Thursday, September 24, 2009

TomTom Go 930 Review

Here is my review and thoughts about  the TomTom Go 930 GPS.

My first GPS was the TomTom Navigator 5 for Palm which I used both on my Palm TX and my Palm Treo 650. I later tried a friend's Garmin GPS unit (entry level) on a trip and because my Palm-based GPS was 2 parts (a bluetooh GPS receiver/transmitter as well as my bluetooth-enabled Palm phone/PDA), I thought about getting a dedicated GPS unit.

Between my friend's Garmin GPS unit that I borrowed and my PalmOS TomTom Navigator, I personally preferred the TomTom. When the TomTom Go 930 GPS went on sale (probably because it was going to be discontinued for the TomTom Go 940 which was already available in Europe but not in Canada), I purchased it. I was looking for a full featured GPS and the TomTom Go 930 (at the time, it was the top of the line GPS unit by TomTom) offered almost everything that I was looking for. The TomTom Go 930T also interested me but after doing some research, I opted only to get the TomTom Go 930. The only difference between the "T" model and the "non-T" model is that the "T" model includes a traffic antenna to pick up the over the air traffic information. The traffic information obtained via the traffic antenna carries a monthly/yearly charge and is very limited in Canada (broadcasts only in certain cities and only during certain times). In Europe, receiving the traffic information is free with the traffic antenna.

When you purchase the TomTom GPS (or any GPS for that matter), make sure that if you turn it on, you update it on your computer. The reason for this is that the various manufacturers (TomTom, Garmin, etc.) give you a free update if the currently available map is later than the version on your device. It depends on the manufacturer but they generally will give you roughly 30 days from when the GPS is first turned on to get your free map update (if you don't already have the latest map on your device). After 30 days or so, if you didn't download the latest maps, you will be charged for the maps.

Included with the TomTom Go 930 GPS is the GPS unit itself (containing maps for Canada, the United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and parts of Europe), instructional booklets, the TomTom Home software for your PC on CD, the windshield glass mount, a piece to place the windshield glass mount on top of the dashboard (either by drilling into the dash or using some type of adhesive), a mini-USB car charger, a USB docking station (for charging as well as synchronizing/updating maps), and a bluetooth remote control with holder.

What I like about the TomTom Go 930 GPS is that it has a bluetooth remote control (requires 2 x AAA batteries). With the remote control, I can easily go through the menu options in order to pick my selection without having to reach for the touchscreen while driving.

The TomTom Go 930 GPS also has a built-in FM transmitter and as such the sound (driving instructions, MP3 files, or speakerphone) can be redirected to your car's FM radio. The user selects the FM frequency so all you have to do is select an FM frequency that isn't used in the area that you're in or visiting.

The TomTom Go 930 GPS is equipped with the bluetooth handsfree profile so when paired with a compatible bluetooth enabled cellphone, it can do things like read your SMS messages as they are received, display the incoming phone number on the display (when a call is received and if you have/subscribe to your carrier's CallerID service, act as a handsfree speakerphone, and access the carrier's data service from the phone (in order to get weather reports {free} or traffic conditions {paid service but not available in Canada}). With my SonyEricsson w300i, the TomTom Go 930 was able to do everything (read SMS, access carrier's data network, act as a handsfree speakerphone, etc.). However, with my Treo 650/680 phones, it was only able to act as a handsfree speakerphone. Testing it with a Nokia N95-4 8GB, I found that it wasn't 100% compatible with this phone and it would often not be able to connect sometimes even after it was paired. I also tested the bluetooth pairing with a SonyEricsson c510 and the TomTom Go 930 was able to do everything with this phone as well.

The GPS is also capable of text to speech and will pronounce the street names. In a French speaking province, some of the names sounded awkward but when I used the GPS in Ontario and in parts of the US, I found the street name pronunciation to be quite good. It can also use voice as a means to input certain instructions and addresses. I found the voice recognition to be extremely limited (not very accurate) as least with my voice except when my verbal instruction was just a "yes" or "no" answer. During my tests, the voice recognition was maybe 66% accurate (with my voice). I felt that it was accurate more than 50% of the time (but less than 75% of the time).

