TomTom’s entry-level Start sat-nav first appeared during the second half of 2009, and the new Start 2 keeps the same physical design but brings some welcome additions to the still rather basic feature set.
While expensive sat-navs are increasingly stuffed with gizmos and gadgets of varying degrees of usefulness, at the bottom end of the food chain there’s a gaggle of cheap devices aimed at those who either don’t want or don’t understand such frills. The Start 2 is the cheapest TomTom model available, although with many alternatives out there for well under £100, its £120 price tag means it has its work cut out to make a mark in this increasingly crowded market.
The Start 2 is a small, easily pocketable unit with a 3.5-inch, 4:3 aspect ratio touchscreen. As with the original Start, it features a replaceable coloured casing; known as ‘StartSkins’, these cost £14.99 each and come in six colours. The UK & Ireland version is sold only in black, but the European maps version (£140) is also available in white. You also get a compact Easyport windscreen mount, car charger, USB cable and a nylon carrying pouch.
TomTom’s Advanced Lane Guidance – which gives extra visual cues when nearing complex junctions – is a welcome addition, as is full postcode entry for destinations. Text-to-speech for road names (only when using computer-generated voices) works fairly well, and there’s now support for an optional (£49) RDS-TMC USB receiver for traffic services. It doesn’t support any of the TomTom LIVE subscription services, so if you think you might like these at a future date, look elsewhere.
In keeping with the technophobic target audience, configuration options are kept to a bare minimum. You have to change manually between day and night colour schemes – each with a preset and non-adjustable brightness level – and you can’t customise what information is displayed on the main navigation screen. The night level of illumination was still far too high in our opinion; a simple display blanking option would be preferable. Daytime visibility is acceptable in all but direct sunlight, when it quickly washes out.
As the Start 2 relies solely on TomTom’s IQ Routes, which calculates the least-congested routes based on actual reported journey times from TomTom users (your trips are uploaded anonymously), there are no routing options available apart from the ability to calculate a single alternative route. You can review a route using the map browsing facility, but the slow redraw of the screen makes this a painful process. Using TomTom’s (online route planner is a better bet for complex routes. You can add waypoints, though, or try the ‘avoid roadblock’ option when you’re caught in a jam.
Both 2D and 3D map views are available, but annoyingly in 2D mode you don’t get a rotating map option, just the standard North-at-the-top mode. TomTom Map Share is included, which means you can add your own corrections on the device or download them via the supplied TomTom Home 2 software.
Although some of this review may sound rather negative, it’s not; for plug-and-go navigation the Start 2 does its job well. Audio is loud and clear, the menus are simple, re-routing is quick, it’s solidly made and novice users will quickly get to grips with it. The lack of advanced options will only upset ‘tick box’ buyers.