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TomTom 940 Live

 
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DaveMatthews
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Joined: Dec 25, 2004
Posts: 221

PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 12:06 pm    Post subject: TomTom 940 Live Reply with quote

Overall score: 3.5 / 5


Before I begin this review, I will provide some background on my SatNav "history" as my thoughts on the 940's strengths and weaknesses are partly formed by comparison with systems I have possessed in the past...

In November 2004 I purchased the (then top-of-the-range) Navigon Mobile Navigator 4, which was a PDA-based package that came with a Bluetooth combined GPS and Traffic Message Channel (TMC) receiver. In its day this was an excellent system only let down by a lack of map updates from Navigon.

Sadly Navigon's reputation took a nosedive with subsequent versions of Mobile Navigator, mainly because of abortive changes to their Traffic Message Channel (TMC) implementation for the UK and hapless Customer Support, I decided to look elsewhere and plumped for NavMan's S90i in October 2007. I had not anticipated "decommissioning" that so soon! Although excellent in many ways, it was hampered by myriad bugs and design flaws in its software which rendered it unusable on long and/or complex journeys. NavMan's bloody-minded refusal to address any of them ultimately consigned it to the dustbin.

This brings us to the TomTom 940 Live, which I acquired in February 2009...



Physical design and materials quality

The unit is physically well-designed. The back of the case is fabricated from a high-quality, durable rubber compound which houses a large loudspeaker grille. Overall the 940 has a supremely solid, "chunky" feel but complemented with comfortable, "pocket-friendly", rounded edges. (The NavMan unit feels positively cheap in comparison!). Score: 5 / 5.


Windscreen mount

The windscreen cradle is a simple and reasonably effective design. The 940 unit attaches to it easily with an assuring "click" and a large button is used to detach it. The adherence of the suction cup is immense - even if using a heated windscreen. The assembly does, however, tend to vibrate on all but the smoothest of roads. More on this later.

With the shortness of the "arm" and steeply-angled windscreens of most modern cars, you will probably find placing the unit in the centre bottom of the windscreen will render it physically out of reach. I place mine about halfway up the windscreen next to the driver's A-pillar.

The mount can be awkward to remove from the windscreen after a long period of time. The three pull-tabs on the suction cup are too small to grip. The knack seems to be to hook one's fingertips under all the tabs simultaneously to prise the cup away from the screen. While the design is certainly not poor, TomTom needs to refine it.

Score for windscreen mount: 3 / 5.


Boot-up

Boot-up time is about ten seconds and there is the option to omit the usual "nag" screen that warns you of the potential dangers of operating the unit while driving. Score: 5 / 5.


GPS signal acquisition

My very first GPS signal acquisition took around two minutes. Subsequently the unit has always picked up the satellites in under ten seconds, providing you are located in the same place that you were when you previously switched off the unit, otherwise you need to give the it between 20 and 30 seconds. The 940 boasts what TomTom calls "Enhanced Positioning Technology" for when you lose the GPS signal such as driving through a tunnel. In my limited experience of relying of this, I have to say that it doesn't work quite as well as expected and tends to become confused! Score: 4 / 5.


Screen quality

Overall the screen is clear and easy to read and responds accurately to touches. However it exhibits a tad more reflection than I would expect from a modern SatNav system, which is particularly problematic if the sun is shining through the windscreen. The screen is bordered by a shiny black plastic surround which not only reflects but can distract the driver due to the aforementioned vibration. Score: 3 / 5.



Specifying a Destination and route plotting

There are myriad ways in which to specify a destination and, as you would expect with a modern SatNav system, this means right down to a specific street and house number, if you wish. Additional search options includes 7-character postcodes for the UK, the geographic centre of a city/town/village (though the 940 simply refers to all such conurbations as a "city"), a previously-saved "Favourite", a Point of Interest ("POI"), a latitude/longitude reference (ie degrees, minutes and seconds) or simply by pointing on the "Browse Map" display. There is also a feature to navigate to the last known position of a "TomTom Buddy", which I will cover later. When entering a city/town/village or street name you only need to enter sufficient characters to uniquely identify it.

The on-screen "keyboard" for address input is usefully large and you can specify whether its layout should be "ABCD", "QWERTY" or, as used in some other countries, "AZERTY".

