FutureFive New Zealand - Consumer technology news & reviews from the future
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Sun, 1st Aug 2010
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The latest TomTom GPS navigation device to hit the New Zealand market isn't too dissimilar from earlier models (such as the TomTom Go 730) in itself. There is, of course, the much larger screen; at 5 inches, the 550's display is the largest of the TomTom range to date. Not only does this added real estate mean that your routes are clearer to see, but touchscreen input is that much easier to boot.

The XXL 550 makes use of the tried-and-true TomTom interface that has served the rest of the range well: the process of entering a destination is simple, especially with its accurate predictive input feature where a populated list of streets narrows down as you enter more characters. Often you can be on your way in a matter of five or six button presses.

The real beauty of TomTom, though, is in the constant updates to its maps and other traffic data. As long as you're sure to update your device's maps every couple of months, you'll have the most up-to-date data right down to road closures and other anomalies. Along with time of day and general traffic flows, it's all data that's taken into account when the device calculates the fastest route using its IQ Routes technology; as we all know, the fastest route at 10am isn't necessarily the fastest route at 5pm.

One of the more recent additions to the TomTom interface, however, is the Advanced Lane Guidance feature. Essentially it displays a graphical representation of your exit with a clear indication of exactly what lane you need to be in. It may not seem like much, but it goes a long way to reassure the driver and prepare them for an exit so that they're not stuck three lanes over when the time comes.

In keeping with the rest of the range, the XXL 550 utilises an effective and easy-to-use mount that attaches to your windscreen with a suction cup (which then locks into place with the simple turn of a dial). You can easily remove the unit from the mount when you leave your vehicle for safekeeping, although I found reattaching this particular device quite troublesome; often it was easier to remove the mount from the windscreen and then reattach the whole thing.

PROS:  It's essentially the same winning TomTom formula in a larger form factor, which adds a lot to the device's readability and makes input much easier.

CONS: The otherwise excellent windscreen mount suffers from some reattachment issues.

VERDICT: There's nothing about the TomTom XL 550 that means you should rush out and upgrade if you're an existing user. If you don't have a TomTom or another GPS device right now, then this is the latest and greatest at a price that's around $200 cheaper than earlier TomTom models went for last Christmas.