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Sunday, March 18, 2012

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TomTom Start 55TM review

Hands on with the TomTom Start 55TM

The TomTom START 55TM is a new entry-level TomTom, albeit the top-of-the-line model in the Start series, thanks to its five-inch screen and lifetime traffic and map updates. Otherwise, this is just a basic and capable navigator.

Related units

  • Drop down to the TomTom Start 45TM to get the same feature set but with a smaller 4.3″ screen
  • Or keep the 5″ screen, but drop traffic with the Start 55M
  • To see how the 55TM stacks up against other models, like the mid-range VIA series or top-of-the-line GO models, check out my TomTom comparison chart

Gas prices

I’ll begin with this since the Start series is the first I can recall to offer gas prices without a live data connection. This is accomplished by connecting the device to your computer and downloading the prices from the TomTom Home application. As a result, prices might be a bit more stale, depending upon how often and when you update your device (prices are refreshed weekly). But in reality, there’s usually a lag in data accuracy even if it is delivered live, and what’s listed as cheapest one day is quite likely the cheapest the next. The big downside here is having to physically connect it to your computer.

In order to access the data, you’ll need to download the TomTom Home app for your computer, set up an account and enter the activation code for a year of service (found on a card inside the box).

Finding this feature is not always intuitive. As a matter of fact, finding the cheapest station along your route takes eight steps (tap map > Change Route > Travel Via > Point of Interest > POI along Route > Gas Station > Cheapest on Route > make your selection)!

TomTom Start 55TM hardware

The screen shot below shows the integrated mount, speaker and mini-USB port where the power lead plugs in.

The integrated mount can cause problems though. Once you mount it on the windshield, trying to adjust the angle of the device can cause the mount to separate from the device; it’s easy enough to pop back on though. Note also that the mount can swivel around so that the hinge can be near the base of the unit, for those preferring dashboard friction mounts, such as this.

I found the power lead a bit awkward to connect. You can see above that the mini-USB connection  is recessed. Through my month of testing, I don’t think I ever got it right the first time and sometimes it took five or six tries to get it to line up properly,

TomTom Start 55TM interface

The Start series uses TomTom’s “easy menu” (shown below), which differs from the Webkit-based interface found on the VIA and newer GO models.

If you choose Plan Route, your choices are Home, Favorite, Address, Recent Destination, Point of Interest, Point on Map and Lat/Long. One tip here; if you are entering an address, you can use the zip code instead of typing out the full city name.


Remember that this is a basic unit, so under Options, don’t expect the kind of things you would see on the VIA or GO series. Nevertheless, you can customize the display fields and select which POI categories are shown on the map.

The map screen is shown below. There are three sections at the bottom:

  • Left – Speed and speed limit (more on this in a moment); tap to adjust volume and repeat the next turn instruction
  • Center – Next turn info; tap here to switch from a 3D to 2D view and back again
  • Right – Route info (this can be customized, shown here is ETA and ETE); tap for a route overview or to change the route
Note also the traffic bar on the right side. You can tap this for additional info. You can also tap the map to access the main menu.

Speed limit coverage still seems weaker than Garmin, at least in the areas I tested the device in the southeastern US.

The speed limit field turns red when you exceed the speed limit. At 55 MPH, I had to go up to 63MPH before it would change.

Advanced lane guidance images (shown below) appear as you approach many limited access highway exits. I found it a little strange that it will not only come up for ones you need to take, but for some others as well.

I did not do a lot of testing of the traffic feature, but the reception in fringe areas was superior to that of my Garmin nuvi 2495LMT.

Other notable features

  • Map Share – TomTom’s Map Share feature (located under Options > Map Corrections) allows you to make map error corrections and share them with others (and download corrections from others as well)
  • Help – This screen allows easy access to several functions (info on your current location, call for help and drive to help); under drive to help, for example, you’ll find shortcuts for the nearest car repair services, hospital, fire and police station, pharmacy and dentist

TomTom Start 55TM performance

The unit was a bit slow to lock onto satellites, although not so much that it caused significant problems. I continue to be impressed with IQ Routes, TomTom’s historical road speed database, which routed me along back-street shortcuts known mainly to locals. During my testing, I only noticed one routing error and that was in a very isolated location that my Garmin nuvi also struggled with.

TomTom Start 55TM Pros

  • Reasonably priced 5″ navigator with lifetime traffic and map updates
  • Gas prices
  • IQ Routes historical road speed database for improved routing
  • Map Share allows you to correct maps and share corrections with others

TomTom Start 55TM Cons

  • Must connect to computer to download gas prices
  • Mount easily detaches from device when adjusting angle
  • Recessed mini-USB connection is awkward
  • Too many steps required for some functions

Conclusion

While I have a few quibbles with the Start 55TM, it does its primary function (navigation) well, and offers lifetime maps, traffic updates and a 5″ screen at a reasonable price. Recommended.

More TomTom Start 55TM reviews

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

Other TomTom Start 55TM resources

Compare prices on the TomTom Start 55TM at these merchants:

  • Check the current TomTom START 55TM price at Amazon
  • This is a relatively new model; I’ll add more sources as they become available

 

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. hey,, i have this model tomtom 55tm. it concerned me about big city because it doesn’t have feature on putting a postal code, not like the garmin. Seems the advertisement is so convincing so I bought it..I have regrets..

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