TomTom pushed the envelope of GPS innovation with its ultraportable and easy-to-use TomTom GO, and it continues the tradition with its TomTom GO 910. The GO 910 is the world's first device to offer maps of the United States, Canada, and Europe preinstalled on its hard drive. In addition, it's loaded with the latest features, such as text-to-speech capability, Bluetooth integration, traffic services, and even iPod compatibility. We found it to be an accurate navigator, but the points-of-interest database is a bit outdated, and the windshield mount leaves much to be desired. Also, if you don't travel to Europe much, there's no reason to fork over the $799 for it; instead, we'd recommend you take a look at the TomTom GO 510, while the GO 910 is best for gadget hounds and world travelers who want the latest and greatest in portable nav systems.
In keeping with the rest of the company's line of GPS units, the TomTom GO 910 features a nice, compact form factor (4.2 by 3.1 by 2.5 inches; 12 ounces) that's easily transportable from car to car. The GO 910 also keeps things simple, with minimal controls. Aside from an indicator LED, a light sensor, a microphone, and a vehicle-mount release key, the only other control is a power button on top of the device. The rest of the system's functions are entered via the GO 910's responsive touch screen. And talk about a beauty--this screen is sharp and colorful.
TomTom gets a leg up on the competition by incorporating a larger 4-inch LCD on the GO 910, while the rest offer only 3.5-inch screens. It displays 64,000 colors at a resolution of 480x272 pixels, and there are a number of screen-customization options at your disposal. You can change the map colors, switch between day and night mode, and adjust the brightness. Unfortunately, the GO 910's screen suffers the same fate as the TomTom GO 300 in that it's difficult to read in sunlight.
The TomTom GO 910 is ready to use right out of the box, and its interface is intuitive. We had no problem navigating the menus, but we will say that all the choices can be a bit overwhelming. This is understandable, considering the number of features that are packed into the GO 910, and thankfully, there is a setting in the Preferences menu to show fewer menu options.
TomTom is extragenerous with the included accessories. You get a remote control; a carrying case; a home dock that you can use with a PC or Mac; a USB cable; an AC adapter; a car charger; a windshield mount; an external microphone for optimizing your voice for hands-free calls; audio cables for connecting the GO to your car stereo; and reference material. The windshield mount was a disappointment. While it was easy to install, we had trouble keeping the mount's arm in place; it's as if it couldn't support the weight of the device. The apparatus is equipped, however, with ports for audio-out, an external antenna, a microphone, and a charger.
As we mentioned earlier, the TomTom GO 910 is the first portable in-car GPS to offer detailed maps of Europe and North America preinstalled on its 20GB hard drive. It's perfect for those who frequently travel overseas; just throw it in your suitcase, install it in your rental car, and go. The GO 910 offers all your basic navigation features and more. You get text- and voice-guided turn-by-turn directions, and you can choose to receive those voice prompts in one of 36 languages and 50 different voices, making this a truly international device. The unit also supports the latest text-to-speech functionality, which means it will say the actual name of the street instead of a generic direction, such as "Turn left in 100 feet." This is a nice feature, since it lets you keep your eye on the road instead of having to check the system's screen for street names. We should note, however, that the text-to-speech capability is available only if you use one of the computer voices and not a recorded human voice; a screen prompt will alert you to this restriction if you're trying to use a recorded human voice.
To get started, 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 910 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.
The TomTom GO 910 is well stocked, with a comprehensive points-of-interest (POI) database that includes restaurants, gas stations, ATMs, parking garages, sports stadiums, and much, much more. You can search for these POI by proximity to your current location, along your route, or near a specific city. And while we like the fact that it gives you store names and separates restaurants by type, we noticed that some of the entries were outdated. For example, we searched for restaurants in the Marina/Cow Hollow neighborhood of San Francisco, and the GO 910 came back with a couple of restaurants that we knew were no longer there. Not a big deal in this scenario, but we can see where this would be a problem if you're in dire need of gas and a service station isn't where the GO 910 said it would be.
Now, we get into some of the TomTom GO 910's more advanced features. First, if you have a compatible Bluetooth cell phone, you can pair it with the GO to make hands-free calls. For incoming calls, you can either use the touch screen to accept or reject calls or turn on Auto-Answer in the Phone preferences menu to have the device automatically pick up after a certain time.
In addition to making calls, you can use the Bluetooth connection to access TomTom's Plus services, which include real-time traffic information, weather reports, and the location of safety cameras. There's also a cool feature called Buddies, which lets you see the location of any friends or family members who also have a TomTom unit. Just be aware that accessing these services means you're using the minutes from your cell phone's service plan, so use them accordingly. The other downside to this feature is that the list of compatible phones is pretty weak at this point. To see if your phone is supported, check out TomTom's Web site.
Finally, the TomTom GO 910 can also entertain. A built-in MP3 player lets you listen to your favorite MP3s or Audible audiobooks, and it also displays photos (JPEG and BMP formats). There are 12GB of user-accessible memory for storing these files, and you can easily transfer them to the device using the included TomTom Home software. And if all that weren't enough, the GO 910 offers full iPod compatibility.
Powered by a 400MHz processor and a SiRF Star 3 GPS chipset, the TomTom GO 910 offered solid performance. When we first fired up the GO 910, it took the unit about 2 minutes to acquire our position, and subsequent starts were much faster. The device accurately tracked our position as we drove around San Francisco, although like most GPS units, it did lose its satellite fix when we drove through an area populated with tall buildings.
Route calculations were quick, and directions were on the money; the TomTom GO 910 also did a good job of creating a new route when we purposely missed a turn. The speaker system did an admirable job with voice directions, and though volume was loud enough, the audio quality of MP3 playback wasn't the greatest, as songs sounded tinny and harsh. The GO 910's internal lithium-ion battery is rated for 4 hours.