If you have a smartphone, you probably have a GPS device as well. But actually using it as a GPS device is a different story. First you have to figure out how to enable it and then you have live with the fact that enabling GPS can reduce battery life. While the many apps you can install can enhance the GPS navigation experience, performance can be a hit or miss and you may have to rely on your mobile network for better accuracy and that can come with a price as well. On top of that, you may also have to buy a special car mount for your phone if you want to use the phone as a GPS driving companion. A dedicated GPS device can get rid of those frustrations and they are fortunately cheap nowadays. The TomTom START 50M is part of the TomTom’s START series which include other inexpensive car GPS navigators. The START 50M isn’t even the cheapest device in the lineup but it is definitely the one to get if you want lowest price possible and still enjoy long term value.

TomTom START 50M

TomTom START 50M

Design

The TomTom START 50M probably won’t look or feel premium compared to your high-end smartphone because it does not have to be. What most people care about is a large display and a familiar look so it doesn’t look like other competing GPS devices. The TomTom retains that familiar look with the slightly curved top and black bezel that encloses the 5-inch screen. The cartoonish-looking TomTom logo can be found on the bottom bezel. The included windshield mount and dashboard mounting disk makes it easy to mount the TomTom device to the car dashboard where the 5-inch display should really stand out.

Features

The only 5-inch TomTom GPS navigator that is cheaper than the START 50M is the START 50 and as previously mentioned, the TomTom START 50M is still the better device to get if you have a low budget. This is all because of one key feature of the 50M and that is lifetime map updates. It may not be a big deal at first since all TomTom GPS devices at least have preloaded maps covering the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. But fast forward a few years and some of the data could be obsolete. With lifetime map updates, you can acquire the latest maps right from TomTom and you will never be charged for it.

Whether you are in your home town or decide to go to a neighboring one, there should be plenty to explore with the START 50M. 7 million points of interest are already preloaded to the device so there is a good chance you can discover new restaurants, hotels and other nice locations or possibly figure out where the nearest gas station is. On top of that, you can also acquire fuel price information so you can head to the best gas station even if it is a bit further down.

The interface is pretty easy to understand thanks to the large 5-inch color touch display. The resolution is pretty low and should look pale when compared to a smartphone but the large icons make touch navigation as simple as it needs to be. Planning a route is virtually effortless the 3D graphics look great. While you are driving, important data like the speed limit, current speed, next turn information and distance are shown at the bottom. The display should also be bright enough for night time use.

Generally, the TomTom START 50M figures out the best route on its own after you supply the destination. It is powered by a technology called IQ Routes which not only plans a good route but it also provides a good estimate on when you will arrive there. Of course, this information won’t be accurate if the roads suddenly change but the Map Share feature can assist during those unexpected moments. You can also alter the route if you want to avoid highways and toll booths or simply want to conserve fuel.

Looking at a mobile device screen while driving can be distracting which is why turn-by-turn voice prompts and text-to-speech are necessary. The START 50M provides these essentials so you can keep your eyes on the road and let the TomTom START 50M tell you when to make the turn and call out the exact street if necessary. You also get visual prompts if you suddenly exceed the speed limit even if you are not using the navigation mode. It also has other nifty safety features including prompts when you drive near school areas or on unpaved roads. When you approach a highway and have to make a certain exit, you can also take advantage of Advanced Lane Guidance which should guide you to the right lane so you won’t miss the exit.

Final Words

The START 50M is a fantastic budget car GPS navigator that has the heart of some of TomTom’s most essential technologies. The lifetime maps is the key selling point and is worth the extra $30 if you travel often and need the most updated maps.

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