Text-to-speech functionality lets the XXL 540 S announce street and POI names aloud. The unit comes bundled with 14 English, French, and Spanish voices. More voices can be downloaded from the Web, including celebrity voices. (Our personal favorites are Mr. T and John Cleese!)
The XXL 540 S comes with TomTom's Latest Maps Guarantee, which allows users one free map update within 30-days of purchase. After that you'll have to pay for quarterly updates or use the free TomTom Map Share service. Map Share lets users make corrections to street names, directions, road speeds, POIs, and so on and upload those changes to be approved and shared with other TomTom Map Share users. If you don't trust the hive mind, you can choose to opt out of this service.
IQ Routes is a feature that uses anonymous historical speed and time data gleaned from actual driving and other TomTom Map Share/IQ Routes users to calculate the fastest route from point A to B. So for example, if the unit discerns that a certain road is typically congested, it will attempt to avoid it while routing. If it learns that another road is typically congested on weeknights between 5 and 7 p.m., it will attempt to avoid that road on weeknights, but not on weekends. If it can't find a faster way, the device can at least give an accurate time to destination based on real data.
Gaining access to map updates and other downloadable content is accomplished through the TomTom Home software that is embedded in the XXL's onboard memory. Simply connect the XXL to your computer via USB and the software prompts you for a quick installation, no CDs required. Once installed, the TomTom Home software lets users download updates, back up data, plan routes, and even play with a virtual representation of their XXL 540 S.
IQ Routes is not the same as real-time traffic data, as it only calculates using historical data, so if there is a unique incident, the XXL won't be privy to that information. To add that functionality, an RDS-TMS receiver can be purchased. Additionally, downloadable fuel prices and traffic camera information can be had via subscription.
We found that the TomTom XXL 540 S was quick to boot and satellite acquisition was fast, averaging just less than a minute for cold starts with a clear sky. Oddly, the maps that shipped with our TomTom XXL 540 S were grossly incomplete and outright missing many major streets in downtown San Francisco. However, after a 10-minute Latest Maps update (and a gruelingly slow 30-minute installation), we were able to solve this issue.
The onscreen keypad can be configured in A-Z, QWERTY, or AZERTY layouts. That last one is new to us. Key size is generous, making it easy to quickly input characters. Destination entry is superspeedy thanks to the XXL 540 S' intuitive autocomplete feature.
Points of interest can be searched by name or browsed by broad category (restaurant, gas station, lodging), but cannot be grouped by subcategory (for example, Mexican or Japanese restaurants). While destinations chosen from a stationary vehicle were routed in a matter of seconds, we found that (as in the One 140 S and XL 540 S units) routing from a moving vehicle takes considerably more time, especially if you aren't already heading in the right direction. So, do the safe thing and come to a stop before punching in that address.
At an MSRP of $299, the TomTom XXL 540 S provides the biggest screen that you can get on a TomTom model for about $50 more than the TomTom XL 340 S. For your money, you get all of the features that we loved in the smaller unit, such as Advanced Lane Guidance, TomTom Map Share, and text-to-speech functionality. The XXL earns a design point over its sibling, the XL 340 S. for its larger screen, but because the only difference is screen size, the XXL 540 S earns an identical score in each of the other categories.
Users looking for more advanced features (hands-free calling, traffic data, voice command, and so on) should look further up the TomTom totem pole.