I’m crap at directions. Even in a place as small as Northern Ireland! So I decided to get some electronic help and, after some research and a recommendation from a few VMware employees I was out and about with last week, bought a TomTom GO 700. I went for the 700 as it was the only one with Northern Ireland maps as standard. Actually you get all of western Europe as standard on this model. The 500 and 300 only come with the GB part of the UK as standard. It has a 2.5Gb hard disk for storage. When you plug it into a Mac via USB2 cable it mounts as a hard disk (works on Windows as well). Mine has 1.4 Gb used and just over 1Gb free.
I’ve only used it in anger around Belfast to see what it is like. Bloody marvellous is the answer! The verbal instructions are very clear. You get plenty of prior notice about turns etc., both verbally and via the map display. It is very accurate as to where you are at any time. For example, the car location marker is drawn on a roundabout as you go round said roundabout. To navigate to a destination you can enter a postcode and it’ll calculate the route you need to follow. If you miss a turning it’ll recalculate the route based on your current position. Sometimes it’ll tell you to “Turn around at the earliest opportunity” for a while then calculate a new route based on the direction you are heading. If you don’t know the postcode you can enter road names (e.g. A20) or street names.
As a test one of my work colleagues gave me a postcode that is out in the back end of nowhere in the west of Northern Ireland. This place really is in the boondocks. It is 20 odd miles from anywhere even reasonably big. We entered the postcode and set the unit to demo route mode (another nice feature) and analysed what it came up with. My colleague, who makes the trip to this place regularly, was impressed with the route taken but also with the fact that it was able to navigate to the location at all. It even had a new mini-roundabout that was added recently in a town the route passed through.
I’m well impressed with it. The fact that it mounts as a hard disk under MacOS X means it’ll be easy to drag new and updated maps on to it as they are released as well. It also works as a Bluetooth handsfree kit for phones put I haven’t set that up. You can also subscribe to a service that will update you to traffic info and stuff via GPRS phones. I haven’t set that up either. I just want to get directions! It has multiple voices and multiple languages, both for the verbal instructions and for the menus. You can buy a John Cleese (it is actually him) voice as well. The interface is very easy to use as well. It comes with a suction cup wind screen mounting kit that is pretty unobtrusive.
I like it. More info and demos at the TomTom site.