TomTom XXL 540 review: TomTom XXL 540

Roadshow Editors' Rating

8.1 Overall

The Good Easy to use. Lane guidance almost everywhere. Map correction. Biiiiiiiig screen is easy to read.

The Bad ...but can obscure road in small cars. Not exactly brimming with features. EasyPort mount requires skill to adjust. IQ Routes still smells of snake oil.

The Bottom Line The extra X in the XXL 540 is there to denote the unit's large 5-inch touchscreen and if you're into size this GPS is definitely worth a look, just don't expect much sizzle.

Design

If you're a believer in the mantra "size matters" then TomTom's XXL 540 might just hit the sweet spot. It's kitted out with the GPS market's surprise hit of the 2009/2010: a big screen. In this instance, the TomTom has gifted the XXL 540 with a 5-inch screen. Thanks to the unit's round corners, curved edges and relative thinness it's not as visually imposing as the 5.2-inch Garmin Nuvi 5000 or 5-inch Uniden Trax 5000.

On smaller cars, such as our review vehicle, it takes a lot of the available windscreen real estate and can obstruct vision of the road. Those with larger cars or vehicles with deep windscreens should find the greatest benefit, though. Naturally, the map is noticeably easier to read and entering destinations via the on-screen QWERTY keyboard becomes a doodle.

The menu screen on the TomTom XXL 540

The menus are a little nicer now.
(Credit: CNET)

Like other current generation TomTom units, the menus have been given a subtle lick of paint, with a bit of anti-aliasing here, a shadow and gradient fill there. Given that it sports the same 480x272 resolution as TomTom's 4.3-inch models, the XXL 540 isn't as sharp or as smooth as it could be. Tapping the map screen's info boxes gives drivers easy access to two commonly used functions: volume and route overview.

Like the smaller 3.5-inch One 140 and 4.3-inch XL 340, the XXL 540 is equipped with the company's EasyPort windshield mount that clips onto and swivels around the unit's speaker. It folds up compactly and looks swell, but it requires the right technique to adjust and set up on one's windscreen. Grab the GPS' body only and attempt to adjust the angle and it will be thumping into your dashboard quicker than you can utter an expletive; the correct technique requires a firm single-handed grip on both the GPS proper and the part of the mount that connects to it.

Features

It wouldn't be stretching the truth to call the XXL 540 a One 140 or XL 340 with a big screen because, screen size apart, the three units are identically specified. So, if you require Bluetooth hands-free with your GPS, you'll have to look elsewhere. Depending on the time of day, the XXL 540 switches automatically between the day and night viewing modes.

Lane guidance is present for most multi-lane roads and is prominently displayed in the status bar along the bottom of the screen. For highway and motorway exits and intersections the usual map screen is replaced by junction view, a computer rendering of the upcoming junction complete with street signs and flashing arrows for the suggested lanes.

Lane guidance screen on the TomTom XXL 540

Lane guidance (bottom left) is much appreciated for its ubiquitousness and clarity.
(Credit: CNET)

Unfortunately, for a brand that prides itself on being easy to use, the text-to-speech feature for spoken street names isn't enabled by default. To get it working you'll have to jump into the main menu, go to Change preferences, select a computer voice and make sure that the "read aloud street names" option is ticked; be careful not to enable "read aloud road signs" unless you want to hear "S-T-A-T-E Route X" or "M-E-T-R-O-A-D Y" before every road name. Once enabled text-to-speech works reasonably well, although like most GPS units it muddles up Australian and Aboriginal street names.

Warnings for speed and red light cameras come in the form of a loud audio alert accompanied by a small flashing icon on the map and a slightly larger one in the top left corner. We maintain that a decently sized text message would have been much easier to comprehend on the go.

Performance

Route calculation times are roughly class average, although interestingly it's some 20 per cent slower than the entry-level TomTom Start. Included with the XXL 540 is street by street average speed data — branded as IQ Routes — that TomTom has collected anonymously from its users. This supposedly leads to improved route suggestions, but we didn't see much evidence of this as we were often told to make impossible to execute right turns or guided up roads that we instinctively knew were likely to be clogged.

The XXL 540 comes equipped with the latest set of Whereis Australian maps, which proved to be reasonably correct in the city, but less so in the bush. Should you spot an error, like a missing "no right turn" restriction, incorrect speed limit or newly blocked road, TomTom's MapShare feature allows you to correct it on your device and, if you're feeling generous, share it with other TomTom users when you hook your GPS up to a PC.

On-screen camera warning on the TomTom XXL 540

On-screen camera warnings could do with being a bit, well, bigger.
(Credit: CNET)

Start-up time is quite brisk, clocking in at three-and-a-bit seconds. GPS positioning is accurate in the suburbs and out of town, but is the usual lucky dip in the CBD — some days it'll track you true and proper, on others it'll occasionally place you a few streets across from where you actually are. As the XXL 540 has no dead reckoning smarts, you're pretty much on your own when you venture into a tunnel.

Conclusion

We've already met some enticing 4.7- and 5-inch models and, while it doesn't exactly bristle with interesting features, the XXL 540 can easily be added to that list.

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