Product Review : TomTom XXL 550 Series

TomTom International, BV

History/Introduction

A ScanGaugeII from Linear-Lohic, LLC out of box with Owners/Instruction Manual. I first learned of TomTom many years ago. I vaguely remember a commercial that I think had something to do with a man and women in a car and the TomTom displaced the man because he wouldn't stop for directions. At the time, I didn't feel I needed the device. After all, I didn't seem to fit the demographic given the perspective of the commercial.

It wasn't until several years later when I moved to Chicago that I realized how valuable a GPS device could be. Still not succumbing to the desire to want or need one, I simply saw the value. Then there was marriage. All of a sudden I found myself on the outter edge of the demographic. I didn't need one but my household apparently did. So, without any real analysis I stuck with the impression I was left with years prior and bought a TomTom.

First Impression

I came home with a box half the size of a shoe box and said, "Look what I got honey" as I proceeded to open it. The instant gratification was overwhelming. I figured this is what it feels like when a man admits to needing driving directions.

What was really cool, then and now, is these devices are pretty much ready to go. Even though it's going to spend the majority of its life in the car, you can sit it on your counter top, turn it on and play with it. But first, we followed the directions and properly charged, registered and updated the device. From when we first installed it in the car to the day the power button stopped working, we (yes we) loved the device - particularly the user interface and the quick recalculations it did when you ignored its advice. So when the first one died, there was no question we would stick with the brand - especially since I had seen and used two other brands in action and disliked them both.

Critique

Fast forward to 2011 and new TomTom models have been released. So, today, I'm writing about the XXL550 Series device.

Good

The user interface is, hands down, the best out there. The large screen provides room for larger and smaller icons to be displayed with plenty of room - TomTom chooses and uses the real estate well. The buttons far enough apart, minimizing "fat fingering" your input selections.

The size and baseline features are enough to get anyone started pretty easily. One particulaly helpful feature is the Lane Guidance system. It zooms in to street level and points out which lanes you need to be in or avoid as you approach a junction.

Needless to say, I am very happy TomTom hasn't gotten away from what made the device very attractive to me in the first place.

Bad

The one thing that bothers me most about technology advances is that companies seem to use each technology advance as a way to differentiate its own products from themselves. For instance, it seems a different series was created for Bluetooth enable TomToms, or those that get free map downloads for life, or those that can be connected or used as an mp3 player. Honestly, I never took the time, as a consumer, to read every single product description from TomTom just to understand what one offers that the other doesn't. The main reason I didn't, is because I figured that would just lead me to wonder how TomTom competitors compare. Then, I would expect product features to not line up, thus making it even more confusing to decide which combination of features works best for me. That's exhausting just thinking typing the idea.

Having said that, is TomTom really expecting the consumer to read through the fine print of 25 automotive navigation products just to determine which suits them best? And that excludes any consideration of the competition - which have twice as many. I understand there are many applications for a GPS device but there just seems like there has to be a better way to shop for these devices.

Ugly

For me, size matters! And I suspect that is a direct correlation to the intended application for the device, i.e. van, car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, walking, etc. After buying one of these products, I don't think you really know if it was the right one when there were so many options to choose from.

Moving Forward

I'd really like to one of two things - the technical advances to be bundled or the shopping experience to involve a decision tree so I know what features I am getting - almost the Dell Computer approach to purchasing a device.

Additionally, I'd like to be able to wirelessly connect to my iPod. There are probably options or devices to do it, but this should be a standard function these days, not something you have a pay premium for. I understand some models have to be in place to drive revenues and that's when I thought traffic and map update services where good enough.

Grade

B-