TomTom VIA 180 GPS device
TomTom VIA 180 review: A mid-range GPS with IQ Routes and safety camera notifications
- IQ Routes, points of interest, safety camera alerts, lane guidance, hands-free operation
- Not set to metres by default, map display sometimes got confusing even in places with a clear view of the sky, screen not always responsive
The TomTom VIA 180 is a mid-range GPS unit with plenty of features. You get IQ Routes, fast route calculation and re-calculation and it also offers safety camera warnings, lane guidance and hands-free operation. It performed well in our tests, guiding us safely through the unknown, and we think it's a good unit to consider if you're in the market for a new GPS.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
The TomTom VIA 180 is a mid-range GPS device with plenty of nifty features and a reasonably easy to use interface. It has a 5in resistive screen that's not always responsive, but if you hit it hard enough it will bow down to your commands. It rests between the GO 1000 and Start 10 in TomTom's car navigation range, and it represents pretty good value for money.
Like most good GPS devices, the TomTom VIA 180 isn't just a device for getting from A to B. It can also warn you when you are approaching red light cameras and speed cameras, it can tell you which lane you should be in, it can display upcoming service stations along your route, and it will even let you display points of interest (POIs) such as parking bays and shopping centres.
Setting up a route is very easy; after the GPS gets a satellite fix and finds your current position, you can enter your destination street as well as either a house number or a cross street, and the unit takes very little time to calculate the shortest possible route. You can tell the device to avoid toll roads if you wish, but this may end up adding a lot of extra scenery to your journey.
After the initial route calculation, the TomTom will tell you how long the journey should take and will give you an estimated time of arrival after also factoring in some time for delays (it can't receive SUNA live traffic updates though). The interface of the VIA 180 is clean and logical. It can display maps in 2D or 3D mode, and you can reach the main menu screen of the unit by tapping any location on the map. The screen displays speed limits, your current speed, the distance until a turn, and the time you will reach your destination. It will beep when you approach red light and speed cameras, and the current speed (which is displayed in the bottom-left corner) will turn red if it catches you over the speed limit.
Initially, the TomTom is set up to display (and speak) in yards, so you'll have to go in and change it to kilometres. The default voice is that of a computerised English lass and she does sound soothing. She announces street names, but does have a penchant for mispronouncing certain roads, which is annoying at first, but somewhat cute once you get used to it. For example, she said Bork instead of Bourke, and she always put the emphasis on the second syllable of highway when saying 'Princes Highway'. There are many built in non-computerised voices to choose from (including an Aussie named Ken), but these won't announce street names. You can also choose to buy famous voices for $18 off TomTom's site. We don't think it's worth ponying up that much dosh for a novelty voice, but if we were so inclined, we'd definitely want Bugs Bunny telling us where to go (and that we should have taken a left turn at Albuquerque).
We didn't have any problems with the navigational capabilities of the TomTom VIA 180 — it took us where we needed to go. If you get sick of punching in suburbs and roads, you can try using the unit's voice recognition feature as an alternative. However, its success rate in our tests was abysmal, especially when telling it to look for multi-syllable road names.
Although the TomTom got us to our destinations safely, our journeys weren't always smooth sailing. At certain points in some of our journeys, the unit became befuddled and the map and route spun around dramatically for a few seconds before re-establishing itself on the proper route. This usually happened near roundabouts or with overpasses nearby in busy areas, which wasn't convenient. When we took a wrong turn, route re-calculation was swift, but many times it told us we'd save time by back-tracking and following the originally planned route. If we kept going our own way it eventually re-calculated an alternative route.
In addition to road routes, the TomTom VIA 180 can be used to calculate routes for walking and cycling, which is handy. It has safety features that will give you your exact current location, guidance to the nearest police station, and if your phone is hooked up to it you can even get it to call 000 for you. Indeed, along with being a navigational aid, the VIA 180 can also act as a passthrough for your phone using Bluetooth. This will allow you to make and answer calls hands-free through the GPS unit.
The TomTom VIA 180 doesn't look flashy, but it's not altogether ugly either. It has a USB connection on the rear that can be used to connect it to your car's cigarette lighter for power or to your computer for software updates, and the power button is somewhat inconveniently located on the rear. We had no problems with glare off the LCD screen, but we did have to use a fair bit of force when pressing it.
The unit can be mounted to your windshield easily using its suction point, which folds neatly behind the unit. You can also mount it on your dashboard using an optional holder — the screen will auto-rotate to suit the way you've installed it. The built-in suction mount holds very securely once you turn the locking cap. However, it held a little too well in our tests and we managed to break it (the mount, not the windscreen) when removing it. That's just because we're brutal on our test products; if you're gentle with it, you won't have any problems with it.
All up, the TomTom VIA 180 is a GPS unit that will serve you well, whether you need to travel to a specific location, or a point of interest in a place you aren't familiar with.
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