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TomTom XL 330S review:

TomTom XL 330S

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We tested the TomTom XL 330S in San Francisco and Los Angeles. From a cold start, it took the GPS about 5 minutes to get a fix on our location under partly cloudy skies, but subsequent starts took about a minute or two--not bad, but we've seen faster start-ups. The unit was fairly accurate when tracking our position as we drove around the city and managed to keep its lock on the satellites in San Francisco's Financial District, which can be problematic due to all the tall buildings.

We plotted our standard test course from the Marina District to CNET's downtown headquarters, and the XL 330S was quick to calculate directions based on the fastest route setting. We missed several turns along the way, and this is the one area where the GPS could use some improvement. Though it always got us back on track, the new instructions often came right at the last second so we wish route recalculation was a tad faster.

The voice-guided directions were loud and clear. There's a feature that will automatically increase the volume when you're traveling at higher speeds and lower it when you slow down, so you don't have to manually change it onscreen. The text-to-speech pronunciations weren't bad. There were a couple of interesting pronunciations for some longer street names like Divisadero Street, but it wasn't so bad that we had no idea what the GPS was trying to say.

CNET's car tech editor Wayne Cunningham also used the TomTom XL 330S for a trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles and was generally pleased with the PND's performance. During his trip, he relied heavily on the trip information--miles left to go, time to destination, and so forth--due to the long stretch on Interstate 5.

In L.A., the lane suggestions proved a very valuable feature, as the XL 330S did a good job of anticipating areas where some lanes get congested, such as when two freeways merge. To quote Wayne, "The lane suggestions feature was often telling me to stay in the left lanes to avoid right lane congestion. Sometimes it was unnecessary, as traffic was light in some areas, but it's still appreciated." Wayne also added that he was happy to find an Original Tommy's chili burger place in Burbank, in the POI database.

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