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Confessions of a Nuvi Owner: TomTom 930 Impressions

Jun
6
2008

What happens when you take a hard-core Garmin Nuvi 760 owner and mix them with the latest TomTom 930 device? Gatorguy, one of our top forum contributors recently spent several weeks with the 930, putting the 760 aside to see what he thought about devices from the “other side”. While some of his needs and feature requirements are somewhat uncommon, he provides a very balanced assessment of the two devices and how each meets– or fails to meet, his needs. While I don’t necessarily agree with each and every comment, that is part of the point! What follows is from Gatorguy, in his own words. Well done, mate!

This article is also 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.

First Impression of the 930

Right off the bat, I’ll admit that TomTom’s presentation is impressive. Artistically designed packaging, well-conceived interior display of the device. Even the included guides are nicely designed. If judged by the cover only, TomTom clearly presented their case better than Garmin’s 760.

Installation of the included software for TomTom Home (vers. 2.3) went smoothly, and again TomTom impressed me with the upscale look. In comparison, Garmin’s WebUpdater is very businesslike and bland. First thing I did was back-up the entire contents of the 930, then proceeded to check for updates. Downloaded 1767 mapshare updates as well as fresh satellite data. So far, so good. With all the TT Home horror-stories and complaints I had read, I was surprised how well it really worked. Absolutely no issues. . . at least for a week or so.

TomTom Garmin Road ViewTaking advantage of the latest map guarantee thru TomTom Home proved to be impossible, and finding out how to do so in the first place wasn’t easy. There’s a big icon for “Add Maps, Traffic” etc. on the first page, which I figured was the obvious place, It’s not. But they will sell you one there. I finally found it at the top of the page, a NOT so obvious place. I’m pretty certain a good percentage of new users might not notice that for quite some time, perhaps not until their 30 days had run out. Why would there not be an icon right on the page as there is for “Activate my Promotion Code”. (There isn’t one for the 930, right?).

Anyway, “Use Latest map Guarantee” got me the message “Latest map guarantee does not apply to the maps installed in your device”. Seems like a pretty clear statement, especially for a newbie TomTom owner, who’s likely to drop his request for the map update then and there. Many of you who post here already have been thru this so I knew that a call to Support is needed. I got thru to them within minutes, which was very nice and unexpected. In speaking with them, they admitted the link had been broken for awhile, but after speaking to 2 different support people, they agreed to add the map to my account once I faxed my purchase receipt. I was ready for a fight and didn’t get one. I even put him on the spot about EU map update, and he said he’d note my account that I was eligible for that as well if it became available in the next two weeks. All in all, my first contact with TomTom Support was really not bad at all, much better than I expected. Unfortunately the map did not get added. It took another call 4 days later (and 35 minutes on hold this time) to get it resolved. End of story, I did eventually get the map. But it was far from easy. With all the other updates they post to the TT Home page, why not the fact there is a new map you are eligible for? It leaves me with the impression they are trying to avoid honoring the guarantee by first, not making anyone aware there IS a new map, and secondly, by not fixing the “Latest Map Guarantee” link so that it tells you if you know to ask. Otherwise, most new buyers will not get the free update they are promised in the advertising.

Anyway, on the the “meat” of the review.

Setting up the 930

I didn’t find this as much of a challenge as I expected. Simply walked from item to item in the menu. I understood most of the options right away, though I did find that I needed to go back and change a couple as it’s not always completely clear how changing one option may impact another, especially in the speech preferences. (Of course I’d already met the “[HP iPAQ] 310 challenge“, so this was a breeze in comparison) . One minor irritation. The only way to go backwards in the menu is to use the remote. I spent quite a bit of extra time starting from the main screen again to set up all the options. A “back” button would be nice. Some of the options aren’t really necessary IMO. For instance, “show fewer options” creates a problem. The “Clear route” button now disappears. I can’t think of any reason not to have that displayed.