The 940 can also accept destinations via voice control: you literally speak the address. In practice this works very well and is a real boon for setting up a journey while driving. There is a huge range of other commands you can vocalise - such as "Navigate to Favourite". Some of them inevitably lead to you have to tap on the screen, thereby largely defeating the object of the exercise but in fairness to TomTom this is a very difficult technology to successfully implement. I am sure it will improve further in the future. Overall this feature gets the thumbs-up.

Using the "Fastest Route" option to plot a 250 mile journey involving motorways, A-roads, town centres and country lanes takes approximately twenty seconds. While this seems very slow by today's standards, it can perhaps be accounted for by the TomTom's revised "IQ Routes" technology which looks for the best roads to take in terms of anticipated traffic volume and speed for the time of day that you are likely to reach it. Having said that. when plotting a route to the same destination using the "Shortest" option instead, the unit spent over two minutes performing the calculation, which was puzzling and disappointing.

It's difficult to judge whether the IQ Routes technology is effective. Certainly all the routes I have ever plotted seemed sensible whenI drove them. Most of my driving, however, is around North Lancashire and South Cumbria where traffic is rarely restricted to slow-running, anyway.

Other routing options include "Avoid motorways", "Walking route", "Bicycle route" and "Limited speed". The latter allows you to enter your vehicle's maximum speed which is useful when driving an HGV or towing a caravan...

... This brings me to something that is still frustratingly absent from map data (for the UK, at least). There is no facility to ignore narrow roads for journey plotting. I can't critise TomTom for this - clearly TeleAtlas' gargantuan army of road-spotters haven't yet been trained to record this.

The Estimated Time of Arrival initially calculated by the unit is realistic in my experience. (My NavMan unit was always far too optimistic in this respect!)

Once plotted, the unit can demonstrate the journey - via the normal 3D or 2D "navigation mode" views - and you can set the simulation speed at anything from 5 to 500 percent of "real speed". (You can't, however, amend the simulation speed once "in flight" - you have to abort and start again.) Unless you've set the speed at greater than 300%, all the usual vocal directions are also given. There is no option to set the demo to start from a particular point on the journey, though.

Score for destination input and route plotting: 4 / 5.


Itineraries

Journey planning is supplemented by multi-stop (aka "itinerary") functionality, wherein you can specify a number of locations you want to visit before reaching the final destination. Setting up individual points on the journey is easy enough as you have the same range of options described earlier.

Each time you specify a new location, it gets added to the bottom of the list you have built up. You can amend the order of the list but doing so is mindlessly cumbersome and unwieldy. You can't actually adjust the order on the list screen itself, rather you have to call up the detail screen of the waypoint in question from where you can move it up or down the list by one postion. This then returns you to the list screen and if you want to move the point further up or down, you have to repeat the procedure again... and again... and again. Let's say you have a list of twenty waypoints and you realise you need to insert a new one between waypoints three and four. You would therefore have to repeat the "move" procedure sixteen times! Itineraries can be saved as a readable text file on the unit and if you have a PC or Mac with a USB connection, my recommendation would be to amend the order with a file editor such as Notepad.

When the unit calculates the route, it only gives you the figures for the entire journey, so as you drive along you have no idea how far away the next waypoint is. In fact the unit does not even tell you when you have reached a waypoint (although it does show a small "pin" symbol on the navigation display). To circumvent those problems, you can actually define some or all of your waypoints as destinations(!) but then the unit will only provide calculations to the next one and not the entire itinerary!?! (Indeed "demo" mode will only ever simulate the journey to the next "destination".) In short, no matter how you tinker with the Itinerary, the TomTom simply will not behave in a useful manner.

Another oddity is that sometimes the plotted route does not drive you though a particular waypoint but within a few miles of it instead. There doesn't seem to be any predictable pattern to this behaviour but I found that if I used the "Shortest" routing method rather than the (default) "Fastest" option, the unit adhered more closely to my instructions.

The 940 surreptitiously inserts your current GPS position as the embarkation point for an Itinerary and there is no way to override this. If you are planning a journey in which you will be departing from elsewhere but need a mileage assessment, clealy this behaviour is unhelpful.

