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TomTom GPS device a savvy navigator

  • Story Highlights
  • GPS offers address entry via voice and 3D renderings of complex intersections
  • Device also has optimized route calculation based on historical traffic data
  • Voice command feature can be inaccurate, and unit doesn't mount on dash
  • As a high-end, in-car GPS with the latest features, the TomTom GO 930 delivers

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By Bonnie Cha
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CNET.com

(CNET) -- When it comes to in-car GPS, TomTom has always been of the philosophy that its products should be about navigation first.

The company doesn't spend much time fussing over extras like multimedia, but rather focuses energy on navigation tools that will help the driver.

The TomTom GO 930 is a good example of this as it brings some new functions, such as advanced lane guidance, address entry via voice, and smarter route planning based on historical traffic data. Though there are some kinks that need to be worked out, they're all welcome and useful additions.

Plus, the portable navigation system offers text-to-speech functionality, integrated Bluetooth, and most importantly, accurate directions.

If you're in the market for a high-end, feature-packed GPS, the TomTom GO 930 is a solid choice. The TomTom GO 930 is available now for $499.95.

Design: The TomTom GO 930 stands out from previous TomTom GPS models as it ditches the standard silver casing for an all-black chassis. The look is sleek and sophisticated, and we imagine it'll look nice inside any car.

The device is also compact at 3.3 inches tall by 4.7 inches wide by 1 inch thick and 7.7 ounces, so you shouldn't have any problems transporting this between vehicles. In addition, the back has a soft-touch finish that provides a more rubbery texture for a better grip.

On the front, you'll find a spacious 4.3-inch WQVGA display with a 480x272-pixel resolution and 64,000-color output. Maps looked clear and bright, and the screen was readable in various lighting conditions. You can adjust the brightness and map colors under the Preferences menu.

The GO 930 also features new icons and a technology called Alfa Blending that claims to deliver smoother graphics. While the icons and graphics were clear and easy to read, we didn't really notice a huge difference from the GO 930 and previous TomTom models.

The software and interface is easy to use. That said, there are some areas, such as the Change Preferences menu, where you can go through several layers of submenus before you get to the option you want.

The onscreen keyboard is spacious, and you can switch between ABC and QWERTY format. There's even an option for left-handed users, which is nice.

On the bottom, there's an audio-out port, a RDS-TMC jack (for traffic), a mini USB/power connector port, an SD card expansion slot, and a reset button. The power button is located on top, while the speaker and external antenna jack are on the back.

The TomTom GO 930 comes packaged with a car charger, a Bluetooth remote control, a desktop cradle, a vehicle mount (windshield only), and reference material.

We're disappointed that TomTom doesn't include a dashboard disc for California and Minnesota drivers, since it's prohibited in these states to have anything attached to the windshield. We threw caution to the wind, however, and tried out the included mount. It's easy to install and held the unit securely in place. As we noted in the TomTom GO 720 review, we do wish there was an extra locking mechanism for the suction cup.

Features: As the flagship model, the TomTom GO 930 is jam-packed with features, including a handful of new functionalities. First, the system has 4GB of internal flash memory and comes preloaded with TeleAtlas maps of North America and Central and Western Europe and 5 million points of interest (POI).

As with the latest TomTom PNDs, the GO 930 also has the Map Share feature, giving you the most up-to-date maps. This is possible since Map Share allows you to make adjustments to your maps (such as noting blocked roads, updating POI, adding new streets, and so on) and then share the information with other drivers.

You can make the changes right on your system, save them, and then upload and share them with other users via the TomTom Home desktop companion. You can also download changes made by other TomTom users or you can opt to only download data verified by TomTom experts.

To plan a trip, you can enter your destination by address, city center, zip code, or intersection via the onscreen keyboard or with your voice. Yes, the GO 930 supports voice commands and unlike the Magellan Maestro 4250, you can enter an address by dictating it to the device.

Route calculations are also slightly different. As usual, you can instruct the device to calculate directions based on a number of criteria, including quickest or shortest route, with or without toll roads, or by a certain time. There are also pedestrian and bicycle planning modes.

However, new to the GO 930 is TomTom IQ Routes, which provides more "intelligent" routing based on the historical average speeds of a road during the weekday and weekends. In other words, it gives you a more accurate idea of driving and arrival time, and it also gives you the opportunity to find an alternate route.

