Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/06/08/review_satnav_tomtom_start2/

TomTom Start2 satnav

Start trek, the next generation

By Will Stapley

Posted in Science, 8th June 2010 07:02 GMT

Review TomTom’s entry-level Start satnav got the RegHardware treatment back at the tail end of 2009, with the overall judgement being that it was a decent enough piece of kit but just a little too pricey.

TomTom Start2

The Start2 – TomTom’s update to its no-nonsense satnav

Now TomTom has released an updated version in the form of the Start2. In terms of price it’s exactly the same (£120 for the UK version, £140 for the one with European maps), so I was particularly keen to find out whether the new features made it better value than its predecessor.

A no-nonsense satnav with the main priority being getting you from A to B, the Start2’s interface is simple and uncluttered. Two large buttons grace the main menu (Plan Route and Browse Map), with a small range of other features accessible from the Options button at the bottom.

Given that the Start2 is so similar to its predecessor, I’ll stick to the new features in this review – to get an overall impression of the satnav and its other features, it’s best to have a quick gander at the original Start review here.

TomTom Start2

The compact mount makes attaching to a side window difficult

Personally, when using a satnav I prefer to have it located on the side window, and what I would add to the original review is that the compact mount makes this very difficult – there simply isn’t enough room for it to twist round to face the driver, so it ends up pointing towards the passenger seat. However, since most people prefer slapping satnavs on the front windscreen, I appreciate I’m in the minority here.

The first new feature on the Start2 is lane assistance, which aims to help out confused drivers approaching major junctions. It certainly worked well in my tests on stretches of the M25 and M23 but, equally, I never really felt I needed it. That said, it’s likely to be of far more use when motoring abroad where unfamiliar road signs can make finding the right lane that bit trickier.

TomTom Start2

Lane assistance aims to prevent last minute swerves off motorways

What I’d prefer is guidance after the junction. More often than not, motorway exit signs give you plenty of warning as to which lane to take, but you’ve then just a few seconds to make a dash for the correct lane when approaching the roundabout that follows – for example, on some roundabouts you need the middle lane when taking the third exit.

Traffic alerts also make it onto the Start2. However, unlike the real-time updates from TomTom’s Live service – subscription-based and only available on its more expensive satnavs – the Start2 has to make do with the Traffic Message Channel (TMC) service that’s broadcast over FM.

TomTom Start2

Also available in...

While any form of traffic awareness is, arguably, better than nothing, TMC does have two major downsides. First off, it’s not very good – especially compared to TomTom’s GPRS-based Live service. I’ve plenty of experience with TMC and have never been overly impressed. The signal’s not always good, so you often end up none the wiser, while ‘phantom’ traffic jams that have long since disappeared aren’t uncommon – a traffic alert service that you can’t trust to provide up-to-date, accurate info isn’t much good to anyone.

TomTom Smart 2

Secondly, it’s fiddly. Damn fiddly. In order to use the TMC service on the Start2 you not only have to buy the adapter (£50, although TomTom tells us it’s currently on offer at £10 when purchased with the Start2 up until at least 8th June), but you also have to submerge yourself in a tangle of wires.

TomTom Start2

Does the job, but should be a bit cheaper really

The TMC aerial needs to be trailed around the windscreen using three suckers, while the power supply must also be connected in order for it to work. The guide on TomTom’s website gives an idea as to how untidy this can be.

The last of the new features is the ability to read out road names. As is the norm, this is only available when using one of the computerised voices. On my test runs it made a decent effort pronouncing road names, but there were a few that came out a little garbled – “Hazlewick”, for example, became “Huzz-el-wuck”.

Verdict

Whatever way you look at it, the Start2 is pretty much identical to the original Start. And, with none of the small selection of new features offering a huge amount, I’m left wondering whether TomTom simply wanted to rush a new model to market. Do the extra features warrant a better score than its predecessor? No. That said, it’s still a very competent, entry-level satnav – it’s just that I’d really like to see it under the £100 mark. ®

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