While the Itinerary functionality is laudably comprehensive, its implementation, usability and execution demonstrate a complete absence of rational thought by TomTom and I can only assume none of their own staff have ever needed to use this feature. If it is important to you - and I imagine it would be to folks like regional sales reps - the x40 range should be avoided. (Navigon units offer a far more intuitive and commonsense approach,)

Those of you who have read my review of the NavMan S90i may recall that I was less than impressed with its implementation of Itineraries. On the 940 it is an abortion.

Score for Itinerary funcationality : 1 / 5.


Navigation and "in flight" use

The map navigation view is supplemented by a status bar which includes journey remaining time, remaining distance, current time, arrival time, current speed and direction (indicated via compass degrees and "N", "NE", "E", "SE", "S", etc). The presence of these items is configurable but of these seven, you may only choose up to six to be displayed at any one time. This limitation is actually unnecessary because the bar also includes a GPS signal strength indicator which takes up much more space than it needs to.

(The unit's display of the current time does NOT automatically adjust for British Summer Time - the user must correct that manually.)

Optionally the unit will "autozoom" into road junction displays as you approach them. This works well in 3D mode but in 2D mode the view tends remain too far aloft, You can override this with the manual zoom buttons but they are very small on the screen.

As well as symbols to indicate the nature of the next turning, many major junctions in which you need to move to a particular lane are clearly indicated. For motorway junctions the unit can optionally display a full-screen indication of which lane to take, Mostly this is extremely useful, with the indicator appearing about half a mile in advance. However for congested but fast-moving motorways such as some sections of the M25, this might not be sufficient and there is no option to adjust the "advance notice" period. So far I have only seen this work with motorways but clearly there is the potential for map upgrades to enhance this feature to cover all multi-lane roads.

Unlike many other SatNav systems, there is no facility to log your journeys (time, GPS position, speed, etc), something which I'm sure company car drivers would find invaluable. As such the buyer will need to invest in third-party "plug-ins" such as TripMaster.

The "Help Me!" function is for emergencies and neatly groups POI information for doctors, dentists, car repair garages and chemists, It even has a guide to providing First Aid!

The unit can be set to switch between "day" and "night" colour schemes automatically. This relies upon a light sensor on the front of the unit but the manual neglects to mention that it will only work when the unit is hooked up to the windscreen mount. Fortunately the mode can be switched manually, too. In practice the auto-switching works reasonably well but tends to adopt night mode a tad prematurely - a problem which may be worse in vehicles with dark window tinting.

The operational stability of the unit has been rock solid - I haven't had any, ahem, "crashes".

Score for navigation and "in flight use": 4 / 5


Additional map features

Separate from the 2D navigation view, the "Browse Map" function presents a nicely detailed aerial view which can be slickly zoomed in and out and slid around. (Having worked brilliantly on my old Navigon software, this feature was appallingly badly implemented on the NavMan unit). As well as displaying city/town/village and road names as you would expect, you can optionally display latitude/longitude and there is an icon to take the map straight back to your current (GPS) position. Additionally all the usual address searching features can also be used. Naturally you can then instruct the unit to calculate a navigation route to there. Traffic problems can also be shown, though this is at the expense of POI and Favourite indicators. One surprising disappointment is when you "slide" the map, redraws are no faster than on my five-year old Navigon software (which I ran on an ancient Hewlett Packard HP2210 PDA). Using the supplied "Home" software, you can actually "remote control" the 940 (though I can't think of a reason *why* you would want to!) and redraws on your PC or Mac are much faster this way, so this seems to indicate that the unit's own processor is underpowered. Score : 4 / 5.


Graphical ergonomics

The layouts for the 3D and 2D views' "navigation" mode are well designed, conveying stacks of useful information without overly obscuring the road view itself. However the symbols used to represent upcoming hazards such as speed cameras or adverse weather are mostly poorly "drawn" and confusing. The graphics used to represent the road ahead are not anti-aliased and therefore look rather "pixellated". Overall TomTom haven't really progressed this area of their SatNav systems for the last five years and modern Navigon and Navman units are notably more refined. Again I suspect that the unit's low processing power is the reason for TomTom not upgrading this aspect. Score : 3 / 5.


