Winning the GPS war isn’t just about creating a wide range of GPS devices targeting different price points. Smartphones are in the game too and there are millions of consumers that rely on the built-in capabilities that many smartphones these days offer. But dedicated GPS manufacturers like TomTom are not willing to jump into the smartphone game by creating their own phone. A more sensible approach is releasing an app for popular platforms like iOS so millions of users can use TomTom services. But that doesn’t mean that TomTom will abandon building hardware as dedicated automotive GPS devices still have huge advantages over the very best smartphones. Even low-end GPS devices like the TomTom START 45TM have some features that smartphone GPS users may consider as pretty advanced.

TomTom START 45TM

TomTom START 45TM

Design

TomTom has created an iconic design that separates their devices from the rest of the competition. You can notice that immediately as there is a slight curve on the top. Since this is an entry-level device, this 4.3-inch model has a simple look with a build quality that is similar to the discontinued TomTom ONE products.

Interface

One of TomTom’s biggest competitors is Garmin and Garmin’s approach to making compelling products is to make their user interface simple for drivers to use. TomTom is following suit with this style and that spells nothing but good things for consumers. With the TomTom START 45TM’s refined home screen, you can now plan a route or see the interactive map with just a single tap on an icon. Since there are only two main choices on the home screen, the icons end up being very large. TomTom also managed to fit a small toolbar so you can do other things like access the help section or toggle the sound effects or night mode. The lack of extra features in this device can actually be a good thing for some people since the interface of the TomTom START 45TM ends up being pretty simplified.

Compared to using a smartphone, planning a route is also pretty simple. After you tap the “Plan route” icon, it is impossible to get lost as the interface guides you in planning the route every step of the way. After that, the TomTom START 45TM handles the rest and the view changes automatically so you can get a better glimpse at the route you just planned. The map view features both 2D and 3D views and is just a button press away on the toolbar. TomTom did a good job in cramming lots of information in the small display. For instance, the button that toggles between the 2D and 3D views also serves as an indicator where you can see your next turn. There is also a button on the bottom left corner if you want to see how fast you are going along with the speed limit. You can set the button on the opposite corner to any function you like such as the route information which is the default setting. Using the “Plan route” function more frequently simplifies the process even more since recent destinations can appear.

You may also bookmark any points of interest for easy access.

Navigation Features

The “Browse map” icon on the home screen gives you access to the other navigation features that the TomTom START 45TM has to offer. As long as you live anywhere in the US, Canada or Puerto Rico, you should see plenty of points of interest nearby. There are a total of 7 million points of interest preloaded in the device and they cover a variety of categories including hotels, restaurants, ATM machines and other key landmarks.

The amount of content present in the TomTom START 45TM should exceed a typical smartphone but that may not matter for people that are contented with the points of interest in their local area. However, the TomTom START 45TM is still superior because of the ability to update to the latest maps in TomTom’s servers. This means that the map database can get better and better as time goes by and you will never have to pay for this service. Maps are issued 4 times a year which should be good enough to always have up-to-date map data. What is even better is the ability to customize the map if you ever spot some inaccuracies. The Map Share Technology even lets you share your customized map to other TomTom users. This also means that you can check out the other maps that TomTom users shared. There is also a TomTom HOME application for Windows and Mac that not only lets you download the latest map to the device but download the latest fuel prices as well.

The ability to get real-time updates on traffic statistics is another standout feature that the TomTom START 45TM offers. Like the lifetime map updates, this feature is free for life adding significant value to this seemingly basic GPS device. TomTom’s very own IQ Routes Technology is baked in too so you get better estimated arrival times based on the data that other TomTom GPS owners get.

Compared to some of the pricier TomTom GPS models, the TomTom START 45TM works a little bit slower in connecting to satellites. But you can always use the QuickGPSfix function so you can force the device to update your position whenever you need it most.

The Advanced Lane Guidance is another nifty feature that highlights the lane that you should be in so you wonít miss a key exit. This is a feature that used to be exclusive for pricier GPS devices.

Extra Features

The only service that costs money is TomTom’s Roadside Assistance ($29.95) and it can be pretty useful if you want roadside dispatch assistance just a call away. Those that are not willing to pay can still use the “Help Me!” feature so the device can search for any hospitals and other places offering emergency service nearby.

The TomTom START 45TM lives up to the “START” name by offering a compelling device for starters. It is easy to use and comes with the most essential features that work far better than smartphones with GPS software. The “TM” model is recommended because you get the free lifetime map and traffic updates.

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