“Show Compass” doesn’t actually show a compass, rather an arrow in a circle, quite small at that and not very useful. The menu structure is also not nearly as intuitive as the Garmin 760 either. There doesn’t seem to be a logical order. All navigation functions should be on the same screen, “Navigate to”, “Prepare route”, “Browse map” and “Itinerary Planning”, instead of three different screens. Putting route cancellation on the third screen is ridiculous. There should at least be an option to put it in the quick menu. An owner new to GPS devices would spend quite a bit of time understanding how the TomTom should be set up and where to find the many options.

Garmin TomTom Map Detail LevelsAn option I would like to see is “browse map” under the quick menu. Another would be the amount of map detail I want to display. In Orlando and Tampa, I’ll often change to “Less” or “Normal” on my nuvi, as it cuts down on map clutter and gives me a clearer view, while the rest of the time I’ll usually display “More” or “Most”. I can’t do this on the TomTom. Because of this, there are times that I’ve turned onto a road, only to have the TomTom look like I’m driving in an open field. Zooming in displays the road. [Editor's note: This only happens if you zoom out in the 3D mode, or in 2D mode, not in the typical driving view.] Other times there’s just too much in the map, especially in the thick of a downtown jungle. One other minor complaint. I would like the option of removing unused “blue box” fields from the display to allow more visible map area. Though both the nuvi and TomTom in essence show the same map area, the 930 view is somewhat compressed (or the nuvi view expanded) to allow for data field displays. I really prefer to see a larger map and less of the data much of the time, yet the blank blue box areas remain either way. In addition, there are so many options on what to display (not all will fit by the way) that it’s easy to put too much info on screen to the point it becomes difficult to find the one I’m looking for with a quick glance. I’d sooner see fewer data fields of my choosing with larger text instead.

I know that the map colors are way more customizable than the nuvi 760 allows. What I’ve found though is that none of them are as easy to see as the stock nuvi colors. It’s not that they can’t be seen. They just don’t have the immediate impact of the nuvi map palette. A quick glance at the nuvi screen reveals all the important details I usually need. I often need to look at the TomTom screen longer, or perhaps twice, to get the same info. With regard to the night colors, none of the included TomTom options work well for me. I know there are additional downloadable schemes, even one named “Garmin Day” and “Garmin Night” (Sorry, I found it amusing). But I’ll try to keep this personal review to the options most likely encountered by the average user, not 3rd party or additional add-ons that they would not likely know about. Also, as many users are already aware, the TomTom screen tends to wash out in the vehicle with bright sunshine. TomTom needs to take a lesson from Garmin and add a white backlight to the display, just like what’s found on the very bright 760.

As an everyday 760 user, I never understood all the complaints of TomTom users about the limited customizing features on the nuvi. I now understand it better. I’ve always felt that the nuvi displayed all the important information that I needed. I can see my speed on my speedometer, the time on my clock (or watch), so it’s been easy to “fill in the blanks”. But even though I personally may think the other data fields aren’t important, perhaps there should be some additional nuvi display options. I can see how a regular TomTom user might be frustrated at losing his favorite data displays by moving to the nuvi. I just wish the displayed text was larger on the 930.

Navigation

It took a bit of getting used to when I first set up routes on the TomTom. “Navigate to” wasn’t any problem. It was “Prepare Route”. On the Garmin, this can be a collection of numerous stops. It took me nearly 15 minutes of trying to realize Garmin Routes and TomTom Routes are two different things. To set up a “Garmin-type route”, you use Itinerary Planning. DUH! Once I got that figured out, things moved along nicely. It did require more planning than I typically need on my 760. Stops need to be manually ordered. If there are several, it may take awhile to put these in the best order for the fastest drive time. This is where the nuvi shines. On the 760 I can put them in any order I wish, then let the nuvi optimize the order for shortest travel time, shortest distance, etc. Of course I can manually order them if I want, just like the 930, if I need to do the stops in a particular order, but the TomTom has no option of doing the work for you. In most of the other areas, the 930 allows for more fine-tuning that the 760. On my nuvi, the only way I’m going to eliminate a road from my travel options is by use of a “via” or by building the route in mapsource and uploading. The TomTom makes the job a breeze. I can choose to avoid certain streets, or an entire town if I wish. Detour function on the 930 is also more robust, allowing me some leeway on how far and in what manner to detour, unlike the nuvi. Adding another stop is easy on either device, although the nuvi won’t care where you put it if the route will be optimized. Adding that stop on the TomTom may require reworking the entire route if your interest is the shortest distance or travel time. Just as nuvi owners may underestimate the usefulness of specific road avoidance, TomTom owners probably don’t understand how time-saving the route optimization is, in both drive times and route entry /setup ease.

