TomTom, maker of the TomTom Go 540 Live satnav, is one of the original and most hightly rated satnav brands in Europe. Most satnavs we review are capable of correctly plotting your journey from A to B. What really distinguishes these devices from one another is their usability and, in TomTom's case, its Live services, which the company claims can help you to "drive smarter wherever you go".
Included in the TomTom Go 540 Live satnav box is a three-month subscription to TomTom Live. When this expires, services are available on a monthly subscription basis for £7.99. Live services include TomTom Weather, TomTom Buddies, TomTom Traffic, HD Traffic, TomTom Safety Cameras (courtesy of Road Angel), Google Local Search, a very handy fuel-price search and QuickGPSfix. Although TomTom is still rolling out its network coverage of these services, and will be until March 2009, much of the UK is already supported. None of TomTom's Live services are available for free, but heavy drivers could find them well worth their monthly outlay. And besides, the TomTom Go 540 Live is a pretty decent satnav without the bells and whistles.
TomTom Traffic, combined with HD Traffic, offers quite possibly the best traffic-management system we've seen in a satnav. While TomTom Traffic is largely similar to the regular TMC included with most high-end satnavs, HD Traffic makes use of the 540's GPRS connection to gather localised updates every 3 mins. The TomTom Go 540 Live's journey-time estimations take into account all traffic jams en route. If and when new obstacles appear, it will update the journey time and reroute you if necessary.
Other features of the TomTom Go 540 Live include voice-recognition, Bluetooth - with which you can add media and make handsfree calls - and Lane Assistance. The latter will ensure that you aren't speeding down the outside lane when you should be exiting the motorway. Map Share is another great feature that collates map faults pointed out by other users and, after the company has verified the changes, automatically updates your personal device when you next log into TomTom Home.
But it isn't all about the features, and the TomTom Go 540 Live is a very usable device in itself. A now-standard 4.3in touchscreen is easy to see, even in direct sunlight, and the interface is intuitive - more so, given that you can limit what menu options are shown onscreen. In terms of build quality, the TomTom is a flush, good-looking device, with no hardware buttons on its exterior save for the on/off power switch. When attached to the windscreen its tidy little cradle assures a strong fix. No stylus is included, but the large onscreen icons and ability to dictate an address would have left it rather redundant anyhow.
The TomTom Go 540 Live offers the usual selection of points of interest, 2D and 3D views, a huge level of customisation, full postcode support and even the ability to operate the device lefthanded and specify which side of the road you'll be driving on. It's possible to secure the device with a four-digit PIN, plan multistop routes, control your iPod, play back navigation instructions through the car stereo or Bluetooth-connected device and even read documents and look at photos from the TomTom. We particularly like its inclusion of a Help me menu, from which guidance is available to quickly phone, drive or walk to find help. A first-aid guide is also available.
One of the ways that PC Advisor tests navigation devices is by deliberately ignoring their instructions and seeing how they react. But the problem with all satnavs, and not just this one, is that they don't much appreciate being fooled. Credit is due to the TomTom Go 540 Live for its insistence that we took the quickest route (by not, for example, exiting the M25 one junction too early), but in its haste to reroute us back to the slip road it did mistake a petrol garage for an entrance to one of Britain's most infamous motorways. After putting up a good fight, it accepted our journey choice and quickly and efficiently instructed us on our new route.
The TomTom Go 540 Live lives up to its maker's claims of helping you to "drive smarter". While its Live services are available only on a subscription basis, heavy drivers should find them well worth the added expense. For the rest of us, you may be paying over the odds for a simple satnav with some nice, but not deal-breaking, features.