The TomTom XL S is the company’s midrange GPS unit, and offers the same core functionality as the more expensive models while offering a few less features and a reduced price. It includes maps of the US and Canada, includes text-to-speech functionality for reading street names aloud, and offers a large database of Points of Interest as well. Though its functionality is primarily limited to driving directions (no music playing capability, for example), it’s a highly capable and intuitive device that will serve most motorists quite well.
Features and Design
The ONE XL S features a 4.3” widescreen display with a resolution of 480×272. It connects to both a PC and a Mac using USB, and the cable that goes to your car’s AC charger is USB as well. It includes 1GB of internal memory, and sports an SD slot that can be used if you want to download additional maps. It includes both a windshield mount as well as an adhesive disc for mounting on your car’s dashboard.
By default it includes maps of the US, Canada, Puerto Rico and Guam. You can download additional maps but you’ll have to pay a fee for them. For example, a map of Eastern Europe costs $79.95 USD. Downloading maps and updates are done through the TomTom Home software, which runs on your computer. It lets you update the device, add new points of interest, download new voices and map colors and lots of other forms of content.
For navigation it supports text-to-speech, which allows the chosen voice to read street names instead of just saying “turn left.” It does not support voice commands like the GO 920 series, but offers the standard ability to tap in addresses, plan itineraries, save favorites and establish a “home” address. It also features TomTom’s Map Share services, which lets you download updated maps from the TomTom community of users. You can also make changes to your own maps and upload them as well, if you feel like helping others out.
It also includes a unique “Help me!” feature that can provide directions and assistance in the event of an emergency. It includes options to phone for help, drive to help, or walk to help, as well as first aid guides in case you need to provide medical assistance.
Bluetooth is also supported, but not for calling. It’s primarily for sending text messages to other XL owners, and for providing a conduit through which optional TomTom services can be uploaded to the device, such as weather and traffic data.
The unit includes a rechargeable 2-hour battery, a one year warranty and does not require any subscriptions for services out-of-the-box whatsoever.
Image Courtesy of TomTom
Use and Testing
When we first powered on the XL S it walked us through an introductory setup routine that included asking us how we wanted to view the time, our preferred language, whether to show distance in miles or kilometers, and it let us choose a navigation voice. There were five US English voices, four women and one male voice. From there we chose our default map colors for both nighttime and daytime driving, and set our home address. The process ends with the option of taking a tour of the device, which is a nice touch and let us get familiarized with it in a very brief period of time.
After the five-minute setup process completes, you’re free to begin navigating. The main screen lets you navigate to a destination (address, favorite, home, recent destination or point of interest), get “help’, add a favorite destination or change a wide array of preferences. A secondary screen lets you prepare routes and itineraries, correct maps and manage Bluetooth phones. A final third screen lets you access optional extras such as TomTom Plus services and TomTom traffic as well as view the guided tour of the device again.
The core experience is, of course, navigating to destinations, and the XL S is largely very easy to use. Tapping in street names and addresses is easy thanks to the screen’s large buttons and bright display, and the detailed maps and text-to-speech feature make it very easy to see where you’re going and what you need to do. It also displays what you need to do next in the lower-left-hand corner in case you are curious. Our only complaint is with the text-to-speech feature, which includes the same bug we found in our review of the GO 920 T. If you select a human voice it tells you that a human voice can’t say street names, and asks if you would like to select a computer voice to do that role. If you select yes and choose a computer voice, the street names are still grayed out on the menu, and the only way to get text-to-speech to work is to just select a computer voice.
The interface TomTom provides is well-designed and easy to navigate. The unit is also very responsive and there’s virtually no lag whatsoever when switching between screens. It takes a few seconds to calculate the route but it happens so fast you will likely not even notice it. It’s also able to quickly re-calculate a route if you miss a turn.
The points of interest (POI) database is large and all-inclusive. Though we weren’t always able to find what we were looking for in the pre-defined categories, we were always able to successfully find a store or location by typing in its name. TomTom also provides the functionality to edit the POI database, and it’s most useful for adding new categories, which you can then populate with your own destinations. Unfortunately, you have the ability to delete POIs, but out of the long list of POIs that are pre-installed only Fire stations and School were available on the delete list for some reason. It would be handy to be able to delete any POI we wanted.
Image Courtesy of TomTom
Aside from basic navigation there’s not a whole heck of a lot to the ONE XL S. We’re not complaining mind you; after all, it is a GPS unit designed for car navigation. What we mean is there’s no music or movie player, no photo slideshows or any of the other add-on type of features we normally see. However, we’ll also admit that these types of features are rarely used and typically poorly implemented, so we’re not too concerned by their absence. You can add traffic data to the ONE XLS, but the additional antenna costs $129 and includes one year of service.
When you’re not in your car you can attach the ONE XLS to your computer via the included USB cable and allow it to install the TomTom Home software. The software is very well-designed and has a lot of great features. Once you connect the device it will automatically look for updates to anything installed on the device, such as the Home software or new updates to maps if you choose to join the Map Share program. As stated previously, the Map Share program lets you edit maps and upload them to other users, and you can also download their updates, and it is an excellent feature for sure.
Aside from updates you can backup the device to your computer, see the items on the device, get updated maps and browse accessories. The coolest feature is the ability to download custom voices for a fee as well as community-made voices. We love this feature, and the available voices for free download range from Droopy dog to Clint Eastwood (“You’ve reached your destination, punk!”).
The ONE XL S offers very solid navigational performance at a reasonable price point. It’s easy to configure and use, and we imagine most users would be able to be up and running in just a few minutes, which is great. We like the text-to-speech feature and the Map Share too, but we especially enjoyed all the free downloads and updates. Of course, the text-to-speech feature does have a configuration issue, and it’s too bad we can’t totally customize the POI lists, but having the ability to add our own POIs is a great benefit. All in all we like the XLS better than the flagship GO 920 T just because it’s not as complicated, is still easy to use, and costs a lot less.
• Big screen
• Map Share
• Great downloads and add-ons
• Setting up text-to-speech is flawed
• Can’t totally customize POIs