For those of you who are thinking of buying a detachable car navigation, here is my experience with two new models from Garmin and TomTom. The Garmin 1350LMT and TomTom Via 1435TM, both around $220 Canadian, the Garmin being the cheaper of the two.
I had the TomTom GPS for 3 days and took it back because of the constant "fight" I had with it trying to set my destination. For those of you that are wondering, my "tech level" is advanced, so my issues with the GPS was not because I did not know what I was doing, but because the user interface is a bit unpolished for North America.
Here is my summary of the TomTom compared to my new Garmin 1350 LMT.TomTom Pros:
- polished and elegant interface
- beautiful icons
- superb voice to text (very natural sounding)
- customizable with many/many options
- voice recognition (did work good - you can tell it the address and it will - cross your fingers - recognize it)
- one click to go back to main mapTomTom Cons:
- DOES NOT RECOGNIZE SOME STREET NAMES or POSTAL CODES
- quite hard to enter addresses
- keyboard layout sucks - letters and numbers are on two separate screens and you have to click on the ABC or 123 key to get to them
- does not recognize some postal codes (if it doesn't, it only suggest first three letters eg. T1Y)
- TomTom traffic FM traffic NOT AVAILABLE in Canada according to customer service (probably in the States it is). If you need traffic information you need to subscribe to TomTom's LIVE service which you pay for and I don't think is available on the VIA
- windshield mount integrated into the unit - you can't detach it - which makes the unit 'bulky' and not great for carrying aroundGarmin Pros
- super easy to use - 3/4 clicks and your destination is set!
- enter address by zip or postal code (yes, the TT has it too but such a pain to enter it!!)
- better more sensitive screen
- detachable mounting hardware (makes the Garmin nice and slim)
- more accurate North America maps (this is only my opinion. I am basing this assumption on my city only so I am assuming it is true for all NA
- 4h battery life (vs 2h TT)
- user interface is easier to navigate and more intuitive
- It does support FM traffic reports in Canada (most major cities) with ads advertised on your device (small quick pop ups - that is how Garmin covers the costs of that system, which is free to you and me)Garmin Cons
- horrible, horrible text to voice (Windows 95 era!)
- less customizable (example, you can't select your map color theme)
- "recalculating route" is said EVERY time the route is missed - maybe there is a way to turn off only that warning, but I haven't figured that out yet
- more cartoonish icons (trying hard to come with more negatives here
- once you dig yourself into the menus, there is no "one click way out". Your are stuck going back and back and back and back until you hit the main screen (or main map)
I guess that is it. Overall the Garmin is packed with less technology but it does what it suppose to do... allow you to enter your destination in few simple steps and get you there.
The fact that TomTom does not support traffic information in Canada (maybe some GTA areas) yet advertise that they do (and sell FM receivers) is a slap in the face. If you don't need that feature, the Via 1435 is a good GPS with smart route recalculation and excellent text to voice function, however, the fact that you have to fight the interface to enter the destination 1st, completely turned me off to the device.
I can't report anything on the Garmin FM traffic feature as I have not had the "privilege" to get stuck in traffic yet.
In conclusion, if i would be in Europe, I would totally use a TomTom but since I am in Canada, there is no point to sugar coat things and be frustrated with a product that does okay of a job getting you from point A to point B. Garmin lacks behind the technology aspects of the TomTom, but it gets the job done in few simple clicks. My heart desires TomTom now since I have the Garmin, but my mind prevails with the more logical option...the Garmin.UPDATE: July 7, 2011
So I had the Garmin for few weeks now and here are few more things to add:1.
The text to voice sounds better when you use other than the default American-female voice (which I think is too high pitched and the sound processor is distorting some syllables). Male voices are typically more clearer as they sound "deeper". I am using British voices now... I think "Emily" is her name. There are Australian voices but they just sound horrible (not because of the accent).2.
Garmin's FM traffic does work and works well. You can tell the GPS to go around the traffic area if such possibility is available. The GPS will also automatically warn you of traffic problems on your route, and tell you the approx. time of the delay (added to your arrival time). I found this feature actually quite accurate, with the ETA time almost 100% accurate.3.
Route calculations are a bit iffy still. For example, the quickest route to my work is not the one the GPS tells me to take. Which is strange because the road is on the map. However, for a trip outside the city, going from point A to point B, the GPS DID suggest the quickest route, which was accurate. So I don't think that this is the GPS's IQ problem - it may just need a map update.(point of interest...my TomTom DID give me the correct route going to work - the route that I usually take)4.
I haven't encountered any FM Traffic ads yet popping up on my screen. I am not sure when they come on (hopefully never!)5.
The Garmin DOES support other spoken languages. It may not say the street name (I have tested that during a road trip, more city testing needed), but it will say, "in 500 meters turn left" in a different language. This was one of the things that originally swayed me towards the TomTom (Garmin didn't advertise this very well and I didn't know it was avaiable). I was pleasantly surprised of this feature.6.
Cannot stress enough the day and night difference in entering your destination... and if you know the zip/postal code, it takes seconds. It's awesome!7.
The GPS does have some useful little tools. Not like it matters to most of us (not like we can make a choice, unless choosing to drive a smaller vehicle) but the Garmin will estimate your carbon footprint per each route. If the route is, for example 200km, not only it will tell you travel time, distance, average fuel consumption among few things, but also it will tell you how much CO2 you have released into the atmosphere... example 30kg on that trip only. I am sure the CO2 info is not 100% accurate but probably accurate enough to make you think.
PS: In order for this feature to work, you have to enter some vehicle information first, such as how many miles you can do in a city, highway, how expensive is gas, etc. None the less... neat feature.