When we reviewed the TomTom One last year, we were impressed by its ease of use, affordable price tag, and good performance. Now, the company has released a new model in the product line called the TomTom One XL ($399.99) that adds a larger, 4.3-inch touch screen and, well, that's about it. On the one hand, it's great because the One XL continues to offer all the navigation basics with the same user-friendly interface and accurate directions. On the other hand, for the same price, you can get more for your money with GPS devices like the Mio C520, which adds text-to-speech functionality, or the Magellan Maestro 4000. In short, the TomTom One XL is a perfectly fine system for drivers who want a basic system and for GPS newbies, but there are just better values out there.
The XL in the TomTom One XL refers to the unit's touch screen. Though we wouldn't necessarily characterize the size of the display as extralarge, it is bigger than the one found on the original TomTom One, diagonally measuring 4.3 inches compared to 3.5 inches. The LCD shows off 64,000 colors at a 480x272 pixel resolution, so maps looked bright and text was sharp. We had no problems reading the screen in various conditions, including bright sunshine. You can adjust the backlighting, though you have to dig through several layers of the Preferences menu to do so. The TomTom One XL also gives you the option to switch between day and nighttime map colors and your choice of 10 different color schemes.
Despite the larger display, the device is still compact and lightweight (4.7 inches wide by 3.4 inches high by 1.2 inches deep; 7.4 ounces) and easily portable between cars. The TomTom One XL also keeps the simple design of its predecessor with just a lone power button on top of the unit, and an SD expansion slot, a mini USB port, and a power connector on the bottom. Finally, on the back you will find the system's speaker and a jack for attaching an optional external antenna for increased reception.
TomTom packages the One XL with a car charger, a USB cable, a vehicle mount (dash and windshield), a TomTom Home software CD, and reference material. The vehicle mount is quite simple and neat without many moving parts. It's easy to install and also securely holds the unit in place.
Featurewise, the TomTom One XL is very similar to the TomTom One; however, maps of the United States and Canada and points of interest (POI) are now preloaded onto the device's hard drive rather than on an SD card. TomTom sells optional SD cards preloaded with other regional maps, such as Europe, which you can plug into the device's expansion slot. There are a number of options for picking your destination. You can enter a specific street address, an intersection, POI, or city center, or choose a location from your Favorites or Recent destination list. The One XL has the ability calculate routes by fastest time or shortest distance, with or without highways, toll roads, and so forth. There is also a bicycle and a pedestrian routing option. Other goodies include a detour function, automatic route recalculation, and multistop trips.
For those times you need to make additional stops, planned or spontaneous, the One XL offers a comprehensive POI that includes all the major categories, including gas stations, ATMs, lodging, and restaurants, to more specialized interests, such as beaches and concert halls. Sadly, unlike a lot of today's systems, you can't search for restaurants by cuisine type and unless you're browsing a map, there's no easy way to view the phone number or address associated with a business, as the One XL quickly calculates a route once you select a POI from the list.
Once the system has calculated directions, you can view them as a list of text-based turn-by-turn directions, see the highlighted route on an overview map, or get a running demo of the trip, among other things. Maps can be presented in 2D or 3D view. With the former, you can choose to have either north or the direction you're traveling always face the top of the screen. The main driving view will give your current position, the name of the next major road, the next instruction, and information about your trip, including remaining trip time and distance and estimated arrival time. In addition, you can zoom in and out of maps. Of course, all the visual cues are backed by the voice-guided directions. The One XL supports 36 languages with 55 different voices, but unfortunately, it does not offer text-to-speech functionality.
The One XL also supports TomTom's Plus services for real-time traffic updates, weather information, downloading celebrity navigation voices, and more. Just be aware that there is a subscription fee, and you will need a Bluetooth-enabled phone to connect to the service. You can read more about the Plus services and check for phone compatibility on TomTom's Web site.
We tested the TomTom One XL in San Francisco, and from a cold start, the unit took about two minutes to get a fix on our position under cloudy skies. Subsequent starts were much faster, and for the most part, the GPS receiver maintained a steady fix during our test drives, though it did lose reception once as we were driving through the city's financial district where tall buildings can block a clear view of the sky.
The One XL quickly calculated directions after we entered information for our standard trip from the Marina district to CNET's downtown headquarters. We took a quick look at the trip summary and list of text-based instructions and agreed with the recommended route. The system accurately tracked our position as we started on our drive, and we purposely got off track to test the route recalculation rate, which was quick. We found the whole process to be a lot smoother than competing systems, as the One XL never got confused when we took a succession of wrong turns and always got us back on track with efficient directions. That said, we wish the voice prompts were a little faster to tell us when to turn. Though we got ample warning of upcoming turns, the system didn't alert us until the very last second when it came time to making the actual maneuver. We also missed the text-to-speech functionality that we experienced with the Mio C520. The TomTom One XL's internal lithium-ion battery is rated for two hours of battery life, which is quite on the low side.