Keeping pace

In years gone by SatNav systems tended indicate a current position that was up to three seconds behind actuality - particularly if you were travelling at high speed. This could be a problem when navigating inner-cities with a series of tightly-bunched sideroads or strange roundabouts. The 940 mainly exhibits no perceptible "lag" - until you turn a corner, in which it seems to freeze for a second or two before catching up with you. I think the problem here is that with the unit's processor being underpowered, anything that requires a major screen redraw such as swivelling the road view through ninety degrees presents a problem for it.

The 940 can be sluggardly when it comes to detecting that you have veered off the planned route. For example when I skip a sidestreet I find I have to travel on for about 10 seconds (at 30mph) before the 940 realises I had gone off course. This problem also afflicted my NavMan and it's puzzling because my ancient Navigon software was far more "on the ball". If you are travelling through an unfamiliar, complex city centre such as London, this degree of tardiness is unacceptable.

Score for keeping pace: 3 / 5.


Audible instructions and Text-to-Speech

The following observations apply to the use of the "Kate" voice supplied with the unit...

For issuing instructions and audible warnings, the volume range is tremendous in that you can choose anything from mute to loud enough to wake up the driver of the car in front of you. Generic instructions (such as "Turn left", "Turn around as soon as possible", "Keep right", etc) are enunciated clearly and in plenty of time.

However when it comes to pronunciation of street names, the Text-to-Speech ("TTS") functionality is riddled with defects. Although vocalised well in advance when approaching junctions, their pronunciation is frequently strange and/or unclear. The most obvious problem is that of vowel sounds being dropped or changed. For example Lancaster Street is pronounced as "Lankster Strit". Sometimes this is exacerbated by two words being prounounced as one - Main Street becomes "Minstrit", Coastal Lane is "Custulin" and Peel Lane is "Plane"!! Consonants are similarly mis-handled, for example Crag Road is announced as "Crack Road", while Marine Road is "Reen Road". The most extreme combination of these problems manifested itself when looking for Doncaster Street: the 940 instructed me to turn into "Unksterstrit"!!

Deleting and reinstalling the voice did not address these faults.

The street name is announced either on the approach to or at the junction itself - I can't fathom any predicatable pattern to this behaviour. Either way it would have been more useful to have it vocalised at both points.

Overall, by way of comparison, while NavMan's implementation of TTS was not perfect, it was noticeably superior. The ultimate goal of street name pronunciation (and, indeed, all forms of vocal instruction) is to eliminate the need to look at the screen and the safety risks this entails. While it is reasonable to expect hiccoughs with difficult names such as "Gloucestershire", the unit's problems are clearly - and unforgiveably - fundamental, In my experience the 940 correctly pronounces names in only about forty percent of cases (the NavMan achieved about eighty percent). This means that even when the 940 gets it right, the seeds of doubt have already been planted subconsciously and so you (involuntarily) flick your eyes to the screen for confirmation anyway. Thus the point of having the facility is completely defeated, rendering this major aspect of the 940 a failure.

(Actually I found the "Simon" voice to be ever so slightly better in that although it made the same mistakes, the diction of consonants is clearer.)

Whether using a TTS or "real" voice, the handling of road numbers is a little clumsy in that the digits are not announced "singularly". For example most of us would pronounce "B5983" as "bee-five-nine-eight-three" but the 940 announces it as "Bee-five-thousand-nine-hundred-and-eighty-three". Not a bug as such, just not what most people would expect.

On the plus side, however, I do like the fact that motorway junction numbers are both displayed and announced - a useful "confirmatory" feature missing from my Navigon and NavMan systems.

The volume of voices and sounds such as warning beeps can be tied in with background noise level. This means that if you are listening to your car radio, for example, the unit will play its sounds/voices a little louder to compensate. I'm not sure this is terribly reliable as I have approached some junctions and the voice has boomed out despite the background noise having remained constant. Nevertheless a useful feature in principle.


Score for audible generic instructions' timeliness and pronunciation quality: 5 / 5.
Score for TTS street name pronunciation: 2 / 5.


