Screen Brightness: Garmin Vs TomTom
Recently there have been many heated discussions about the screen quality on the latest Garmin Nuvi and TomTom GO models. Arguments surround which is the brightest, which is the most readable, and which can be viewed from the widest and highest angles. Evaluating a screen isn’t quite as simple as just looking at which is brightest, so we put a Nuvi 760 and a TomTom 930 to the test to compare screen performance.
Update: There is also a good thread about this same subject happening in the Poll: TomTom screens really that bad? thread of our forums.
From the Front
Here is an image showing both devices, from straight on. In both cases the devices are very legible, the logo is easy to see, the colors are true, and the screens are bright. The GPS on the top is certainly a little bit brighter though. The Garmin is on top and the TomTom is on the bottom. The edge here goes to the Garmin, as looking at a GPS “head on” is how most people will have their PND setup.
From the Top
Next, we take a look at each device when viewed from slightly above, looking at an angle down at the GPS. The screen on the left is avery bright, but look at what happens to the logo. The contrast is two low and the logo becomes more difficult (but not impossible by any means) to read. The screen on the right is a even more noticeably dark, however the logo is still legible. The Nuvi is on the left, and the GO is on the right.
Next, consider the view looking “up” at the GPS. I see many people put their GPS up near their rearview mirror, though I probably wouldn’t recommend that location. From this angle, the screen on the left is again the brightest. However look what happens to the “p” in the logo from this angle– the color completely changes. Note that you can’t really read the “review.net” in the second line. Compare that with the screen on the right. While a darker screen, the logo is still just clear enough to make out, and the color stays true. The 760 is on the left, and the 930 is on the right.
In Bright Light
The previous pictures were taken in dark light to better illustrate the differences between the screens. On the road, glare can become an issue, and honestly there isn’t a screen out there I’ve seen that will perform well in direct glare. When lots of glare is introduced, I no longer see a considerable difference in screen brightness between the models either. The color scheme used on the GPS will likely make a bigger difference at that point over screen brightness. In which case there might be a slight advantage for the TomTom since you can change (and even create your own) color schemes.
The Garmin Nuvi has a brighter screen, hands down, no doubt about it. But that brightness isn’t always an advantage. The screen has too little contrast when viewed from high angles and the colors shift. The color scheme also cannot be changed other than night/dark modes making the TomTom GO more versatile. Users have also commented to me that at night the Nuvi screen is so bright “vertically” that the screen creates a nasty reflection up on the windshield in the line of site of the car. I’ve seen that happen as well, although in my car it didn’t seem to be a tremendous issue.
It is also worthy of noting that taking photographs of GPS screens is a difficult task in good conditions, and I tried my best to pick photos that most accurately reflected what I was seeing with my own eyes. As the camera adjusts to the lighting conditions, it might tend to make the bright screen look even brighter than it is and the darker screen even darker than it is. Again, I’ve done my best to pick photos that most accurately reflect what I was seeing with my own eyes.
My utopian GPS would have the screen (hardware) of the Nuvi, probably keeping it at 70% brightness, but with the ability to change the map colors like the TomTom has beyond just day/night. Unfortunately, that combination only exists right now in the HP iPAQ, and assuming you are comfortable with “user modifications”.