TomTom’s Newest GPS Guides You in Ways an iPhone Can’t

If you’ve tried TomTom’s GPS navigators in the past and have found them to be reliable if a bit of a snooze when it comes to design and interface, the new TomTom GO 2505 TM ($320) with its 5-inch interactive glass touchscreen should make you sit up and take notice.

With a smart new body featuring sloping matte black corners, a slightly rounded grey metallic back and a sharp GUI with colorful, easy-to-read icons, the TomTom Go 2505 TM is cool enough to hang with your slick new iPhone or Amazon Kindle. Better yet, it makes getting from place to place easier and a little more fun.

We recently brought the TomTom Go 2505 on one of the more boring excursions known to man: a Sunday shopping trip to New Jersey with the Mrs. (no fault of the Mrs., though). While the TomTom certainly didn’t brighten the scenery as we cruised the turnpikes and off-ramps of Jersey, it did get us to our various destinations quickly and painlessly. Returning to home base in Manhattan afterward didn’t go as smoothly, though. (More about that later.)

Along with the stylin’ redesign, the GO 2505 has a new stress-free and secure “click & lock” magnetic mounting system. While this may sound like a small detail, it’s nothing short of a godsend for anyone who has had a GPS unit or portable satellite radio fly off the windshield and into your lap when you hit the brakes.

To mount the GPS cradle, just push it against the windshield, twist the base, and it will suction lock in place. (No spittle necessary!) The GO 2505 unit then clicks onto the cradle and snaps down solidly with the help of magnets embedded in the device. Like most GPS navigators, the 2505 uses a rechargeable battery powered by the charging socket in your car.

On the downside, even when the TomTom’s battery is fully juiced, you’ll still need to keep the 2505 plugged into the charger if you want live traffic updates because the traffic receiver is built into the dangling cable. (That’s annoying.) And live traffic coverage with fast alternate-route suggestions is where the 2505 TM really shines.

In TomTom-speak, the TM designation in the model name means the 2505 receives lifetime map and traffic updates. In our real-world test, the navigator helped us avoid a nasty backup on the NJ Turnpike by immediately rerouting us to local roads. Before we could say “WTF?” we were making good time on a two-lane highway with only a few SUVs and minivans in front.

The live turn-by-turn instructions were loud and clear but we were disappointed that the female “Stephanie” computer voice was one of only a few pre-loaded options in English. No offense to Stephanie but she gets kind of irritating after a while. Customization choices, in general, are few on the 2505, but we’re told other voices and themes will be available in the near future as TomTom rolls out new software.

We loved the Advanced Lane Guidance feature, which shows you the correct lane to be in to catch your exit. (This came in handy in New Jersey where exit signs come fast and furious.) Though it’s not as responsive as an iPhone or iPod, the 2505’s touchscreen worked fairly well for us as we swiped between screens and pinched and enlarged our route. As already mentioned, the revamped menu system is easy to read — though the screen washes out in direct sunlight — and intuitive. We would like to see more Back buttons though; we kept getting stuck back at the home screen.

The only place where we got into trouble with our directions was heading back to Manhattan after our shopping trip. Instead of hopping on the turnpike, Stephanie kept insisting we take a shortcut around New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford. While that may have made sense on paper, it didn’t take into account the New York Giants game that was about to start. In fairness to Stephanie, traffic wasn’t so much a problem at that point but the thousands of blue-shirted Giants fans tailgating around the parking lot did tie us up.

WIRED Quick continuous routing (and rerouting) keeps you one step ahead of the traffic snarls. Helpful magnetic click-and-lock mount system should’ve been invented a long time ago. Voice recognition gives you control over basic functions while keeping your hands on the wheel. Bluetooth compatibility lets you answer cellphone calls, hands-free, with the navigator.

TIRED Traffic receiver in charging cable means you have to stay plugged in to steer clear. Hard to type in locations on touchscreen if you have fat fingers. No music options.

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