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Updated for 2010-2011, the TomTom Go series of GPS devices adds a few new things to its bag of tricks. On the hardware front, the new Go 2405 TM and 2505 TM feature, most prominently, a new glass capacitive touch screen, a metal chassis with a slick asymmetrical design, and a clever new car cradle design that makes attaching and removing the Go easier than ever. Under the navigator's new skin is a glossy new version of TomTom's software with tweaks to take advantage of the swipey, pinch-to-zoomy goodness made possible by the new touch screen. TomTom also fleshes out the feature set with Bluetooth hands-free calling, lifetime traffic and map updates, and voice command.
The TomTom Go series models are built around the standard touch screen on a suction-cup form factor. The 2405 features a 4.3-inch display, whereas the 2505 has a 5-inch display. The Go's glass capacitive touch screen is quite glossy, which could pose a glare issue in certain situations, but the screen is bright enough to remain quite visible during the daytime hours.
At the top left corner of the unit is a stealthy power button that doubles as a charging status light. Around back is an attractive asymmetrical rear panel that hides the Go's loudspeaker behind a grille.
Finally, along the bottom edge of the Go chassis is a proprietary connection point for its 12-volt power cable. The power cable uses a 20-pin connection and locks into the Go's chassis with a pair of small magnets. The power cable features an inline receiver for the RDS-TMC FM traffic service and can lock into the base of the car cradle.
The car cradle itself features a suction cup that locks into place on a vehicle's windshield with a twisting knob. A ball joint at the base of the cradle's neck is the single point of articulation. A strong magnet embedded in the face of the cradle holds onto the Go's metal rear plate. This neat feature, combined with the locked-on magnetic power cable, makes it easy to place and remove the TomTom Go from the cradle with one hand when entering or exiting the vehicle.
The TomTom Go lacks an SD or microSD card slot, and the decision to go with the proprietary power cable meant that the GPS loses the Mini-USB port that has typically been the standard power and syncing connection point. Now to connect to a PC to update maps and software you must use a proprietary USB adapter--which is fine, but can be difficult to replace if misplaced.
Our review unit was delivered with a carrying case with a magnetic clasp. This optional case isn't included in the box, but it can be had for about $20 extra.
With the update to the Go series hardware comes also an update to the software that powers it. Now navigating the maps and menus is much snappier thanks in part to the more responsive touch screen, but also due to the new WebKit-based operating system.
The Go series' home screen is a variation of the interface we've seen on the newer XL and XXL models, with two large icons dominating the top two-thirds of the screen for "Navigate to..." and "View map." These two icons lead to the TomTom's two destination selection methods. The former is menu- and search-based, while the latter is visual and map-based.
The lower third is home to a collection of smaller icons for Plan route, Services, Settings, Help, and Done. Plan route is where users can save future and complex multistop trip information. Services is where information about the traffic, safety camera, and map correction services can be found. Settings is home to the settings. The Help icon leads to options for navigating to emergency services, relaying your current position, and an electronic product manual. Finally, Done returns the user to the live map.
Speaking of map screens, the TomTom Go has two of them. The live map is the main screen used during navigation that updates in real time with the position of the vehicle and displays turn-by-turn directions. Touching anywhere on the live map takes the user to the main menu, so it's not very interactive. The second map is the browsing map, accessed from the main menu's "View map" icon. The browsing map is used for searching for destinations and points of interest and can be used to initialize a new trip or modify the current trip. This map can also be scrolled and zoomed by swiping and pinching, and features user-selectable POI icons. At first we found the dual map setup a bit confusing. TomTom tells us that the live map is a low-distraction interface for use while the vehicle is in motion, whereas the browsing map is a more flexible, interactive screen that comes into play when the vehicle is stopped and drivers can devote their full attention to the unit. It all makes an odd sort of sense and, after spending time with the unit on the road, we've gotten the hang of the maps and their respective functions and limitations. However, we couldn't help but to think that other manufacturers somehow manage this juggling act with only one unified map screen.
