Review: TomTom NAVIGATOR 6


It's the latest TomTom sat-nav suite and it's as polished as ever. Steve Litchfield reports....

Author: TomTom

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It's a measure of how good the core TomTom application is that, even with no respect at all for the S60 style guide and even with patchy support for non-'standard' S60 displays and even costing more than its competitors, it still garners enormous respect and a pretty high score.

The fact is that the central TomTom navigation routines (common to their GO range of standalone products) are simply of superb quality. In the last week I've travelled hundreds of miles and TomTom NAVIGATOR 6 has yet to make a single mistake, of any kind. Add in faster-than-average on-screen reporting of current position, exceptionally clear voice instructions and a lower RAM footprint than the likes of Navicore and Route 6, and you've a recipe for success.

TomTom 6 screenshot TomTom 6 screenshot

If you've used TomTom MOBILE 5 before, or any recent PDA or GO version, you'll know just what to expect, as the interface is identical. One indication of how much thought has gone into the menus and options is that on Navicore and Route 66 I'm always thinking 'Now where did I see that function/option' whereas with TomTom's system I just go there. Perhaps this is because I'm admittedly slightly more familiar with the latter, but I'm of the opinion that the menu systems in its competitors are something of a mess.

There are a number of differences for NAVIGATOR 6 over MOBILE 5 - while I won't pretend to give a definitive list, I'll highlight a few of them and give a flavour of the things that the product now does. From the screenshot above right, you can see a new sub-menu that appears when you choose to navigate to an 'Address'. Essentially, these are options that have been bunched together rather than spread out on the main 'Navigate to' menu, which itself has been expanded to include 'Latitude Longitude', 'TomTom Buddy' (a new free system of linking TomTom owners via positions sent out via SMS) and 'Contact'. This tweak is welcome and stops the selection of destination being too drawn out.

TomTom 6 screenshot TomTom 6 screenshot

Having picked a destination, you're now offered the chance to input a desired arrival time, after which the normal navigation screen info is supplemented by a figure showing how much time you've got in hand (or are late by), a neat touch, shown below. Shown above left is my standard 'tricky' junction, the one that foxes most other sat-nav systems with a minor road crossing a major one, but which TomTom gets spot on ("turn right, then left"). Roundabouts are handled by giving the number of the exit (e.g. 3rd exit).

Screen fragment Screen fragment

There's a choice of a dozen or so European languages in which to have all the voice prompts read out, usually two (male or female) for each major language, and all prompts are very timely and crystal clear, as you'd expect from TomTom after all these years. Voice prompt volume is neatly adjustable using left/right on the navigator key, rather than having to dig around in Preferences, another nice touch.

TomTom 6 screenshot TomTom 6 screenshot

With a slightly smaller RAM requirement than the competition (though still high at 9MB or so) and with its core code being so stable by now, TomTom behaved impeccably in my test, with no crashes and no issues, provided I stayed within a standard S60 portrait form factor. However, it didn't like the landscape mode of the N93 or E70, with horrible display corruption, one of the few black marks I'm able to wield against TomTom NAVIGATOR 6.

TomTom MOBILE 5 introduced a number of extras and NAVIGATOR 6 adds a few more, although it's worth noting that almost all of them have to be paid for on a subscription basis, whereas TomTom's competitors generally throw in similar extras for free. For example, TomTom Traffic is 40 Euros a year, Safety cameras are another 40 Euros, extra voices are 10 Euros, etc. At least, if you already have a Bluetooth GPS and memory card, you can now get the TomTom application itself fairly cheaply (well, cheaper than it used to be, anyway, at 130 Euros) these days. An extra measure of how good something is, is how widely it's pirated, and while I utterly deplore the warez scene and the appearance of TomTom NAVIGATOR 6 there, I suppose that in a twisted way it's a compliment to the product.

TomTom Traffic is the best implemented traffic system in its field, with an incident browser (shown above), a navigation screen indicator to show what's coming up at a glance while hardly taking up much screen space, and routing around the problems (of course). Like most TomTom 'PLUS' services, you can try it free for a month, a useful step to work out whether you'd get your money's worth.

TomTom 6 screenshot TomTom 6 screenshot

Shown above are the main safety camera menu and the (free?) TomTom Weather service, which can be selected for any position in TomTom's maps, e.g. at current position, at destination, etc.

TomTom 6 screenshot TomTom 6 screenshot

As with the other S60 3rd Edition navigation software, there are options for controlling the backlight, to save on battery power, a feature which is obviously sorely needed on long journeys.

The TomTom interface is now so well known that I haven't really spent any time on the menu structure and functions. Suffice it to say that the basic route finding, itinerary planning and map browsing engine works well. As ever (and in common with its competitors), the POI databases included aren't spectacular, with many hardly populated at all. You'd have thought that a database wouldn't be included unless it was at least (say) 50% complete, but sadly no....

The POI warning system works well, letting you know when you're near any items in the POI database of your choice. My review copy of TomTom NAVIGATOR 6 came with the extra Safety Cameras POI system activated, along with a warning bell that activates when you're a few hundred metres away from a camera.

Despite the minor drawbacks mentioned at the start of this review, NAVIGATOR 6 is still good enough to be crowned cream of the crop. As long as money is no object, that is...

Steve Litchfield, 30 Oct 2006

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