Garmin TomTom Navigating ScreenRoute computation on the nuvi 760 and TomTom 930 are now much more equivalent with the new IQRoutes. It’s not uncommon at all to have the recommended route be nearly identical on both units. But there are times that the TomTom has recommended a better way than my nuvi. This is especially true during morning or evening rush hour. As I said a moment ago, the 760 and 930 will often recommend the same route. But I’ve learned to trust the Tomtom during rush hour if it recommends a different way to get where I’m going. More often than not, it has shaved a few minutes off my drive time, though not always. Often enough that I’ll usually follow it rather than the nuvi. At other times of the day, it’s somewhat a wash. The nuvi may plan a better route a bit more often, but even that’s not entirely clear. In my opinion, either device does an admirable job of getting me where I need to go in an easy to follow way. The routes on both make sense. The estimated travel times are also probably a bit more accurate for most users than the 760 times. I say most because I tend to exceed the posted speed at times, especially on the turnpike and interstate system. For me personally, the nuvi has been more accurate, but the TomTom is now so close to the same that the nuvi may add a couple of minutes during the drive, while the TomTom shaves no more than a couple of minutes. On local drives, especially during the day, the TomTom is usually closer to the actual time. In the evenings, the nuvi is usually closer. Neither is off by much as a rule, so the reported drive times from either one can pretty much be trusted. As for the exit views supposedly added in the new 930, I’ve never seen it. Not even once. I have seen the small lane assist at the bottom of screen on at least two occasions.

I don’t think these upgrades were really ready yet, and so probably should not even have been included in the feature set. It’s pretty misleading to trumpet them here is the US. Don’t expect to see them with any kind of frequency at all. If you’re buying the 930 expecting to see Navigon-type exit assistance, don’t bother. It seems that TomTom may rush features to market, letting users deal with problems and find the faults. As a rule, if Garmin releases it (which may take some time), it works well. At least that’s how I feel.

Now here’s the part that surprised me. I’ve always understood from knowledgeable TomTom posters that the Garmin TTS (text-to-speech) voices were a little inferior to the TomTom’s. In my opinion, absolutely not true. The Garmin has more included English speaking TTS voices than the TomTom, and in general, each of them enunciates more clearly. The TomTom voices cannot pronounce single letter street names (for instance Avenue B Southwest), nor do they handle certain letter combinations well. Would you like to hear Scooby-Doo? Listen to Susan try to pronounce Charlotte Road. Comes out as “Shar-Rit Road”. Navigation announcements are sometimes “clipped”. Other times the words are garbled. It’s rare to have these issues with the Garmin voices. Where the TomTom users may be confusing things is in the volume. The voices are usually louder on the TomTom, but certainly not clearer. Even here there are some issues. The voice volume tends to be inconsistent on the 930. Sometimes the voice will start so loud as to be distorted, reducing to normal within a couple of seconds. At other times, the voice may become soft. I don’t play the radio loud, I keep the windows rolled up and the A/C on, so noise levels shouldn’t be the cause. Initially, I had linked volume to noise level. Thinking this might be the problem, I unchecked it. Doesn’t seem to happen as often now, but still does on occasion. I do want to be clear on one thing. The TomTom TTS voices are very good, and probably won’t cause most users any problems at all. But just as clearly, I want to emphasize that the Garmin voices are much better quality in my experience.

