TomTom via130 - review

2013-02-08 12:22
The Tom Tom device gets you from A to B. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

The Tom Tom device gets you from A to B. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - In an era of cellphone-operated GPS systems the TomTom via130 reminds users why it is more convenient to have a dedicated GPS device. Unfortunately one of its greatest selling points is also its biggest let-down.

Upon opening the bright green packaging of the via130 the first impression is that of simplicity. No unnecessary manuals and peripheral attachments.

The device itself is plain black and slightly smaller than a passport book. It is light-weight, but feels a bit plasticky. The USB cable for in-car lighter charging doubles as the computer cable.

A full user manual is available on the device and extra information, like map updates, are easily obtained from the internet.

The via130 gets the basics right. Navigation is easy and accurate. The route planner is a nifty function which calculates the fastest route and allows the user to work-out how long a journey will take.

Aside from the traditional method of entering an address, the user can now point to a map area on the fully interactive touch screen to begin navigation.

Selling point

The via130’s greatest selling point, and with good reason, is its novel voice recognition technology. The device packs over 1 000 stock phrases. Unfortunately, I felt like I was back in grade 1 learning how to speak to the device.

Another let down was that the via130 battled to understand my Cape-English accent. I often had to repeat instructions three to four times.

The biggest pitfall however and the one that defeats the purpose of the voice recognition exercise is that the user has to initiate voice recognition by touching the device.

This is a diversion from driving and can best be described as partial hands free.

The hands-free cellphone pairing function is useful and easy to set-up. Via Bluetooth, the device gains access to the user’s phonebook and also has contact details for a variety of “points-of-interest”, useful for those last minute restaurant bookings.

Again, the user experience is slightly rough around the edges with patchy sound quality and the hindrance of having to divert attention from driving to hands-on device operation.

The via130 impresses with basic GPS operations but struggles with its frontier innovations like speech recognition and hands-free calling.

With top-end smartphones increasingly pushing the boundaries of GPS functionality the future of dedicated devices like the TomTom via130 seems uncertain.

Despite the tiresome exercise of hiding the device from thieves in parking areas, it is still a pleasure to have a device take you from A to B without sweat.

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