TomTom Eclipse AVN2210p
I recently wrote an article called Death of the PND where I stated most of the things I don’t like about portable navigation devices. The suction cup mount is ugly, cords hang everywhere, and the devices don’t interact with your car in a “smart way”. In dash-systems also have less than desirable features– many don’t offer 3D views, upgrades are difficult and costly, and you can’t take the device to another vehicle. Luckily there are products on the market now which are designed to address most of those issues, and recently I’ve spent some time with one of them, the TomTom Eclipse AVN2210p. The TomTom Eclipse is basically an in-dash stereo, CD, and navigation system which replaces your current double DIN stereo. However the really unique part is that you can quickly snap out the GPS device and turn it in to a slim and portable navigation device for another vehicle. I’ve got the AVN2210p mounted in my car and have been test driving it extensively for the past few days, and here is what I think.
Describing the TomTom Eclipse takes on two aspects, one is the overall unit itself and the other is the PND. The overall device is what is known in automotive circles as “Double DIN”. So if you have an existing Double DIN sized stereo, or room for one, it will likely fit in your vehicle.
On the top left is an audio display which will show you the current radio station, CD track, or other interactive feedback such as setting the bass level or other sound quality settings. In the middle of the left side is round four way button which resembles the round button on an iPod. This is used to advance tracks, switch radio stations, etc. Rotating that dial changes the volume. Surrounding the dial are buttons to change the music source, power the device on and off, select a different band, as well as a handy mute button.
Most of the right side of the device is where the TomTom GPS snaps into place. There is a quick-release button on the right which when pressed will pop the GPS off the radio stack so you can take it with you. Along the bottom is a reset switch, microphone and a USB port. The USB port enables you to connect a USB stick (not included) loaded with MP3 or WMA music files. You can then use the TomTom Eclipse as a music player reading off of the USB stick.
TomTom DUO Physical
I’ve chosen to refer to the PND part as the TomTom DUO, because it has two capabilities; one as an in dash system and the other as a portable system. The FCC ID for the device is also stamped “DUO”, and when you connect to the device via Bluetooth it reports itself as “TomTom DUO”. Therefore I’m going to refer to the entire product as the “TomTom Eclipse” while referring to the radio stack permanently installed in the car as the “Eclipse AVN2210p” and the PND portion as the “TomTom DUO”. So using my terminology you snap the TomTom DUO into the Eclipse AVN2210p forming the TomTom Eclipse.
The DUO is just about the same size as the TomTom ONE. It has the same 3.5″ screen size as the ONE, and is a similar width, height, and depth. Unlike how the ONE has a round back, the DUO is square.
On the top of the DUO is the power button, and a charge indicator light. The power button is inaccessible when docked, however it isn’t necessary there because it will sense when it is docked and if the AVN2210p is powered by your car, it will power on itself and the GPS. The maps and application are stored on an SD card rather than on an internal memory, and that SD card slot is at the bottom of the GPS. Also on the bottom is a reset switch and a mini USB plug for software updates or connecting to (optional) DC power when in a car separate from the AVN-2210p. On the back is a speaker, as well as the connector to the AVN2210-p.
Internally, the TomTom DUO is powered by a SiRFstarIII chipset and is stamped as such on the bottom of the device. Therefore satellite reception has been nothing short of excellent. The AVN2210p also has its own GPS antenna which adds to the reception. As mentioned above, the DUO uses a 3.5″ touch screen similar to the ONE. At first glance the quality of the screen didn’t seem as good as what I’ve come to expect from the ONE, but directly comparing the two side by side they do appear to use the same screen. The screen is not nearly as nice as the screen on the ONE XL (even taking into consideration size) but it performed acceptably.
