Will consumers warm to connected services on GPS devices this time around? The now-departedDash Expressfailed to sell enough subscriptions, and many GPS makers now give away traffic data (probably an admission that few users were willing to pay for it). But that isn't stopping TomTom, whose newest GPS device, the $399 Go 740 Live, offers Google Local Search, and other live options. These services work well, but we wish they cost less than $9.95 per month.
Design and Interface
A premium navigator, the Go 740 Live offers a 4.3-inch touchscreen and simple black styling. We like the compact ball-and-socket window mount, and the rotating action that tightens it against the window. The only external control is the power button; dedicated volume controls would have been helpful.
Maps and Navigation
TomTom's maps are simple, lightly colored, and easy to read while driving. The designers have kept the map view uncluttered by placing all information--such as the time or mileage remaining--in a blue bar along the bottom. We think that's a mistake, because it makes this crucial data hard to read at a glance; we've found it more useful to have this info around the edges.
Navigating with the Go 740 Live was a pleasure: We liked the photo-style lane assistance graphics (which came up much more frequently than with theGarmin nvi 885T) and the spoken directions that often guided us which lane to take after making a turn. Rerouting took about 6 seconds.
Connecting the navigator to our PC improved the experience. We downloaded additional voices for free, including some that pronounce street names; and we used TomTom's MapShare system to download corrections made by others. Of course, it's rare that you'll find a mistake, but it's nice to know that this feature is in place.
A microphone icon on the left side of the screen lets you enter voice commands, but we found the options too challenging. You're forced to remember phrases such as "Navigate to the nearest bank machine," instead of just speaking on-screen text as with the nvi 885T.
If you buy the Go 740 Live, do yourself a favor: set up the Quick Menu controls in Preferences. This gives the device map-level access to common tasks. We found having quick access to spoken address input and volume mute made driving much easier.
The main subscription services are traffic and search, which are free for three months, and $9.95 per month thereafter. Delivering useful traffic information is a challenge for all GPS manufacturers, and TomTom's solution is to place a bar representing your journey against the right side of the screen, with traffic incidents marked as icons. Tap an icon to view a map of the problem traffic area, as well as the length of the delay. Typically, we found that traffic incidents had cleared by the time we got to them. For instance, we were warned of a backup on our approach to the George Washington Bridge in New York City, but found no delay there when we arrived.
Google Local Search, on the other hand, is useful. When we couldn't remember the exact name of a church or find it in the small, 3 million POI database, a Google search turned it up. It's stronger than the Dash's Yahoo search: look up "Chinese food," for example, and you'll get only restaurants, not a list with several Chinese food importers. Other live services include QuickGPSfix (for fast positioning), fuel prices, weather, and TomTom Buddies, which lets you keep track of friends' locations. Although there are no movie times, as with MSN-enabled navigators.
While some of its features could use a little polishing, the $399 TomTom Go 740 Live provides a good navigation experience, with well designed and colorful maps and quick rerouting. People who spend a lot of time on the road will appreciate TomTom's subscription services over GPS devices with MSN Direct, as it better helps you find what you need and get there faster. For the rest of us, these features are useful, but perhaps not compelling enough to justify paying $120 per year.