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TomTom Go 540 Live


The Go 540 Live takes sat-nav technology to a new level – but at a price!

Sleek yet robust; large widescreen display; excellent dock; innovative LIVE Services

Menu system is overly complicated; LIVE services are expensive



With personal navigation systems becoming so popular over the last few years, some have questioned the effect such systems have on traffic safety. Some feel it may distract drivers, while others think that getting motorists to their destinations more efficiently reduces stress and tiredness. Recent surveys even suggest that drivers using a navigation device have improved reaction times, feel more in control, less distracted, less stressed and more alert. Hardly surprising, then, that most drivers feel a navigation system makes it easier to keep focused on the road. So, why is it then the technology is getting such bad press by increasingly sending drivers on rat runs through obscure rural byways?

TomTom, the biggest seller of sat-nav systems in the UK, recently launched a new range of Go Live devices that attempt to put an end to cars ending up in rivers and in the middle of fields. Aimed at high mileage drivers, the Go 940 Live (European & U.S. maps, £451), Go 740 Live (32 European maps, £372) and Go 540 Live (UK/Ireland maps, £287) come with a new and extended version of TomTom’s innovative IQ Routes technology, which is now based on historical travel time information for every road, every hour, and every day of the week. Furthermore, the devices’ dynamic navigation and route guidance continuously adapts to changing road conditions, always attempting to give you the fastest route to a destination. The products also offer enhanced advanced lane guidance as well as full voice control.

The Go 540 Live reviewed here has a streamlined body and a newly-designed user interface with optimised icons for easier navigation through the device menu. The power button is constantly illuminated so you can easily power up or down the device, and the supplied Active Dock holds the Go 540 Live securely. The Active Dock also makes it a snap to fix and remove the Go 540 Live to your window (the twisty sucker thing is pure genius), and the system connector means that the charging cable never gets in the way of the main unit itself. With safety in mind, the Go 540 Live also features voice command and control in addition to existing safety options. So, for the first time, you can plan a route or make a phone call by using your voice – should you want to feel like you’re flying the Starship Enterprise.

TomTom believes the introduction of the Go x40 Live series will mean a dramatic change in the way navigation devices are used thanks to a range of information services, delivered directly to the devices ‘over-the-air’ via a built-in SIM card. Ambiguously labelled High Definition (HD) Traffic, this technology automatically connects to TomTom’s exclusive traffic service for detailed live traffic information, which is updated every 3 minutes. If the measured traffic conditions differ from the expected traffic flow, the Go 540 Live automatically calculates an alternative route if one is available. The expected time of arrival is also adjusted accordingly. In addition to a comprehensive fixed safety camera database, you have access to the most accurate mobile camera data, supplied in partnership with Road Angel (UK only). The service includes real-time safety camera reporting and sharing, meaning you can keep each other informed about mobile safety cameras automatically. Drivers will also receive warnings about unmanned railway crossings, schools, places of worship, and other potential accident blackspots.

Heavy road users will also appreciate a fuel price search that not only lets you locate up-to-date pricing information from 12,000 fuel stations across the UK, but guides you to the cheapest fuel stations along your route or in your local area. TomTom has calculated that high mileage drivers can save up to £250 per year in fuel costs using this service, but you’ll have to make your own mind up whether it’s cost effective to drive out of your way to visit petrol stations selling cheaper fuel. The excellent Google Search function gives you access to information and location details of more than 11 million UK-based businesses and turns search results into a destination with the press of a button. Results show the location name, a user-generated rating (if available) and phone number, so you can call ahead to book a restaurant or hotel of your choice, for example.

Less significant but still neat features include 5-day weather reports in the local area or for the chosen destination, allowing you to plan your journey according to road conditions, and QuickGPSFix that allows you to begin your journey immediately by locating satellite information – now updated ‘live’, rather than via TomTom HOME. And with Buddies, drivers can link their TomTom device to those of their friends so they can locate each other on the map, share favourite locations, as well as exchange and share location information and messages. This is a cool feature for advanced users, but for most of us we’ll never go beyond basic route planning. A free 3-month trial period for the Live services is included with each model; following this you need to register for a monthly, flat-fee subscription of £7.99 (ouch!) so you can continue to receive all Live services directly to your device.

There’s no denying that the Go 540 Live packs and incredible amount of technology and features into a relatively sleek (127x85x23mm, 224g) unit. The unit is relatively easy to use (except for figuring out how to lower the ear-piercing voice navigation!), and is largely effective in reducing the burden on the driver. The 4.3-inch widescreen display (WQVGA: 480×272 pixels) is easy to read, though some may find there is a too much information on screen, and the battery provides a reasonable 3 hours’ autonomous operation between charges – should you not keep it constantly docked to your cigarette lighter. As expected, Bluetooth is present so you can make and receive hands-free calls, and the included PC software lets you download recent user-generated corrections via TomTom’s Map Share service.

Our biggest gripe was that the Go 540 Live failed to pick out the fastest routes on our test runs. Instead of taking us down relatively quiet dual carriageways, it decided that desolate country lanes and constant left/right turns were the most appropriate. We also begrudge paying any kind of ongoing subscription for a device that already costs a premium. If, unlike us, you’re not bothered about cost and want the latest and greatest functionality – regardless of whether or not you’ll use it – the Go 540 Live is the one to go for. If plain and simple navigation is all you’re after, save some money and opt for a cheaper alternative.

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