If the tiny screen on TomTom’s minimal-but-adequate One navigators has you careening into other lanes as you squint to see your next turn, the XL line of navigators represent an easy step forward to the land of 4.3-inch widescreen bliss. (And relative safety for the people driving next to you.) The XL 330 and XL 340 models line up identically with their smaller One 130 and One 140 cousins on the feature front, with only a $50 gap separating the big guys from the little ones. Both lines use “S” in the name to denote text-to-speech capabilities, making the XL 340 S we reviewed the high-end unit in the XL line before moving up to the pricier Go line of premium nav systems.
Features and Design
Much like the TomTom One 140 S we’ve already reviewed, the XL 340 S sits at the top of its respective line, with only the roomier 4.3-inch screen differentiating the two. That means it includes Map Share technology for updating maps, TomTom’s new flat-folding EasyPort mount, and 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.
Unlike the One line which has a cheaper-looking unit at the very bottom of the price scale, all the XL models look identical. You would never be able to tell these guys apart in a line up; but that’s not to say they aren’t attractive. The XL 340 S has been cloaked in matte black plastic all around the outside and rimmed on the face by a slim silver outline. The combo looks swank and resists fingerprints, which is more than can be said of some glossy-faced competitors. 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. It measures 0.9 inches thick at its very center, but that’s only at the circular speaker, which adds some considerable depth. The rest of the unit barely strays over half an inch in thickness.
Testing and Usage
TomTom recently transitioned its entire GPS line to use the same slim, flat-folding windshield mount, which it 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 foot well 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 XL 340 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 navigator, the TomTom XL 340 S works just as well as the others we’ve tested, with a slight edge from the screen size. For instance, we appreciated the extra room, when entering addresses thanks to the bigger keyboard, and of course, it makes the map view easier to see as well. 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. 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.
When you’re ready to step away from a barebones navigator that’s been cooking in your glove box for years, but not quite willing to shell out hundreds for features like built-in FM transmitters and MP3 player, TomTom’s XL 340 S makes a lot of sense. Point-A-to-B drivers will love the accurate drive times, no-nonsense address entry, and generous screen on the TomTom XL 340 S. But for another $50, we can’t help but point out that Garmin’s Nuvi 265 WT adds some other very practical features, including free live traffic, Bluetooth, and more up-to-date graphics.
- Large screen
- 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