TomTom Go 500 review
Superb guidance and hardware with lifetime traffic alerts, but the search facility is average
Review Date: 13 Jul 2013
Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray
Price when reviewed: £158 (£190 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
With the Go 500, TomTom is taking the fight against smartphone satnavs to the next level. As well as a complete revamp of the user interface and physical design, the Go 500 comes with a couple of key freebies: not only do you receive free map updates, but there’s also free traffic data for the life of the product.
With its previous satnavs, TomTom offered a year of traffic for free, then asked users to pay an annual fee (around £48 per year), so it’s a major saving. And with the quality of TomTom’s traffic services, it’s worth having. It also gives potential purchasers a reason to buy the standalone device over the app, which at the time of writing is £39 (for UK & ROI maps), with traffic data costing £3 per month or £24 per year.
Speed camera info remains chargeable, though, with three months free initially then £25 per year, and there’s no embedded SIM card in the device. Instead, the data connection is made by via Bluetooth with your smartphone. TomTom claims you should only get through 7MB of data per month, if driving an hour a day at peak times.
Physically, the TomTom Go is a robust-feeling device. It has a 5in, 480 x 272 resolution capacitive touchscreen, and an extremely loud, clear speaker. The latter, in particular, makes driving with the Go 500 a completely different proposition to a smartphone, whose speakers can be tough to hear in a noisy cabin. The Go 500’s sturdy, magnetic windscreen dock is another key advantage that shouldn’t be dismissed.
It’s far less likely the Go 500 is going to jump out over a speed bump than a phone in a cheap mount, and it’s also much easier to pop the device in and out when you’re getting in and out of the car.
The other big change with this new generation of TomTom devices is the user interface, which has seen a complete revamp, with more sensible use of the available screen space all round, particularly the semi-transparent “route bar”. This was always pretty good at warning about upcoming incidents, but it’s even better now, with larger, clearer icons and a view that “zooms in” as you approach jams and speed cameras.
On our satnav test route, the TomTom Go performed as we would expect a TomTom to perform: route finding was perfect, and both voice and visual guidance was beyond reproach. The enhanced graphics and traffic bar are a great improvement, delivering far more information at a glance than other TomTom satnavs we’ve used previously.
One area we were disappointed with was search. TomTom has improved the mechanics by introducing a single search box into which you can type addresses, postcodes, names of landmarks and businesses. It’s far more efficient than the old step-by-step approach, and results appear dynamically as you type.
However, the Google search has been quietly dropped. This will be replaced by an over-the-air, TomTom Places search in an forthcoming software update; at the time of writing, however, we found the internal database wanting. It failed to find half our six test locations by name, so you’ll need a postcode to get anywhere reliably.
That’s undoubtedly a blow, but the TomTom Go 500 is still a great device. It’s well made, with a decent screen and superb speaker. The price, although hardly bargain-basement, isn’t a killer either, at £190. With lifetime traffic and maps, it could be the shot in the arm the dedicated satnav market needs.
Author: Jonathan Bray
Does it only work via your phones Bluetooth
Your description leaves me unsure it works without a Bluetooth phone connected.
By curiousclive on 13 Jul 2013
It uses your phone to perform searches and retrieve live traffic data whilst on the move.
I'm assuming that maps updates are done via PC connection, as usual.
By artiss on 15 Jul 2013
I've been investigating getting one of these myself and am disappointed that a number of features that this device doesn't have hasn't been mentioned in the review. For example, adding your own POIs.
Upgrading from an older TomTom device this would be a blow to me. However, personally, one of the other missing features would be a bigger issue for me - so sure are they that their live traffic will be 100% accurate that there's no way of informing it of an upcoming road blockage - on older devices you can do this so that it plots a not route around upcoming traffic problems.
By artiss on 15 Jul 2013
Forgot to add, and this is worthy of note. You must be able to Bluetooth tether your phone and for your phone to work with Bluetooth PAN.
I'd recommend ordering from somewhere like Argos, as you can take it back if it's not compatible with your phone. Alternatively, TomTom offer a 14 day return period if you're not happy.
By artiss on 15 Jul 2013
Good Enough ?
I just navigated my way around a hotel trip using my Nexus 4 with Google Navigation. It was good enough for my needs, and my phone is always in my pocket when I need to navigate.
Tom Tom units are better, but I only need 'good enough', which Google Navigation undoubtedly is.
By roblightbody on 23 Jul 2013
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