Map accuracy

Most people reading this will be aware that there are two main companies that supply the actual map data: NavTeq and TeleAtlas - the latter being TomTom's choice. Unfortunately there are some serious gaffes within just a three-mile radius of my house. For example in plotting a route to the next village, the 940 helpfully proposes a nice shortcut... across a FOOTBRIDGE!?! There is a motorway junction three miles from my house... but TomTom/TeleAtlas thinks the shortest route is actually nine because the map data is missing a particular road bridge - it's tempting to speculate that in this instance, TeleAtlas thought it *was* a footbridge. Deficiencies in TeleAtlas data - in comparison to NavTeq - have been known about for a long time, yet TeleAtlas claim they have been making strides to improve the accuracy of their maps and that they use [quote] "a fleet of sophisticated survey vehicles and Mobile Mapping Vans to capture the information that enriches our map database. With our patented Mobile Mapping technology, we collect road details and images with unprecedented accuracy". Whether this is simply hyperbole or they genuinely believe this, they clearly need to get those vans out a bit more!

Happily TomTom provides a range of functionility to partially address these problems. In the case of the footbridge, the 940 allows me to mark it as a "blocked" road and thus exclude it from subsequent journey plotting. Roads that are missing, however, cannot be added but merely "reported" to TomTom (via the accompanying "Home" software, more on which later). In fairness TomTom/TeleAtlas will want to verify such things for themselves and include it in a later map release but it seems perverse that you are not allowed to trust your own updates! Given that the roadbridge I mentioned was only installed in 1932 and was therefore too late to be picked up by TeleAtlas' mammoth fleet of Ford Model T detector vans, I'm not expecting an appropriate update anytime soon. (Amusingly the bridge in question can be clearly seen on Google Earth's six year-old satellite pictures... with cars driving across it! And who is one of Google Earth's major contributors? Yes, it's TeleAtlas!)

Another correction one can carry out is amending the flow of traffic along a road, which is useful, for example, in the case of city centre which has recently adopted or changed a one-way system.

Returning to the topic of roads marked as blocked, for most of these the 940 shades such streets in a lilac colour. However this isn't the case for motorways, in which there is no indication at all and I can only assume this is a software bug.

What I have found to be of splendid use on roads unfamiliar to me is warnings of upcoming speed cameras and posted limits. I understand, however, that the source of this information comes from other parties and users.

Overall, while some errors really shouldn't be present given that TeleAtlas' vans are allegedly constantly scuttling about all over the country, I certainly could not claim that the maps are riddled with errors. In my experience, however, systems that come with NavTeq maps are more trustworthy. However because of the in-built features to perform a limited range of corrections, I'd score map accuracy as 4 / 5.


Points of Interest ("POI")

The POI database that comes with the 940 is very comprehensive, although it has clearly relied upon other users as they are littered with typos. Each existing POI is assigned to a category (eg "Railway Stations") and the 940 also allows you to create both new POIs and Categories. There is a small bug surrounding this functionality. When creating a new POI, you cannot directly select from one of the categories that came with the unit - you have to invent your own. However if the category name you type in is the same as a "built-in" one, the POI gets added to the latter anyway!?! Score : 4 / 5


Feature accessibility

The unit's vast range of functionality inevitably means that one of the most difficult aspects of the design is that of ergonomics, particularly with regards to how easy and quick it is to access particular functions. In my view commonly-used functionality should be available from the main menu within no more than a couple of screen-taps and in this respect I think TomTom has pretty much got it right. The Main Menu consists of three screens, while the "Change Preferences" option takes you to a set of eight further screens which are hampered by not having a "Go Back" button, so if you accidentally skip past the screen you need, you have to click the "Go Forward" button eight times to cycle back to it.

The "Quick Access" feature available from the Navigation Mode map itself allows the user to make certain functions accessible through a single screen-tap. This is hugely useful and very easy to set up, although the range of functions transferrable to this screen is mysteriously limited.

