With its new set of satnav devices, TomTom has launched the latest range of Go models - the 400, 500 and 600 in their respective 4.3, 5 and 6-inch screen sizes - with its most advanced navigation system yet. But is it enough to see off the uprise in smartphone-based GPS navigation apps?
We spent our time playing with the Go 600, the largest screen size of all those available. The model comes in two forms - the more basic one which needs to be synched with a smartphone to get full live data, while the other comes with a SIM card installed and TomTom picks up the data tab.
Rather than try to stand separately from smartphones, TomTom - like many other companies such as, say, camera manufacturers adding smartphone-provided-Wi-Fi connectivity - has opted for the device pair concept.
For a dedicated device to always be there and ready to roll we'd rather not need to fiddle around with synching up a smartphone and munching through both data costs and battery life. The pricier SIM-installed model would be the choice model for us - but the choice is there whichever makes best sense (if at all) largely dependent on your provider's data allowance. Of course GPS isn't where the cost comes in - without a data connection the position on map will still show via GPS. That is what the Go series is all about.
In the latest Go models there are several new features in the navigation software. It's possible to quick search from the menu and the smartphone-drawn data will have a good idea of what you're looking for and present a list of matching options. It's possible to select a search location from the list, see it on the map, then hit a steering wheel icon to plot the route there.
Once plotted - which can take a minute or so depending on complexity and distance - the next key part of the latest system reveals itself: live traffic data, displayed via various rouge tones, shows the severity of jams and their locations.
But that's not all - the Go will always be looking for the best possible routes based on real-time traffic. It will update the route in real time and offer up quicker alternative routes during your journey. A nice idea - but something even Nokia is doing with its "Here" app already.
The TomTom Go's live navigation bar to the right side of the screen - which looks like a straight-line drag strip - does simplify upcoming hazards and traffic changes and their position on your route. Within the menus there are speed camera and petrol station options too.
Much like Here and other navigation systems, TomTom has also added 3D mapping. Surrounding buildings are shown up in a true-to-life form which can be useful as reference if you're not too map savvy. A nice touch, but nothing new in terms of the competition. If you're not a fan then classic top-down 2D maps are also available as standard.
We found the Go 600's screen responsive to the touch and the pinch-to-expand action feels like using a tablet or smartphone so is a familiar and intuitive experience. The search worked well too - but as that's based on your smartphone connection it won't necessarily always be strong depending on location and connection speed.
The new TomTom software is a step forward from yesteryear's devices, but the complexities of, say, four-lane A-roads and the like still aren't mapped out in lane detail which - while it is something that will be added in the future - might mean the occasional three lane skip to turn off at a junction. When that level of detail is added there'll be that something more that the TomTom offers.
As it stands the TomTom Go series builds upon the series' earlier strengths. It can't do anything to stave off the advancing smartphone, and indeed has embraced its use instead. That won't suit all in terms of cost, but those long-time drivers who are headed out to new locations all the time will find use in having a dedicated device.
There's no final word on price or release date yet - we'll bring you more as the details trickle in.