By TAN KIT HOONGbytz@thestar.com.my
TomTom's Go 2050 has a few design touches that put it above other GPS car navigation units.
THANKS to the availability of local maps from a variety of map providers, GPS car navigation units are really booming these days.
The TomTom Go 2050 is firmly in the premium range of these car navigation models and it certainly looks and feels the part - the unit feels hefty, solid and is partly made of metal.
It also has a humongous 5in screen which is capacitive, i.e. it uses similar touch technology to modern smartphones like the iPhone, so theoretically, you only need the lightest of touches for your input to register.
Being in the high end, the Go 2050 comes with a plethora of features. You get Bluetooth so you can connect the device to your smartphone and use it as a handsfree kit and even a voice recognition feature so you can control the device by speaking to it.
Out of the box
Apart from the GPS unit itself, the Go 2050 comes bundled with the usual windscreen suction cup mount, USB charging cable and car charger.
The windscreen suction cup mount and USB charging cable are actually pretty interesting as they attach to the Go 2050 magnetically.
What I found particularly impressive was how well thought-out the design of the mount and the cable is - the USB charging cable is a separate item from the windscreen suction cup mount and both can be used independently of the other, but the cable can also be attached magnetically to the mount to work together.
The interesting thing is that even with the cable attached to the mount, the Go 2050 can easily be attached or removed from the mount with just one hand.
The suction cup has a screw-down lock, and seems to be more securely stuck to my windscreen than the lever-style suction cup lock of other brands.
As far as performance goes, the TomTom Go 2050 was pretty good - even if I haven't turned it on in a while, locking in on satellites takes about a minute and a half.
If I've turned it on recently, the GPS can get a lock in as little as a five to ten seconds.
The menus are pretty easy to understand, although my one gripe is that the first screen I'm presented with is the map screen, with no immediately obvious way of going into the "navigate to.." screen. (You get there by tapping on the map itself).
The touchscreen is quite sensitive and will respond to a light touch, but the problem is that there is a quite a bit of lag which can be quite frustrating when you're typing in an address and the letters appearing on the screen are always lagging behind what you're typing.
Even worse, there are a few quirks with the software keyboard. For example, the option to type in forward slashes like the one in "SS 2/105" is not available in the software keyboard when searching in the Address section.
The only place in which I found this option was under Points of Interest - POI Near you which is a bit weird, because in this section, you'd be looking for places like Eastin Hotel or Phileo Damansara, which doesn't really need the option for a forward slash.
On the upside, the screen is very bright and large, and the volume levels are very loud. I found myself only needing to set the volume at about 75% or less.
The one advantage of TomTom GPS units is that you can purchase a number of celebrity voices to replace the standard ones that come with the unit, so for example, you can choose the deep bassy voice of Darth Vader, or a funny character like Homer Simpson. Fancy the smooth sexy voice of James Bond? TomTom has the voice of Roger Moore available for purchase.
As I mentioned before, there is also a voice command feature - tap on the microphone icon onscreen, then just speak a command.
In use, it works quite well if you speak slowly and clearly to the device, and say the correct commands - it's not like Apple's Siri function on iPhones, and will only accept specific commands spoken in the correct way.
For example, you can say, "increase brightness" or "decrease brightness" but it won't accept "brightness up" or something like that.
You can also say, "Navigate to an address" but the command only brings up the virtual keyboard for you to input the address. Apparently for some European versions you can actually speak the address, but this feature is not supported in this country.
In the end, the voice commands I used most often was the commands to increase/decrease brightness and volume.
The Go 2050 also works as a handsfree kit for your Bluetooth-enabled phone once you pair up the devices, of course. Once paired, you can browse your phone book or call history, dial and talk right to the Go 2050.
Obviously the most important part of a car GPS is the navigation.
The TomTom interface itself is pretty good - there's Advanced Lane Guidance, which, like all modern car GPS navigation units, shows you a graphical rendition of what the lane you are supposed to turn into will look like.
The one problem is that TomTom uses maps sourced from Tele Atlas (the Go 2050 comes with Malaysia, Thailand, Macau, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Brunei built-in) are not as detailed as the ones sourced from free community-maintained maps like Malfreemaps (malfreemaps.com).
For example, while I could find Eastin Hotel on the map, there was no listing for Menara Star.
Also, Malaysian roads being what they are and changing almost daily, the built-in map isn't updated as often as I would like.
TomTom gives you a one year subscription to the latest maps for free, with guarantees of updates at least four times a year.
After the one year subscription is over, however, you're required to pay for further map updates.
On the upside, the device has a feature called TomTom Map Share which allows for corrections and additions submitted by the community - the updates are supposed to be automatically pulled down from the Internet and added to your maps when you register and then connect the device to your PC.
However, in the time I used it, there were no community added corrections and additions.
So there you have it - despite some lag when typing, the hardware part of the Go 2050 performed rather well, with a nice screen and all the features you'd expect of a higher-end GPS car navigation unit.
I also really liked the design of the magnetic windscreen suction cup mount, which works really well.
The one area where the TomTom disappoints is in the maps - while I understand the need to charge for the maps after the one year subscription, I'd expect more complete and detailed maps than the free community-based ones.
Pros: Big screen; well-designed magnetic windscreen mount; Bluetooth handsfree.
Cons: Software keyboard has too much lag and some weird quirks; maps still not as detailed as they could be.
Car navigation unit
GPS CHIPSET: NA
DISPLAY: 5in (480 x 272-pixel) capacitive touchscreen
MEMORY: 8GB internal flash memory
STORAGE: MicroSD slot
OTHER FEATURES: Bluetooth handsfree calling, voice command
DIMENSIONS (W X D X H): 143 x 88 x 19mm
Review unit courtesy of Ingram Micro Malaysia Sdn Bhd, (03) 7952-8188.