Review: TomTom GPS VIA 260

By Mike Wheeler

By Mike Wheeler

If you’re a vendor in the Sat-Nav market, the past couple of years have been a nightmare in terms of not only trying to increase marketshare, but holding on to what you already have. Dutch-based company TomTom is no exception. Having had a less than stellar sales in 2011, it really has to up the ante in the products it releases – unfortunately the VIA 260 doesn’t do the business.

My current GPS is built into my Garmin Nuvifone, and while not totally satisfied with it, it does an OK job. I prefer a dedicated GPS, even though I think they might have limited appeal due to several smartphones (such as the aforementioned Nuvi) having built-in Sat-Nav capability, or an app that can be downloaded (TomTom has one for the iPhone already).

Out of the box it looks like your standard GPS, although we did notice it was a little lighter than most, which is not a bad thing. It stuck easily to our windscreen, which again, was good. There have been several occasions in the past – not just with TomTom – whereby the suction cap on the back doesn’t adhere to the window as well as it could, which leads to it falling down when on a bumpy road.

So let's talk about functionality? We'll start with the good. The maps themselves are great, as are the animations that accompany them. The instructions set by the voice are good – nice and crisp and clear and easy to understand. What I liked most was how it told me – with plenty of time to spare – when intersections were coming up etc, which is something that I find lacking with my current device. It also was very accurate in distances, as well as times when you would arrive at your destination. I did notice that when I travelled along Sydney’s M2, which is having plenty of roadworks, it didn’t tell us what the reduced speed limits were, which I found surprising because one of the big selling points of this type of device in the past is how they are up-to-date. But that was only a minor problem.

And the bad? Unfortunately, they outweighed the good. From the get-go it was a little confusing when it needn’t be. How so? You are first asked to put in the city or postcode. The latter is totally redundant and could be confusing to novices. Nobody knows all the postcodes of the places they are going to, and Australia is rife with them. And if I did know the postcode, I would probably know the area and therefore the device would be redundant. So ignore the postcode query and just put in the city name.

Next was the Speak and Go technology. A big fail as far as I’m concerned. On several occasions I entered the address in a clear, concise manner. On all occasions the destinations provided were well off the mark. Thinking maybe it was my Kiwi accent, I asked my 10-year-old, who having been in the Lucky Country for almost six years has a great little Aussie accent. Nada. So then I took it to work and tried out four of my colleagues. Three failed miserably, while the fourth managed to get three destinations to choose from when she said the address. However, the address she did say was the third choice given to her by the device, while the first two were in Victoria. Hardly ideal.

Then there was the incident three days ago when I was taking the same little sprog to his cricket game on the upper North Shore in Sydney. Although the directions were concise, it sent me down a dead-end road. It was a rickety road to be sure, and I got the impression that it was one of those phantom roads whereby the Kuring-Gai council at one stage intended it to be a thoroughfare, but changed its mind, but has perhaps failed to amend its maps, which is where most of this information is garnered.

Finally the battery life. TomTom will argue that you have a cable that can be plugged into the cigarette lighter of the car, so the battery should hardly be an issue. I disagree. I think a long battery life is essential, because some of us don’t like cables trailing down our windscreen. And is it bad? Pretty much. Again, took the youngster to a tournament in Penrith, which is Sydney’s west. I used the device for the hour long trip – stayed at the sporting complex for five hours and then came home. It began to run out half way home. I am pretty sure it was switched off for the duration of the visit, but even if it wasn’t, five-six hours is not long enough. Too be fair, this is something that I have found to be endemic in GPS – as a phone my Nuvi’s battery lasts some time – put it in GPS mode and the battery goes down faster than Liverpool striker Luis Suarez does in the opposition’s penalty area.

It has all the features that you would expect – the ability to download map updates, giving speed camera locations, and advanced lane guidance.

Overall, I’m dying for this to be an exceptional device because I’ve always rated TomTom. But this time around, it just doesn’t make the grade.

Pros: Good maps, concise directions; easy to follow instructions, good price
Cons: Confusing settings, voice activation not up to scratch, battery life left wanting

RRP
$179

2.3 Shacks Out Of 5

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