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Sat-navs can make you want to kill a man. Many are difficult to use, equipped with out-of-date maps and annoying synthetic voices, and so detached from the reality of everyday motoring that most people only use them when it's absolutely essential to do so.
TomTom's flagship Go Live 1000 aims to drag sat-navs kicking and screaming into the 21st century. It promises advanced features like real-time traffic information, integrated Google search, and the very latest maps, which account for recent changes to road layouts. It sounds pretty amazing, but is it worth the £250 asking price?
The Go Live 1000 is an attractive device. It has a large, 4.3-inch capacitive touchscreen, with a brushed-steel rear and curved edges. Its mounting dock is small, unobtrusive and easy to fit. The Go Live 1000 slots into the cradle via a magnetic mount, which is then connected to the windscreen by twisting the bottom clockwise to lock it into place. The power cable, a USB model with an adaptor for your car's cigarette lighter, connects to the device along the bottom edge.
The Go Live 1000 is arguably the easiest-to-use sat-nav we've ever had the pleasure of encountering. Switch it on and the 4.3-inch display defaults to a map showing your current location, rather than the main menu. From there, it's possible to tap and drag the map to have a look at your surroundings, which is great if you're already roughly in the area you need to be, but can't quite find your destination and can't be bothered to activate a full navigation session.
Unusually for a sat-nav, the touchscreen is responsive. The Go Live 1000 has a capacitive multi-touch display that lets you make pinching and stretching gestures to zoom in and out of maps, in the same way as you would on the iPhone. The multi-touch functionality isn't particularly smooth -- it takes approximately half a second after a pinch or stretch gesture for the screen to redraw -- but it's slightly more intuitive than tapping buttons to zoom in or out.
The Go Live 1000's menus are logically arranged, but there's no need to fret if the standard layout isn't to your tastes, as it's possible to create custom menus -- sort of. The main menu interface is set in stone, but you can place shortcut buttons directly onto the driving view. This comes in handy when you need a button to help you navigate quickly to the nearest car park, for example, or a shortcut to switch the sat-nav's audio on or off.
One of the Go Live 1000's most interesting features is its voice-input system. To use it, you simply tap 'navigate to' on the main menu, then hit 'spoken address' and the Go Live 1000 will ask you to speak your destination, beginning with the name of the city, then the name of the street, and then the number of your destination.
It's a great idea in principle but, in practice, the voice-recognition system is a real disappointment. It repeatedly mistook the word 'London' for 'Mudnam' (which isn't even a place, as far as we're aware, and, even if it were, why would we want to go there?) and failed to recognise street names even after exaggerated enunciation. To its credit, the system seemed to recognise some people's voices better than others, but it's just not accurate enough to rely on.
Like all high-end TomTom devices, the Go Live 1000 provides access to TomTom's Live services. These allow the sat-nav to download up-to-date information about your surroundings via a built-in SIM card and data modem.
Live services include HD Traffic, which alerts you to traffic on your route; Mobile Speed Cameras, which tells you about the location of safety cameras; Local Search with Google, which lets you Google businesses and services on the move; Weather, which gives you local forecasts; and Live QuickGPSFix, which helps the device lock onto your location more quickly.
The most interesting of all these features is HD Traffic. Unlike rival traffic-monitoring systems, this one monitors the movement of mobile phones and TomTom devices with the HD Traffic service enabled. If there appears to be a greater number of mobile phones passing through a certain area than normal, the Go Live 1000 interprets this as a traffic problem. It then displays a cluster of amber lights over the area, indicating moderate delays, or red lights to indicate more serious delays. It also gives you the option of finding a quicker route.
HD Traffic is a clever technology that in some respects surpasses the standard TMC traffic system, which relies on police information, camera systems linked to traffic-control centres, traffic-speed detectors on traffic lights, and roadwork reports. But HD Traffic is far from foolproof. During our testing, we regularly encountered roads that were completely gridlocked, which had failed to register on the Go Live 1000's HD Traffic updates. It seems, for the moment, that there really is no escaping traffic. If there are too many cars on the road, you're going to get stuck.
One Live service that works remarkably well is Local Search with Google. This allows you to search for local businesses and services on the move -- and not just the regular old sat-nav points of interest either. Need the location of the nearest KFC, toilet or Ann Summers? Simply hit the 'Live Services' button, then 'Local Search', and tell the sat-nav whether you want to search near you, in the same city as you, or in another location altogether. It'll then give you a list of relevant businesses and services, and provide the option of calling them (if you've paired your mobile phone with the sat-nav over Bluetooth), showing their location on a map, or navigating to the place in question.
Anyone who's ever used a sat-nav will have found themselves in situations where the mapping data is completely out-of-date. That's understandable -- roads change faster than map updates can possibly be issued. Luckily, though, the Go Live 1000's Map Share feature helps minimise the chances of mapping mistakes.
Map Share allows the user to make instant corrections to the map on a global scale. If there's a new roadblock or a change of road layout, you can mark this on the fly. The sat-nav then alerts TomTom. The company then verifies the change and rolls out a map update so others are aware of the changes to the road in question. The same goes for speed traps -- if you spot one that isn't on the map, point it out on the Go Live 1000 and TomTom will update its maps.
In addition to Map Share, which updates your device on an ad hoc basis, TomTom also offers a Map Update Service, which gives you newly updated maps four times a year for £19.80 per year.
The Go Live 1000 doesn't come cheap. The device itself costs £250 and includes access to a year's worth of Live services, including HD Traffic. But, if you wish to continue using Live services after that, you'll have to cough up a further £47.50 a year. That's less than £1 a week, and you do get a year of free use before you decide whether the services are useful enough to pay for, but it's worth bearing in mind that many Live features, such as Google search, are available on ordinary mobile phones.
The TomTom Go Live 1000 is probably the best sat-nav we've ever used. It's fast, accurate and has a wealth of extra features, although some are more useful than others.
Edited by Charles Kloet