Score for feature accessibility: 4 / 5



Traffic service

The "High Definition" Live Traffic functionality is very impressive. Anyone who has used the more traditional "Radio Data System" (RDS) technology as provided by iTIS and TrafficMaster knows that signal reception is so patchy across the UK (mainly because national regulations require that such broadcasts be restrained to low power) that the service is simply not dependable enough. TomTom have developed an alternative approach that not only addresses this issue but can actually take information from a variety of sources - crucially including other drivers whose progress can be "monitored" through their Vodaphone cellphones and/or the TomTom devices themselves. The service is apparently updated about every three minutes and the 940 silently dials into it at similar intevals. Information retrieved includes the approximate geographic start and end points of the delay, the direction affected, the nature of the incident (roadworks, accident, adverse weather, slow-moving traffic, road closure, etc) and, crucially, the likely time delay it will impose. If you have programmed a route and an incident occurs on it, the unit will warn you by voicing the details. You then have the option of asking the 940 to find an alternative, faster route (or you can configure the device to reroute you automatically.) The actual dialling in can take anything from a few seconds to two minutes. The delay seems longer during peak times and I'm guessing that's because TomTom's server is simply inundated with requests during rush hours.

In practice I have found the Live Traffic functionality to be superbly useful and incredibly accurate. As an example I left work one evening heading for home but was informed that there was a 33-minute delay on the motorway - an incident which local radio stations didn't start reporting until 15 minutes later, by which time I would have found myself stuck in the jam. The 940 plotted an alternative route but that also had some slow-moving traffic problems on it which the unit dutifully indicated. Yet the 940 had certainly plotted the best route.

The Traffic service isn't perfect, however. Many instances of planned road closures are not shown. This seems to be due to local councils not bothering to report them and the fact that from TomTom's perspective, there will, of course, be no traffic to monitor on closed roads. Perhaps TomTom could amend their system so that it flags up roads upon which no traffic at all has been "seen".

One rather annoying problem is that incidents in which the traffic has come to a (near-)standstill do not seem to be reported at all by TomTom! I can only assume that if their "monitoring" service detects traffic not moving, then it assumes that all those drivers have actually chosen to park their vehicles! Hopefully this is something TomTom will resolve.

Those flaws aside, if you are a high-mileage driver, the HD Live Traffic service is all the reason you need for buying a 540/740/940.

Score for Traffic service : 4 / 5.


Other "Live" services

Other dial-in services include weather reports, TomTom Buddies, updates of speed camera sites, local fuel prices and Google-based searches. The Buddies service allows you to send messages to other TomTom subscribers. If your "buddy" has their TomTom switched on, you can even navigate to him/her.

The Google search is a supremely useful extension to the Points of Interest feature, particularly to find restaurants, takeaways, shops, doctors, etc. In most cases you'll also get a telephone number, so if your mobile telephone has Bluetooth, you can instruct the 940 to dial the number for you. (I haven't tested the reliability of this as I don't have a Bluetooth phone.)

One downside to the Services is that you are only allowed to connect to them when you are located in the country from which your TT was purchased. TomTom have not explained why this is so but it is assumed that because dial-in is being done by cellphone technology, TomTom does not want to pay Vodaphone's overseas "roaming" charges, This is a particularly damning limitation in terms of Traffic reports. However as I completed this review, I received an e-mail from TomTom notifying me that overseas use will be possible from next year, In the meantime, though, it is imperative that you purchase a 940 that was intended for your home country.

(Interestingly the dial-in gateway occasionally seems to think that I *am* overseas and produces an error message to that effect, A quick retry usually sorts it out, though.)

It should be noted that after an initial three-month free trial, all these services are charged at 8 per month and they come as an "all or nothing" package. However if TomTom can maintain their usefulness, accuracy and reliability, high-milage drivers may find it is money well spent, particularly for the Traffic service.

Score for other Live services: 4 / 5.


Battery and power-charging hardware

Battery life is only about two hours in my experience - but not surprising given the enormity of the functionality the unit runs, particularly with its regular dial-in to TomTom's HD Traffic service. A cable allowing you to re-charge the unit from your car's cigarette lighter is provided and connected to the windscreen mount, which is arguably neater than having to connect straight to the 940 itself.

The unit comes with "Home Dock", a device for charging via a PC or Apple Mac's USB connectivity. A full charge takes about two hours. The unit has a two-colour LED, which turns from orange to green once full charge has been reached. You can even continue to use the 940 while it's in the dock.

