TomTom Start GPS unit

TomTom's Start is the company's cheapest GPS unit to be released in Australia

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TomTom Start
  • TomTom Start
  • TomTom Start
  • TomTom Start
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Compact design, responsive touch screen, EasyPort mount, speed and red light camera alerts

Cons

  • IQ Routes still prefers main roads, route recalculation is a little sluggish, no Australian text-to-speech voice, no lane guidance, no included AC adapter

Bottom Line

TomTom's Start is the company's cheapest GPS ever, and the good news is that the overall navigation experience hasn't been sacrificed to achieve the low price. Though not perfect, the TomTom start combines a simple, easy-to-use interface and a compact design, making it ideal for first-time buyers.

Would you buy this?

Retailing at just $199, TomTom's latest Start GPS unit is the Dutch giant's cheapest portable navigation unit released in Australia. Designed for first-time GPS users, the TomTom Start has spoken street names, an EasyPort mount system, IQ Routes technology, and a fresh interface.

The Start GPS unit embodies TomTom's simple design philosophy. Like all of TomTom's GPS devices, it features just a single physical power button. All other functions are controlled via the 3.5in touch screen. Despite the unit's compact size, it feels solid and there are no loose or creaking parts.

Two new features on the Start are an updated EasyPort mount and what TomTom calls "StartSkins". The EasyPort mount retains the same simple lock mechanism seen on earlier units but is easier to remove. A StartSkin is a removable plastic case that lets you to change the colour of the Start. TomTom includes the standard black StartSkin in the sales package, but yellow, orange, red, green, blue and purple skins are available for $24.95.

The TomTom Start interface has been revamped, and the result is a simpler and more streamlined feel. Looking remarkably similar to Garmin's latest Nuvi range, the TomTom Start has just two main icons on its home screen: plan route and browse map. Below on a horizontal bar are options for sound, night, help and settings.

Searching for an address is a similar experience to the current range of TomTom GPS units. You can also navigate to a postcode, a recent destination, a point of interest (POI), or a point on the map. Despite the Start's small screen, the keyboard is responsive and you can choose between ABC, QWERTY and AZERTY layouts. Searching for an address is a three-step process: city, street and then house number.

Once you've selected a destination, the TomTom Start displays the fastest route available using IQ Routes and allows you to alter it if necessary. Here you can avoid a roadblock, calculate an alternative route or travel via a waypoint. The IQ Routes technology used by TomTom is based on real-life user data rather than the traditional maximum speed method. It determines a route by considering all possible routes and then selecting the one that supposedly takes the least time, with the technology aiming to avoid main roads where necessary.

In our experience the TomTom Start still preferred to calculate routes using main roads rather than backstreets that are often slightly quicker. We also noticed route calculation is slower compared to other TomTom units — the Start often takes up to 8-10 seconds to recalculate a route, which can be troublesome if there are multiple turn-offs on the current street you're driving on.

The TomTom Start has text-to-speech technology, which means that it speaks the names of streets as you approach them. The unit tends to struggle with longer street names such as Greystanes, which was pronounced "Greystaaaans". Spoken street names are only available with UK and US voices (there is an Australian voice but this doesn't announce street names). Puzzlingly, the TomTom Start announced a roundabout as a "rotary". In general, though, the voice is loud and clear and in most instances is detailed enough to ensure you keep your eyes on the road.

Being an entry-level GPS, the TomTom Start lacks some more advanced features like lane guidance, traffic notifications and Bluetooth, but it includes fixed speed and red light camera alerts and an over-speed alert. Lane guidance is a disappointing omission; we find this function extremely useful when driving on motorways and freeways.

The Start includes TomTom's Map Share and the 'Help Me!' safety portal. In addition to corrections and improvements to the maps being uploaded every month by other TomTom users, Map Share allows you to make adjustments to maps through the unit itself. Users can add their own POIs, update road changes, edit phone numbers and add new streets. You can then share this information with other TomTom users, uploading the changes via the included TomTom HOME software. The Help Me! safety function displays information and allows you to navigate (either by car or on foot) to a multitude of services including police stations, hospitals, mechanics, public transport and pharmacies. It also has first aid, traffic regulation, and repair and maintenance guides.

Battery life is rated at up to two hours. TomTom disappointingly doesn't include an AC charger in the sales package, so you'll have to charge the Start via the included USB cable or cigarette lighter adapter.

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