Confessions of another Nuvi Owner: TomTom 720 Impressions
Note, this post is partially meant to be read in tandem with this post. In both articles, a user who had previously owned a Nuvi device gave a TomTom device a try. While different models were used in each comparison, they are similar enough in the core functions that they make an interesting comparison. The take-away here is that both are great devices and there were specific needs and functions that made a different device appealing to each of them in the end. What follows is words direct from John as he sent me several months ago– thanks for sharing!
[…]In a nutshell, I replaced the 660 because Garmin just “dumbed it down” too much for my taste in comparison to the “brick type” units (2720, 2610, etc) I owned before.
When I bought the 660, I loved the form factor, the portability, the hands-free Bluetooth functionality. I missed the multiple point routing, the menu customization, and the ability to block certain roads. The 720 offers all of these features plus the promise, at least, of being upgradeable. The following are what I consider the relative merits between the two. I can’t honestly say that all were influential in my purchasing decision because I simply did not know at the time.
About equal. Several years ago, I tried TomTom software on a PDA unit. The software was awful, the maps were incomplete, I gave it up as a hopeless case. Much has changed since then. The Tele Atlas maps for the areas with which I am familiar seem just as complete and detailed as the Navteq maps, sometimes more so. When it comes to freeway interchanges – Tele Atlas seems to be more up-to-date. And then there is Map Share and the ability to correct errors right in the 720 itself – a really powerful feature. Example: a while back, maybe about 18 months, I reported a map error to Navteq. About a year later, I received an email back stating that they had confirmed my report and that I could “look forward” to the correction showing up in future releases. Well, thanks, but the only way I will ever see it is by sending another $150 to Garmin for an update with the hopes it is included in their release.
Garmin may have a very slight edge in “out-of-the-box” route selection but the TomTom is more easily configurable. Often, I get the exact route I want with the 720 merely by pressing the “Calculate alternative” button. If this button is pressed more than once, however, the route can become pretty weird. I mentioned above the multiple via point feature – the 720 has it, the 660 doesn’t. The same goes for route storage – but then, there is really not much point in storing a route if you can only have one intermediate via point. One really nifty feature of the 720 is the way via points can be entered. If the desired route is other than the one calculated , it is only necessary to specify a city along the desired route as a via point. The TomTom will route you through that city without having you exit the main roads. Brilliant! The Garmin directs you to the town center, which is usually not where you want to go if you are just passing through. The 720 give better advance notification of turns. The Garmin sometimes fails to do this at all – probably a function of the underlying map data since it always happens in the same places and occurs with different units, in my case the 660 and 2720.
The 660 is easier and more intuitive initially. The 720 offers more options and is customizable. After a while, it becomes just as easy. This is probably a matter of personal taste more than anything else. With the 660, I do like being able to merely touch the screen to go into 2D mode and then drag and scroll the map. With the 720, this is a menu operation and is less convenient even though I have it setup as one of my ‘Quick Menu’ buttons. It is really nice to be able to change screen colors and schemes on the 720. I do wish that the status bar could be made transparent as with some of the older Garmin units. The Garmin screen seems slightly brighter, but for some reason, the TomTom seems more readable for my less-than-perfect near vision. Overall, the Garmin is more accurate estimating the ETA. The TomTom does okay for in-town trips and journeys on major highways, but if the route includes state and/or county roads, it can overestimate the time required by as much as 50 percent. The 660 has a nice trip summary page, something I thought I would miss with the TomTom – but don’t – primarily because some of the more important information in included on the front status bar of the 720. Something I do miss from the 660 is an elevation readout. While not essential, I frequently travel in the western mountain regions and it is something I just like to know.
I have not used traffic on the TomTom. I probably would if I had a compatible phone for Bluetooth operation. As far as FM receivers are concerned, the 660 has a BIG advantage here. The TomTom receiver looks clunky and tedious to set up, especially if you are going to take it down every time you leave the car. I did use traffic on the 660, but only to spot potential problems. In Dallas, the only roads covered by Garmin traffic are the major freeways. Since in Texas, almost all freeways have frontage roads, setting the ‘Avoid traffic’ option in the 660 merely reroutes you along the frontage road. As this is where all the other “rats abandoning the sinking ship” are to be found, the ‘avoid’ function is mostly useless.
Both are about equal in ease of setup and connection. I have had none of the voice transmission problems reported by other 720 users. I think much of this is dependent on the phone itself. With my current phone, the Garmin downloads the complete phonebook each time it connects. The advantage to this is that it is always up to date. The disadvantage is that there is a slight delay when you first access it. With the TomTom, downloading the phonebook is a separate operation. Advantage – there is no delay and the phonebook is available even if the phone is not connected. Disadvantage – if you make a change to your phonebook, you must delete the old and re-download to the TomTom.
I am not a big fan of this feature on either unit – both are equally bad. In my 4Runner, the FM antenna is in one of the back window panels making reception from the weak transmitters problematic. To hear anything at all, the volume must be cranked up to levels where the underlying static hiss is also audible. Then, of course, if you switch back to a broadcast station, you are blown out of the car. For navigation, I find the built-in speakers more than adequate.
With the ability to download satellite position data, the 720 is generally faster after a cold start.
At first, I was disappointed in the TomTom mount. I liked the idea of the power cord being connected to the mount instead of the unit. I have changed my mind. When I park, I remove the 720 with the power cord still attached and put it in the center console. It is then very easy to remove the mount itself from the windshield. The Garmin mount, with the power cord and extra lever on the suction cup is more tedious. I do wish the 720 could be set to start up when the ignition is turned on.
I tend to take most POI databases with a grain of salt. In some areas, the Garmin excels; others, the TomTom. Searches in the TomTom seem to go faster. The Garmin seems to have the categories better classified. Adding new POIs is definitely easier with the 720. A really neat feature with the Garmin is that a POI search returns a page with names, the distance from your position, and an arrow next to each indicating the direction. If you are on the highway, you immediately know if it is up ahead, off to the side, or someplace you have already passed through.
Other than the temporary xulrunner.exe issue [also info here], I have had absolutely no problem with TT Home 2.0, as reported by many others. The 720 is my first TomTom and 2.0 is my first installation of the software. I wonder if previous editions of Home could be leaving something on the computer that is causing problems with 2.0?