Sunday, March 18, 2012

TomTom START 45M

TomTom START 45M reviews

The TomTom START 45M is a new entry-level TomTom, with a 4.3″ screen and lifetime map updates. It comes with Advanced Lane Guidance, speed limit display and preloaded maps of the US and Canada.

Related units

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

NOTE: Much of the following is adapted from my hands on review of the START 55TM, which is identical except for its larger screen and lifetime traffic alerts.

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 prices using 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 to be 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 45M hardware

The 45M’s integrated mount can cause problems. 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 recessed power lead a bit awkward to connect. Through my month of START series 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 45M 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.

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

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 45M Pros

  • Reasonably priced 4.3″ navigator with lifetime 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 45M 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 45M, it does its primary function (navigation) well and offers lifetime maps at a reasonable price. Recommended.

More TomTom Start 45M reviews

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

Other TomTom Start 45M resources

Compare prices on the TomTom Start 45M 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.

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