GPS devices have been around for a while, but they haven’t exactly made a mark for the Indian audience so far. Various reasons have been cited for that – their expensive pricing, the nature of the Indian roads and the poor porting of the software, interface and languages. Enter TomTom, a Dutch manufacturer for automotive navigation systems, who have been the frontrunners for navigation systems in Europe. They’ve launched a series of in-car GPS navigation devices for the Indian audience with the latest one being the VIA 125. Does it have enough to break the mould and limited target audience that GPS devices are currently finding themselves in? Let’s have a look.
On the Road: TomTom Via 125
Design and Build Quality
The TomTom VIA 125 comes dressed in a complete black outfit with the only other colour being the silver lining around the five inch screen. It's lightweight, looks sleek and with the matte finish, it’s definitely one of the better looking GPS devices we’ve seen in recent times. The screen is of the resistive variety and has a resolution of 480 x 272 pixels.
The suction cup is joint to the device at the back
The rear consists of the microSD card slot, along with the microUSB port with a travel adapter, so you’ll never run out of juice, if you’re using it in your car. The back also consists of the vehicle suction cup mounted with the joint ball mechanism that allows wide angle rotation. Lastly, there’s a speaker grill on the back for all your turn by turn navigation needs. TomTom have bundled in a rechargeable battery that lasts up to two hours on continuous operation. It’s a simple design, nothing fancy, but it’s perfect in match to the similarly plain looking dashboard of your car.
Sleek and stylish
The VIA 125 is intended to be used in a car, so naturally there are big icons donning the screen at every menu and sub menu. There are simple arrows that guide you on the screen as well and even if you’re a newbie, we’re pretty sure that you’ll get a hang of the interface in a jiffy. Every screen has six icons and the good part is that they’ve made clear bifurcations between each icon, so your touch will be registered, even if you don’t exactly click on the icon, but click within the grid, which makes it useful when you’re using it in-car.
5 inch resistive screen
To start off with, you simply need to put in your landmark or address, or choose from a recent destination. If you’re new to a particular surrounding, you can click on Point of Interest and the device will come up with important spots nearby, which range from a hotel, a car park, a petrol station to a restaurant. More of them can be added to that category as well. The co-ordinates and the point of location on a map can also be obtained. Overall, it’s a very simplistic interface and one that won’t take too much time to get used to.
finding destination was a slight issue
The performance of a GPS system is crucial, considering the sensitive, stressful (well at least on Indian roads!) environments you use it in. We took the TomTom out for a ride in our car and here’s what we found.
Firstly, entering the address information is a tad difficult, so if your destination is a certain Tarapoor Road, which is quite unknown or is so popular that you have a dozen Tarapoors in your vicinity itself, then you’ll need to gather some patience and find it on your device, unless you’re interested in going on a wild goose chase. When you overcome that small hiccup, the device starts off the 3D view that shows you where you are, the direction you have to go in and a voice assistant starts assisting you with turns. It works well, just as we pictured it to and that’s a plus. Another important factor to note is that the screen doesn’t reflect too much light and is bright enough even when there’s ample sunlight in the background. The voice-based assistant has a clear voice, unlike the accented one that we saw on the Garmin GPS, which we reviewed earlier. Also, it’s fairly loud, so even if you’ve rolled down the window and have hawkers and horns blaring into your car, your GPS will be loud and clear. On our downtown trip, it worked fairly well for a large share of the journey barring a few problems we’ve addressed in the next section.
The VIA 125 in action
As far as the cons are concerned, we did have a few problems at certain turnings. If there was too much traffic and the speed of the car varied a little, the GPS would inform us about our turn, when we were already half way through it, which did seem a little confusing. Next, we put a safety chime for a few parameters – driving above the max limit, near a school, driving above user defined limit, and driving on the right side of the road. It would beep periodically, but the GPS voice assist wouldn’t tell us what we erred on, so we had no clue whether we crossed the limit or were near a school. This means that it catches your attention, but leaves you confused with why it did so in the first place. Also, it instructed us twice to take an illegal u-turn, which was quite a glaring mistake on the GPS’s part.
Worthy enough for your car's needs?
The TomTom VIA 125 is priced at Rs.18,990. As far as the interface is concerned, the TomTom doesn’t disappoint at all, and though we would have loved to have more optimization for Indian roads, the VIA performs quite well.
However, does this mean we’d throw our smartphone app in the bin and settle for this device as a replacement? Well, not quite so. Because it’s not exactly a major improvement from what we get on our smartphone, which is quite quick as well. Obviously, this one being a standalone device has much more functionality, but not enough for us to invest solely into, especially at that price tag. If the TomTom VIA 125 was a few (okay, a little more than just a few) thousands less, our ratings would definitely have gone a few notches higher.
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