TomTom GO 930 GPS Navigator
“Not all of the features work exactly as expected, but for the money it's one of the best top-tier systems out there.”
- Accurate travel time estimates; painless Bluetooth setup; quality mount; included dock and PC software; superior build quality
- Weak voice input; interface could use a visual update; tricky FM transmitter; not-always-brilliant routing
Don’t be fooled by the lofty model number on the GO 930: Despite its position on top of TomTom’s automotive navigation line, it carries a relatively modest price tag of $500, which is a fraction of similar flagship products from companies like Garmin. Its lengthy list of features includes premium staples like a media player, FM transmitter, and even Bluetooth connectivity. But does it measure up?
Features and Design
The GO 930 uses a relatively spacious 4.3-inch LCD display wrapped in a case that’s refined and distinctly well-built. Though the front has a thin, glossy bezel surrounding the display, the parts of the case that will see the most handling have been built from matte black plastic with an almost rubber-like feel, eliminating the possibility of fingerprints and delivering a solid grip.
Other features include 4GB of internal memory preloaded with maps, text-to-speech capability, an SD card reader, FM transmitter for broadcasting directions and music, Bluetooth capability for use as a handsfree device, advanced lane guidance, voice address input, and IQ Routes for more accurate travel time estimates.
In addition to the standard mount, car charger, instructions and an adhesive disk for dash mounting, TomTom includes a number of more unusual accessories with the GO 930.
First, is a computer cradle for both connecting the unit to a PC or Mac more easily, keeping the unit both up-to-date and charged when it’s out of the car. Since TomTom heavily advertises its MapShare community, which allows users to make maps more accurate by refining them by hand, this addition makes sense as both a convenience for users and a way for TomTom to encourage participation in its own community.
Second, TomTom includes a tiny Bluetooth remote control for operating the unit without leaning forward to make selections on the touch screen. While nice in theory, we usually find the biggest distraction from using a GPS device while driving comes from diverting your eyes from the road to look at it, not from actually pressing the buttons. The remote doesn’t really solve that problem, so we found little use for it in actual driving situations.
TomTom GO 930
TomTom hasn’t messed with what works in the case of the GO 930’s windshield mount, which is simple but does the job without the a lot of hassle. It’s just a suction cup with a short arm that latches onto the GPS.
Unlike many competitors, which use a flippable switch to lock the suction cup onto the windshield glass, TomTom’s just needs to be slapped onto the surface with some force. It doesn’t have quite the grip as a result, but it’s also easier to take up and down, making the reduced hold a bit of a trade-off.
The ball joint and GPS latch mechanism have both been revised slightly from previous TomTom models, but with somewhat questionable results. A stiffer ball joint reduces the chance of accidentally moving the screen as you touch buttons on it, but also makes it tougher to adjust viewing angle. A smaller square tab at the end of the mount arm locks onto the GPS arm by sliding into a recessed slot in the back of it. While it looks more elegant than previous implementations, it’s also less intuitive for first-timers (or passengers who want to help out while you’re driving) and feels less affirmative when you slide it in.
TomTom offers TomTom Home software package as a free way to interface with the GPS via the included desk cradle. In general, we found the design of the application to be clean and easy to use with the device, putting an intuitive face on otherwise gritty tasks like updating map packages. Unfortunately, many of the slick options it offers, like accessing a safety camera database, downloading live fuel prices, or adding celebrity voices, also cost money, making it as much a storefront for TomTom as a utility for owners. We were also dismayed to find that we had to leave our GPS connected while Home downloaded all 1.6GB of a new map of North America, rather than simply letting it download and then pushing it all to our device when it was done.
Despite its position on the top of TomTom’s line, the Go 930 sports the same interface used across all of its devices, including many older models like the ONE Third Edition. While it’s far from the prettiest we’ve seen (it lacks the smooth anti-aliased look of Mio’s new interface and the incredible 3D terrain of Navigon’s top-of-the-line 8100T) it’s relatively clean and functional.
One of the benefits of this relatively drab display, at least in contrast to some flashier units, is response time. The GO 930 cuts through its own menu system without any delay, making it easy to skim through different levels of buttons. That seems to have lead to some laziness in interface design, though: TomTom’s catch-all “Preferences” page used to be an easy way to tweak GPS settings back when all units did was navigate, but with all the features the GO 930 boasts, you’ll literally have to leaf through eight pages of options to find the one you want (they’re not subdivided or categorized in any way). Yes, it’s easy enough to click an arrow for more options, but TomTom needs to get its act together on these in the future as more options continue to crowd in.
