Many, many years ago, when you were heading off on a long journey, you’d crack out a big book called an ‘A-to-Z’ and pore over maps for hours. You’d plot out a route and inevitably forget it halfway though. Needless to say, it was common to arrive late or just get plain lost.
These days we have sat-navs to take all the stress out of finding our way. You can order most cars with a built-in one, but it’s often an expensive optional extra. So, does a cheaper, portable unit make more sense? We spent a holiday with a TomTom GO 5000 to find out why portable sat-navs are still a great buy.
This might sound obvious but, if your car has a built-in sat-nav, you can’t take it with you once you’ve parked up. Many journeys don’t end at the car park – especially if your destination is far away – so the ability to have your sat-nav literally guide you to the door is handy.
The TomTom GO 5000 is a fairly bulky unit so putting it in your pocket probably isn’t an option – the trade-off is you get a big clear screen that’s easy to read. Of course, if you can take it out of one car, you can put it in another meaning this is the only sat-nav unit you’ll ever need to buy.
Built-in units often cost vast amounts of money so going portable might save you a lot. The TomTom GO 5000 costs £259.99 – not exactly small change but a pittance compared to the price of specifying one from a car manufacturer.
Admittedly, for some buyers, the slickness of a manufacturer sat-nav installation will be more desirable than mounting a portable unit on their windscreen. You have to ask yourself the question, however – ‘is having a built-in unit worth the extra money?’
They’re better value for money
Portable sat-nav units not only have to compete with built-in manufacturer ones, but they now have to fight off the onslaught of smartphone-based sat-navs. Most people own a smartphone and most smartphones have some kind of sat-nav application.
This means portable units like the TomTom have to offer better value for money. You now get live traffic and speed camera updates for the lifetime of any TomTom GO device. This system can reroute you around bad congestion and alert you to upcoming speed cameras.
If you haven’t used a portable sat-nav in four or five years you’ll be pleased to hear that the processing speeds have improved. You can zoom around the map by swiping your fingers across the screen without waiting 10 seconds for the sat-nav to catch up with you!
Easy to use
Car makers are throwing lots of money to improve the ‘user experience’ of their products, especially on infotainment systems. In a car, you need to navigate menus and settings as quickly and easily as possible to let you keep your eyes on the road.
The TomTom GO 5000 is able to begin navigating after just two touches of the screen and the map is the first thing you see when you start it. In addition, menus overlaid on the navigation instructions are translucent, meaning you get a clearer picture of the route ahead.
Easy to update
Roads change all the time and, after a while, your sat-nav will no longer be up-to-date with the latest routes. If you have a built-in manufacturer sat-nav, updating this can be a real pain – the least it’ll take is a trip to the dealership and, at worst, it could cost a lot of money for updated sat-nav software.
The TomTom GO 5000 can be removed from the car and hooked up to a computer to download updates in a matter of minutes, making it easy to stay on the right route. TomTom has also included free map updates for the lifetime of the device.
It’s a fact we all have to face – we’ve completely lost the ability to navigate without electronic help. At least modern devices are so good they can cover for our human shortcomings. Some buyers will insist on having a built-in sat-nav – they’re better integrated into the car and don’t require faffing with wires.
For most, however, a portable sat-nav represents a much more cost-efficient way of avoiding getting lost. It might not look as nice as a built-in unit, but the added functionality, lower cost and greater ease of use make it easy to recommend.
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