LAS VEGAS--TomTom is attempting to lower the learning curve for the entry-level GPS buyer with its new Ease line of GPS navigation devices. The Ease is remarkably similar to the TomTom Start, which debuted in European markets last year, and may well be the same device but with North American maps.
For users unfamiliar with the Start, the Ease is a smallish device, built around a 3.5-inch color touch screen with either a black or white chassis. TomTom's EasyPort mount is recessed into the back of the device, resulting in a flat profile with none of the suction cup bulge of other EasyPort devices. However, the Ease is also small on the inside, with a lowish 320x240-pixel resolution and only 2GB of flash memory onboard, most of which is occupied by TomTom's new Tele Atlas map data. However, the benefit of this simple hardware is that the price can be kept at an easy-on-the-pocket MSRP of about $100.
TomTom didn't stop the simplification with the hardware, but has also pared down its software with a new and frankly Garmin-esque design; and that's a good thing. The new two-button menu gives users only the options to "Plan Route" or "Browse Map." Thankfully, it appears that the TomTom's routing algorithms haven't been dumbed down, if the inclusion of the proprietary Map Share and IQ Routes technologies is any indicator. The inclusion of text-to-speech is also a welcome addition to this entry-level device.
The new TomTom Ease will be available in both black and white in major retail outlets throughout the US in early 2010.