When it comes to budget GPS systems, TomTom has the formula nailed. The company’s One line of navigators have consistently earned high marks for value in years past, delivering navigation on par with the big guys, but without the extras that typically inflate price tags.
Despite the bare-minimum reputation, TomTom hasn’t let the One line stagnate either. The latest model, the One 140 S, pads some meat onto the barebones model with the inclusion of many trickle-down features from pricier navigators, and a $200 price tag. Are the extra features worth the upgrade for budget users when the baseline One 125 model can be had for $120 – more than fifty dollars less? We stuck it up in the windshield to find out.
Features and Design
To put the features on the 140 S in perspective, its best to stack them up alongside TomTom’s most affordable unit: the One 125. Both units have 3.5-inch screens, Map Share technology for updating maps, and EasyPort mounts; so what exactly does the extra $80 buy you? For starters, the S in the name denotes text-to-speech capabilities for spoken street names, meaning you’ll hear “turn on Burnside” rather than “turn left.” It also includes IQ routes (which uses actual data harvested from TomTom users to plan the fastest route based on real driving speeds), advanced lane guidance (which shows a driver’s view perspective of upcoming highway interchanges) and safety camera alerts.
The One 140 S also has the sleekest design in TomTom’s One line-up. It measures only 0.8 inches thick, fits neatly in the palm of the hand with a solid-feeling weight to it, and has been cloaked in matte black plastic all around the outside, which not only looks nice, it resists fingerprints as well. There’s a power button up top, a two-inch speaker on back, and a mini USB port below for charging and connecting it to a computer. Looking back to the relatively clunky One Third Edition, TomTom has come a long way in dressing up its nav units; this is one we wouldn’t be ashamed to stick up in a BMW.
Testing and Usage
Speaking of the all-important matter of attachment, TomTom has revamped the windshield mount this time around, too. The whole One line uses the same slim windshield mount that TomTom calls EasyPort. Unlike the clunkers we’ve seen in the past, the new unit folds flat against the back of the unit when not in use, effortlessly swivels 360 degrees in place, and locks to the glass with a twisting motion, which produces a killer grip. Although it’s undeniably cleaner than past versions, the GPS pops out of its rotating ring so easily that you actually need to hold both pieces when you move it, lest it end up on the floor. It’s not hard, but you might just end up frantically trying to fish it out of the passenger footwell a few times before that method becomes ingrained.
As a side benefit, the compact mount does make it far more convenient to remove both the mount and GPS from the car windshield together, helping keep a theft magnet out of plain view.
For all the changes on the outside, the software running on the One 140 S hasn’t come far from a few years past, meaning it’s starting to look a little aged beside similar-priced units from competitors like Mio and Garmin. The lack of aliasing (which produces smoother-looking lines) on the map may be the most glaring omission here. When the main screen quite literally looks indiscernible from a five-year-old model from the same company, it’s time for an update.
That said, the lack of bells and whistles also seems to keep the OS quick and snappy. It opens every menu item instantly, boots up in less than five seconds, and plotted a route from Portland to San Francisco in under 20 seconds. We also love the extent that TomTom allows customization of everything from the style of virtual keyboard to the individual colors on the map during the day and at night. Though the interface isn’t the most intuitive we’ve ever used, a series of tutorials that pop-up the first time around for all the major functions help lessen the learning curve for novice users (know-it-alls can turn them off, too).
As a basic navigator, the TomTom 140 S works about as well as you could ask for. Address entry goes quickly, the 7-million-deep POI library turned up most of the destinations we needed without delay, and routes seem even more refined than those from previous TomTom units, which had an occasional hiccup with back streets. We only wish it rerouted more quickly after missed turns, or had the foresight to give some time buffer with the new directions. Often, we would miss a turn only to have it continuously spit out new streets to take as we were passing them.
Though the computer-generated voice that reads out directions isn’t perfect (they never are), we seldom had many issues comprehending the rather robotic voice box, and with such a small screen, the audio directions work a lot better than trying to read every street name. IQ routes also helped predict drive times more accurately, though not quite as well as higher-end TomTom units, which have the driving speeds more finely segmented by time of day (to compensate for traffic). Advanced lane guidance can be a boon for seriously complex intersections, but don’t expect the lifelike illustrations you’ve seen on navigators like the Go 930. Instead, the One 140 S provides them as icons in the corner: three white arrows with the far right one highlighted, for instance. That doesn’t make it any less useful, though. If anything, we appreciated not having the whole screen taken away to show an intersection, which can sometimes be confusing.
A high-end budget unit may sound like an oxymoron, but the One 140 S pulls it off well, treading between the bare minimum for road tripping and the luxury of a pricier unit, with a mashup of features that many buyers will appreciate getting for the price tag. That said, the $50 price difference between the One 140 S and its much bigger 4.3-inch sibling, the XL 340 S, makes the upgrade a no brainer to us, unless you’re dealing with one of the tiniest glove boxes known to man.
- Flat-folding windshield mount
- Good build quality, attractive materials
- Advanced lane guidance
- Functional text-to-speech
- Quick operation
- Software needs a facelift
- Accidental detachment from mount
- Rerouting can be too slow