Entering addresses remains a highlight of TomTom’s system. Though, like Navigon’s 7200T, it takes quite a few clicks to begin entering an address (something TomTom might want to address in the future), the data entry goes exceptionally smoothly. The system remembers previously entered locations so that they appear at the top of the list by default. Entering a “L” when searching for a city in Oregon, for instance, automatically listed Lake Oswego on top after we plugged in the address of Digital Trends just once, making it easier to return to previously entered locales without reentering the details every time. You even get fine control over important details like whether you use a QWERTY or ABC keyboard, and how big it will be.
Routing and Navigation
TomTom’s routing was a mixed bag. On one hand, it managed to peg drive times with superior accuracy thanks to the company’s IQ Route technology, which uses actual road speeds rather than posted speed limits. (By contrast, old TomTom units were literally hours off on long drives.)
On the other hand, it also had the propensity to choose bizarre routes through neighborhoods at times, preferring stop-sign-studded backroads to adjacent main roads in rare cases. It also routed one tester in unnecessary loops around his own house, thinking (wrongly) that it was on a one-way street. Like the Navigon 7200T, it also wanted to route us through nonsensical truck lanes, at times, on the highway.
Advanced lane guidance shows drivers the proper lane to stay in during highway driving using highlighted arrows in the lower right corner of the screen. But the photo-realistic images TomTom likes to show in its representations never appeared for us in real-life driving, indicating that only drivers in major metropolitan areas will be able to take advantage of them.
Though it won’t play video files as some of the most advanced GPS systems will, TomTom’s GO 930 will display photos and documents, as well as play MP3 and other music files. Adding them is a mercifully short drag-and-drop operation, though playing them doesn’t offer much fine control, as we’ve encountered on most other GPS players. It’s better than the very worst, though, and we could see using it as an MP3 player on a road trip with enough playlists prepped in advance.
Connecting the GO 930 to a Bluetooth-enabled phone to use it as a speakerphone, though not a quick affair, wasn’t particularly painful either, and worked the first time without any errors. Conversations also sounded good, though receiving parties claimed our voices came through rather weak. We also had to turn the 930’s speaker all the way up to hear the other party cleary, which resulted in ear-shatterly loud directions whenever the unit cut in. Some sort of volume normalization here would be a practical necessity in future revisions.
TomTom GO 930
One of the most intriguing features on the GO 930 is the FM transmitter for playing both music and directions over your car audio system. As with all of these systems, you’ll need to do a little airwave hunting ahead of time to find a clear frequency to connect on, but afterwards, plugging it into the TomTom with its touch keyboard is a simple affair. The feature seemed somewhat glitchy, though. While we could originally get it to read directions over the speakers, later the option disappeared altogether and only music would broadcast.
We still dream of a GPS system that will effortlessly decode our words to plug in a destination and send us on our way, but the TomTom GO 930 isn’t it. After entering a state by hand, it’s able to pin down city names fairly accurately, but attempting to find a street in larger cities is a disaster. Only a handful of the Portland streets we tried turned up, even after repeated tries. And even when you do hit the right one, you’ll still need to enter the house address manually. Not very useful.
Without question, TomTom’s GO 930 offers a lot of bang for the buck. If you want your GPS system to play music over your car radio, read out street names for you, and connect to your cell phone as a hands free device, it’s hard to find another device that will do it for the price. The only prominent feature missing on the GO 930 is TMC traffic, which can be added for $50 by stepping up to the 930T. That said, beware that not all of the luxurious features aboard the GPS work exactly as expected. Most notably, voice input wasn’t good enough to use in real-life scenarios when we needed to get somewhere in a hurry, the FM transmitter seemed to stop working for voice commands, and advanced lane guidance won’t always show you a flashy picture. None are deal-breakers, though, and for the money it’s one of the best top-tier systems out there.
- Accurate travel time estimates
- Painless Bluetooth setup
- Quality mount
- Included dock and PC software
- Superior build quality
- Weak voice input
- Interface could use a visual update
- Tricky FM transmitter
- Not-always-brilliant routing
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