(Pocket-lint) - With mobile phone navigation apps slowly gobbling the traditional satnav market, GPS makers like TomTom have to continue to develop new ways of making their devices still relevant in a world where many of the competing products are free.
Five years ago the main way to beat the smartphone was to pack your portable navigation device with more tech than you could possibly imagine. Trouble is, smartphones are clever things these days so that trick doesn't work any more.
The latest solution is to make the screen bigger, bigger than anything you would want to fit in your pocket. Well that's the approach the TomTom Start 60 takes, offering drivers a 6-inch screen and promising they will never get lost again - unless they ignore the instructions.
The TomTom Start 6 is, by virtue of the screen it sports, a big satnav device that won't fit in your pocket like your phone. It's still smaller than the first TomTom devices all those years ago - bless - but nonetheless it's a big boy.
To give TomTom its due, the company has done its best to make it as svelte as possible with the very thin built-in windscreen mount included as standard. There's a speaker to the rear, a hidden power button and the micro USB charging socket - which are the only breaks in the design, apart from the screen.
In the box is a large sticker so you can opt to stick it to the windscreen or the dashboard. Handy.
The TomTom Start 60 features a 6-inch resistive display that works well in bright sunshine in your car. Rather than pack more content and detail on the screen, cluttering up your viewpoint, the additional real estate is used to make the buttons bigger and the mapping data easier to see.
At times that does mean there is plenty of countryside rather than road to see, but it certainly helps when you are navigating around a city.
In the car
We jumped into our car, attached the TomTom Start 60 to the windscreen and 20 metres later had to stop again. So big is the screen that you won't be able to put it where you normally do in your car. It has to go further towards the dashboard, because of its massive proportions. That somewhat defeats the object of having a bigger screen, if it has to be much further away. The point is that - if you wanted a huge screen there's a very good reason why you haven't mounted your iPad on your dashboard yet: safety first and all that.
The TomTom Start 60, as the name suggests, is a part of the "start" range with TomTom. That gives you access to some features, but not all. You don't get to shout your destination to the satnav, nor do you get the company's excellent Live Services that bring with it the HD traffic and live rerouting. But then you don't get the price tag to match either.
As the name suggests this is for those "starting" out, and here you get full Europe maps, IQ routes that work out the best route based on the time of day you are travelling and TomTom's very easy to use user interface.
The TomTom Start 60 is also one of the first of the manufacturer's devices to offer lifetime free daily map changes. Updates are based on reports from TomTom’s Map Share community of 21 million, so will help with certain conditions such as speed limit changes and blocked roads.
Once you've worked out where you are going to the TomTom Start 60 gets to work working out how to get you there and what's en route. At any point it will tell you where the nearest petrol station is, how many fixed speed cameras there are on the route and - if you've got the optional extra TomTom RDS-TMC Traffic Receiver plugged in - if there is any traffic.
The IQ routes manually adjusts to work out your time and over a four-hour journey we beat the timer by just 1 minute. Not bad.
Beneath the map is a horizontal panel - it can also be displayed vertically, although the map can't - which gives information such as your speed, the speed limit of the road, the next instruction, your estimated time of arrival, how long left on the journey and how many miles you've got to go. You can customise some of this data to streamline the experience, but we've found it all helps.
You can zoom into the map with the help of on-screen plus and minus buttons, but those hoping to pinch to zoom as on a smartphone will be disappointed - you can't.
For the speedy, or should that read "safety conscious" TomTom lets you add a speed camera at the press of a button. Handy if the mapping data hasn't registered it yet, but you don't want to get caught.
Even though the Start 60 really is simple, TomTom has made sure there are plenty of options to let you feel you've got something to play with. You can change the map colours - you won't; opt to set it so the device can be operated left handed - you won't; you can even change the car symbol to a range of different cars and you won't do that, either.
The battery life is awful, with the unit failing to get through a three-hour journey without crying to be plugged in. Aside from that, there is very little to grumble about. TomTom has got the interface so tightly designed, allowing you to get from A to B without fuss, that we would be surprised if you struggled to enjoy the TomTom Start 60. Yes, it would be nice to have a capacitive screen, pinch to zoom maps, voice control, Bluetooth, and Live Services, but then we know that the price would be considerably more than £169.99
The TomTom Start 60 is the company's biggest satnav yet. Had it released this device five years ago we would have been aghast at the size of the screen. Now, as mobile phone screens get bigger and bigger, 6 inches seems right for a GPS.
If you need to get from A to B and don't like the idea of using your tiddly mobile phone's screen, this is probably going to be the answer. It doesn't have all the bows and bells you might want, but it will get you to where you are going, and tell you the time you can say you'll be there by.