The TomTom VIA brand of automotive GPS devices can be traced back a couple of years when they were still considered low-end GPS solutions. But nowadays, TomTom VIA devices offer plenty of nice features at a reasonable price point. Although these features should greatly help the average consumer, some people may just want a cheap GPS device for their car that has a simple interface for planning routes while being more powerful than a smartphone when it comes to tracking and mapping. The TomTom START family is the answer to their wishes and it hopes to be better than the outdated and sluggish TomTom ONE devices. The TomTom START 55TM is basically TomTom’s budget 5-inch model.
TomTom clearly knows how to build an inexpensive GPS device judging from the build quality of past TomTom devices. The 5-inch screen makes the TomTom START 55TM appear grander than even some of the pricier and smaller models. The upper part of the bezel is curvy which is a common design trend amongst TomTom devices. But perhaps the most interesting design element is found on the back which reveals an integrated mount so you won’t need a separate mounting accessory for dashboard placement. All that is needed is an adhesive disk which is part of the package. The mount swivels as well so you can get that perfect position.
The TomTom START 55TM is truly a device for starters as the menu is so simplified. Planning your first route is as easy as tapping the “Plan route” button. From there, you can immediately go to your specified home location if you are somewhere else or you can head to a recent or favorite location. You also have the option to enter other pieces of data like the zip code if you are planning a vacation. If you need to look at the map instead, tapping the “Browse map” takes you there. That is all there is to it when using this device and the options and help section are easily accessible on the bottom toolbar.
Many 5-inch smartphones boast better resolution but the graphics still look good on the TomTom START 55TM. When browsing the map view, you can easily see the key statistics on the bottom which include some panels telling you how fast you are going and the speed limit in the area you are in. The center panel symbolizes your next turn and also acts as a 2D/3D view toggle when tapped on. The other panels on the bottom can tapped as well to activate other functions like the estimated time of arrival or volume controls.
TomTom obviously had to cut some corners in the navigation features of the TomTom START 55TM but the map data isn’t one of them. There is plenty of content out of the box starting with over 7 million POIs that cover all of US and Canada. The TomTom HOME software makes it possible to add even more points of interest. But this isn’t really something that average users have to use because TomTom provides free map updates 4 times a year. If TomTom’s official updates doesn’t solve all the mapping problems, you can then rely on the TomTom community which actively shares custom maps using the Map Share Technology. You can also use this technology to share corrected maps with friends and relatives that own TomTom devices. TomTom’s community is one of the biggest features of any TomTom device since it contributes to the IQ Routes technology which helps generate better and more accurate route information by observing the statistics of other TomTom GPS owners. With lifetime traffic updates on board the TomTom START 55TM, gets even better as heavy traffic is taken into consideration when a route is being planned. All these core features help you reach the destination faster and that is something that smartphones can’t do. As long as you are getting the TomTom START 55TM and not the TomTom START 55, the map and traffic updates are forever free.
There are some noticeable delays when trying to communicate with the satellites but it still performs better than any of TomTom’s old ONE devices. There is also a QuickGPSfix function which you can use any time you see that your current location isn’t being tracked properly. In most cases, driving through a planned route should be hassle-free and the text-to-speech function works well in calling out the street name when a turn is necessary.
Finally, the Advanced Lane Guidance feature that is present in the TomTom VIA and GO models is included in the TomTom START 55TM too. So when you head to a highway and need to take a certain exit, the device will point you to the correct lane so you won’t accidentally miss the exit.
Although there isn’t really much you can do with the TomTom START 55TM compared to other TomTom products, this device still has a couple of neat tricks like this one feature where you can retrieve the most recent fuel prices. This helps you find the best deal and you can then plan a route to that gas station. This feature can only be used though if you connect the TomTom START 55TM to the computer before you drive off.
Roadside Assistance is another feature that can help if you suddenly run into problems on the road. This comes with a $29.95 price tag but you can always use the “Help Me!” feature just to check if there are any emergency services in the vicinity. Since information regarding your current location is also shown, you can forward the data to these emergency services.
The TomTom START 55TM is competitively priced at $160 which was previously unheard of for 5-inch GPS devices. A big screen is always good for getting a good view on maps while the lifetime features attached to the 55TM model bring a lot of value for the long term. This device will never get obsolete as long as you are contented with the limited feature set.