TomTom Navigator

  • Editors' rating
    7.4 Very good


  • A gadget that’s great fun to use
  • particularly helpful when navigating through towns and cities
  • makes it impossible for you to get lost.


  • May not be available for new brands of Pocket PC
  • not at its best when planning long journeys
  • requires additional memory expansion for optimal use
  • interface takes time to learn.

TomTom is a strangely inappropriate name for an in-car navigation system. Mine was quickly re-christened ‘Topsy’ -- after the little girl who, when she was good, was very, very good, and when she was bad was horrid. Topsy is also a better match for the Navigator's female persona who keeps you on track by delivering excellent spoken instructions in a clear and confident manner.

To transform your Pocket PC into an in-car navigation system, TomTom provides a 12-channel GPS unit on the end of a metre-long connecting lead. One end of the lead plugs into your Pocket PC, while the other fits into your cigarette lighter socket to provide power. The GPS unit is placed on the dashboard. Compared with systems that provide the GPS unit as a Pocket PC sleeve this is a messy solution since the harness creates an unsightly clutter. But it does allow you to position the GPS unit very close to the windscreen to get best 'sight' of the all-important navigation satellites. A bonus is that you have your Pocket PC on continuous charge. The drawback is that you cannot use the navigation system away from your car. A window-mounted bracket-on-a-stalk is supplied to position your Pocket PC for comfortable viewing as you drive. TomTom Navigator is currently available for the HP/Compaq iPAQ, HP Jornada, Fujitsu Siemens Pocket LOOX, O2 XDA and Casio Cassiopeia.

TomTom gives you both an on-screen map display and voice instructions from your Pocket PC. You can opt to display the map in split-screen mode along with a list of driving instructions that updates to give a description of upcoming route change. As you drive, you see a clear, street-level representation of your surrounding area. The route that TomTom calculates for you is shown superimposed in red with embedded white triangles to make it easily visible. Your location is shown as a blue arrowhead and as you drive on, the map adjusts to your direction of travel with your position maintained at its centre. Using the 400MHz XScale-based iPAQ 3950, these screen adjustments were delivered smoothly with no significant time lag.

When you approach a route change -- such as a right or left turn, road junction or roundabout -- TomTom first gives a clear spoken warning describing the upcoming manoeuvre, and at the same time the map updates to show the precise location of the route change marked in green. As you reach the decision point, you are told very clearly what to do. For example: ‘Cross the roundabout and take the third exit’ or ‘at the end of the road turn right’. If you disregard the instruction, the display and instructions may quickly recalculate to accommodate your diversion and get you back on track -- or you may simply be told ‘Make a U-turn when it is safe’.

When travelling for some distance along a motorway or on a major road, the display automatically alternates between a road map showing your position and a more informative display that indicates the distance to the next route change -- plus information such as elapsed time, estimated time to final destination, compass heading and current speed. TomTom's maps are generally very accurate.

In over 2,000 miles of testing, five errors surfaced. On two occasions the wrong roundabout exit was specified, and on two occasions TomTom simply didn’t know about the existence of a roundabout -- even though these were on long-established roads. Another time, TomTom tried to take us onto the London North Circular via an illegal right turn - fortunately, we spotted the problem in time and took a legal direction, whereupon TomTom quickly recalculated its route in response to the 'diversion'.

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There are lots of good things about TomTom, which is one of those gadgets that gives continuing pleasure while doing a useful job of work. It’s at its best helping you navigate through towns and cities. Longer routes can be more problematical. A major issue here is that unless you also buy a pretty big memory expansion card and an expansion sleeve (for your iPAQ), you quickly run out of map. TomTom's All-UK map takes up 84MB. This map is also supplied segmented into North, Central, South-West, South-East in 32MB chunks, with 16MB chunks covering Scotland, London, Birmingham, Newcastle, South-West, Manchester, Wales and Norwich. Even using 32MB segments, a trip from London to Liverpool (say) requires that you plan two routes and reload maps during your journey. Also, if you are navigating to a point close to a map boundary where the major roads snake over the boundary, you end up with bizarre driving instructions! Each map comes with an extensive collection of locations of petrol stations, car parks, service stations, car dealerships and places of interest that can be optionally overlaid on the driving map. Usefully, you can select the closest amenity and quickly get TomTom to take you there from your current location.

On long trips, major problems with TomTom's navigation abilities arise because it only allows you to set start and end points for the journey. You can specify that the quickest or shortest route is to be calculated, but, in practice, TomTom can be pretty bone-headed about the routes it gives you. Even when told to take the fastest route, TomTom can insist that you follow sections on major roads that you know will be slow and congested in preference to motorway routes that you know will be faster. When you deviate onto your preferred route, the problem can be further compounded by TomTom stubbornly persisting in finding ways to take you back to its original route rather than accommodating your deviation. TomTom's designers should provide the ability to specify a couple of intermediate points as well as start and end points. This would let you use your knowledge to shape a sensible route. Without this ability, the result is that on long trips TomTom can easily lead you a merry dance in which you waste a lot of precious time and fuel.


Features Voice prompts
Update Rate 1/second
Included Software TomTom Navigator 5 USA / Canada
Included GPS Accessories car power adapter
Product type GPS receiver
Brand TomTom
Product Line TomTom Navigator
Model 5 Bluetooth
Packaged Quantity 1
GPS System
Product Type GPS kit
Included Receiver Bluetooth GPS receiver
Recommended Use Automotive, Personal
Receiver 20-channel
Connectivity NMEA 0183
Update Rate 1/second
GPS Module Features voice prompts
Antenna built-in
Navigation Software & Services TomTom Navigator 5 USA / Canada
GPS Compatibility
Compatible Devices (for S.D.) for Palm OS and Pocket PC
Interface Bluetooth
Acquisition Times
Cold 60 sec
Warm 30 sec
Hot 10 sec
Environmental Parameters
Min Operating Temperature 14 °F
Max Operating Temperature 140 °F
Dimensions & Weight
Width 1.7 in
Depth 3.5 in
Height 0.6 in
Weight 2.4 oz
Service & Support
Type 1 year warranty