The TomTom GPS is also capable of playing MP3's from SD cards and via firmware update, it is also able to use SD-HC cards. The GPS can also view JPG files from the SD card.

The GPS allows users to make minor types of modifications with the maps such as changing the maximum speed on streets, changing the traffic flow of the street, modifying certain corners/intersections where only certain types of turns are allowed, and changing the name of the street. Once you make the changes, you can synchronize with your PC and other TomTom users' corrections/modifications. TomTom collects the map corrections and the TomTom Home software downloads them to your PC and synchronizes/uploads the changes to your GPS. You can specify if you want the other users' downloads or whether you want only the verified corrections to be uploaded to your device. The GPS also allows you to enter POIs (points of interest).

TomTom recommends synchronizing the GPS using the TomTom Home software at least once every 7 days. The reason for this is that the software uploads the GPS satellite locations for 7 days onto your GPS unit in order for the GPS unit to quickly lock onto the GPS satellites instead of trying to find the GPS signals which according to TomTom, each satellite transmits roughly every 30 seconds.

Besides some of the features that I've already mentioned, one of the things that I like about this GPS (unlike my Palm-based GPS and the Garmin entry level GPS) is that if I stray away from the planned route for whatever reason, the GPS will automatically adjust and recalculate the route based on my new location and direction. With my old Palm-based TomTom GPS, it would keep trying to get me onto the original route (and maybe the particular road was closed which was why I was making a detour).

There are a few problems that I noticed with the TomTom Go 930 (at least with my unit). None of these problems happened in the beginning so I believe that the problems were a result of a firmware/software upgrade that I applied to the unit. The first problem that I noticed is that occasionally, when I press the power button, the unit will not power on. To fix this problem, I have to reset it either by keeping my finger pressed on the button for about 10 seconds or using a small pin, I would have to push the reset button on the bottom of the unit. The second problem that I noticed is that occasionally, when manually resynchronizing the time with the GPS satellites (I like to do this approximately once a week), the synchronized time will be 30 minutes off. Normally, the unit should be accurate for the minutes and depending on the time zone, I would have to adjust the hours. This happens maybe about 5% of the time and I believe that it is dependent on the number of satellites that the GPS is currently locked onto (the more locked satellites, the better).

There is a feature on this GPS called Advanced Lane Guidance. Unfortunately this doesn't work in Canada. I did try it in the US (in Las Vegas) and it did work. Advanced lane guidance tells you which lane to be in using a graphical front-view of the street (generally highway). On a 4 lane expressway, instead of hearing the voice tell you to stay on the right lane, you will see a graphical front view picture showing you to stay on, for example, lane 3.

There is only 1 thing that I don't like about TomTom GPS units (since I live in the province of Quebec). I don't like one way that TomTom has implemented the street names. This happens on the TomTom Go 930 as well as on the 3 TomTom units/models that I've tested. This issue is evident in the province of Quebec because when entering the street name, you must know whether it is a street (rue) or avenue or boulevard or road since the street names are generally in French. In French, the description (street, avenue, boulevard, etc.) are at the beginning of the name. If you are looking for Decarie (in Montreal), you have to start typing "boul. Decarie." Typing only "Decarie" will not find the Decarie Boulevard (or boulevard Decarie).

There is also another feature called Enhanced Positioning Technology. This works relatively well but in no means is it perfect. Enhanced positioning technology allows the GPS to provide a "guesstmate" of your actual position when/if you drive into an area that suddenly loses GPS signal (maybe an overpass or driving in a city with many tall skyscrapers). It accomplishes this by sensing movement and speed. It then does a "guessimate" of your actual position. Once the GPS satellite signal is reacquired, the TomTom will show you your actual position.

If you have any questions/comments regarding my review on the TomTom Go 930, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section.

No comments:

Post a Comment