Sat-nav keeps me away from a 'wrong slot'

We had just descended from the white marble-clad peaks of the Apuan Alps in the north of Tuscany and were due to head up the A12 autostrade to Rapallo for our overnight stop.

The entrances and exits of Italian autostrade can be a bit confusing. All roads converge on a centralised toll plaza, meaning there are often a number of exits to choose immediately after leaving the toll booth.

TomTom GO in car

I was feeling confident that we had followed the instructions of our sat-nav, but we ended up travelling 16 kilometres up the A15 to Parma. To add insult to injury, we then had to pay the toll, before turning round and heading back, paying again for the 16 useless kilometres.

So, feeling slightly jaded about sat-navs I returned home to receive an invite to try out the latest TomTom GO 5100. Would this restore my faith?

The GO 5100 sits at the top of TomTom GO range. It comes with lifetime maps and a lifetime SIM, meaning that it updates automatically with live traffic information. Anyone who has been stung by data and roaming charges on their mobile phone need not worry. Tom Tom assures us that the GO 5100 offers unlimited data and roaming at no extra cost.

With that in mind, you won’t be surprised to hear that the TomTom GO 5100 sits at the premium end of the TomTom GO range, with a recommended retail price of £259.99.

The standard screen-mountain suction pad is good, but like all such systems it can be a bit of a fiddle also leaving those telltale circular marks on the glass. My preferred option would be the bean bag mount (£24.99), which makes it even easier to pick up the unit, still connected to its power source, for route changes. (If you intend to take a sat-nav on holiday in the USA, you may need a bean-bag mount as some states outlaw windscreen mounting.)

My immediate impression was that the touch screen was more responsive than other after-market sat-navs and I really like the way that you can pinch your fingers on the screen to zoom in and out, rather than having to repeatedly press a plus or minus button.

Finding an address either by town, postcode or position on the map is therefore relatively easy. Points of interest, too, are easily found – if they are in the database.

However, like so many sat-navs (both aftermarket and built-in) it seems that many points of interest are not included. For example, only a few National Trust properties in our area are listed. And, unless you live on a diet of McDonalds, Burger King and KFC, many eateries also don’t rate a mention.

TomTom GO faster route

But, where sat-navs without a SIM would leave you to search for your destination on a mobile to find a way to programme it, the TomTom GO 5100 offers you the chance to search online to find the missing POI. It doesn’t always succeed, but when it does it can save transposing details from your mobile.

If you have a more detailed route in mind, the TomTom GO 5100 comes with ‘MyDrive’ software which lets you set up your entire trip and review traffic information on your PC or Mac. (My advice would be to ignore the default opening ‘MyDrive’ automatically when you log in to your computer. Quite apart from an isolated hiccup it caused with starting up my MacBook Pro, you don’t want to add unnecessary start-up items. Untick that box and open the app when you want it.)

Out on the road I particularly like two features of the TomTom GO experience. The way the next junction is shown at the top of the windows, with any immediately following instruction nested into it, gives you a chance to prepare for the next turn. The lane guidance also works well, where it is available.

I also like the ‘route bar’ on the right-hand side. As well as giving an overview of your progress and points along the way, it highlights issues on the route like congestion or an incident and zooms in, giving an indication of when you will hit the congestion. It should also show what is causing the delay (accident, road works or lane closure) along with an idea of how severe the hold up is and how long you will be delayed.

If you see a jam ahead, you can select the jam icon and select ‘avoid’ or use the voice command “find alternative”. Useful, but, of course, not all jams have sensible alternative routes just waiting for you to sail along them!

This interactivity extends to most features on the map. You can click on items to access options. For example, the GO 5100 had one local speed limit wrong and, as the passenger at that point, I was able to click on the speed limit and send an instant correction to TomTom.

Making changes to the settings of a sat-nav on the move is always going to be a fiddle, even if you have a passenger to do the pressing and adjusting. But. the TomTom GO 5100 can also take verbal instructions – just like a real live navigator. But, unlike a navigator it doesn’t get in a strop if you don’t follow the route it has chosen.

Would the TomTom GO 5100 have avoided my expensive ‘wrong slot’ on the autostrade? Well the DriveBlog budget wouldn’t extend to sending me back to the Italian Riviera to find out.

But, I did feel that the TomTom’s zooming in on junctions and the simple graphics were more clear than the sat-nav that confused us into that expensive “wrong slot”.
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