However the 940 is not supplied with a mains charger, so if you do not possess a PC or Mac, you either have to purchase that separately (at an exorbitant GBP30) or rely solely on the aforementioned car charger.

Battery and power-charging hardware score: 3 / 5


Extras and accessories

The unit comes with a basic MP3 player and you can use the half gigabyte of free storage space to add and delete such files (via a USB port on your PC or Mac). Tracks can be played through the unit's low-powered FM transmitter in which you select an unoccupied frequency which you then tune your car radio to. In practice it doesn't work terribly well, transmissions being accompanied by noticeable amounts of "static" noise.

For a piece of kit costing upwards of GBP350, it is utterly unacceptable that TomTom do not provide a protective case or even a simple pouch for the unit. Again, you have to purchase this separately.

Although the screen layouts offer large buttons, some operations such as panning and zooming on the map really need a stylus, something which the unit neither comes with nor has a storage receptacle for.

The "Home" software (on the accompanying CD) allows you to install new maps, voices, speed camera locations and software fixes/updates. It is unfathomably slow in execution. For example it takes about four minutes to decide which updates are available for you to install. Corrections to maps you already own can be downloaded and although this takes about 30 seconds, the subsequent "merging" of the new information into the existing maps not only hogged all of my 2.8GHz processor's power, it ran for several hours! There is clearly some appalling inefficiency at work here. An updated version of Home became available in March and although slightly faster, it clearly needs a complete revamp. Needless to say, Home will only be used when absolutely necessary!

Extras score : 2 / 5


Product and Customer Support

On the topic of updates, TomTom tends to provide support for products long after their initial release. (Another sore point with Navigon and NavMan!) Reading user forums, however, it is clear that they need to work much smarter at one-to-one customer support. Too many times their Helpline personnel resort to the ignorant "switch it off and on" routine.

Support score: 3 / 5



In summary

+ A true all-in-one GPS & Traffic "single box" solution which, with a fully-charged battery, requires no cabling over the dashboard.
+ Rugged, well-designed and comfortable physical build.
+ Start-up and GPS fix times quick.
+ Screen clarity/readability good.
+ Great range of audio volume level.
+ Vocal instructions timely.
+ Multiple and reasonably intuitive means with which to search for and select destinations.
+ Voice control surprisingly effective and useful.
+ Estimated Time of Arrival indications realistic.
+ Software/hardware stability faultless.
+ Speed camera and limits database excellent (at least in the North West of England).
+ Traffic service generally excellent.
+ Google Search service may prove invaluable for some drivers/situations.
+ Ongoing updates/fixes.

- Vibration from windscreen mount, inferior anti-glare and shiny trim combine to produce distracting reflections.
- Text-to-Speech pronunciation of road names is a failure.
- Some forms of route calculation ponderously slow.
- Long-standing TeleAtlas mapping errors and no ability to add missing roads.
- Traffic service appears to interpret "standstill" problems as being carparks!
- Map updates reliant on owner possessing a PC or Mac.
- Multi-stop trip ("itinerary") functionality abysmal.
- Graphics processor underpowered.
- Very slow to recognise when driver has diverted from planned route.
- No journey logging capability - third-party plug-in required.
- Battery life around two hours.
- FM transmitter produces "static" noise.
- No protective case supplied.
- No mains charger supplied.
- Usability of "Home" software poor.
- Direct customer support generally deemed to be dire.


I have raised a lot of negatives there and some of them should shame TomTom. However for much of its basic functionality, the 940 excels and the innovative Live services are mostly superb. But TomTom needs to give the TTS and Itinerary problems priority as these are the unit's biggest failings. And while screen information becomes ever more comprehensive, it's clear that the next generation of TT units needs more powerful hardware.

Unlike my depressingly poor NavMan unit, however, the positives outshine the weak areas. Unless you need Itinerary functionality, the TomTom x40 range gains a cautious recommendation. Otherwise the latest Navigon range should be considered, too.


Overall score: 3.5 / 5


Last edited by DaveMatthews on Sat May 30, 2009 11:25 am; edited 1 time in total
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emjaiuk
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Location: North Surrey (TW17) UK

PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 1:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

IMHO one of the best reviews of a Tomtom unit I've seen. Much appreciated
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