I had serious reservations about how well the screen would perform, mainly because of where the DUO gets installed into the vehicle as compared to a device suctioned to the windshield. The screen on the ONE and DUO performs well when viewed from wide angles left to right, but when viewed from angles high and low the colors tend to wash out. However I was pleasantly surprised at the actual performance in the car. I suspect this might be partly because there is less sunlight reaching lower levels of the car. Regardless, the screen performed well ad was legible even under direct sunlight due to the tilting function. (See more about the “tilt” function later.)
It would have been really, really nice if they could have somehow squeezed a 4.3 or even a 4.0 inch screen into this setup, but I can imagine that could have caused some major technical issues of of how to cram it all into that space. Still if the PND housing could have had a smaller outer trim and perhaps some of the buttons on the AVN2210p moved around… maybe just maybe a wider screen could have fit in there. People comparing this setup to other in-dash systems will note that many in-dash navigation systems have 7″ screens, fully twice the size of this setup.
Most of the time you would probably use the DUO connected to the AVN2210p so battery life won’t be an issue. However if you want to use the device detached from the AVN2210p you might want to run it on battery. The battery life printed in the manual is listed as 1 hour. I’ve seen other websites selling the device which list it as 1.5 hours. Upon fully charging the device, I was able to run it for two hours and ten minutes, although I didn’t have Bluetooth turned on.
Another difference between the DUO and other similar models is routing speed. There is much more horsepower driving the TomTom DUO than models like the ONE and ONE XL. For example in a 3,100 mile route we calculated, this DUO zipped through the calculation in 23 seconds while the ONE took 54 seconds and the ONE XL lagged in at 96 seconds. So for that particular route calculation the DUO was over four times faster than the ONE XL.
Of course one of the barriers to people using in-dash navigation systems is the difficult installation. If you don’t know if you will be able to pull this off yourself, you probably will want to seek professional installation. In other words if you are unsure if you have the skills, you probably don’t, as much as I hate to state it that way. While I’m somewhat comfortable with hacking around splicing cables and taking apart my dash, I was glad to have someone with me who knew what he was doing. It too him (with my occasional assistance) about two hours to complete the process, although a good amount of time was spent trying to find the speed sensor in my vehicle. In the end, I could have probably pulled it off myself, but it would have taken me all day.
For people who don’t install car stereos on a regular basis, installation likely involves removing pieces of your dash to access the stereo, removing the old stereo, splicing in the new wires with the old wires, running a GPS antenna to a desired location where it will get good satellite reception, and splicing into your speed sensor cable. Despite being told where the speed sensor was in my vehicle, we never did find it. We had a couple of likely candidates, but we were never certain enough to splice into one. Despite not having the speed sensor connected, the GPS still performs just fine which is exactly what I expected. The speed sensor will provide additional guidance to the GPS in the event of signal loss such as if you drive into a tunnel. So if your travels frequently take you underground, you might want to find that speed sensor cable.
One other note about the installation is that the AVN2210 sticks out about one half inch further from my dash than my factory stereo did. This didn’t impact the operation of my car at all, including shifting, but if you have an abnormally tight space there for some reason you might want to take note.
Audio Quality & Voice Prompts
After getting my car put back together, it was time to reconnect the battery and turn everything on. It was nice to see everything immediately light up. Of course the first thing I did was to check out the voice prompts. Talk about a night and day difference between the nice voice speaking through the tiny PND speaker and one going directly wired through your sound system! Although we immediately panicked because we were only hearing sound from the left side speakers…. We turned the radio on… duhh!!! Of course, the voice prompts only come out of the driver’s side speakers and the rest of the vehicle occupants are spared the voice prompts and continue to listen to the music! So yea, everything was working as designed. And I’ll say it again, the quality of the voice prompt is simply amazing when heard through the car’s audio system rather than through the PND’s speakers.
I typically keep the volume level on most PNDs pretty close to the maximum setting. For some devices such as the LG models, the loudest setting still isn’t loud enough, while on other models such as the Magellan Maestro series the volume is quite good at about 70%. With this setup going direct to the stereo I’ve found that I only need to keep it at about 50% to get the voice prompts plenty loud. Since the speakers in my car are better than the tiny speaker in most PNDs, the volume doesn’t even need to be quite as loud since the quality is that much better.
