TomTom GO 740 GPS receiver - First Look review

TomTom continues to try and push what satnav is capable of doing, but can the new features on the latest models really be that useful above and beyond the "getting you from A to B" mantra? TomTom threw us in a car with a unit to find out.

Sporting a 4.3-inch WQVGA screen, the rather large satnav measures 127 x 85 x 23mm and weighs 224 grams. It is not going to be light enough to take with you when you leave the car, but it's not small enough to fit in your pocket. Other tech specs include 2GB drive and a microSD card slot.

Overall the performance is nippy and responsive. The large screen is easy to use and you'll get around 3 hours of battery life from a single charge.

So what have TomTom done to build on a technical feature set that hasn't really changed since the launch of the 730?

LIVE Services is the answer. Priced at £7.99 a month (although you do get the first 3 months free) the G0 740 comes with a built-in SIM card that connects to the TomTom servers to give you access to a stack of features.

The main one of those features from a standard satnav perspective is the introduction of HD Traffic that monitors the traffic on all major roads in the UK and then gives you details about that traffic on the fly. Rather than just give you information however, it also uses that data to make sure you are navigated around the traffic hotspot (don't panic it's clever enough to not send all the TomTom drivers using the device into its own created traffic jam).

Data is pulled from a number of different sources including official TMC data, as well as, anonymous Vodafone customers (if lots of SIMs are all of a sudden together and something isn't moving then the computer works out there are probably in a jam) and because the online server is connecting to the device every 3 minutes it's incredibly accurate. In our test drive, the GO 740 clearly showed traffic and showed us how to avoid it if we wanted to.

Of course all this traffic information would be useless unless the GO 740 also told you about how long your estimated journey is going to be. Again working with a number of factors, TomTom has worked it so that when it says it's going to be 28 minutes to your destination, it really is. As you can imagine this really helps if you are getting a traffic warning but see if a work around is going to take you longer.

So they've cracked traffic (I wouldn't be surprised if cabbies started using it, not to see where they are going, but for traffic information) but TomTom hasn't stopped there.

Other new features, apart from getting weather reports at your present or final destination, include the ability to use Google local search. Working like Points of Interest you can type in Pizza for example, and then Google searches for Pizza parlours in your area giving you a one button press to load the directions. It even gives you a number so you can ring them. Thanks to the onboard Bluetooth you can then directly phone them if your phone is paired. It's all very simple and all very clever.

But probably the biggest service you are likely to use beyond the Traffic services is the Petrol Prices tool. Following on from an idea created by Navman (they had a dedicated petrol button), the Petrol Finder service constantly searches a online database to find you the cheapest price of petrol on your route, near your route and in the area so you can try and save a couple of pennies.

On our route in our tests that meant a saving of 5p a litre if we were happy to drive 4 miles away from our planned route. Again, as it's connected, this information is updated every couple of minutes rather than every couple of days.

Verdict

From a hardware point of view the TomTom GO 740 is your average satnav device with all the usual technical offerings that you would expect for £349.

TomTom has tried to break away from the crowd however with the addition of the LIVE Services, which makes the satnav a dynamic piece of kit.

Map updates, petrol prices, weather, traffic and much more are constantly pumped down to your device meaning you won't find the information out of date within a couple of months because you haven't been bothered to connect it to a PC or Mac.

The catch? The Live Services isn't cheap. The £7.99 a month soon racks up to almost £100 a year and because of roaming costs the service won't work outside your home territory. It shouldn't be a problem for most, but it's not something the casual satnav users will struggle to justify.

Our journey might have been brief (28 minutes according to the GO 740) but the new model, if you're on the road a lot of the time, looks very promising.

The TomTom GO 740 is due out mid-November.