TomTom guides the way

It's not often that a lower priced model can match or even exceed the features of its more expensive brethren - but this is just what the TomTom One achieves. We've reviewed - and loved - the Go 300 and Go 500. We found them easy to use, packed with useful features and, most importantly, they got us exactly where we wanted to go. The TomTom One retains many of these features but also includes some key improvements.

The first notable change is in the physical design. While the Go units were somewhat squat and bulky, TomTom has slimmed down the One considerably, resulting in a device that is more like a PDA in its form factor. Although it can be cupped in the hand or slipped into a pocket, it's not yet at the stage of being portable enough where you would want to carry it around in a pocket all day. Still, the slimline design seemed to appeal to just about everyone who had their hands on it.

The second change is internal, as TomTom has shipped the One with an improved GPS receiver, meaning less occasions when you have to use an external antenna to pick up a signal. In our driving tests, we found the One took 30-90 seconds to first pick up a signal after being turned on. It was generally quite quick and responsive.

It is important to realise the One is priced considerably lower than the Go 500 or Go 300, and is aimed at the entry-level market. In order to adopt this price point however, some sacrifices have been made - and the most important is perhaps battery life. The battery in the One lasted for just under two hours in our testing, which does limit its use outside of a car and is below average.

While TomTom has included an in-car charger in the sales package, an AC adapter is missing (although one can be purchased separately). This means you can use the unit for a maximum of two hours outside a car before having to go back to charge it, similar to the Navman iCN 320.

Great value for money

Despite the lower battery life and lack of an AC adapter, we still think consumers will certainly be getting great value for money by purchasing the One.

In our humble opinion, TomTom excels when it comes to usability and the One continues this trend. There are no buttons on the device apart from the Power button. Everything else is operated on the touchscreen, with the buttons and icons large enough for you to use a finger comfortably. If you haven't used a GPS before, the TomTom interface won't pose many problems at all.

Despite the simplicity this unit offers, we would still have liked to seen an external volume control, as users will continually need to quickly change the volume, depending on the loudness of traffic noise, the radio or conversations. We found the audio levels a little softer on this unit and had to set volume levels to 60-70 per cent in order to hear it clearly. Having to navigate through several system menus to access the volume slider is a hassle we can do without.

One feature that just about everybody commented on was the screen. We found it to be excellent in both day and night conditions, though it is prone to glare in direct sunlight. With the large, bright and clear 3.5-inch screen, the moving 3D navigation and our planned clearly mapped out in green, we felt very comfortable at all times with the visual features of this unit.

The audio instructions on the One were also fine, although there is one feature of the software we wish TomTom would change. We noticed that we would get a warning of a turn when we were some distance away and another warning at the actual turn itself. We would have however, preferred an alert a few metres before the turn, giving us an earlier warning. At times, we were unsure when to turn and had to look at the screen, not something drivers want to be doing often.

We are big fans of the TomTom user interface, although you can get the feeling of being lost in menus at times. When we test a GPS unit, we like to focus on the method used to search for addresses, as this is something you will be doing often. Unfortunately, TomTom has retained the same confusing searching function that doesn't filter street names by suburb, sometimes resulting in incorrect addresses. Additionally, the software doesn't allow you to search for a street name first, only a suburb, which is an unwanted limitation.

Perhaps the one omission that really detracts from this unit is the lack of out of the box support for red-light and speed cameras, something the Road Angel Navigator provides, but at a much higher price.

What's Hot: Compact size, easy to use, high screen quality
What's Not: Low battery life, no AC adapter provided
The Final Word: At this price, and with this feature set, the Tom Tom One blows away the competition.
RRP: $799