Editor’s note: Something I’ve discovered about the TomTom volume level on the newest TomTom devices is that it doesn’t appear to change immediately. After adjusting the volume, the next couple of words spoken (such as “turn left”) will be spoken at the old volume setting before changing to the new volume setting to speak the final couple of words (like “on Main Street”). This apparent bug might be what you were seeing… or hearing rather.

I’ve also read about late turn instructions on the nuvis. Here is what I’ve found running them side by side. Both devices give the final turn instruction at nearly the same time, with the nuvi announcing slightly before the TomTom at normal speeds, sometimes quite a bit sooner when moving slowly. The only instruction that is completely different in timing is the next to last. The TomTom will give it at around 1/2 mile, depending a little on speed and distance between turns. The nuvi generally at a 1/4 mile. I would probably prefer 1/2 mile. The TomTom does like saying “Left turn ahead” when the turn is still a couple miles out, making me quickly check the screen to see if it’s really just ahead.

Garmin TomTom Zoom SettingsWhen I get to the turn, the Tomtom has a bad habit. During the turn maneuver, it starts giving instructions for the next turn. Trying to pay attention to the voice instructions while turning onto a new road and watching for traffic is not the most appropriate time. I very often miss these. The nuvi allows a few seconds after I’ve completed the turn to give the next set of instructions, a much better time. I will say that the 930 tends to give more complete information (continue for 3 miles on US Highway 92, West Memorial Boulevard, then turn left at Harden Boulevard), while the nuvi is less talkative (continue three miles, then turn left). I should mention that I’ve unchecked a couple of boxes in the speech preferences to try to get the TomTom to stop announcing every possible name for the road. (continue on County Highway 542, US highway 92, Clark Road, for three miles). I’ve also found the 930 verbally stating a turn just ahead, when in fact it’s just a continuation of the existing road, no turn required; oftentimes not even any place to turn even if you wanted to. Of course it’s worse when there is the option as it makes you think twice as to whether you’re supposed to turn or not. I’ve had the issue happen on rare occasions with the nuvi, (always in the Disney area of I-4 for instance), but much more often on the TomTom, frequently on state roads. My assumption is part of the road designation stops at a point, prompting the TomTom to indicate a navigation change. Accuracy has also been better on the nuvi than the 930. My 760 will generally put me spot on to my business clients. The TomTom is more likely to show me there before I’ve arrived, or send me further down the street. I’m not sure the reason as both show excellent satellite reception, so I must guess it’s a map issue.

Speeds [limit signs] also appear infrequently on the TomTom, even appearing and disappearing on the same long stretch of a local turnpike. Even tho they appear less often than on the nuvi, they are more likely to be wrong. Interstate 4 between Orlando and Tampa is posted as 70mph. The TomTom insists it’s 65, and persistently warns me that I am speeding doing 70. Sections of the local toll-road system are 65 (TomTom shows 60, sometimes 65, sometimes nothing at all). Local road speeds are never shown, even heavily traveled state roads seldom show the posted speed. The nuvi’s speed data is very complete, with probably 90% coverage in Central Florida, even showing local/residential roads as a rule. I do wish that the nuvi’s had the TomTom’s option of audibly warning you when exceeding the speed limit. (Unless I’m on I-4 with the 930 and it’s incorrect speed, blaring it’s warning horn at me). That’s an option that should definitely be in the next nuvi model.

