GPS Review – TomTom XL 330



The TomTom XL 330 is a basic GPS navigation device that is well-built, comes with preloaded maps of the USA and Canada, has a wide 4.3″ screen and a nice display.

tomtom-xl330 GPS

TomTom XL330

Mounting

The new EasyPort mount makes mouting the XL 330 onto the windshield easy.

Position it flat on the windshield, tilt the screen to your preferred viewing angle (pretty stiff at first), then simply twist the ring at the back of the EasyPort mount to securely affix the suction cup.

You can then make further adjustments to the viewing angle if needed.

EasyPort Mount

To remove, simply twist the ring at the back of the EasyPort mount in the opposite direction to loosen the suction, and peel off.

You can also snap the device off from the mount but I would venture to guess most of you won’t do that because one of the cool thing about the new mount is that it folds flat against the device — hence making storing in the glove compartment very convenient.

TomTom HOME

The one thing that may throw off most users is that there is no CD included in the package.

The package itself is not the nice boxed packaging it used to come in (and that is displayed on its web site) — rather, it now comes in a cheap hard plastic wrap that is very difficult to open and may cut your fingers while you do so (at least mine did).

One thing you should find time to do when you come home is to plug the Tom Tom GPS into your PC using the supplied USB cable.

It will (beat the drums and) ask you if you want to connect to the computer.

Answer Yes and off it goes and installs HOME for you automatically.

If it does not install, go to Tom Tom website. Download and install the software yourself (which I had to do).

The HOME software installation is pretty straightforward and at the end it asks you to register/login.

Once logged in, you can then download updates. It takes a while to download everything, so give it time and do not unplug your device.

From time to time, they have free voice downloads and you can record your own voice and share it with others, too! But these are very unprofessional, and I have yet to find how to delete them from my device.

Favorites

Once you have updated your software, map, etc., only then should you start adding your favorites. If you did that first and then updated your software, you may lose all the favorites you saved.

Adding a favorite is pretty simple:

Select a country, city, street and address, then save the result under a name of your choice.

The default name the favorite is saved under is the street address you just entered, but you can override this and give it a more meaningful name.

The one negative I have about Favorites is that if you do give it a meaningful name, you then cannot go back and see what street address that Favorite points to.

It’s such a small change to the software (one extra field) that I am surprised that Tom Tom has not made that enhancement yet.

Am I saying that I would like my Tom Tom to be a PDA? Not necessarily, but that would be cool, too.

In fact, if they do not, Apple is updating their iPod so that turn-by-turn direction is possible on their GPS.

Imagine using your iPod as a GPS device — would anyone buy a dedicated GPS device anymore?

Battery

Hopefully while you are doing all that, your Tom Tom is connected to your PC via the USB cable.

As long as the device is connected to your PC via the USB cable, the battery in the device is recharging. Give it a good 2 hours for a full charge.

The battery of the TomTom XL330 lasts a mere 3 hours (compare that with some of its direct competitors where the battery lasts up to 8 hours), so it’s not that great for a whole day’s walking around.

In the car, ensure that it is (properly) plugged into the car charger outlet using the Car Charger cable.

Map Share

Map Share is an application that allows users of TomTom GPS devices to report map corrections and share these with other users.

You can join with one click and ensure you have the latest updates of the GPS maps.

However, it means that you should continue to update regularly because a street that is temporarily closed (and shared via Map Share) will stay closed as far as your device knows until you update it again with that street’s re-opening to traffic.

I recommend that you set preferences (Tools – TomTom Map Share – Map Share Preferences…) and select only the “countries” (or states) you need.

You can specify filters to be more selective in what updates you download. For example, you could be downloading a mistake or changes from someone who reported a temporary street closure but never takes the time to report its re-opening, etc. and your map would be hopelessly wrong.

Filters are set in your device:

Map corrections – Correction preferences. By default onyl corrections made by yourself and verified by Tom Tom are downloaded. I suggest you keep it this way.

You can also become active and mark corrections on your map that you can then share with others via Map Share.

Latest Map Guarantee

It is important to remember that you may not have the latest map on your device.

To check, click Tools – Latest Map Guarantee to see if you need to update a new map. You get one free update, which goes very s-l-o-w-l-y….

Go make yourself a coffee and enjoy….

Backup

And whenever you have made a major update, it’s a good idea to do a full backup of your system. Be forewarned that the backup also takes a very l-o-n-g time….

Go make yourself a second cup of coffee, plus get a snack while you’re at it, and enjoy….

Screen Display

The screen display is bright and easy to read. The wide screen simply allows you to view more map real estate so that everything does not feel too cramped with turn directions, etc.

I like that the street you are currently on displays at the bottom of the map.

The street name at the very bottom of the screen is your next turn.

The street name at the top of the map (and screen) is simply the name of an intersecting street ahead (or, in the case of a highway, it will display the highway name).