There is a fairly large amount of flexibility with the menu and map screen interfaces. You can adjust the color of the map and the amount of data displayed in the status bar along the bottom edge of the map, or move the status bar to a vertical orientation along the right edge of the screen. There's also an option called "Make your own menu" that allows you to select custom shortcuts to be displayed on the live map screen--for example, shortcuts can be set pointing to the phone menu, the nearest parking structure, voice command for the system or address entry, muting sound, or contacting emergency services. Two or fewer of these shortcuts display on directly on the map screen; selecting three or more creates a fly-out menu.
After a short pairing process with a Bluetooth-enabled phone, the TomTom Go gains the ability to act as a speakerphone for hands-free calling. Support for phone book access (PBAP) means that the TomTom can download the user's address book for quick dialing access from the phone menu or voice command, which we'll come back to later.
When connected to its power cable with integrated RDS-TMC receiver, the Go series can receive and display traffic data. On the map this data manifests as color overlays for major highways and roads with red indicating serious congestion and green showing a healthy flow. During navigation, a traffic indicator bar on the right edge of the map screen similarly shows color-coded call-outs of traffic flow with icons indicating expected delays with the estimated time they'll cost along the chosen route.
The Go units also feature a voice command system that is not heavily featured in the promotional materials or the instruction manual. There are actually two parts to it: address entry and general voice commands.
The address entry portion appears on the onscreen keyboard as a small microphone icon, but you can also add a shortcut to this function with the "Make your own menu" option in the settings. Once activated, onscreen and spoken prompts ask the user to speak the city, street name, and building number before the Go presents turn-by-turn directions to the chosen destination. All input and confirmations are handled by voice once the process starts, so the driver can feasibly keep both hands on the wheel.
On the other side of the voice-activation coin is the general Voice command and control option. This function is hidden under the "Make your own menu" option and is, to the best of our knowledge, not accessible from any other menu. In fact, the only other reference that we could find was in the electronic product manual in the Help menu. Before planning to use the voice command system, users should plan to take a few minutes to browse the "What can I say?" portion of that manual, because upon activation, the Voice command and control system gives no onscreen prompts and no voice cues for what spoken commands are expected. It simply asks that you "Speak a command." This adds a extra level of difficulty to the learning curve, as opposed with a unit like the Garmin Nuvi 3790T. However, once the commands are learned, the TomTom Go's voice command system will allow you to do everything from initiating a hands-free call to navigating to the nearest gas station, rerouting around traffic, and making MapShare corrections using little more than the sound of your voice.
We're not sure if it's the more powerful hardware, snappier WebKit-based interface, or TomTom's new IQ Routes algorithms at work, but the Go 2405 TM was lightning fast when it came to selecting routes. Thanks to a very thorough set of options, the Go can also be set up to, for example, always ask about routing type, ask if you're planning on carpooling, or automatically start routing once a destination is chosen without waiting for confirmation. These and the dozens of other small choices that you can make in the Planning settings and Advanced options menus give you a good deal of flexibility in streamlining destination selection and routing with the Go.
Once under way, the Go 2405 TM proved to be quite accurate under what we considered to be reasonable operating conditions. Of course, long tunnels and urban canyons lined by skyscrapers give all GPS devices a hard time, and the TomTom Go is no exception.
Turn-by-turn directions were spoken loudly and clearly and delivered in a timely fashion that prevented any dangerous last-minute swerves for almost-missed turns. And when the road got crowded, the Go occasionally presented us with alternative routes around jams when available. Nice touches like displaying the speed limit as an icon and providing visual warnings for traffic cameras may help drivers to avoid unnecessary tickets, and the option to display POI icons on the live map may help them locate an emergency gas station without having to set a destination.
During our testing, the TomTom didn't ask us to do anything too crazy, and the routes chosen usually lined up fairly well with our local knowledge of the geography.
Our first impression of the new Go 2405 TM and 2505 TM models is that they are probably the best that TomTom has ever made. Routing is faster than ever; the interface behaves much more consistently and is easier to navigate; and the hardware has a gracefulness that is both aesthetically pleasing and thoughtfully usable.
However, the capacitive touch sensitivity and similar feature set beg comparison with our current Editors' Choice, Garmin's Nuvi 3790T, and--aside from a few interface quibbles and the obvious difference in form factor--the units are mostly equals. However, the Garmin's voice command system is more consistent and much easier to learn to use. Then again, the TomTom's MSRP sits $150 lower than the superthin Garmin's, making the Go 2405 TM a much better value.