The volume of the radio/MP3/CD works independently from the volume of the PND. And since the AVN2210p sends the voice prompts just to the driver’s side speakers the volume of the music going to other occupants really doesn’t need to change.
Special PND Functions
The PND’s touch screen takes on a bigger role of managing some of the audio functions of the device. while you can control many of the audio functions without docking the DUO, it is just more fun to control it from the PND. You can tap a button on the AVN2210p to switch the PND to audio mode. The screen will no longer show a moving map but will instead display information about the audio such as the radio station frequency, the track playing from a USB memory stick, or an audio CD in the deck. Not that even when the DUO is displaying audio information, the GPS is still following along on your route and will still call out voice prompts when necessary.
You can control your presets (favorite) radio stations from the DUO when it is docked to the Eclipse system. Also if you’ve installed the optional iPod connector you can control playlists and get track information from the DUO’s screen when it is docked and connected to the iPod. (So far I haven’t seen that anyone is shipping that cable yet, however I do have one ordered. Unfortunately since it connects to the back of the system I’ll have to pull everything out to install the cable when it comes.) I wish I could attach names to radio station presents, and some screenshots in the manual do show text that reads “channel name” but either that feature isn’t universally supported or I just couldn’t figure out how to do it myself.
I did however play with MP3 music on a USB memory stick. Within iTunes I created a playlist based on files that were MP3 encoded, and copied that playlist to a USB thumb drive. From there just insert the USB drive into the AVN2210p and select USB as the audio source. The DUO then scans the USB drive for music to allow selection by artist, song title, genre, album, etc. Album artwork isn’t supported, but while the song is playing the artist, album, and song title are displayed along with a progress bar showing the length of the song and how far through it is.
If you are listening to music from the USB drive you can switch back to the radio by tapping on the Source button. When you navigate back to the USB drive it will resume playing where it left off.
There is also an optional system to connect to Sirius satellite radio.
Another great aspect of the Eclipse system is the “tilt function”. With a tap on the tilt button the face of the entire unit will rotate up, exposing the CD slot. A longer tap on the tilt button will rotate the entire display by a few degrees. You can then choose what angle the PND is easiest to view and operate from. When you turn the car off the display will retract to zero degrees and when you turn your car back on it will go back to your last tilt angle. I found this to be very handy in every day driving as I could angle the device (and thus the DUO’s screen) to an angle that was comfortable to view. Also in case of direct sunlight you can easily change the viewing angle to help reduce any glare that might be coming back to you.
Another way that the DUO can interact with your car is in a semi-automatic night mode on the navigation screen. When you turn your headlights on, the PND will switch to night mode. Turn the headlights off and the PND will switch back to day mode.
While I’m a huge proponent of having navigation devices interact in a smarter way with vehicles, I ended up not liking the auto night mode feature for several reasons. First is that I typically always drive with my headlights on for additional safety. Second is that in my state if you have your windshield wipers on you are required by law to turn your headlights on. But if it is raining it isn’t dark enough for night mode. And third is that in the evening you would typically turn on your headlights before you would turn on night mode. I like the effort being put forth creating more interaction of the car and the navigation system, but I was glad to see there is an override for this function. You can set the docking preference so that the day/night mode isn’t connected to your headlights and you can make the change manually yourself as I do.
While speaking of night mode, the illumination of buttons on the AVN2210p uses red bulbs. I don’t have anything against red (and believe it is a better choice for preserving night-vision) it would have been nice to be able to purchase it with other bulb color choices, or be able to easily switch out to a color bulb that matches the rest of your car’s bulbs if they are not red.
