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After recently getting my brand spanking new TomTom 520 I thought I'd say a few words about how wonderful it is!
The TomTom brand of satellite navigation is probably the most popular satellite navigation system around. This is not to say it is the best one, merely the most popular. Within the TomTom range there are numerous models and the price ranges from about £130 - £400. Obviously the more you pay then the more features you will get. These may include things like different maps for the rest of the world or the ability to link it to your phone.
Satellite navigation systems are basically a tool that uses satellites to locate where you currently are and direct you to your destination by putting in the desired address. They use spoken voices to tell you when and where to turn and also how far from your turning you are. It is basically like having a brilliant navigator sitting next to you!
The TomTom I got costs around £180 and only has the UK and Ireland maps so if you were to want to use it abroad then you would need to either buy a different model or buy the maps from the shop although I'm not sure how much it would cost. It does obviously have other features which I will come onto a bit later on. Inside the box is the TomTom, a car charger, installation CD, manual, cradle and window mount to stick it onto your car window. To get it up and running is very simple; plug in the charger to your cigarette lighter and the other end into the TomTom, clip the TomTom into the mount, and stick the mount onto the window using the sucker that is attached. Apparently older TomTom models used to be a bit of a pain to get the TomTom onto the mount but on the one I got all you need to do is slide the TomTom on the mount by using what can only be described as a slot.
The main reason you get satellite navigation is for directions so I'll talk about that first. Once you turn the machine on and your current position is found (which takes no more than about 15 seconds from pressing the on button to your position being found) then you need to put in your destination. This can either be done by putting in the postcode or manually finding the street. Once you do this the TomTom will calculate your route and confirm it to you. Once this is done then you are up and ready to go. It's as simple as that. As you travel it also gives out information via the speaker such as an upcoming turn or a speed camera ahead. This information is very useful and gives you plenty of warning of what to do. It will tell you when you need to turn onto a road and how far this road is, what exit to take on a roundabout or to keep to one side of the road as it breaks into two roads soon. All the instructions are also on the screen to help even more. The screen also includes how fast you are going and how long the journey will last and what time you are expected to arrive at your destination.
The TomTom 520 has a very good size screen with it measuring 4.3" which is also slightly bigger than the basic TomTom model. I wanted a bigger screen as I find it makes it that little bit easier to see where you need to be going. It also has the ability to link up to your mobile phone using Bluetooth and you can then use the TomTom to make calls and send and receive texts while you are driving. It is worth mentioning though that there are not many phones supported. My phone is technically not supported but I am still able to connect to the TomTom, make and receive calls on it, and send text messages so I am only really loosing out on the ability to receive texts. Even so, it is a very handy tool to have and obviously has the safety benefit added. For a list of phones compatible then go to the TomTom website.
Another feature the 520 has is that it has speech recognition. This is particularly useful when you are driving and need to change destinations. To use it you simply need to press a button on the TomTom and then follow the instructions on the screen (or that are read aloud). You will need to say the name of the town and street you are going to and the TomTom will come up with a list of places that match what you say. I always found that the one at the top of the list was the one I wanted.
As I previously mentioned, the TomTom also informs you if you are approaching a speed camera. This is normally clearly shown on the TomTom by a camera picture on the top left hand corner of the screen which also shows what the actual limit is followed by a sound. This is very handy at times when you may be going faster than you should. These cameras can also be updated but for this the TomTom must be connected to a mobile phone.
The 520 also has a "Jukebox" feature on it. This means that the 520 can also become a music player. This is done by connecting the computer up to a PC at home and then transferring files onto it by simply dragging and dropping files onto the TomTom. There isn't much free memory on the TomTom itself but you can by a memory card which will increase the memory to up to 2GB which is a fair whack. The way it plays in the car is that it broadcasts the music (and driving instructions if you so wish) on a particular frequency and you need to tune in your car radio to it. I have found that the sound comes out very well and have had no problems with it.
The 520 also has a built in transmitter which lets you use the traffic updates. This is used to update traffic as you are moving so you don't get stuck in it. As you are driving, the TomTom will receive updates as to where the traffic is bad and inform you of this. It can then calculate a route for you to go that avoids the traffic. I believe it costs about £20 per year but I don't have it so cant really comment on it.
As with all the TomTom's, you can change the voices that speak to you. There are a wide variety of standard voices but there are also some celebrity voices which you can get at an extra cost. Beware though, the only official voice is John Cleese and a lot of the other voices sound pretty bad!
The final feature I will mention is the point of interest feature. These are things that may be of use to you on your journey such as petrol stations, cash points, restaurants, or car parks. These can be turned on and even a sound assigned to them. As you can imagine these are very handy if you're quickly running out of petrol but have no idea where you are!
Those are the main features of the TomTom but there are loads of other features which I have not mentioned but help make it really good!
The software provided with the TomTom is also very good. It is really easy to use which is a big help. The TomTom connects to the PC via USB (which is supplied) and as soon as it is plugged in, the computer detects it and you are ready to go. When you plug the TomTom in, the first thing it does is look for updates either to the PC software of the TomTom itself. The most important update I find is the map share. This is basically when people update the TomTom themselves and then upload this change onto the website and this is then made available for everyone else to get. This helps ensure your TomTom is always up to date. Once the updates are complete then you get to the main screen. On here there are about 5 options (and another few if you scroll to the next page). These are big icons which give a brief description as to what you can do if you click on a particular item. For example, one might be for music, another for settings, another for voices, etc. Basically everything you could need to go on the TomTom is right at your finger tips and easy to find.
I have also found the unit to be very reliable. I know some people who have other makes of satellite navigation but it is always freezing and things keep going wrong but as yet I have suffered no problems. I have also heard of people who have TomTom's but it takes them in wrong directions or will take them the wrong way down a one way street but fortunately I am yet to suffer any of these kind of problems. This I s probably due to the mapshare feature.
The one thing that is a bit of a negative is the battery. It says that it is supposed to last 5 hours but I find that hard to believe. In reality I have found it to be closer to about 3. This isn't a problem as you are given an in car charger so its not a big deal but it can be a bit frustrating if you are using the cigarette lighter for something else.
So all in all I find this satellite navigation system to be brilliant. I cant say whether it's the best one on the market because I have not tried all of them, but I do know that I found it very easy to use and due to its popularity there is more support for it in terms of things like forums and chat rooms which answer questions you may have or help you do something which you do not know how.
The only thing that needs to be thought about when buying a satellite navigation system is whether it will be worth it. These are a lot of money and even the most basic model costs about £130 so you need to be sure that it is a worthy investment and that you do not buy it and only make journeys that you know.
Personally I think it is brilliant. It has all the features which I wanted and is far easier than having to use an A-Z when I'm lost!