TomTom – Go 540 Live review

high-end sat-nav with built-in GPRS
Photo of TomTom – Go 540 Live

Right from the outset, TomTom’s Go 540 Live, which comes pre-installed with UK and Ireland mapping, makes a good impression. Its sleek, rounded chassis looks great and you get the feeling it will withstand the occasional bump.

However, the Go 540 Live brings much more than just good looks to the sat-nav table, and lurking inside the chassis is a GPRS module. The idea is that the TomTom will automatically download data when required, giving up-to-date information without having to burden your mobile phone for a data connection.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of this GPRS connection is the new HD Traffic service: despite the bewildering use of the term ‘HD’, it’s certainly a step up from the often unreliable TMC service.

A big part of HD Traffic is that it uses data collected by the anonymous monitoring of Vodafone mobile phone users in the UK. If it detects a clump of them not moving on a road, it will assume it’s slow moving traffic and warn you appropriately. In our test drives we were indeed directed away from slow traffic, although we still also found ourselves in a few jams with the TomTom being none the wiser.

What is impressive is that the TomTom unit updates itself regularly without you having to do a thing. It also lets you navigate to shops using the Google search feature. For example, bash in ‘PC World’ and it will use Google to hunt down your nearest store.

The big downside to this Live service is that after a three-month trial you’ll need to start forking out £7.99 per month. With credit being crunched left, right and centre, we suspect only those who spend an unholy amount of time on the road will be willing to sign up.

That said, even if you don’t subscribe to the Live service, the Go 540 Live has plenty of offer. Thanks to a built-in microphone it’s possible to shout instructions to it: you can even go through the whole process of dictating an address to go to. Amazingly this worked very well, even when we tried to fool it with our best impersonations of regional accents.

The IQ Routes feature, which aims to work out the best route by taking into account the number of traffic lights and roundabouts, has also been upgraded. It now takes into account the day and hour that you’re travelling, hoping to steer you clear of nasties such as rush hour traffic when appropriate. We ran a few tests at different times of the day and noticed the suggested routes change appropriately, which is definitely something that will be of use around unfamiliar city centres.

As expected, Bluetooth is present so you can make and receive hands-free calls, while the included PC software lets you download recent user-generated corrections via TomTom’s Map Share service.

Battery life is also commendable and we were able to get well over three hours’ usage out of a single charge. That said, TomTom gets a black mark for not including a mains power adapter in the package.

Other features include 3D landmarks in major cities (don’t worry if there are none near where you live, as you’re not missing out on much), text-to-speech for road names and fast GPS fix times of around five seconds after a warm start.

Company: TomTom

Contact: 00 31 20 757 5000

Although impressive, the fact you have to shell out £7.99 per month to get the most out of the Go 540 Live will be enough to dissuade many potential buyers. But if you spend a lot of time on the tarmac, the regularly updated traffic service may well be enough to swing it for you.