Disclosure: TomTom loaned me a sat nav at no cost for the purpose of this review. I received no payment and was not required to write a positive review.
TomTom is one of the biggest names in sat nav and in my experience, one of the best.
Against this backdrop, I was very pleased to have the chance recently to try out one of the company’s new TomTom Via 135 units, which includes TomTom’s Speak & Go voice control system, which I haven’t used before.
Voice control is increasingly popular and I was promised that this would be the best system I had yet used!
Design & Specifications
Like all TomToms, the Via 135 comes fitted with TomTom’s built-in windscreen mount, which removes the need for a separate holder. This is such a good system that I’m surprised other manufacturers haven’t come up with something similar by now.
The unit itself has a smart, stylish and neutral design that will look good in any vehicle and shouldn’t offend anyone. It feels well made and boasts a 5″ screen, along with a decent specification:
- 5″ touchscreen
- Bluetooth, including handsfree calling via your mobile phone
- Speak & Go voice control
- Map Share (allows drivers to personalise maps and share changes with other Map Share users)
In addition to these, it has all the usual TomTom features, including IQ Routes, Eco Routes (fuel-efficient routing), Parking Assist (highlight car parks near your destination) and so on.
It doesn’t have a traffic information service — this requires an additional TomTom traffic receiver unit.
As the risk of sounding like a TomTom employee (I’m not!), the Via 135 was easy to get started with and had a clean, attractive and intuitive interface. The screen was had good contrast and brightness and remained easy to read in bright sunlight — much better than my mobile, for example.
The screen’s touch sensitivity was just right, for me at least. The unit was responsive to touch commands and fast and easy to use.
Routing, re-routing, mapping and graphics were all as good as I would expect for a mid-range device, and this unit provides lane assistance on motorways, which is useful.
There was only one occasion where I doubted the wisdom of the Via 135, when it tried to route me down a very small rural road that I thought was a dead end. Even my large-scale road atlas (the AA Close-Up Trucker’s Atlas Britain) didn’t show a through road, so the jury is still out on that one, as I didn’t fancy a long detour to find out the truth.
Speak & Go
My wife and I both tried using the Speak & Go functionality and both had the same experience. The first couple of commands we tried failed miserably, but after that, the Via 135 was remarkably good at understanding our instructions (usually addresses) and correctly interpreting them.
I don’t know whether it ‘tuned in’ to our voices, or whether we started to speak more clearly — but it definitely worked well.
To activate Speak & Go, you have to touch the microphone icon on the screen. After that, it’s verbal and you can enter instructions or address and select the one you want from a numbered list of options. You can also do other things, including muting and changing the volume, making phone calls and searching for a nearby petrol station or similar POI.
Overall, Speak & Go was very impressive, although I found that it was still faster to control the sat nav using the touch screen. However, for those times when you are driving, it is very worthwhile.
Pros: The best voice control I’ve used, attractive unit, big screen, easy to use
Cons: No built-in traffic service.
If I was in the market for a sat nav then a mid-range TomTom unit like the Via 135 would be at the top of my list.
At the time of writing, Halfords is selling the TomTom Via 135 for £149.99, including £20 cashback on fuel. This doesn’t seem bad, although serious road warriors would probably be better off paying a little more to get one a TomTom GO LIVE model with real-time traffic updates and re-routing.