Disclosure: I was loaned a TomTom GO 510 for the purposes of this review. I did not receive any payment nor was I required to provide a positive review.
We’re all familiar with the map-based navigation offered by sat navs. But most of the time we don’t need that help — we’re travelling to work, home, shopping or other familiar destinations.
Why would you use a sat nav when you already know where you’re going? TomTom believes you can still benefit from doing this, and having spent some time driving with one of the firm’s latest smart sat navs, the GO 510, I can now see why.
As I’ll explain below, the GO 510 is the next-best thing to a crystal ball for drivers.
Setting up the GO 510
TomTom has realised that most of us already have a smartphone with a data connection. So paying extra for a sat nav with its own SIM card and data connection is going to put some buyers off. That’s why TomTom’s latest generation of GO sat navs are available in two versions — with a SIM card, and without.
At £170, the GO 510 I tested is £90 cheaper than the TomTom GO 5100. Both offer exactly the same functionality, but the GO 510 uses your phone’s bluetooth and data connection to connect to TomTom’s live services. The GO 5100 has a built-in SIM card and connects directly to TomTom’s live services.
Setting up the link between my smartphone and the GO 510 was reasonably straightforward. You’ll need to switch on both Bluetooth and Bluetooth tethering on your phone to allow the GO to connect to the internet. You then login to your MyDrive account on both devices, enabling them to communicate. I found this straightforward enough, and TomTom provides clear instructions online.
One gripe was that my phone kept switching off the tethering function after a certain period of inactivity. Obviously this is a phone-specific setting that’s probably intended to protect my data allowance. But it meant that often when I got in the car, I’d have to check my phone settings rather than just switching the sat nav on, otherwise live traffic wouldn’t work. You can avoid this kind of minor hassle by buying the more expensive GO 5100, of course.
Once your smartphone is paired up with the GO 510, you can check traffic and plan routes on your phone, before pushing the destination to the sat nav, ready for when you get in the car.
The best traffic service?
At the start of this review I asked why you’d want to use a sat nav on familiar routes. The answer is data.
TomTom has been gathering information about routes and traffic conditions since 2008. TomTom users add to this constantly by virtue of data gathered anonymously while they drive. Using a huge bank of historical data, TomTom’s software can calculate the optimum route for any given time of day. This takes into account rush hour traffic and other congestion patterns which change during the day.
TomTom’s speed camera service is is good, but the most impressive aspect of the GO 510 was the live traffic service. This updates every two minutes when the sat nav has a data connection. The result is very impressive.
I found that the GO 510 could predict when I would join the back of a queue of traffic to within a few seconds. Delays were calculated to the nearest minute and with real accuracy.
When my in-laws visited at the weekend, they phoned soon after they left to say they’d been caught in a surprise traffic jam when they rejoined the main road.
A quick look at the MyDrive app on my phone showed the problem exactly. It was obvious where the accident which had caused a jam to form had taken place. Given our local knowledge, it was also obvious that the queue would rapidly either get worse or be cleared quickly.
As we needed to go out soon after, we watched the map while we had lunch. Red lines indicating traffic moving at less than 20% of its normal speed soon turned to orange, and then cleared. The road was clear again — and that’s exactly what we found when we left home a few minutes later.
We compared this with the congestion reported for the same incident on Google Maps and the BBC traffic website. Google Maps had a vague idea of some congestion in the area, but there was nothing like so much detail. The jam never even made it onto the BBC Traffic website, nor did others we encountered later that day.
What makes the TomTom system so powerful is that so many people use it. I suspect this is now the most accurate live traffic service available in the UK. Combining this with TomTom’s excellent mapping and route planning makes the GO 510 a very useful driving aid indeed.
As you’d expect from TomTom, the GO 510 is well made, good looking and easy to use. For about £170, you get lifetime world maps, speed cameras and live traffic, via your smartphone. The GO 510 also includes 3D mapping where available.
The GO 510 has a 5″ screen — it’s also available in an identical 6″ version, the GO 610. I found the screen to be bright and clear in all conditions and sound quality and volume was fine for me. When browsing maps, the screen was fast, smooth and responsive. Certainly better than older models, in my view.
Should you buy one?
If you’ve got an older sat nav that doesn’t have live traffic, you may be wondering if it’s worth upgrading. I’d say the answer is yes — as long as you are prepared to use it regularly, with live traffic enabled.
My only reservation is that having to link your smartphone to your sat nav is an extra layer of complexity that isn’t attractive. If I was buying a new sat nav today, I’d probably eliminate the cost and hassle of having an extra piece of hardware and simply buy the TomTom software for my smartphone. I’d then have all the functionality I needed in a device I always carry with me anyway.
If I did a lot of driving, then I might splash out on the GO 5100 with built-in connectivity. That would probably provide the ultimate in hassle-free navigation and live traffic information.
Either way, I’d have no problem recommending the latest generation of TomTom software and hardware to anyone looking for a navigation system.
Model tested: TomTom GO 510 (RRP £169.99)
(Smartphone used: Motorola Moto G3)