After you have read this, please read UPDATE — Review of the TomTom GO LIVE Camper and Caravan Sat Nav
We had been using a TomTom Go 960 for five or six years and hadn’t really any problems with it until we went to France, where in it decided to become French and in the best Gallic tradition went on strike with no notice (here’s the story). That set us on the path of looking for a new GPS.
Being a pilot, I had ‘grown up’ so to speak with Garmin over nearly 20 years and trusted Garmin products to navigate me round the world and drop me on a runway centreline from 1200 nautical miles away… including crossing the Atlantic a few times. But looking for a GPS for caravanning, Garmin didn’t a offer a product that fitted the my idea of what I wanted.
We did consider the Snooper unit and looked closely at it at the Manchester Caravan Show, but it had two major drawbacks for me. One, you can’t load your own POI’s (Point Of Interest) and second, the software didn’t run natively on an Apple Mac. As we havent had a PC in the house for over 7 years, I wasn’t going to get a PC just to update a GPS, nor did I want to install a Microsoft emulator on any of the Mac’s and buy a copy of Windows. ( I also believe you can’t enter a LAT & LONG to navigate to, but that my be hearsay)
As we had been happy with our old TomTom up to the point it went on strike, we looked at the TomTom Go Live Camping & Caravan unit. Specification wise it ticked all the boxes. It allowed us to enter our own POI’s, transfer our POI files from our old TomTom and for some sites ( La Tournerie near Montignac comes to mind) I’d done custom approaches based on specific instructions on how to get there.
After looking at various websites for pricing, it seemed like buying direct from TomTom would not cost much more and it would probably easier dealing direct with the manufacturer if we had any problems.
I won’t go through unboxing it, but in the box you get everything you need – a 12 volt plug for your accessory socket that has a USB output, a USB to TomTom connection lead and the unit itself. You don’t get a manual…. you need to down load it from here – http://download.tomtom.com/open/manuals/go1015_2050/refman/TomTom-GO-LIVE-en-gb.pdf
There is a quick setup document in the box that I suggest you follow first.
Unlike the older TomTom units that used TomTom Home software installed on your computer, this needs a different piece of software… more like an app. You open your browser window and download it from here – tomtom.com/getstarted
It’s a fairly quick download and install.
Once set up, one of the first things to do in the device is to enter the tow vehicle and caravan dimensions. I also added the axle weights for the tow car and the MTPLM for the caravan as an axle weight. This ensures the unit will not route you over some of the small weight restricted bridges or roads. I suspect this is more important for large 4 x 4’s towing big twin axle caravans – but the facility is there so why not use it. By entering the weight I think it also cautions you if there are any steep hills on your planned route, but I have not verified this. You can also select the maximum speed of the combination at this point as well. This will make the journey time more accurate. Information on how to do all this starts at page 110 in the downloaded manual.
When you have done all that, you can connect your TomTom to your computer. The app will launch and it takes a minute or two to connect to TomTom and your device. It will open a new window in your browser…. and this is where everything is now done. If you havent already got a TomTom account, you will be prompted to create one, which is free. Once that is done and you are logged in, it will download any updates required, you have 90 days to update to the latest map free of charge.
The whole idea behind the Go Live version is the unit has built-in a GSM module which communicates via the mobile phone network to update the unit and to send information back to TomTom. The info that it sends back is about routing and road conditions, so if you are only moving at 20 MPH on the motorway, it sends this back to TomTom and that information is used to update other Go Live devices with road delays. It’s a bit more complex than that… but I think that’s the gist of it.
Bundled with the Go Live service are map updates, speed camera updates. quick fix updates and Map Share. However, to get the “Go Live” bit to work…. you have to subscribe, the first year is free – it comes with the device and currently it costs £47.50* per year after that. (*correct at time of writing)
Updating the GPS
Once you have downloaded and installed “My TomTomSA” it can either run in the background or just started like any other bit of software. On a Mac it sits as an icon in the top bar and if you click on it a small window opens (see below). If there are any updates it lets you know and provides a link for details.
When you plug in the device using the supplied USB lead, it opens a new window in the browser (below)…. All the screenshots can be opened full size by clicking on them. NOTE: These screenshots are of Safari on a Mac, IE on a Windows machine might look slightly different.
When you click on “Get Updates” it will connect to your TomTom and invite you to log in to your TomTom account (below)
Once you have logged in to your TomTom account, it lists all the updates available in a little more detail and you click on the “Install” button to download each instance of an update. At this point you have to be patient. The download from TomTom and subsequent upload to your device are not particularly quick. If you have to download a 3Gb map update expect the download time counter to initially show two or three hours. This is a bit misleading the clock does reduce quicker than real-time, but in comparing the old TomTom Home download times, I think the new system is similar or even a little slower. However, gone are the multiple downloads for speed cameras for each country, these now come down directly to your device via the GSM link, so when you turn on your device, it initially takes a couple of minutes to download the speed camera updates and the traffic information. This does not slow down the use of your GPS. On start-up it is a lot quicker than our old TomTom 960 and can be used within 10 to 15 seconds once you have touched “OK” to acknowledge the information screen about data sent to TomTom.
