Despite pessimistic predictions about the future of the sat nav market, TomTom continues to launch innovative new products that it hopes will keep it at the top of the GPS market in Europe.
Its latest effort is this top-of-the-range TomTom GO LIVE 1000 GPS, which introduces both a new interface and hardware improvements to make it even easier and faster.
Hardware: good ideas make up for what's missingAfter two generations of frankly quite similar sat navs, the TomTom GO LIVE 1000 finally represents a real change. The revolution isn't on the outside, where the new case still uses rounded corners and a mixture of matte black plastic and titanium-coloured brushed metal. It's a good look but we think it's a bit too ordinary for a top-of-the-range product. As usual from TomTom, the build quality is excellent and the 1000 is easy to handle despite being bigger and heavier than average. Measuring 19 mm thick and 220 g on the scales, it's still smaller than its predecessors which had the advantage of being thinner at the sides, making them easier to hold. At the same time, some of TomTom's competitors have slimmed down further and are not much more than a centimetre thick. Whatever you say, there's no denying it can often be handy to slide your sat nav into a pocket or bag.
The main change on the outside of the GO LIVE 1000 is the 4.3'' display which is now uses capacitative touch-sensitive technology. Compared to the previous versions, which had resistive touchscreens, now you only have to brush your finger across it rather than pressing hard. You can also zoom in with two fingers like on the iPhone. It's as smooth as some of the latest smartphones, but the glass panel that covers the display makes it nice and solid. Nothing's perfect, though, and unfortunately, that glass screen can pick up annoying reflections if you don't align it properly. Fortunately, the high brightness goes a little way to compensating for this problem.
Hidden at the back of the device, in the metal area, the powerful speaker produces good quality sound, even when it's turned up loud. We were expecting nothing less given that TomTom has removed the audio output which would have allowed you to plug it into your car's speakers.
The maps, covering 45 European countries, are stored on 4 GB of internal memory, but the microSD slot has faced the chop!
The windscreen suction mount is as handy and easy-to-use as ever. There's a new magnetic 'Easy Click' mount which can remain in place while you simply attach the sat nav when you need it. It's held in place very tightly and there's no risk of your new toy falling off while you're driving. We love the idea, but it's just a shame TomTom didn't take it further and allow recharging like Apple's famous MagSafe chargers. Instead, you need to use an external cable to recharge the GO LIVE 1000. Unfortunately, that relies on a proprietary system, which is a pity, as it would have been simpler and more universal to use a mini USB connector for both recharging and connecting to a computer. That means you have to remember to take the special cable with you everywhere, which is hardly very useful. TomTom makes up for things a little with the tiny cigarette-lighter adaptor to which you connect the USB cable to recharge it in the car.
Bluetooth is available for connecting to a mobile phone and making handsfree calls. There's a mic on the front, and although calls sounded great at our end, the people we tried calling found the results satisfactory but no better than that thanks to a persistent crackle.
The mic is also used for voice recognition which helps avoid having to fiddle with the sat nav while driving. The system has some real practical limitations and sometimes you have to try several times before it gets the address right. We recommend you use the onscreen keyboard whenever you can, which is excellent.
Neither the FM transmitter nor the audio output, which both disappeared from TomTom's last range of sat navs, have made it back on the GO LIVE 1000, but there is an alternative mount, which includes both power and an audio output for directing the voice instructions toyour car's speakers.
Features: a slicker, faster interface—but as clear as everStart-up times are even faster than with the previous generation thanks to the GO LIVE 1000's 500 MHz processor and 128 MB of RAM. It hardly takes five seconds to get going: an iPhone 4 takes eight seconds. However, the latter is twice as fast at finding a satellite fix, although TomTom has nothing to be embarrassed about on that front either.
Making your way through the menus is very intuitive, and the only problem is the fact that you can't scroll by flicking your finger across the screen. As we'd expect from TomTom, the simple, clear icons mean you can get going without going anywhere near the instructions.
When navigating, the graphics now have a more modern look, which is fine by us, especially given that the old ones were beginning to date. The basic principle remains the same, and it's as easy as ever to see all the key stats: speed, direction and time left at the bottom, and traffic info and shortcuts on the right.
Navigation: LIVE services give plenty of infoThe actual job of planning a route is one thing that hasn't changed on the new GO LIVE 1000, but that's nothing to be disappointed about! TomTom was already a reference in this field thanks to its IQ Routes and HD Traffic technologies. The former plans a route based on the actual journey times recorded by other drivers, but the latter is one of the monthly subscription-based LIVE services, and it just keeps on getting better. We took a detailed look at how it works in our review of the TomTom GO LIVE 740, but all of the manufacturer's compatible sat navs can use it, as long as you are a subscriber. Speaking of which, TomTom now includes a free one-year subscription to its LIVE services when you buy a new sat nav, and an annual renewal costs just £47.50, which is more reasonable than before.
All of that notwithstanding, although the route planning might not seem to have changed much on the surface, there have been some less visible improvements. Itineraries are now calculated much quicker than before, and a combination of reworked algorithms and faster hardware allows the 1000 to work out the best route in under ten seconds in most cases if you stick with the default options. If you choose more complicated options, it still takes less than a minute most of the time, unlike the older models which would require at least another half a minute on top.
Recalculating the itinerary on the fly is also much quicker, which is very handy when you're in a dense urban environment.
TomTom has continued its agreement with European leader Coyote, which provides its LIVE subscribers with updates on the locations of fixed and mobile speed cameras. This still needs some work, though, as the system still unfortunately flags up speed cameras that only record drivers travelling in the opposite direction. It's also impossible to see where speed cameras are coming up, something which you can do with Coyote's own devices. That said, despite a few false alarms, the system generally works pretty well.
Extra Features: EcoRoutes, but no more petrol pricesNow that the LIVE services cost half as much before, it's reasonable that you no longer get petrol price updates for free.
TomTom's latest sat navs are very clearly designed for navigation and nothing else, unlike some of its competitors which try to be media players or add other exotic features. There's no pedestrian mode or tourist information here though: the GO LIVE 1000 sticks to doing its job well.
Eco Routes is still available, but it doesn't take long to realise that you don't actually use it that much and that it isn't as useful as it might at first seem. The alternative routes it suggests are often easier, both for the vehicle and the driver, which might be a good enough reason for you to choose them over the 'fastest' default option, as long as you're not pressed for time.