The system also supports multidestination trips and automatic route recalculation. Traffic isn't included out of the box; you can get this with the TomTom GO 930T or you can purchase an RDS-TMC traffic receiver for $129.95.

You can view maps in 2D or 3D mode. A status bar at the bottom of the screen displays useful information, such as the next instruction, remaining distance, and estimated time of arrival. There are also two icons in the upper-right and upper-left corners that let you zoom in and out of maps.

The TomTom GO 930 also has advanced lane guidance functions, more specifically lane separation and 3D renderings of complex junctions. Lane separation displays onscreen the number of lanes and which lane you should be in for your upcoming turn, among other things.

And for particularly complicated intersections, you'll get a 3D image of what the area looks like as well as sign post information to give you a better idea of what's ahead.

In addition to the new visual aids, you continue to get standard text- and voice-guided turn-by-turn directions, including text-to-speech functionality. The GO 930 supports 24 languages for generic spoken directions. You can download more voices from TomTom Plus services.

The TomTom GO 930 has integrated Bluetooth, so you can pair it with a compatible Bluetooth cell phone and make hands-free calls. Even better, you can wirelessly transfer your phone's address book to the GPS, which we don't find often with other systems.

For incoming calls, you can either use the touch screen to accept or reject calls or turn on Auto-Answer in the Phone preferences menu to have the device automatically pick up after a certain time. The TomTom GO 930 also has the "Help Me" function with the "Where am I?" option that gives you the name of the street you are on and the nearest intersections, and can find the nearest police station, hospital, or car service center, based on your current location. From there, you can also dial out directly to any of those services as well as other POI.

Last but not least, the GO 930 has multimedia capabilities with a music player that plays MP3 and Audible audiobooks, and an image viewer with JPEG and BMP file format support. You can stream music wirelessly over your car stereo via the built-in FM transmitter. There's also an optional kit ($29.95) that will let you connect and operate your iPod through the GO 930.

Performance: We tested the TomTom GO 930 in San Francisco, and from a cold start, it only took the system about two minutes to get a fix on our location under clear skies, while subsequent starts only took a few seconds. The unit did a good job of tracking our location and kept a steady fix as we drove throughout the city.

As one would expect, the GO 930 did lose the signal when we drove under the Broadway Tunnel and into a parking garage, but it was able to reestablish a connection almost instantaneously.

We planned a couple of trips using the TomTom GO 930. First, we plotted our standard trip from the Marina district to CNET's downtown headquarters. We used the voice commands to enter addresses, and we found the system to be hit or miss, with about a 50 percent accuracy rate.

The GO 930 seemed to have the most trouble understanding numbers, whereas it was pretty good with city and street names. In all, we think it's easier, faster, and obviously more accurate to input addresses the old-fashioned way.

Once we entered all the information, the GO 930 was able to return with directions quickly. The system calculated a route based on the fastest IQ route for a weekday. We browsed the list of text-based instructions and found the itinerary to be accurate and an efficient route for that time of day.

The voice-guided directions were loud and clear, and the text-to-speech pronunciation was decent. However, there were a couple of occasions, where the GO 930 was a bit slow to instruct us about a turn. We'd just be going through an intersection when the unit would instruct us to take a left or a right turn. Fortunately, the system was quick with route recalculations.

To check out the complex juncture and lane assistance tools, we also planned a trip from the city to San Francisco International Airport, which would take us on U.S. Highway 101. As we approached the turnoff for the airport, the GO 930 presented us with a visual cue along the bottom of the screen that showed the number of lanes on the highway, which lane we should be in, and the direction we would be turning.

As we got closer to the exit, the screen switched to the intersection view, which showed a close-up 3D view of the roadway along with our specific exit sign. The view was rather generic, but it serves its main purpose. That said, the lane assistance function only seems to be available for major freeways and not surface streets.

Finally, we were able to pair the TomTom GO 930 with the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330 for Verizon Wireless. It took several attempts to connect the two, but once the connection was established, we were able to make and receive calls.

© 2009 CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved. CNET, CNET.com and the CNET logo are registered trademarks of CBS Interactive Inc. Used by permission.

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