OK, the next screen shot (below) is the actual download process. It shows what files are being downloaded and the file size. IN the example shown, I only had two updates so it took less than two minutes to download and send the updates to the device.
While in this screen, you can also check on the dates of your subscriptions to Go Live, and the currency of the map.
In the screen shot below, I opened the drop-down section to show the subscription to “My Speed Cameras”, it again tells you your subscription valid to date and at the foot of that box it tells you that speed cameras will be downloaded directly to your device.
If you are used to the old TomTom Home software for updating, this new software takes a little getting used to, but it is reasonably intuitive. However, for me there is one big drawback. As all the updates are now done in a browser window, there is no progress bar to show you how the download and update is progressing. Instead all you get is a rotating circle of dots. The reason they have done this is understandable, it’s easy to run a bit of java script in a window to animate the dots, to actually move a progress bar along a box is a little more complex and would probably involve a lot more screen refreshes, which would slow the download process. A couple of times I thought that the software had actually stalled…. the key is a bit of patience and going putting the kettle on… a lot!
Once you get the hang of it, the update process is quite simple. One other thing I did notice with this device compared to the old TomTom 960 when updating, is the fact it works in the office. The old unit would rarely get a GPS satellite fix when sat on my desk while being updated. This TomTom however always gets a satellite fix within a few seconds when it is in exactly the same place on the desk.
Installation in the vehicle
The mounting for this device has moved on in technology terms. The power/data connector is similar to Apple’s “MagSafe” laptop connectors, in the fact that it uses magnets to stay connected. Magnets are also used to hold the device to the stand. Unless you actually see and feel it in action it sounds a bit dodgy using magnets, but the stand is well constructed and its as simple as placing the device on the lower lip of the stand and the power/data connector snaps itself into position as you lean the device back slightly you can feel the magnets pulling it back into the stand. So far I have not had any problems with the device falling out while being bounced about in a 4 x 4.
Another feature is when you turn your ignition on, the device turns on as well, so no button to press. When you turn your ignition off, it comes up with a screen “Shutting down in 5 seconds” and counts down unless you touch the cancel button.
The actual stand for the device is quite neat and comes with the option of a suction screen fitting, or a round plate that can be stuck to almost any surface to allow the suction cup to work. I opted for this method and routed the power cable down through the dash to a hidden accessory socket under the dash so I can leave the lead permanently plugged in and no trailing wire.
Once the device is in the stand, it’s quite a neat installation (or so I think!)
In use the screen is bright and clear and the stand can twist and tilt to give the driver the best viewing position. So far in the few weeks we have been using it I have not been in a position where I could not see the screen because of bright sun.
The screen renders images sharp and the touch screen is sensitive but not overly so. The area of contact is also quite accurate so hopefully no miss typed addresses.
The audio quality is quite good as well. The volume can now be increased to something you can hear clearly while doing 60 MPH on the motorway with the window open. If you use the standard computer generated voice rather than the recorded voices the pronunciation for some place names has improved remarkably, although not perfect by any means. It has all the usual features as many other devices on the market…. bluetooth linking to your phone for hands-free calling, the ability to store pictures and play music – features I have not explored.
The first few time we used it, we had it set as though we were towing a caravan although we were solo. It did route us successfully round all the locally known places where you couldn’t get with a caravan and I tried a route from home to our friends that live on the North Yorks Moors. Normally our old sat nav would route us via Sutton Bank, this time we got a route around Sutton Bank.
The live traffic updates are quite accurate. As well as direct warnings for delays on your route, you can also see delays on roads around you. These take the form of hi-lighting the road with a ribbon in various colours depending on the type of delay with what looks like tiny marching dots. Now what is clever is if you look closely the ribbon will be to one side or the other of the road and the dots seem to move in the direction of the traffic. On the A66 we had some road works that were controlled by temporary traffic lights, on the screen it showed delays on the opposite direction to us. We got to the traffic lights and there were maybe five or six vehicles on our side, but in the other direction there must have been 100 to 150 vehicles in the queue. This is where the advantage of the “Go Live” bit comes in… other Go Live units feed back traffic flow information by virtue of where they are and how fast they are moving, this is processed and sent back as traffic delays to other users, so TomTom are not just taking traffic flow info from national traffic information services they are adding detail to it as well.
Things I don’t like
With our old GPS, sat on my drive I could go to one my POI files and it would bring up a list of all the POI’s in the file, so for example sat on the drive I could open my POI’s and scroll down the list and select Dover Docks that I had programmed in. With this device I can still go to my POI’s and open up my list, but it will only show my POI’s within a 50 mile radius of where I am. If I want to select my Dover Docks POI, I have to enter the town “DOVER” and it will show me all my POI’s within a 50 mile radius of Dover. I’m not sure if this can be changed so it shows my POI’s within say a 100 mile or 200 mile radius… something I have to investigate.
Other than that, I haven’t found anything else really to complain about so far.
Is it worth it?
At a list price of £329.99 at the time of writing, it’s not the cheapest of Sat Nav’s out there, but the question is “If I lost it would I buy another one?” Well the answer to that is ‘YES’ unless someone else brings out something to beat it, but for the moment there is nothing currently on the market for me that ticks all my boxes.
Please go on to read UPDATE — Review of the TomTom GO LIVE Camper and Caravan Sat Nav