Hardware and finish: good manufacture, overly cautious design
TomTom has got us used to well-finished and aesthetically successful products. The Start 20 is no exception when it comes to the finish, with impeccable fittings, no raised screws and good quality plastics.
The good news is that the casing is the same as on the TomTom Via and GO LIVE, with only the front changing. Aesthectically however, we found the design a little too cautious for our taste. It's a shame that the colours that marked out the first Starts are no longer used. Thankfully TomTom haven't gone for the glossy plastics we see so much of and instead have produced a model that will fit in anywhere.
As with other TomToms, only the mini cigarette lighter adapter (it would have been difficult to make this any smaller) and the USB cable to plug into it are supplied with this GPS. You can also use the USB cable to link up to a computer to source updates. On the sat nav itself, the micro-USB socket, is used. While very compact and very discreet, it's less common than the mini-USB.
In addition to the 4 GB of internal memory, the Start 20 also has a micro-USB card slot, which is practical when you want to add maps of other countries.
The suction mount, TomTom's brand signature, is still built onto the back of the device. It's very compact and practical to use and is easy to carry around with the GPS, gaining space. It can however be difficult to remove the mount from the back of the sat nav - it hasn't been designed to be left in the vehicle but to stay stuck to the GPS. Of course this makes the sat nav/mount pairing bigger than if you were transporting the sat nav on its own but removes temptation for thieves.
The speaker is discreetly positioned behind the suction mount base. Although it's small, it gives clear audible sound. It does lack a bit of power however. The GO LIVE 1000 and 1005 do better here.
The 4.3-inch matte display offers decent legibility, but lacks brightness (as does the rest of the range) and visibility in full sunlight is therefore reduced, though it's still better than most of the sat nav's we've tested. The screen has a standard 480 x 272 pixel resolution, which is fine for such a product.
Features: a nice interface though it could be more responsiveThe TomTom Start 20 is based on the same technology as previous Starts, making it fast to start up, particularly when it has been used a few hours before as the device then goes into prolonged standby. It then takes just five seconds to come on (ten seconds otherwise). It finds satellites rapidly, generally in under a minute (depending on where you are and the positioning of the satellites).
The menus are well organised and simple to understand and use, though it's sometimes a struggle to locate some options straight away.
In spite of the solid technical base used for the Start 20, fluidity suffers due to the lack of responsiveness of the screen. Scrolling down the menu screens isn't therefore as fast as on the GO LIVE 1000 or 1005.
The same problem comes up when entering addresses - we would have like to see something more along the lines of what you now get on recent smartphones, which give nice keying speed. It's also a shame that TomTom still doesn't have a keying system, such as the one used by Mio, which progressively deletes letters leaving only those which can correspond to a valid address.
Thankfully, the address search feature works well and can also help you with points of interest (cinema, station and so on). You can also add other POIs via the MyTomTom interface from a computer.
Route guidance: you get the essential
Thanks to the new Start's solid technical base, it calculates journeys rapidly. On this point, it's the equal of the models further up the range. Indeed, the Start 20 has all the features of higher end TomTom sat navs, with the exception of traffic information which is only available as an add-on with a TMC/RDS receiver that is sold separately.
Text-to-Speech, advanced guidance for lane changing and the display of speed limits and alerts when you exceed them are all included.
The IQ Routes technology is also there of course and calculates your journeys according to real time speeds on roads. This usually directs you away from difficult and more dangerous routes or overly busy roads. When combined with the Eco Routes feature, it combines rapidity and economy. This technology does however have its limitations. Sometimes journeys that are available and hardly any longer but much more agreeable aren't given. It would be a good thing to be able to choose between several journey options, as you can with Mio and Navigon sat navs. We do however like the rapidity with which journeys are calculated and recalculated.
Map Share is still there and means you can benefit from data changes shared by other TomTom users. You can of course make your own changes: new roundabouts or roads that aren't indicated and so on.
The voice instructions are still as clear and pleasant on the ear as ever. Each instruction is repeated several times too, so you really can't go wrong.
Extra features: navigation and that's it!
The TomTom Start 20 has been designed for navigation and nothing else. There's no Bluetooth and no LIVE services. There is however an emergency assistance feature with numbers and positioning for doctors, garages, the police and fire brigade.
Speed cameras are also indicated thanks to TomTom's database of fixed and mobile cameras. Though you do have to pay for the annual updates, this database is still a lot less reliable than the services offered by speed camera specialist Coyote.