TomTom's latest Go 740 Live is piled with features, but I've tested TomToms for five years, and in that time, nobody has fixed the platform's inherent problems. In fact they're only getting worse.
This past week I drove around with the new $400 TomTom Go 740 LIVE, both around town and on a road trip, and I was shocked to see that the problems I used to bitch about years ago still persist. What good are turn-lane guidance, connected searches and live traffic and weather—let alone user-editable community-powered mapping tools—when the basic experience sucks so painfully? TomTom is feature obsessed, but doesn't appear to care at all about actually improving the product. Here are the major gripes—mostly old and persistent, some new and freshly horrible:
• It still takes 5 clicks (and three different screens) to cancel—pardon me, "clear"—an active route. Even with voice command, you have to know the right lingo or you're SOL.
• The main screen is still a mess, mainly too much unnecessary clutter: Satellite signal strength? Minutes till turn and distance till turn and time at turn, plus time at destination? Traffic alert icons even when there are no traffic alerts? The road graphics still look horrible, and the refresh isn't always fast enough to tell you where you are.
• With the exception of the recently added highway lane guidance screen—which you only get on multi-lane highways—the actual turning instructions are unclear. There's no bar up top that says the name of the street you should turn on, and you only hear the street names and numbers aloud if you select the single (and relatively incoherent) "computer" voice out of many, many more pleasant voices. Also, when you're cruising on a long stretch of highway, it keeps telling you what exits not to take, even if you're going straight for hundreds of miles. Annoying.
• It doesn't turn on and off with ignition—like all Garmins do—so it's always sitting there on as you're leaving the car, and you have to turn it on manually when you remember to, generally after you've started driving.
• TomTom still just pretends to be US-friendly. The meaningless "international" icons, featureless line-drawing maps and the use of expressions like "motorway" make you quickly realize this is a one-design-fits-all-countries product—and the US is a low priority.
• Voice recognition is unhelpful, because in order to use it, you have to memorize all of the possible commands, and in my experience, the thing has a hard time figuring out what you're trying to say.
• Newfangled screw-in suction mount sucks in the wrong way. It's worse than TomTom's older mounts—which were a rare design win for the company, now apparently gone. Also, as you can see from the photo above, the matte screen is hard to see in bright sunlight, even with the backlight jacked up.
If TomTom isn't willing to address its products' fundamental problems, it deserves to fail in this business. Does that sound heartless? What's heartless is foisting sub-par hardware on unsuspecting moms and pops, who don't have the privilege of testing a bunch of stuff side by side. Because I have a heart, and care about your hard-earned money, it's my duty to tell you—and your mom and dad—to avoid TomTom like the freakin' plague. (In case you were wondering, Garmins are still the best—even the cheap ones.)