Portable navigation systems are a dime a dozen these days. A lot of the models offer many of the same functions, such as text- and voice-guided turn-by-turn directions and millions of points of interest, and they're all beginning to look alike with competitive pricing. So there's a real need for innovation to, not only capture the attention (and money) of the customer, but to keep advancing GPS technology. Well, TomTom is willing to answer the call, and its TomTom GO 720 is a good start. It brings a new Map Share community tool that gives you access to constant map updates for more accurate information, and a new safety option called Help Me aids you in case of an emergency. Plus, we applaud TomTom for making these enhancements to the core purpose of a GPS device--navigation--and not adding some superfluous feature like multimedia. On top of all that, the GO 720 is a sleek-looking and well-performing in-car GPS, so if you're looking for a middle-of-the-road system, this is a good option. The TomTom GO 720 is available now for $499.95.
The TomTom GO 720 is a beautifully designed portable navigation system. Though more full-featured than the TomTom One, the GO 720 keeps a similar slim profile as the One and loses the extra bulk of older models, such as the TomTom GO 910. It's compact at 4.6 inches wide by 3.2 inches tall by 0.9 inch deep and 7.7 ounces, so you certainly won't have any problems transporting this unit between cars. You can even throw it into a bag to take along on trips and use with rental cars. As a bonus, it'll look good inside your car as well with its sleek black, silver, and charcoal gray color scheme.
The entire front side of the GO 720 is dominated by the 4.3-inch, antiglare touch screen. With a WQVGA resolution (480x272 pixels), the display shows off bright and sharp-looking color maps. For the most part, we had no problems reading the screen, but the map colors tend to wash out a bit in bright sunlight. That said, we had a better experience after adjusting the screen brightness under the Preferences menu, where you can also change map colors and turn on night mode. The virtual keyboard is spacious enough that most people won't have problems entering addresses. It would be nice, however, if the keyboard was in QWERTY format instead of alphabetical order for easier text input.
On the bottom of the unit, you'll find a 3.5mm headphone jack, a TomTom connector port, a reset hole, a mini USB/power connector, and a SD/MMC expansion slot, while there is a lone power button on top. There is a jack to connect an external antenna on the back as well as the speaker. We missed having external volume controls. As is, you have to go through several menu levels to do so, which doesn't make it easy or safe to adjust the audio on the fly.
The TomTom GO 720 comes packaged with a vehicle mount (windshield and dash), a car charger, a desktop cradle, a CD-ROM with TomTom Home software, and reference material. The car mount is as simple as you can get. There's only one piece, and it easily slips into a slot on the back of the GO 720. It securely held the unit in place, but we do wish there was an extra locking mechanism for the suction cup like some of the other systems we've seen, just to have that extra reinforcement and peace of mind.
The TomTom GO 720 comes equipped with a 20-channel SiRFStarIII GPS receiver and maps of the United States and Canada and points of interest are preloaded on the device's 2GB internal hard drive. Now, there's always a lot of concern over the freshness of these maps, especially as new developments constantly crop up, businesses open and close, and there's constant road construction. While the GPS manufacturers often release map updates, the frequency can vary, so to make sure that you have the most up-to-date information at all times, TomTom has introduced a new feature called Map Share. It allows you to make adjustments to your maps (such as noting blocked roads, updating POI, adding new streets, and so on) and then share the information with other drivers. You can make the changes right on your GO 720, save them, and then upload and share them with other users via the TomTom Home desktop companion. You can also download changes made by other TomTom users, and if you're worried about the legitimacy of user updates, you can opt to only download data verified by TomTom experts.
To plan a trip, you can enter your destination by address, city center, postcode, or intersection, and you can instruct the device to calculate directions based on a number of criteria, including quickest or shortest route, avoid toll roads, and required arrival time. If at any time you want to avoid a part of your route, you can tap the Find Alternative icon, and the GO 720 will plot a new course. You can view maps in 2D or 3D mode. A status bar at the bottom of the screen displays useful information, such as the next instruction, remaining distance, and estimated time of arrival. There are also two icons in the upper-right and upper-left corner that let you zoom in and out of maps.
You can continue to get standard text- and voice-guide turn-by-turn directions, including text-to-speech functionality. The GO 720 supports 36 different languages for generic spoken directions and 8 for text-to-speech directions, which is more than most. Alternatively, you can download celebrity voices, such as Dennis Hopper or Curt Schilling, from the TomTom PLUS service or you can even record instructions in your own voice if you happen to love hearing yourself talk.