The smartphone looks to be the future device that aims to be in everyone’s pocket. It even comes with extra features like GPS, the ability to play MP3s and so on. This is why less people are buying MP3 players. Some people may not even consider a separate GPS device anymore because of how far technology has gone in smartphones. But compared to dedicated automotive GPS devices, smartphones are still behind. The TomTom VIA 1605TM not only demonstrates how effective mid-range GPS models can be over advanced smartphones but they also show how display size can be beneficial for some drivers.

TomTom VIA 1605TM

TomTom VIA 1605TM

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Design

The TomTom VIA 1605TM isn’t the largest automotive GPS ever made but it certainly comes close with a large 6-inch touch display. Since this is display is noticeably bigger than standard 4.3-inch GPS devices, it only makes sense for this model to sport a higher resolution so more details can be seen on the display. WVGA (800×480 pixels) resolution isn’t exactly high definition compared to the high-end smartphones that boast HD screens but it is sufficient enough for more detailed map visuals to come out. However, the TomTom VIA 1605TM is still priced as a budget model and the lack of capacitive touch features show that. It also has a plastic housing with a brushed aluminum bezel which explains its light weight (9.5 ounces).

Interface

Since the TomTom VIA 1605TM’s screen isn’t capacitive, the touch responsiveness doesn’t feel as fluid as a modern tablet. But the high screen resolution makes up for that as you can see more data on the screen and still touch icons. For instance, the information bar is a lot more detailed than smaller TomTom devices. You can see key statistics like how fast you are going as well as the speed limit and data for your route. Menu buttons are also easier to see even if the TomTom VIA 1605TM is mounted far away making it a great choice for RV owners.

Navigation Features

Although the interface can range from responsive to slightly laggy, overall navigation performance is spot on and that is where the performance counts the most. Pit the TomTom VIA 1605TM against any smartphone right now and the TomTom VIA 1605TM will win in performance. Operating the GPS device for route planning should feel like operating a phone with Google Maps installed. The difference is that there are far more points of interest that span all over North America.

TomTom is also making their maps look more detailed by taking a layered approach. It implements what TomTom calls the “3 Layers Map” to include IQ Routes as well as data acquired from TomTom’s Map Share technologies. The IQ Routes technology makes better estimates on arrival times while TomTom Map Share makes use of TomTom’s large community to more accurately obtain good arrival times. These calculations are necessary in recommending the best possible route for drivers to take best on their preferred destination and current location. Better recommendations can be made depending on the preferences of the driver. For instance, if gas savings is very important, the Eco Route feature can be very helpful. Getting into unexpected traffic jams can ruin the whole trip but the TomTom VIA 1605TM can obtain traffic information in real time if you are living in the US or Canada areas without ever needing to pay for subscription fees. You can also download major map updates 4 times every year.

Advanced Lane Guidance is another time-saving feature that benefits those that travel in the highway and experienced missing a crucial exit just because of being in the wrong lane. This essential feature solves this problem by bringing up a 3D view of the highway complete with highlights on what lane you must be in.

Every automotive GPS device must have the ability to tell you when to make a turn. But it is possible to get confused and not understand which street the device is referring to. Checking the device’s screen for your current position can give you an idea but glancing on the large 6-inch display can shift the focus away from the road. The text-to-speech engine ensures that you stay focused while driving by voicing out the street name when the important turn must be made. There is also a neat safety feature for people that have accidentally exceeded the speed limit. With a TomTom VIA 1605TM mounted on the display, the device will let you know if the speed limit is exceeded no matter what mode the device is set to right now. The TomTom VIA 1605TM is also smart enough to warn drivers that decide to drive near school zones, unpaved roads and churches. Even if you step out of the car without unmounting the GPS device, a notification will be shown too. It is always important to carry the GPS device wherever you go in case of an emergency. With the “Where Am I?” feature, you can send important details regarding your position to hospitals, police stations and fire stations.

Extra Features

Mounting the TomTom VIA 1605TM to a dashboard or windshield should not be a problem as the dual mounting option makes the process simple. There is also a premium service called TomTom’s Roadside Assistance where emergency services are a phone call away. This service costs $29.95 and only covers the places that TomTom supports on the map.

The TomTom VIA 1605TM is not just part of the free lifetime maps and traffic series. It has the same “05” number suffix as the VIA 1405TM and VIA 1505TM. This makes the feature set of the VIA 1405TM and VIA 1505TM identical. Of course, these two models have smaller screens but TomTom looks as if the company is still testing this unique screen size. There are no other variations of this device which means that you may have to wait for TomTom to announce a 6-inch car GPS device that has voice navigation and Bluetooth. For now, the TomTom VIA 1605TM remains as a unique gem and is at least worth a look.

Update: There is a newer model > TomTom VIA 1625TM


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