GPS maker Tomtom believes big could be the way of the future, if sales of the new XXL 550 model across the Tasman are anything to go by.
It expects the larger five-inch screen model to be well received here too, claiming users prefer the bigger display over the smaller sizes offered – which are 3.5 inches or 4.3 inches.
Although less portable, the useability of the touchscreen is improved with the enlargement — particularly when using the virtual keyboard to tap in a street address as your destination. On smaller models, using the side of your fingernail was the best way to accurately type the address you wanted.
Other than the bigger display, the introduction of active lane guidance is the most compelling feature of the XXL 550.
When motorists approach an intersection on their route with multiple lanes, a static picture of the intersection is displayed with an arrow showing which lane they should be in. The distance to making the turn or taking a motorway offramp will continue to be displayed at the bottom of the screen while the image is displayed.
Until now, voice directions without active lane guidance had the potential to confuse motorway drivers, telling them to keep left but to stay in the right lane.
The XXL 550 is preloaded with the most recently-released winter 2010 map of New Zealand from map partner Geosmart. As before, the device can be managed and customised via Tomtom’s Home software, a free download, where users can also buy new maps and those for other countries.
Apart from the larger screen and active lane guidance, the XXL 550 combines features found on previously-released models. These include IQ Routes, which builds on data gathered from users to help plan the fastest route at different times of day in different locations. It also includes the in-built speed camera database, a comprehensive help menu and the newly-designed EasyPort mount, which clips onto the back of the unit and can be folded down to store with the GPS.
As well, the device has spoken street names, which means the turn-by-turn directions will include the name of the street you’re turning in to, not just how far away the turn is.
At $399, the XXL 550 is competitively priced considering Tomtom has yet to introduce Live Traffic information, part of the Tomtom Services menu available overseas. Also missing are multimedia capabilities found on higher-end models, such as Bluetooth connectivity, an FM transmitter and a MP3 player.
This model is not a major upgrade from Tomtom. But for those who want a mid-range option and found earlier screens too small to view or type on accurately, or found motorway exits a challenge, these two changes incorporated into the XXL 550 would be useful.
However, Tomtom expects to make more local product announcements soon, so fans of the brand should keep their eyes open for more options this year.