This brings up a group of big, friendly icons that let you enter a new destination, find alternative routes, plan routes, enter the image gallery and music player, activate mobile phone functions, and check traffic conditions, among other features. Pressing the trip computer quadrant lets you delve deeper into your current route, allowing you to view a simulation of the complete route, text-based directions, and detailed map views of the roads ahead. Lastly, pressing the turn indicator brings up a volume control for voice prompts.
Small plus and minus symbols in the upper corners of the screen allow you to zoom in or out of the 3D map view. While the symbols could be a bit larger and more clear, the design is a tradeoff, as their size means they don't get in the way of map information. If you have traffic information engaged, whether via wireless data connectivity, or via an RDS-TMC traffic receiver, a small traffic icon appears on the right side of the screen, alerting you of traffic tie-ups ahead. A quick press of the traffic info button in the main menu allows you to find routes with fewer snags.
Voice prompting is clear, concise, and accurate, always delivering directions for the next maneuver at the right time. This is a testament to the accuracy of the GPS hardware; the device knows precisely where you are, giving it the uncanny ability to tell you what you need to know when you need to know it. You can even choose a voice that suits you best, male or female, with UK, US, or Australian accents. It's a nice touch.
On the Road
Once your home address is entered into the unit and the GPS receiver locks onto a few satellites, you're ready to roll. Initial satellite acquisition was quick and painless, taking no more than a minute. Entering a destination is fairly straightforward. You can enter an address using an on-screen text entry method, choose a stored or recent destination, pick a point on a map, enter latitude and longitude, or choose a POI that's stored in memory.
The first trip with the device included a visit to a friend's house, then a trip to the post office. I entered the friend's address and off I went. Following the voice prompts yielded an efficient route--the route I would choose on my own--and it incorporated several lesser-known streets and shortcuts. All in all, a great first run. The trip to the post office was less impressive. I searched for the nearest post office using the GO 910's handy POI search tool and was confident all was well until the device asked me to take a turn I knew was wrong. Eventually, the device delivered me to an abandoned warehouse that, while in the same neighborhood as the post office, was clearly not the right destination. The likely cause is that the GO 910's POI database has some outdated or inaccurate information. I did test some other POIs and these were accurate, however.
The only other gripe I had about the device was that there is no clear way to end a navigation session. If the unit is still on and you leave a destination, it will continuously try to direct you back to the location, even as you get further and further away from it! The solution to this is to enter a new destination every time you leave an old one, but that's not how people operate all the time. Of course, you can also simply turn the unit off. But it will go right back to guiding you to your old destination as soon as you fire it up again.