TomTom XXL 540 S review: TomTom XXL 540 S

Starting at $300
  • Recommended Use automotive
  • Features 2D / 3D map perspective, IQ Routes technology, TomTom QuickGPSfix, preinstalled POIs
  • Navigation Software & Services TomTom HOME

Roadshow Editors' Rating

7.3 Overall
  • Cabin tech 8
  • Performance tech 7
  • Design 7

The Good The TomTom XXL 540 S has advanced features such as lane guidance and user-updated maps from TomTom Map Share. Its huge 5-inch touch screen is easy to read and to input addresses. Text-to-speech enhances the device's safety.

The Bad With a wide 5-inch screen and a thick EasyPort mount, pocketability goes out of the window. Routing from a moving vehicle is considerably slower than from a stationary one.

The Bottom Line The TomTom XXL 540 S improves on the TomTom XL line by keeping the features we love while improving screen visibility; but the bigger size comes with compromised portability.

If you're in need of a honking big screen, you may be in luck. The TomTom XXL 540 S takes everything that we liked about the TomTom XL 340 S and the TomTom One 140 S and expands the color touch screen to a massive 5-inch display, which may come in handy if you drive an RV or big truck that requires you mount your GPS device further away from the driver's seat.

Based on TomTom's successful XL series of wide-screen portable navigation devices, the XXL 540 S has an identical feature set, including TomTom Map Share and IQ Routes technologies, as well as advanced lane guidance. As an "S" designated model, the 540 S also features text-to-speech that reads aloud street and point-of-interest (POI) names for quicker recognition.

Design
The 5-inch WQVGA wide-format touch screen occupies the front of the XXL 540 S, while a large, loud 2-inch speaker dominates its back. The only physical control to be found is the power button on the unit's top edge. The Mini-USB port on its bottom edge serves as the connection for the included 12-volt car charger for data connections.

Unlike its primary competitor, the Garmin Nuvi, the XXL 540 S does not have an SD or microSD card slot, so you'll have to make do with the device's 2GB of onboard storage, which is reasonable for map and voice data. All updates are done online via a USB connection.

TomTom's EasyPort mount integrates the XXL's cradle into the back of the unit. To attach the unit to your windshield, simply flip out the suction cup, place the device on the windshield, and twist the locking ring a quarter-turn. With a bit of practice, the TomTom's EasyPort mount becomes quite easy to place and remove from the windshield and offers a bit of flexibility of mounting angles. Our XXL's EasyPort was prone to popping off while adjusting. However, because we haven't had this issue with any of the other EasyPort equipped TomToms that we've previously tested, we're inclined to believe that our particular 540 S's connection was uncharacteristically loose.

The integrated cradle adds considerable bulk to the XXL's already mammoth size, more than doubling its thickness. Users who carry their TomTom in a bag or purse probably won't notice, but if you're planning on pocketing your XXL, you'll probably want to remove the EasyPort mount first or look for a smaller nav device. An additional bonus to the EasyPort mount is that there is no cradle left behind for would-be thieves to mistake for something of value, thus increasing vehicle security.

Also included with the XXL 540 S are a 12-volt car charger, a USB connection cable, and an adhesive disk for attaching the XXL to your vehicle's dashboard if windshield mounting is not permissible.

Features
The TomTom XXL 540 features Advanced Lane Guidance, a new feature to the XL line that shows detailed illustrations of complex freeway interchanges, complete with lane information. Arrows overlaid on the illustration notify drivers of what lanes will keep them on the chosen route.

Text-to-speech functionality lets the XXL 540 S announce street and POI names aloud. The unit comes bundled with 14 English, French, and Spanish voices. More voices can be downloaded from the Web, including celebrity voices. (Our personal favorites are Mr. T and John Cleese!)

The XXL 540 S comes with TomTom's Latest Maps Guarantee, which allows users one free map update within 30-days of purchase. After that you'll have to pay for quarterly updates or use the free TomTom Map Share service. Map Share lets users make corrections to street names, directions, road speeds, POIs, and so on and upload those changes to be approved and shared with other TomTom Map Share users. If you don't trust the hive mind, you can choose to opt out of this service.

IQ Routes is a feature that uses anonymous historical speed and time data gleaned from actual driving and other TomTom Map Share/IQ Routes users to calculate the fastest route from point A to B. So for example, if the unit discerns that a certain road is typically congested, it will attempt to avoid it while routing. If it learns that another road is typically congested on weeknights between 5 and 7 p.m., it will attempt to avoid that road on weeknights, but not on weekends. If it can't find a faster way, the device can at least give an accurate time to destination based on real data.

Gaining access to map updates and other downloadable content is accomplished through the TomTom Home software that is embedded in the XXL's onboard memory. Simply connect the XXL to your computer via USB and the software prompts you for a quick installation, no CDs required. Once installed, the TomTom Home software lets users download updates, back up data, plan routes, and even play with a virtual representation of their XXL 540 S.

IQ Routes is not the same as real-time traffic data, as it only calculates using historical data, so if there is a unique incident, the XXL won't be privy to that information. To add that functionality, an RDS-TMS receiver can be purchased. Additionally, downloadable fuel prices and traffic camera information can be had via subscription.

Performance
We found that the TomTom XXL 540 S was quick to boot and satellite acquisition was fast, averaging just less than a minute for cold starts with a clear sky. Oddly, the maps that shipped with our TomTom XXL 540 S were grossly incomplete and outright missing many major streets in downtown San Francisco. However, after a 10-minute Latest Maps update (and a gruelingly slow 30-minute installation), we were able to solve this issue.

The onscreen keypad can be configured in A-Z, QWERTY, or AZERTY layouts. That last one is new to us. Key size is generous, making it easy to quickly input characters. Destination entry is superspeedy thanks to the XXL 540 S' intuitive autocomplete feature.

Points of interest can be searched by name or browsed by broad category (restaurant, gas station, lodging), but cannot be grouped by subcategory (for example, Mexican or Japanese restaurants). While destinations chosen from a stationary vehicle were routed in a matter of seconds, we found that (as in the One 140 S and XL 540 S units) routing from a moving vehicle takes considerably more time, especially if you aren't already heading in the right direction. So, do the safe thing and come to a stop before punching in that address.

In sum
At an MSRP of $299, the TomTom XXL 540 S provides the biggest screen that you can get on a TomTom model for about $50 more than the TomTom XL 340 S. For your money, you get all of the features that we loved in the smaller unit, such as Advanced Lane Guidance, TomTom Map Share, and text-to-speech functionality. The XXL earns a design point over its sibling, the XL 340 S. for its larger screen, but because the only difference is screen size, the XXL 540 S earns an identical score in each of the other categories.

Users looking for more advanced features (hands-free calling, traffic data, voice command, and so on) should look further up the TomTom totem pole.