The Maps

TomTom Garmin Road Detail Tele Atlas NAVTEQThe Tele Atlas map impresses me in a couple of ways. Divided highways are clearly shown as such. Intersections with turn lanes are more clearly defined. Even cross-overs for u-turns frequently appear on the map, Most of these features appear much less often in the Navteq map. Comparing detail, the Tele Atlas map outshines the Navteq in this part of the country. But it’s also obvious the TA map is more compressed, with many roads appearing to be a collection of straight line segments. At the same time the TA map is also more likely to have errors. The Navteq map will usually identify the road by the name on the street sign. The TA map likes “legal” designations. Roads commonly referred to by a local name on the sign appear that way in the routing on my Garmin. Not always so on the TomTom. Additionally there are a lot of fictitious roads in the Tele Atlas map. Within 10 miles of my location I’ve found over a dozen. Just on my three mile drive to work there are two. No hint of a road in actuality, but there they are on the TA map, and even named! There are also a couple of intersections that I have no idea where the mapping came from. One in particular has no resemblance at all to what actually exists. A couple of downtown roads have been closed off and turned into parking about 10 years ago. The TA map shows them still as drivable roads, even trying to include one in a route. The accuracy of the road position is poor in a few spots as well, showing me driving off the road on a couple of curves. I just don’t see this kind of inaccuracy with any kind of frequency on the Navteq map. As far as addition of new roads, the TA and Navteq are pretty well equals. Several new developments built in the past 2-3 years are now in my Navteq map, yet not on the Tele Atlas. At the same time, a couple of older roads and one new development appear in the TA, but not in the Navteq. With POI’s, there are several in each map that are no longer active, and I wouldn’t stake my life on that gas station being right around the corner. But there are more badly mapped ones on the TA than Navteq map. Some posters have recommended that you carry two different PND’s, with each map vendor represented, if you can afford to. I agree. Neither map is complete, nor without errors. But if I can have only one, in Florida I need it to be Navteq, as it’s been much less likely to be wrong. Of course my experience here may not be the same that you would have in your neighborhood.

Conclusion

I found a lot of things I like about the TomTom 930. I’m able to create a point to point route much more carefully with the TomTom when I need to. Detouring is more than the nuvi’s simple “Get me off this road and find another way” (even tho that usually works). I also like some of the custom data fields. The map detail is near perfect. Estimated travel times and computed routes are very good. Speaker volume is excellent. For many users, this thing would probably fit the bill almost perfectly. For me, I won’t be able to rely on it. The issues are:

  • Inability to route to an off-road location: In my business, I travel to a lot of new construction. While there, I’ll mark it as a “favorite”, so that my installers or one of the salespeople can route back to it. Much of the time, the 930 can’t do it. The nuvi has no issues with it. This is my number one problem with the 930.

    Update: While the TomTom cannot use a favorite or “set location” for an off-highway point, we found that it can use a POI. What you need to do is set up a custom POI category. Now when you find you need to mark an off-road location, note the coordinates, enter them as a custom poi and as long as the spot is within about a mile of a mapped road. . . Bingo!. It’s now a routable point. Beyond about a mile (or less perhaps), it still can’t be done. And simply attempting to route to a set of off-road coordinates won’t work either. One remaining oddity is that as soon as your vehicle icon has left the “screen road”, the TomTom will report you have reached your destination, even if another ½ mile remains. Just need to browse map if necessary and work your way to the poi icon. Still not nearly as simple and straightforward as my nuvi. Using off-road marked favorites or simple coordinates, coupled with bread-crumb trail, makes navigating to that favorite picnic spot or fishing hole very easy on the 760. But when you have the need on the 930 it can be done.

  • Absence of route optimization: When I’ve got 7 stops in two counties and only half a day to spend on them, I need to do it the fastest way without spending 30 minutes manually rearranging them before I can even leave.
  • Dependability: Maybe I have a “rogue” device, but the 930 requires too many resets and experiences too many reboots to have faith in the OS. Never once has the 760 required a reset, nor has it ever had a “phantom” reboot. It seems 930 system stability may be an issue.
  • The maps: The 930 with Navteq maps would be a better device here in the US, in my opinion. I don’t see a lot of imaginary streets, nor driveways marked as roads in the Navteq map, while poi placement seems to be more accurate. Doesn’t mean it’s still there, though.

