TomTom GO 930
The TomTom 930 will soon make its way to stores in North America. With flagship new features of Active Lane Guidance, Static Intersection Images, and IQ Routes we were excited to put a few hundred miles of testing the TomTom 930 over the last few days. Will the 930 be finding its way into a car near you?
We won’t cover every feature here, since many of the features duplicate themselves in other models. If you need to get full up to speed with all of the functions, check out our TomTom 720 review for the basics, then step up to the 920T review for information about the more advanced features. What we will present below is much about how the TomTom GO 930 (and 930T) expand on those features. If you don’t care to read those, just know that the 930 comes packed with maps of North America and Europe, Bluetooth hands free calling, optional live traffic services, an FM transmitter, 4GB of internal memory with an SD card for expansion, MP3 player/photo viewer, optional connectivity with iPods, multi destination routing, text to speech, a few million POIs, a remote control, the ability to record your own navigation voices, and a remote control. Okay, ready now? Good.
The overall size and shape of the 930 is the same as that of the older 720 and 920 models. One difference is the color. The 720 had a shiny silver color, and the 920 had a matte silver finish. The new 930 features a shiny black finish. In many ways, looking at the 930 from the front resembles an iPhone… shiny black finish around a wide touch screen. That may not be 100% unintentional. The remote control has also been changed to a deep black color to match.
The 930′s physical appearance is totally hot, but I worry a little bit that the more reflective shiny black finish might make seeing the screen a little more difficult in high glare situations. Probably not much, but it does happen with other shiny black GPS devices a little.
Active Lane Guidance
A popular new feature on GPS devices is lane guidance. Often, “turn right in one half mile” with an arrow pointing to the right doesn’t provide as much detail as you might need. On complex Interstate interchanges there could be four lanes continuing straight with three lanes splitting to the right. In thick traffic, how many lanes do you need to cross to get into the correct position? Do I need to be all of the way over? Which way does my current lane go?
This is what Active Lane Guidance (ALG) sets out to provide. Instead of a simple arrow pointing towards the right, you can see a small graphic in the lower left showing each lane, and which lane(s) you need to be in. Light blueish lines indicate lanes you don’t want to be in and white arrows indicate the lanes that will take you to your destination. Dividers are also displayed in the lane guidance section.
At the right is a photo showing the feature in action. The road being driven has four lanes. The first lane and second lanes are separated by a barrier, and both continue on the current highway. The third lane can either continue straight, or turn off at the exit. (We know we want that exit because the line in this lane is white.) The forth lane also takes us to our exit, and is an “exit only” lane.
Static Intersection Images
When using a similar feature on other GPS devices (the NAVIGON “Reality View”) I was on the fence if I liked it or not. Initially I didn’t like the feature as the image is static and it doesn’t follow your progress and update as you get closer to the intersection. It did start to grow on me though.
However the disappointment with the Intersection Images feature on the TomTom 930 was just how infrequently it appears. I drove through endless Interstate Interchanges going from one limited access highway to another waiting to see the Intersection Images and they never appeared. I double checked that the setting was turned on (it was) yet I couldn’t get the images to appear.
On the NAVIGON models the Intersection Images don’t appear on every multi-lane interchange either, however it does appear on most Interstate to Interstate changes. I resorted to using the ‘Prepare Route’ feature and simulating different routes before I was able to find some locations where the images appeared. (Los Angeles.) But I couldn’t get it to appear in any of the locations in Boston I tried, either driving myself or while simulating a route.
The intersection image starts to appear between 1/2 and 1/4 mile before the turn. You can basically think of it as similar to the Lane Guidance window in the lower left, but blown up much bigger, covering the entire screen. The image doesn’t change as you progress towards the intersection, however the ‘distance to turn’ field is still there in big print counting down.
Saving the best for last, IQ routes is perhaps the biggest reason you might want to look at the new x30 series from TomTom. It is worthy of noting that this is an area where TomTom has previously…. how shall we say it… had the most room for improvement. Most TomTom devices tend to be extremely conservative when predicting the time it will take to cover a given route, and the estimates tended to be even further off in remote areas. As I’ve said in the past, I’m thankful that TomTom devices get me places 20 minutes early, rather than 5 minutes late, but I’d still prefer a more accurate prediction to begin with.
So here is how it works. Within TomTom HOME there is a preference you can enable that allows TomTom to “gather anonymous statistical trip information”. It used to more fully spell out the function, adding “such as how long it actually takes you to travel a route”. As you drive a road segment, your TomTom device is recording how long it took you to drive each road segment, versus how long the device predicted it would take you.
If you opted into the service, the device would send that information back to TomTom. TomTom in turn aggregates that data and builds up more accurate time estimates for each road segment, for various days of the week. The data is then combined into the underlying mapping data on the device.
Unlike MapShare, it is relatively easy to figure out just how well IQ Routes works. Let me tell you, it works. Overnight TomTom has gone from being one of the least accurate estimates of travel time to the most accurate. Combine IQ routes with a traffic receiver and you have a system that could rival the network information Dash uses.
Here is just one of a number of specific examples I found. Note that in this route the estimated travel time is 1:23. Having driven that route thousands of times, unless you are in a blizzard the trip will typically take about 0:50. Prior to IQ routes, TomTom figured it would have taken close to 70% longer than that.
Now see what happens when I enable IQ routes. The estimated trip time for this route is now down to 0:51. Bravo! I found numerous other improvements as well. I simulated a trip I took last summer to Watertown, NY (what was I doing there?) and the trip took me about 6:25. With IQ routes enabled, it estimated the trip at 6:39, without IQ routes it estimated 7:47.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. Let’s say you are planning a trip into the city over the weekend. You would like to know in advance how long it will take to get there. Since the IQ Routes feature allows you to plan routes in advance, it will now ask you when (today, tomorrow, weekday, or weekend) you want to take the trip. The time estimate will then be based on historical averages for that day type. Now only if we could insert the time of day…. or tell it when we need to be there and have it tell use what time we need to leave…. I guess we will have to wait for a future update for that.
TomTom NavCore 8
A few other extras pop up on this device. Speed limits, and speed limit warnings now appear on the bottom of the status bar. Typically just the road speed limit is displayed (when known) however if you are exceeding the speed limit by a certain margin the graphic will turn red. This feature is in addition to any audible speed alerts you might have setup. You can see in the screen shot on the right I was going just a wee bit fast in the 45 mph zone.
MapShare has also seen a few minor tweaks. You can now edit the speed limit of a road segment. In addition, the interface to edit turn restrictions has been improved and is more intuitive than it was in the past with arrows more fully illustrating the changes you are proposing.
If you are super excited about the static Intersection Images only, you might want to think twice. The limited amount of places where the images appear make it one of those “I’ll take it when I can get it” features. The lane guidance information in the lower left corner is super helpful when you find yourself saying “how many lanes do I need to get over and do I have enough time?”
But the real winner here is IQ Routes. IQ Routes takes TomTom to the top of the pack when it comes to estimating route time, and those times will continue to get even better as TomTom collects more data. IQ Routes, combined with the RDS-TMC receiver the TomTom 930 will have you covered both for expected and unexpected delays.