We knew it was only a matter of time before the connected TomTom landed on these shores, having seen the HD Traffic earlier in the year. Finally the latest generation of TomTom devices has landed, only about 6 months after the last iteration. But can the new 740 Live offer anything new to drivers?
That Live tag makes all the difference. This isn’t just a redesign of the exterior, or a tweaking of the software inside, although those things haven’t been overlooked. So let’s outline the premise before we look at the hardware.
The idea here is to give you near real time information on the traffic situation as you drive on your route. Okay, TMC has been in satnav devices for some time, and is often available as an upgrade on TomTom and competitor devices by adding the TMC antennae and paying a one-off price, usually around £40. Whilst TMC traffic information comes from various official sources and is pretty much open to anyone, TomTom has spun all that on its head by adding their own data into the mix.
This data is harvested from the mobile phone network and can report the density of SIM cards within a particular cell zone (i.e., in range of a mast). In its simplest terms, from this data you can see if there are more mobile phones than normal and deduce that traffic must be heavier. So the TomTom GO 740 Live does connect to the mobile phone network, but only for data: you don’t buy a SIM card, or do any set-up, it works out of the box.
But there is a slight catch here, which is that after you pay out the not unsubstantial initial fee for the device itself, you’ll then have to pay £7.99 a month for the traffic service. I’ll leave you to ponder on that for a while.
The device itself takes the normal form you’d expect from TomTom, a solidly built and quality looking 4.3-inch widescreen device, free from buttons, save for the power on/off on the top. There is a speaker on the back, which gives you plenty of volume, as well as a mic on the front, so you can connect via Bluetooth and use this as your handsfree device, linked to your mobile phone, with advanced options like reading out messages and so on.
The windscreen mount, oft neglected by satnav manufacturers, is also of the highest quality. Having fought with plenty of rival offerings, TomTom out-performs the rest. This might sound incidental, but honestly, if the device doesn’t easily and securely attach to your windscreen, then what’s the point? You also get a docking cradle for when your TomTom is attached to your computer, both for map updates and charging, as well as the power kit for the car.
On the road the software to all intents and purposes is the same as before, which is no bad thing as it is incredibly easy to use. Large icons dominate proceedings, making it simple to find what you want. Full postcode searching is available, as well as a range of other methods, so finding your destination is a breeze, even when it is overseas, as the 740 includes 32 European countries.
But besides normal navigation options you also get IQ Routes, which is TomTom’s way of selecting the best route harvested from real world data. It doesn’t just give you the shortest geographical route, or the fastest road types, it takes into account other factors, as would a local driver. A great way to test IQ Routes is to drive around areas you know very well, and you’ll find that TomTom takes you on back streets to miss often congested areas or traffic lights - just as you normally would.
An interesting option gives you a hint to how TomTom would like you to use the GO 740 Live. The press of an icon gives you traffic on your home to work route, so rather than being just for holidays, this is designed to be an everyday device. This is fine if you park in a garage at both ends of your journey, as a new TomTom is rich pickings for suburban miscreants. Of course, using your Live device contributes to the data harvested for other TomTom users, so it’s for the collective good. (Remember that episode of Dr Who where satnav was taking over the world?)
So how does that traffic information come into play? As you drive it will update the traffic situation, shown on a right-hand bar. You can slip into the menus to get more detailed information, or just trust the device as it tells you that there are 3 minutes of delays, but no faster routes. It seems to know what it is doing too, being able to differentiate between traffic heading in different directions too, so it will still take you through a busy town centre, but avoid the roads with queues of Christmas shoppers waiting to get into the car park.
Overall the navigation with TomTom is very good, as it has been for many years. The driver view is still fairly simple, which means you can tell where you are going from a quick glance. The only place this falls over is on tight busy junctions, especially when you add in traffic. On one occasion we found that the traffic indication on the road obscured the route, so when it came to turning, we couldn’t see which road to take. Otherwise, with the inclusion of both road names and numbers, navigation is a very smooth experience. Rounding a corner, knowing that congestion is coming, and then seeing the cars queuing is a mind-blowing experience (if a little boring to test).
To get your hands on the "HD Traffic" service you need to buy into the £7.99 LIVE subscription cost. This also opens up a whole suite of information including traffic, safety cameras, fuel prices, local searching with Google, weather, buddies and QuickGPSfix. Some of these might seem unnecessary, but highlights are QuickGPSfix and fuel prices. The fuel option is really clever, because you can not only navigate to fuel, but pick the lowest price. You can even set your preferences so it gives you the price of Diesel, or even LPG.
You'll also find an iPod controller in the menus. This threw us at first, as there is nowhere to connect an iPod on the device or windscreen mount, but TomTom tell us that an accessory will be available to buy which will allow iPod control (but not the touch and we guess the iPhone). It will also feature the TMC receiver for traffic information when driving in Europe.
You also get those goodies that TomTom have been doing since the last version, such as advanced lane guidance which is a blessing for complex motorway junctions. You also get good up-to-date maps, with the connection through TomTom Home that gives you plenty to update through Map Share, allowing you to connect with the TomTom community. Correcting maps is also really easy, something that can be done on the fly when you come across a problem, providing you stop the car to do so.
But diving into TomTom Home you get a sense for how much in real terms this type of device will cost you. After the initial outlay of £340 odd, the Live services will cost you £7.99 a month, and if you want the latest maps, to be constantly updated with these, (aside from user corrections) will again cost you more. Playing into that idea of being an everyday device, this cost may be worth it, but if you buy the TomTom for holiday use twice a year, it doesn’t look like good value for money.
Out of the box you get a 3-month trial of the service, so should you decide you don’t want it, you don’t have to pay. Equally, if you only want to pay for a month of traffic for your summer holiday, then you can do that too. Considering that the GO730 is £50 less, this starts to sound like less of a difference, giving you all those traffic options.
Although the TomTom GO 740 LIVE is expensive, there is no doubt you are paying for a premium product. The performance is exceptional, the best navigation and seamless integration of traffic around.