The TomTom Go series models have the standard touch-screen-and-suction-cup design. The TomTom Go 2535 M Live features a 5-inch glass capacitive touch screen that is quite glossy, which could mean too much glare in certain situations, but the screen is bright enough to remain readable 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. Unlike, say, the power cable of the Go 2405 TM, the Go 2535 M Live's cable does not feature an in-line traffic antenna. In this case, the device's GSM data receiver is located within the chassis. A removable SIM card is hidden beneath the FCC identifying sticker on the base of the unit, but don't mess with it as it could cause problems with data connectivity. An internal data receiver means that you can access TomTom's Live Services while the device is operating on battery power, which makes it easy to check travel times and traffic status before you enter the vehicle.
The power cable now terminates in a removable 12-volt-to-USB power adapter. The TomTom Go still lacks an SD or microSD card slot, and the decision to go with the proprietary power cable took away the Mini-USB port that has typically been the standard power and syncing connection point. 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.
The car cradle itself has 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 snap the Go 2535 M Live in and out of the cradle with one hand when entering or exiting the vehicle.
The Go 2535 M Live features the same updated WebKit-based operating system that we've seen in the rest of the current Go models.
The main menu is dominated by two large icons in the top two-thirds of the screen for "Navigate to..." and "View map." These lead to the TomTom's two destination selection methods. The former is menu- and search-based, and the latter is visual and map-based.
The lower third is home to a collection of smaller icons for "Plan route," Live Services, Settings, Help, and Done. We'll cover "Plan route" and Live Services later in this review. Settings leads to the settings; Help leads to options for navigating to emergency services, relaying your current position, and accessing an electronic product manual; and Done returns you 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 you 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 initiate a new trip plan or modify the current trip plan. This map can be scrolled and zoomed by swiping and pinching, and displays 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 does make some 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 can't help but note that other manufacturers manage this juggling act with only one map screen.
The menu and map screen interfaces are fairly flexible. 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 lets you select custom shortcuts to be displayed on the live map screen--for example, shortcuts can be set pointing to the phone menu, voice command for the system or address entry, muting sound, contacting emergency services, or finding the nearest parking structure. If you choose one or two of these shortcuts they display directly on the map screen; selecting three or more creates a fly-out menu.
Under the aforementioned Live Services icon in the Go 2535 M Live's main menu is a collection of connected services accessed via the device's always-on data connection.
The service that most people will use the most often, whether actively or passively, is TomTom's HD Traffic service. Unlike standard RDS-TMC traffic services, which rely primarily on highway road sensors and traffic reports, TomTom's HD Traffic uses positioning and speed data collected from third-party fleets, third-party incident data reporting, TomTom's established IQ Routes historical data reporting and algorithms, and anonymous position and speed data from every TomTom Live connected device on the road. Essentially, by using the service, TomTom users are actively making the system more accurate.
TomTom's data centers crunch this data and spit it back out to TomTom HD Traffic users every 2 minutes, whereas the RDS-TMC system has a refresh rate of every 10 to 15 minutes. HD Traffic also has the advantage of providing traffic data for surface roads, an area frequently neglected by basic traffic services.
Other Live Services include weather forecasts that are read aloud by the 2535's text-to-speech engine, safety camera data that is integrated into the map and sounds a chime when the car approaches a speed camera or red-light camera, fuel prices nearby, in a specific area, or along the current route, and Google Local Search, which uses Google's servers to dig up points of interest that aren't listed in the 2535's database. One year of live connectivity is included in the purchase price of the Go 2535 M Live, after which you can continue the service for a $9.99 monthly fee.
One thing that TomTom Go 2535 M Live owners should never have to pay for is map updates, which are included for the lifetime of the device.
On the road
Before we even got behind the wheel of our test vehicle, we were pleased to see that the Go 2535 M Live packs in a few features that helped us to plan our trips ahead of time. Firstly, there's a "Show home-work" traffic feature that gives expected delays between preset home and work addresses at the touch of a button, without the inconvenience of setting up a route or going outside to achieve GPS lock.
A "Plan route" button on the home screen enabled us to look ahead in time using TomTom's IQ Routes prediction algorithm to estimate how long a trip should take at a point in the near future. For example, we could estimate what time we'd need to leave the office to make it to a dinner reservation. On the Destination details screen, a tabbed information box enabled us to tweak departure times, check for safety cameras on the route, and find where the cheapest gasoline on the chosen route was and how much it would cost us. Interestingly, the Go 2535 doesn't seem to offer multiple-destination routing--you can only place a single via point.
Once behind the wheel, we appreciated the Go 2535's Bluetooth hands-free calling integration when paired with a compatible handset. We also liked the voice command system, which seems to have been updated since we tested the Go 2405, with a new information screen that lists suggested commands such as "Drive to an address." Voice address entry supports full spoken addresses, rather than separately prompting for street name, street number, and city.
For actual routing, the Go 2535 performs as well as the previously tested Go 2405. The presence of TomTom's Live Services gives access to a feature called QuickGPSfix, which greatly decreases the time to satellite lock and gives the unit a small measure of positioning accuracy (within a few blocks) when used indoors. It's difficult to measure how much time the TomTom system saved us on our commute, but using the system to hunt down reported traffic jams revealed that--at the very least--its traffic data appears to be accurate down to the surface-street level in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The TomTom Go 2535 M Live meets the expectations set by the previous generation of TomTom Go GPS models and exceeds them when you consider the extra functionality added by the Live Services, at least for the first year of use. Once the $9.99 monthly fee kicks in during the second year of ownership, the Go 2535 M Live will be less of a deal. However, users will still have access to TomTom's great suite of connected services.