Posted on Thursday, May 21st, 2009 at 7:52 pm CET
We’ve had a TomTom One for several years and have been extremely happy with it. We used it intensively in Europe and here in the United States. A couple of months ago our TomTom car charger suddenly started making a high-pitched noise and a few days later it overheated and smoke (!) came out of it. We threw it away and bought a new (generic) car charger at Wal-Mart. A few days later that charger started making a high-pitched noise too. I read something about the possibility of a TomTom battery overheating from being plugged in all the time, so we concluded that our beloved TomTom had broken down.
I decided to get a new GPS for our upcoming trip to the Niagara Falls. For several weeks I looked at lots of different brands and models. I read dozens of reviews and tried out all the current models at Best Buy. Garmin is the market leader here, but I really didn’t like the way it operated. I kept coming back to the handy interface of TomTom that I’m used to.
So TomTom it was. I decided to upgrade to the new TomTom GO 730 for all its extra features. It has a wider 4.3-inch screen, speech recognition, lane guidance, FM transmitter and spoken street names. Sounds good, he? Well, we used the 730 for two weeks and were extremely disappointed with the device. I returned it to Amazon for a full refund.
Here’s what I didn’t like about the TomTom Go 730:
- The speech recognition, or Voice Address Input, is a neat idea, but implemented very poorly. You still have to touch the screen several times during the process before it starts navigating. The whole point of speech recognition should be so that you don’t have to lean forward while you’re driving to touch the screen. The worst part with our device though, was that this function only worked once. After the first day it broke down and never recognized any input anymore.
- The battery life of our new TomTom 730 was extremely bad. It needed to be constantly plugged into the car charger and directly after taking it out it would already complain about low battery. This is also the case with our old TomTom One (not when it was brand new though!), but at least you have some time to plug it in when the battery is red. On our 730 when the battery went red it shut down instantly after the first warning! There was no time to plug it in.
- At some time the spoken instructions were inexplicably off. We were driving around Chicago one day and did not hear any instructions even though the volume was on high. Next time we turned it on the spoken instructions were back.
- The FM transmitter is a cool concept, but here in Chicago there were too many radio stations that kept interfering and this made it hard to hear the instructions. This may work fine outside a large metropolitan area, but when you update the TomTom (any TomTom with FM transmitter technology) through your computer the new software will remove this feature! There’s a new law in the UK that prevents TomTom’s having an FM transmitter and the company decided to get rid of it on all their devices globally. That is outrageous. A GPS device knows exactly where it is, so it must not be difficult for the software to just switch off the FM transmitter if the TomTom is in the United Kingdom and leave it working in other countries. How lame is that?
- The spoken street names are pretty cool, but sometimes very hard to understand. It speaks much too fast and leaves out random syllables. For instance “Michigan Avenue” sounded like “chigan vnue”. Also some regular spoken words were worse than our old TomTom. On our TomTom One it would clearly say “Toll Charge”, but on the new 730 it sounded like “Tll Chrg”.
- I had been impressed by nice screenshots of the lane assist that I had seen in advertisements and on the TomTom website. Like this one:
That looks so cool! This new Advanced Lane Guidance feature is supposed to provide you with realistic representations of complex highway junctions. The truth is that there are very little of these nice pictures available. On our 1200-mile roadtrip from Chicago to Niagara Falls we only got to see one of these nice Advanced Lane Guidance pictures, and it wasn’t even at a particularly difficult highway junction. There were a lot more complicated junctions on our route through 7 states, but we never saw any more of these nice pictures.
- On my old TomTom One we always have the compass on in the bottom-left of the screen. The small circle is about a centimeter in diameter and tells you the direction you’re driving. The new TomTom Go 730 still has the compass feature, but it is tiny! It is less than half the size of the old compass and the arrow inside is very hard to see. Add to that that the screen is not bright enough (see next bullet) and the compass is completely useless. I don’t have bad eyes but I found myself constantly squinting at the screen trying to see what direction we were going.
- The thing I hatest most about the 730 was its screen. The brightness is much too low! I had a very hard time seeing the picture if the sun was shining. The screen of the 730 is a lot less bright than that of my old TomTom. With my old TomTom One the person in the passenger seat can easily read the screen, even on a sunny day, but on the 730 this is impossible. The screen was hard to see and couldn’t be seen at all from an angle.
I’m glad I could still return this piece of junk and I already got my money back thanks to Amazon’s excellent customer service. There are a lot of refurbished 730’s on sites like Amazon and Newegg, which should have a been a clue; lots of people must be returning them.
I did learn something valuable though. I tried the generic car charger I bought at Wal-Mart with the new 730 and it too was making a high-pitched noise. So it turns out that it wasn’t our old TomTom One that was having a problem … but the new car charger was faulty! What about that?!
I ordered an official TomTom car charger from Amazon and we are now back to using our old TomTom and we are loving it. If this one ever breaks down for good we’ll just get a new One. They are much cheaper than the higher-end models, but who needs all those new functions anyway? As long as it brings me to where I need to go I’m happy. 🙂