It can get confusing at first, but just remember the really important street name is the one at the very bottom of the screen: this tells you your next turn that is coming ahead.

The other two street names is just for information and for you to confirm that you are still on a certain street or which intersecting street is coming up.

Itineraries

Itineraries are what set TomTom GPS devices apart from its competitors — or used to, because some of its competitors’ top models also now have this feature.

Itineraries allow you to save an itinerary where you specify various destinations — or waypoints — you would like to take to your final destination.

This is great if you know a shortcut bypassing busy morning rush hour traffic — or if you need to stop at various places to deliver or pick up people/stuff.

Home

Of course, do not forget to set where HOME is. This will be your starting point, aka your Home.

The TomTom GPS allows you to set HOME with your address without entering a favorite. However, I would recommend that you then go right ahead and save a new favorite with your home address, and call it Home.

Why?

Simple.

If you are traveling, you may be staying at a hotel for an extended period of time.

In this case, you may want to reset your “HOME” to the hotel address.

Then, whenever you want to return to the hotel after a hard days visiting points of interest, all you have to do is tell the Tom Tom GPS to Navigate to… HOME.

Now, when you do have to drive to your real home, you need to reset HOME.

If you already have it as a saved favorite, it’s a simple matter of going into Preferences and resetting Home to your saved favorite Home.

Colors

If you drive a lot at night, you will find that the daytime colors are just too bright and distracting for night time driving.

In this case, you can go into Preferences and select Use night colors.

These daytime and night colors can be customized in Preferences – Change map colors.

Select a day color scheme and a night color scheme.

I like the default schemes: Belgica for day and Antartica for night.

Set Owner

If you are concerned that your Tom Tom GPS device may be stolen, then you may want to set a password to operate it.

In Preferences – Set owner, you can enter up to 4 lines of information: say, your name, telephone and address.

To enter a password, you need to be connected to the TomTom HOME application on the Internet (the first time, it will download a small app) and use that to set your password.

Compass

One nifty feature I like is the ability to display a compass on your map.

I display an arrow that always points north, with the direction I am traveling showing in the middle of the arrow.

This way, I can tell at a glance where North is and which direction I am heading.

I am extremely bad with directions and this way I can tell at a glance whether I am going the “right direction.”

Why? Not necessary, I hear you say? After all, you’ve got a GPS navigation system and it can take you exactly where you want to go!

Well, unfortunately you do not always have the foresight or opportunity to know the street name or address.

You know that particular store is somewhere around your work place or someone gives you direction (“just go west about 4 blocks and you can’t miss it”).

On a wintry day when it is snowing like crazy and you can’t even see the street names, knowing the general direction you’re driving helps.

Where Are You?

Yep, you’re lost (yes, it happens even with  GPS devices) or your car broke down. You call your friend and she asks, Where are you? Or you call AAA, and they ask, Where are you?

Again, picture a cold snowy night. Just click Help me! – Where am I? and the TomTom XL 330 tells you street, intersections (with distances from each intersection) and GPS coordinates.

Click Phone for help and you get the emergency number or phone numbers for the nearest hospital or police station.

If you so choose to, your TomTom XL330 will also give you directions to drive or walk there.

Other helps include Nearest car repair services, Nearest pharmacy, Nearest dentist, Nearest gas station, Nearest piblic transport.

There is also a text First Aid Guide.

Verdict

If you can get the TomTom XL330 on Sale (less than $200), it is a bargain.

Of course you can choose to purchase the latest Tom Tom GPS.

One thing that is “missing” in the TomTom XL 330  is Text-to-Speech, i.e. it won’t tell you “In 200 meters, turn right into Esplanade Street.”

Instead it says, “In 200 meters, turn right.” And then as you get close to the intersection, it reminds you to “Turn right.”

I find this is more than enough because I can barely read the street names anyway and would rather concentrate on my driving than figuring out if this is really the correct street.

The TomTom XL 330S has Text-to-Speech and is priced $120 more. Again, wait for sales if you must have Text-to-Speech.

tomtom-xl-330s

TomTom XL 330S

The TomTom XL 330 does not have Bluetooth, but again I have no desire to talk via my GPS device. I just use my bluetooth wireless earpiece.

All in all, the TomTom XL330 is a great buy and I highly recommends it.

A note to those who are new to GPS navigation devices:

Your first GPS unit will pose some challenges until you take time to get to know it well.

No device is perfect (no matter how expensive) and it pays to read up on how GPS devices work and what to reasonably expect.

Do not use it to go visit wilderness regions (you need a different kind of GPS maps for that), do not make the stupid mistake to visit the Grand Canyon trusting your GPS navigation system to guide you, and do remember even a “new” GPS map is usually about 4 to 5 years old already.

The great thing about a GPS navigation system is that you will never get (hopelessly) lost again.

Oh, you’ll get lost, but your GPS device will find a way (however convoluted) to take you back HOME.

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