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, which slots into TomTom's lineup just below the TomTom One, 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.
At first glance, the Ease appears remarkably similar to the TomTom One 140 S, which we've previously reviewed. They're both smallish GPS devices with 3.5-inch QVGA color touch screens and TomTom's EasyPort mount. However, look a bit deeper, and there are plenty of differences to be found between the two TomTom models.
The Ease's power button has been moved to the back of the device, rather than staying in its usual position along the top edge. Along the bottom edge of the unit is a rather deeply recessed Mini-USB port for charging and syncing the device. Because the Ease does not feature an SD or microSD card slot, all map updates must be synced through this USB connection.
Where the One's EasyPort mount clips onto a rotating swivel on the unit's back, the Ease's EasyPort mount is integrated into its housing. The advantage of this configuration is that the Ease's profile is notably thinner than the One's, with its suction cup attached. We were unable to figure a way to dashboard mount the device until we realized that the whole EasyPort assembly must be removed, rotated, and replaced in order be able to angle the suction cup for connection to the included adhesive dashboard mount.
The Ease is available in three housing colors: black, white, and red. Ours was a black unit, but TomTom will be making replacement shells in a variety of colors for users who'd like a bit more flair. Changing the shell is a rather simple process. First, the EasyPort mount is removed from the back of the unit and then the shell is simply pushed off of the device and replaced. Beneath the shell, we were surprised to find a removable lithium ion battery. We also found the device's small half-inch speaker and a pinhole reset button.
However, the biggest change to the TomTom Ease happens beneath the surface. The Ease's home menu has been dramatically simplified, versus the standard TomTom interface on the One. Previous TomTom devices dump the user onto a home screen with six or more options. The Ease, on the other hand, features a home screen with two main options: Plan route and Browse map. The home screen also features a row of five smaller options for sound, day/night mode, help, options, and done.
Starting with the main options, clicking Plan route takes the user to a submenu of destination options. Users can navigate to a preset home address, favorite destinations, a specific address, recent destinations, or searchable points of interest. The Browse map option takes users to an overhead map view for selecting a point on the map as a destination. POI icons can be overlaid on this map for easy location of, for example, the nearest restaurants or gas stations.
On the main screen's submenu, the Sound icon only serves to mute or unmute the Ease's audio; volume control is located in a completely different menu. The day/night button manually switches between the Ease's color schemes. The Help button brings up the "Where am I?" menu that displays your current location and nearest cross streets, as well as quick links for phone numbers and driving directions to the nearest emergency services. Clicking options brings up device options and, subsequently, advanced options; the Done button returns to the live navigation map.