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TomTom Go 600 review: A smartphone connected PND aids the daily commuter

Many people still use portable navigation devices instead of their smartphones and at just $250 the TomTom Go 600 is one of the best available.

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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 15 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

TomTom Go 600 retail package

TomTom announced a new line of with the ability to connect to your smartphone. I have been using the top-of-the-line TomTom Go 600 for the past few weeks and I think it is well worth the $250 retail price.

While I personally use my smartphone for GPS navigation most of the time, most of the people in my social circles still mount a PND in their car for navigation. For focused navigation, having a PND provide this service makes much more sense that having a phone call interrupt your navigation and get you lost. TomTom's new Go offerings are reasonably priced and provide an optimal navigation experience.

Hardware

The TomTom Go 600 retail package includes a mounting arm and car charger so everything you need is included in the package. You can mount the TomTom Go 600 on your windshield or on your dash somewhere else using the double-sided tape mounting disk. I prefer to tuck GPS devices down in the corner of the front windshield so it provides navigation without impacting my visibility.

The TomTom Go 600 is 6.7 inches x 4.125 inches and just under one inch in thickness with a weight of 10.6 ounces. It is quite large, but that is a choice you make to go with a large screen navigation experience. Thankfully, it slips in and out of the dock cradle quickly and easily while also being very easy to adjust to your preferred orientation.

The display takes up most of the front and then as you turn it over you see the curved edges that make it thinner than older GPS navigation devices. The TomTom Go 600 includes a microSD expansion card slot for storing your maps. The battery provides up to two hours of use, but I don't think the battery life really matters since the purpose of the device is to use it in your car with the mount and charging cable connected at all times.

The 6 inch display has a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. For navigation purposes, the display looks great in both day and night situations. It is also very easy to navigate the device with the large display.

In addition to the large display, a loud speaker is important for voice navigation. The TomTom Go 600 has the speaker on the back panel and it provides adequate volume. I would personally love to see manufacturers install one or two speakers facing the driver.

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The TomTom Go 600 connects to your phone

Software

After starting up the TomTom Go 600 I was presented with five large buttons on the display that were pretty self-explanatory. I quickly figured out I had to turn off the default Near Me search limit to find a destination further than 25 miles away and after using it for a few weeks I was comfortable with the user interface.

The primary buttons on the interface are as follows:

  • Search: Used to find an address or point of interest (POI)
  • Current route: Used to change or clear your planned route
  • Report safety camera: A way to feed input to the system when you notice a safety camera
  • My Places: Gives you quick access to saved destinations
  • My Routes: Gives you quick access to saved routes
  • Parking: Handy button that helps you find a parking lot or garage
  • Gas station: Handy button to find a gas station
  • Voice recognition: Select this to initiate voice control
  • Traffic and safety cameras: Use this to connect to traffic services with the connection provided by your phone

There is voice control as an option, but it isn't always listening so there is some combination of touch interaction along with the voice control. Recognition works pretty well too.

I found that the easiest way to select and navigate to a destination is to simple tap and hold on the destination and then choose to navigate to it. There are quick zoom buttons on the display and you can also use the pinch-to-zoom capability on the large touch display.

One of the handiest features for me during my testing was the speed limit sign integration and speed warnings. Along I-5 in Puget Sound the speed limits vary from 55 to 70 mph and in some instances there is even dynamic speed limits that can drop down into the 30s. Thus, it is very difficult to know what the limit is on the segment you are driving on, but I found the TomTom Go 600 to keep the visible speed limit on the display updated within seconds of when it changed.

On the right side of the TomTom Go 600 you will see the route bar. This shows time of arrival, length of time left to drive to the destination and other vital information such as stops, traffic, safety cameras, and more that you preselect in the settings.

The TomTom Go 600 includes free lifetime maps, something I used to pay $100 a year to receive.

Smartphone connectivity

One thing that previously was missing on PNDs was real-time traffic since that requires a live data connection. A few years ago I tested a Telenav product that had an integrated SIM card for live updates, but that product only lasted a few months. New integrated navigation solutions are starting to launch with live connections, but it is much cheaper to buy a new TomTom than a new car.

Real-time live traffic also serves to give your PND a purpose beyond travel to unfamiliar destinations. You can use the TomTom Go 600 as a daily commute tool if you drive to work. I ride the Sounder train, but used the TomTom Go 600 a couple of times for driving into work and found it very helpful in routing me around the always crazy Puget Sound traffic.

TomTom provides the ability to connect the TomTom Go 600 with your iOS or Android smartphone. The connection lets you manage a few basic settings, but is primarily designed to provide the TomTom Traffic updates to the TomTom Go 600.

One of the first questions you may ask is, "If I need my smartphone for live traffic, then why not just use my phone for GPS navigation?" While your smartphone is used to provide data to the TomTom Go 600, you can still make and receive calls while your GPS navigation session continues without interruption. You also will not see a huge battery drain as your smartphone acts as a modem while using the display and cellular connection for navigation will consume your battery.

The smartphone connectivity provides you with free lifetime traffic and three months of safety camera alerts. I don't speed or run red lights so I wasn't that concerned with this additional service option.

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Android smartphone is now connected

Price and availability

The TomTom Go comes in two sizes, five inch and six inch, with different display technologies and included services. The five inch model starts as low as $129.99 and includes a 480 x 272 pixel resistive screen with limited service offerings. The most expensive 5 inch model is priced at $199.99 and comes with lifetime traffic, lifetime maps, and capacitive touchscreen. Six inch models range from $149.99 to $249.99. You may be able to save a few dollars by purchasing on Amazon or at another online retailer.

The two lower tier levels have resistive displays so won't be quite as user-friendly as the capacitive displays. Then again, after setting up your navigation session you should not be touching the display as you drive. Your passenger can certainly interact with the display and capacitive may be just fine for a $70 to $100 savings.

Usage experiences and bottom line

The TomTom Go 600 is a high quality PND available for a reasonable price. You can use it as a stand-alone device, but if you want it to help you on your daily commute then the smartphone connection is important.

Although I tend to use my smartphone for GPS navigation, I still think there are many people who prefer to use PNDs just for navigation so their phones can be used for calls, music, and more.

PNDs have dropped significantly in price and the highest end model of the TomTom line is just $250. If I was a daily car commuter I would definitely pick up a TomTom Go, but maybe the five inch model with a slightly smaller display and lower price.

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There is some basic info available on your smartphone app

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A car mount and power cable is provided in the package

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The TomTom Go 600 pops right into the cradle

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The speaker takes up most of the back

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Main UI on the TomTom Go 600

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Next screen over from the right

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More buttons to navigate the UI

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Last screen of buttons

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Enter a destination with the touch keyboard

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Start your navigation session

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Navigation interface with next turn notification at the top

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On-screen speed limits help when there are variable roads ahead

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