There is an optional travel kit you can purchase for this setup which costs about $70. If Eclipse and TomTom missed on one big item, it was not including the travel kit to begin with. The travel kit consists of a suction cup mount, AC adapter, DC adapter, and a cover for the slot left open when you un-dock the DUO from the AVN2210p. Paying $70 for these accessories is too much and since the whole point of this device is to be a dual in-dash and PND system in one package, those accessories should have been included.
The navigation functions on the TomTom Eclipse are virtually identical to the other TomTom models, so I won’t go into great detail about it here. The best aspects of the TomTom applications are that you can plan routes in advance with a different starting location than your current location, being able to create saved routes, and the Itinerary Planning feature which allows nearly unlimited “via” points to be inserted into a route. There is also a more sophisticated detour function than found on other devices which allows you to detour from a user selectable distance rather than just making the next available detour.
For more detailed information about navigating with this device, just check out or review of the TomTom ONE and the navigation functions offered there. There is no need to just restate everything that was said there.
I’m not sure what another reviewer was thinking, but there is a pedestrian mode included. While there isn’t any way to lock the screen, you can select between the typical route styles offered on TomTom devices such as fastest, shortest, avoiding freeways, walking routes, bicycle routes, and limited speed routes. If you are driving most of the way to your destination and then walking a distance, navigate to the parking lot, then plan a route to your destination and use the ‘Plan for walking route’ preference which will allow you to get there ignoring road restrictions for cars. For example you would be able to go backwards on a one way street.
Bluetooth Hands Free
The TomTom PND in the AVN 2210p is often described as a TomTom ONE, and it does share a similar size to the ONE. However unlike the ONE the DUO includes Bluetooth hands-free calling, so in that regard the features more closely resemble the 510. (The ONE only uses Bluetooth for data services.) For hands free calling the AVN2210p has a microphone built into the front, and of course the audio from the other caller is piped through your car stereo for optimum sound. Not all devices perform equally well with Bluetooth hands-free-calling, so it is difficult for me to say how well it might perform with your phone. The best thing to do would be to check out the compatibility chart and make sure your phone is compatible.
The phone I’ve been able to test so far was specifically listed by TomTom as not being compatible. However I was able to get the phone to pair, place calls, and receive calls. The audio of the other caller coming through my car’s stereo was fantastic. Regardless of my cell signal, the other caller could barely hear me. Again, it wasn’t that my phone wasn’t listed in the compatibility charts, it was listed as specifically being incompatible.
There were only two “misses” on this device. One was not including the travel kit as mentioned above, and the second was not including text-to-speech. An $800 GPS system should include text-to-speech in this day. Otherwise, this GPS is easy to grin at.
The TomTom Eclipse AVN2210p is aimed at a tight niche. There are great benefits to an in-dash navigation system. One of the best parts is that there are no ugly cables having around. The DC power adapter is now free for some of my other geeky devices to get charged. No need for an ugly suction cup mount fixed to the windshield. Voice prompts and hands free calling audio are routed through the car stereo rather than the tiny PND speaker. You can control audio functions through a modern 3.5″ touch screen.
Yet there are also benefits to a PND– you can easily take them with you to other vehicles or as a pedestrian, a wider option of mounting locations, and their are easy and inexpensive to upgrade when compared to traditional in-dash systems.
Those conveniences will come at a price though. Most retailers are offering the AVN2210p at around $800. And since most people already have a stereo and CD player in their car it might seem hard at first to justify spending $800 when the net benefit is a GPS with a 3.5″ display, Bluetooth, and no wires. You can pick up a similarly featured GPS (MP3, Bluetooth, 3.5″ display) starting around $400+. So figure you are spending an extra $400 on integration. Now I’m not saying that extra cash isn’t worth it for this device. The extra $400 gets the ugly mount off the windshield, eliminates the cables, pipes the voice prompts through your car stereo, pipes Bluetooth phone calls through your car stereo, ads a large touch screen interface to your stereo, yet still gives you a device you can take with you on pedestrian routes or in rental cars and is less expensive to upgrade than other in-dash systems. For many people that is worth the extra cash for this setup.