TomTom Go 500 review

13 Jul 2013

Superb guidance and hardware with lifetime traffic alerts, but the search facility is average

TomTom Go 500
Price when reviewed 
190
5

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.

TomTom Go 500

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.

Details

Price ex VAT £158
Price inc VAT £190
Overall rating 5
Performance 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 4
GPS recommended use In-car

Mapping

Maps supplied UK and Ireland
Map data provider Tele Atlas

Hardware

Screen size 5.0in
Resolution 480 x 272
In-car mount type Windscreen
External GPS antenna included? no
Bluetooth support yes
Front panel memory card reader yes
Headphone output no
Sync via cable? yes
Sync via cradle? no
FM transmitter? no

Other functions

Traffic information Via Bluetooth data tethering
Speed-camera warning yes

Dimensions

Dimensions 145 x 20 x 90mm (WDH)