My plans for the 930? I haven’t decided for sure. I plan to follow my own advice and carry something with the TeleAtlas map. Perhaps one of the 130′s might be better for me as a secondary unit. The 930 is quite a lot of money to keep as a backup or the occasional primary PND. It holds some promise, but I’m not convinced that purchasing additional maps to fill in the features like lane assistance, speed limits, and static images is necessarily a good investment. I guess it depends on how quickly TomTom fills in the blanks. I’m not giving up on TomTom. But perhaps this isn’t the one for me. The right offer might make the decision easier. :)

9 Responses


  1. A more or less balanced assessment. Just a couple of comments. First, the Advanced Lane Guidance and Reality View are much more frequent in some areas than others. Where I am they appear frequently and have made my driving a breeze. Second, I have owned the 930 for over a month and I haven’t seen it rebooting a single time. Could it be that you have a defective unit?

    Toko - June 6th, 2008
  2. My 930 hasn’t rebooted when I didn’t want it to either– although there are other reports in the forums from people who have seen similar rebooting issues. So it seems there is some issue out there, but how many people are impacted is still a mystery.

    Tim - June 6th, 2008
  3. Tim,
    How about the ALG and Reality View? What is your experience with them? The other day, I took a trip from Manhattan to JFK Airport. The Reality View appeared twice and the ALJ a number of times. Am I the only one having the pleasure of seeing these features frequently?

    Toko - June 6th, 2008
  4. Yeah, I think you are one of the only ones who can see them. You can read about where I did and didn’t find them in my TomTom 930 review post.

    Tim - June 6th, 2008
  5. One other quick point I missed. My 760 won’t display on-screen poi’s except in 2D moce zoomed in to about 3/4 mile radius. Not very useful unless your driving in midtown or walking. But it does show my favorites on screen. The 930 does of course show poi icons, but I haven’t found any way for it to show my favorites. One other note, and this will require a little bit more drive time. My nuvi today seemed to be giving nav instructions at a different timing. Rather than the typical 3/10′s of a mile and then just before the turn, I got a warning at a 1/2 mile today on a 4 lane highway, then on the drive home in a residential, 25mph zone, the turn warning didn’t occur until 1/10 of a mile, plenty of advance warning, but I don’t recall it doing this before. Maybe it’s just old age or an unusual occurance, but perhaps the 3.0 firmware offered yesterday has made some adjustment to the distance to turn warnings, which today seemed very appropriate.

    I also did the TomTom 8.10 update last night. Only two noticed changes thusfar, One very good and one not so much. The 930 has been taking up to 30 seconds just to clear the splash screens. By that time the nuvi was up and running with sat lock. Today, the 930 cleared the splash in 10 seconds, and was ready at the same time as my nuvi for navigation. The second change has degraded the recalculation time. I took a different exit than the nav wanted. Both the nuvi and TomTom recalculated. But the 930 now took several seconds longer to even notice it needed to, so that the 760 was already done recalculating before the 930 even offered. At the next turn, same issue. Not a big deal, but it looks like it’s taking the 930 a bit longer to recognize that I’ve deviated from the route.

    Gatorguy - June 6th, 2008
  6. Thanks for your great analysis. Tim I a new GPS user and have been reading the great articles as well as the forums. Currently I am evaluating a Nuvi 760 and TT 920. Thank you guys!

    gordito96 - June 6th, 2008
  7. A quick clarification. DHN brought to my attention that a Brit poster is claiming the reroute delay I mentioned is upwards of 10 seconds or more. For me, it is not. Perhaps 2 or three seconds at most, nothing I would have even noticed had the 760 not been riding alongside. It’s not any kind of serious issue IMHO, and nothing that would prevent me from recommending the 930.

    Gatorguy - June 6th, 2008
  8. I am another newbie. I am in the process of purchasing a G.P.S. system and after hunting around through the G.P.S. world, found this website. I muist say that I am tremendously impressed with your product and it has been most beneficial in my decision making process. I am pleased that I bumped into you guys. Thanx for the reviews. Tim, your fingers must be worn down to the first knuckle with all the typing you have been doing on these reviews.

    Bert Milward - September 9th, 2008
  9. I type quite a bit… yes. But it is fun! :)

    Tim - September 9th, 2008



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