Sunday, March 18, 2012

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TomTom XL 330-S review

TomTom XL 330S review
UPDATE: This model has been discontinued. For a list of current TomTom models and their features, please see our TomTom comparison chart.

Hands on with the TomTom XL 330S

The TomTom XL 330-S updates the TomTom ONE XL-S, with a new design that includes a built-in mount, dubbed the EasyPortTM, that stows on the back of the device. Other than the form factor and re-designed speaker though, this new entry level model is almost identical to its older sibling.The TomTom XL 330-S sports a 4.3″ wide screen.

Related units

  • The S in the product name refers to text-to-speech, so you’ll hear “turn right, Oak Street,” instead of just “turn right,” which is what you’ll get if you drop down to the TomTom XL 330
  • The TomTom ONE 130 and 130-S offer the same features as the XL 330 series, albeit with a smaller 3.5″ screen
  • To see how the XL 330-S compares to other TomTom units, check out my TomTom comparison chart

EasyPortTM mount

The new mount stows on the device itself. I found it to be a little unintuitive at first, so I’ll go into some detail here on how it works. Take a look at the image below. The round, hard plastic piece under the suction mount twists to apply (or release) suction from the windshield. I really like this part of the mount, and found it easier to use than a the typical suction lever.

Tomtom_easyport_mount

The swivel joint on the mount was very tight though, so tight in fact that I was afraid I would break the mount when I tried to move it. In fact, the mount did pop off the back of the device, as shown below. Don’t worry if this happens; it’s quite easy to pop it back on. It seems like this joint loosened up a bit during the review period.

Easyport_disassembled

While many people seem to like the EasyPort mount, I’m not a big fan for the following reasons:

  • As mentioned above, the swivel joint is so tight, the entire mount can come apart as you try to adjust the angle on your windshield; this may not be a problem in the long run, if indeed the joint loosens over time
  • The mount is so compact that the device ends up being out of reach when placed low on many windshields
  • It’s still not compact enough to fit comfortably in your shirt pocket

I hope to have a post up about an alternative mounting system in the next few days.

TomTom XL 330-S speaker

One other improvement TomTom wanted to make with this device was a better quality speaker than that found on earlier TomTom ONE and XL models. In some ways they succeeded, because the speaker is certainly powerful enough. Unfortunately, sometimes it is too loud and sometimes it is too soft, regardless of whether or not you choose the “link volume to car speed option.” Some consumer reviews of the XL 330 series report speaker problems, while others say it is fine.

TomTom XL 330-S routing

Routing was a mixed bag. On the one hand, the TomTom actually performed better than my Garmin nuvi on some routes in town. However, I did have one bizarre route generated, where the unit didn’t appear to know about a 30 year old Interstate ramp. Once I ventured off the beaten track, more problems cropped up.


For example, on a trip to DuPont State Forest, the unit routed me up a five mile long gravel road, instead of taking a major paved road that was a comparable distance. I had the unit set to “always plan fastest routes.” There is not an “avoid unpaved roads” option.

On the way back, it tried to route me a very indirect way that it estimated would take 1 hour and 30 minutes. I kept going the more direct way that I knew and within a few minutes it picked up that route, estimating 1 hour and 7 minutes travel time.

All GPS units will misdirect you occasionally, so these instances should be considered anecdotal. Nevertheless, I am beginning to wonder more about the Tele Atlas maps found on TomTom devices and a few other brands, after several recent review units generated unusual (and inefficient) routes.

One routing interface feature I did like was the option to close the route summary screen (shown below) automatically after 10 seconds.  This way you don’t have to press the “done” button. It’s this sort of attention to detail that makes the TomTom interface a joy to use.

Route_summary

TomTom XL 330-S interface

As usual, TomTom presents an intuitive interface while still managing to provide the user with lots of options for customization. It’s not as drop dead simple as a Garmin nuvi, but there is a lot more you can do with it.

The main map screen is shown below. The information on the status bar can be customized (options are also shown below).

Map_screen

Status_bar_options_1

Status_bar_options_2

Map Share and Help Me

Map Share allows you to make certain map corrections on the device, while the Help Me! feature allows you to locate nearby emergency services. I covered both of these features in more detail in my TomTom GO 730 review, so rather than repeat myself, I’m going to direct you to the Map Share and Help Me! sections of that review.

