With the news that TomTom is aiming to bring HD Traffic to the UK in the summer of this year, we got our grimy mitts on the new system for a First Look. But is it worth splashing out on this new technology? We drove through Amsterdam rush hour to find out.

The service works by collating data from a number of sources: from the GSM network, from other TomTom HD users and from more regular existing sources, such as traffic agencies and so on. TomTom assures us that this data is collected anonymously and not the start of some Orwellian nightmare.

So what is it? In our test device, the HD Traffic element replaces the power cable. The sealed body of the 12v plug contains all the workings, so no separate sim card to worry about. All you do is plug this into the power and your TomTom device (which needs to be traffic-enabled) and you are working with TomTom HD Traffic via a GPRS connection.

HD Traffic works in a similar way to the TMC option, i.e., you are presented with a traffic bar on the right of your display and this shows you upcoming delays on your route. The big difference is that the HD Traffic information updates every 3 minutes, as opposed to the 15 minutes for TMC. The system also contains much more data, so you have a better idea of what is really happening on the roads.

Depending on your setup, you can either reroute automatically to avoid this traffic, or just be alerted to it. As we drove, we found that the information was incredibly accurate and with a display showing an overview of Amsterdam we could see where all the congestion was. In navigation mode we had very accurate information about the delays up ahead and could even see road conditions change, and subsequently the TomTom change, with limited lag.

As an addition to the TomTom Go 930 Traffic, it is very good indeed and leagues ahead of the TMC offering. In our recent review of the Go 930, we criticised the straight plug of the TMC aerial, and unfortunately the current HD Traffic receiver also has a straight plug, a minor gripe.

HD Traffic is also available in a range of other devices as an integrated option, which we didn’t have a chance to test, but are currently only on sale in the Netherlands.

However, all this goodness comes with a catch: this is a subscription-based service. Out of the box the device works for a period of time – 6 months or 1 year – after which you’ll have to renew that subscription. TomTom envisage that people will use the device on their daily commute to make getting home from work as fast and stress free as possible which will justify the costs. Exact pricing was not available to us but will be available closer to launch.

Verdict

So for us, yes, if you spend a lot of time behind the wheel, then this is vastly superior to your TMC version. However, whilst not knowing the cost, we do know that some people will only pay if they see the advantage on a daily basis.