TomTom XL 330-S Pros

  • Many options for customization
  • A very easy setup process (Q&A format) is followed by a brief but helpful tour of device features
  • Search fields default to most recent entries for city, street, etc.
  • Can search addresses by zip code
  • Multi-destination routing allows you to store destinations for a trip, but does not automatically advance to the next destination
  • Map Share allows you to make map corrections
  • Help Me! emergency services screen
  • Can search for POI near current locations, along route, near destination, etc.
  • Can select specific POI categories to show on map
  • Can add POIs and POI categories
  • Option to switch off when external power lost
  • Can choose ABCD, QWERTY or AZERTY keyboard layout

TomTom XL 330-S Cons

  • Screen is not bright enough and will appear washed out in direct sunlight
  • The mini USB connection for the car charger is recessed and difficult to plug in properly
  • No POI subcategories, so you can’t search for restaurants by cuisine or shops by type (hardware, etc.)
  • Street name pronunciation is weak
  • Multi-destination routing does not automatically advance to the next destination
  • Does not auto power on when starting car
  • You cannot browse the map from the map screen; you must choose “Browse map” from the main menu

Recommendation

The TomTom XL 330-S is a good choice for someone who wants a
basic GPS that they can customize. It is less appropriate for
people who get lost in menus or just want a simple, easy to operate
device.

More TomTom XL 330-S reviews

I’ll be posting more hands on GPS reviews as they appear, but in the meantime, here are some…

Other TomTom XL 330-S resources


Compare prices on the TomTom XL 330-S at these merchants:


About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.

Comments

  1. I have a TomTom XL 330-S but I do not know how to make it say street names (text to speech feature) . Did I miss something. Could you please show me how to unleash this feature .
    Thanks
    CN

  2. Go to Preferences > Voice Preferences > Change Voice. Then choose a voice that says something beside it like Computer or TTS. I can’t recall how TomTom lists it, but I think it’s one of the two.

  3. Charles Powell says:

    I have the TomTom XL 330 S and I wonder if there is an update so the unit will let me know when I reach my destination and let me know (like my old Garmin) if it is on the Right or the Left.

  4. Rich Owings says:

    Not sure if this has been updated. Does the map / icons indicate which side it’s on? You should be able to get the latest firmware via the TomTom HOME desktop application.

  5. I just got a TomTom XL 330 and everytime I try to enter a distant destination it losses the satelites and says “NO DESTINATION FOUND” Haven’t had it long enough to even call tech support when I found this site. Close destinations are found, but not distant ones. Should I just wait till Monday and call tech or do you know if this is an ongoung problem with this unit?

    • Does the unit have maps for the area you are trying to locate? What if you just enter a distant city rather than a full address? Will it find that? No idea why it would be losing satellites though!

      • It is suppose to have all of USA & Canada. Was able to connect to TomTom Home and actually did a route in their demo and it transferred to my GPS and it is there now. When I tried to enter another address into the unit alone it said “no route available”. I tried a city and same results. My husband is taking it back to have the store check it out. We have 2 Magellan’s and 1 TomTom and have never had any trouble with any of them. I really think there is something wrong with the unit. Thanks for the time.

        • Well, if you have that much experience with GPS, it probably is a defective unit and not something you’re doing. If you get any answers, I’d love to hear.

          • Well, It was the unit and they took it back. got another one (next up TomTom XL340-S and it works fine.

  6. Excellent. That’s a much better model too, since it has IQ Routes.

  7. How do i stop my tomtom xl 330s from going into little ads/screen saver when i stop touching screen for more than 5 minutes

  8. Rodrigo de castro roma says:

    Boa tarde
    meu nome é rodrigo
    comprei um gps tomtom one xl 330-s
    chegou legal, mas ontem eu fui atualizar ele pelo site da tomtom e não funciona mais
    ele da a seguinte mensagem : Problema com o mapa / impossível usar esse mapa com este equipamento: Brazil-298

    gostaria de saber oq eu tenho q fazer, e tb estou procurando o mapa da flórida, pois irei viajar e quero levar meu gps!!!

    obrigado

    Rodrigo Roma

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