Pros: Easy to use, large screen, added features, gets me where I want to go!
Cons: Traffic doesn't seem to work for non-major highways/freeways, no bluetooth, doesn't include Voice-To-Text
A few years ago I purchased the TomTom ONE Third Edition during Black Friday. Last Christmas, I realized the maps were getting outdated. To purchase map updates was going to be a little pricey, so I decided it was time to upgrade to something a little newer and faster, with more bells and whistles. After searching all the Black Friday advertisements, I came to the conclusion to stick with TomTom and give the VIA 1505TM a try.
Now, before I get too heavy into the review, if you're reading this, you've probably been doing some research on GPS units and you've narrowed your choices down. If this unit made your list and you're REALLY considering it because of the voice to text recognition, this unit DOES NOT have voice to text recognition. I repeat it-does-not-have-it!!! Despite what I read online and even in the owner’s manual, the 1505 does not include this functionality. If you're interested in voice to text recognition, you'll have to go up to the next model (the 1535) to get this. Apparently, these two models are so close that they even include the same manual, pretty dumb on TomTom's part as you spend hours trying to figure out how to turn on the voice to text recognition like it explains in the directions. Ugh... Now, on to the good stuff.
* * * In The Box * * *
So, what's included in the box? The TomTom VIA 1505TM includes the GPS unit, one (1) Car charger cable, one (1) USB cable (for connecting your TomTom to your computer), one (1) Windshield/Suction Cup Holder, one (1) Adhesive disk for dashboard mount and the Quick Start documentation. If you want the full 77 page manual, I found it online at http://www.manualbuddy.com/1554/tomtom-via-1505tm-manual (download it to your computer or smartphone so you have it when you need it).
* * * Trip Setup * * *
The TomTom VIA is very easy to navigate around and setup trips. Tap the screen once to view all the menu options, select Navigate to... then choose if you want to go Home, to one of your personal Favorite locations, to an exact address, recent destination, or Point of Interest. Most of the time, you'll select Address and then simply enter in the City or Zip Code, street name and then house number. Each of these menus contain an auto-complete feature, so as you're typing the city name, the TomTom provides possible options so you can just select it instead of typing the entire name. Because of this feature, it may seem a little awkward, but it requires you to enter an address (kind of) backwards. First, select the state, then the city, then the street and finally the house/building number. While it may seem weird, I got used to it.
You're now ready to start your first trip! The options and preferences for setting up a trip are endless. You can specify if you're going to be walking, biking, driving, if you're looking for the shortest route or fastest route, if you want to avoid freeways, avoid routes with traffic, etc... I personally find this procedure very easy and fast to follow. I would never recommend setting up a trip while you’re driving because it takes too much time with your eyes off the road. So, set it up before you leave and you’ll be good to go.
* * * The Trip * * *
Now that your first trip is programmed you can begin driving. The TomTom is very easy to read at day and night and provides different displays for you to manually or automatically change between (a darker screen for nighttime driving). By default, once you begin your trip it shows the map view. This view is very helpful if you want to get a bird’s eye view of the area to see the roads around you or any preferred Points of Interest (gas stations, train stations, hospitals, airports, ATM’s, etc.). It also gives you plenty of warning before you’re next turn and announces the actual street name for you. This is so much nicer than just saying, “Turn left in 200 yards.”
The TomTom VIA also makes it very easy to change your route. Make a wrong turn? Need to avoid a specific route? No problem, the VIA automatically recalculates your route very fast! If you want to avoid a specific road (for whatever reason), simply tap Find Alternative... in the main menu to change the route that is currently planned. From here, you can:
1) Calculate an Alternative route - this will calculate a new route using totally different roads to reach your destination.
2) Avoid Roadblock - Tap this if you see a roadblock or a lot of traffic ahead. You then have to choose how much of the route ahead you want to avoid.
If the congestion suddenly opens up, simply tap Recalculate original to return to your original route.
3) Travel Via - Tap this button to change your route so that it passes a particular location, perhaps to pick someone up on the way.
4) Recalculate Original - Tap this button to return to the original route without deviations to avoid roadblocks or traveling via particular locations.
5) Avoid part of route - Tap this button to avoid a part of the route. Use this button if you see that your route includes a road or junction you don't like, or which is well known for traffic problems.
* * * Additional Features * * *
1) Text to voice – On older models of the TomTom (and I’m sure other GPS devices), many people complained that the processors were too slow and by the time it would announce the street name, you already missed your turn. This is definitely not the case with the TomTom VIA. The VIA does a great job converting text to voice in a short amount of time.
2) Traffic – The ability to notify me of traffic jams and reroute my trip accordingly seemed almost too good to be true, so I decided to give it a try. First of all, while many other GPS devices require you to subscribe for traffic services, the TomTom VIA includes it. Next, in order to get this to work, you MUST use the car charger that’s included with the TomTom VIA. This is because the antenna is built into the wire for the car charger. This is so much nicer than having to purchase an extra wire (for the antenna) and then having to hang it in your windshield. So, how did it work? It’s easy enough to implement, just plug-in the charger and the traffic meter will automatically display on the left side of the screen, to notify of you of any delays. However, driving through the Chicago suburbs, it didn’t seem to pick-up the traffic conditions on major streets and roads. However, it did work on the expressways and highways. Going on a major trip, I can see where this could come in handy, but otherwise, I think I’ll just stick to the traffic on my iPhone.
3) Upgradeable Maps/Points of Interest (POI's) - With the use of the MyTomTom software (see Computer Connectivity below for more details), you can easily download any new maps and/or POI's. TomTom also offers a community where you can share your map and POI corrections. One of the main reasons for purchasing the VIA 1505TM is for the lifetime updates for traffic and maps (that’s what the TM stands for). This means, for as long as you own your TomTom, just plug it into your computer, connect to the MyTomTom software and you’ll be able to download the latest maps and updates from TomTom! Now, the only reason I’ll have to upgrade my TomTom is if I want other features and not because the maps are out of date!
4) Interface - The interface for the VIA is very easy once you get used to it and is very similar to the old TomTom ONE interface. With the larger 5" screen, the UI has much bigger buttons and room for additional text to make it easier to find things and navigate. Tap anywhere on the screen to setup a trip, view the map, change your settings, etc. When driving, the interface includes a 2D/3D view and a lot of important information is displayed on the screen, including: Zoom in/out, current position (on the map), the next major road, direction for the road ahead, the name of the street you're on, trip information (trip time, remaining distance, estimated arrival time), GPS signal strength, time, speed (mph).
When getting into the options and preferences, all the menus are very easy to understand and navigate through. The buttons are large so you can quickly see what to tap to continue.
5) Battery Life - After fully charging the battery, my old TomTom ONE would last approximately an hour. The VIA seems to be MUCH better and it now lasts a few hours. Even when I turn the unit off, it seems to maintain the charge for several weeks without needing to be recharged. With that said, I still wouldn't plan a long trip (or any trip for that matter) if you're not 100% sure where you're going, without leaving the charger in the car. Nothing's worse than getting lost in an unfamiliar area and having a dead battery in your GPS device!
6) Screen size - With the VIA's 5" touchscreen, it's big enough to view when mounted to your vent or dashboard. Even for my 65 year old father, who drives a Chevy Suburban, with a deep windshield, the screen is big enough to see.
7) Physical Size - The entire VIA unit is 5.3" x 3.7" x 1.3" and weighs approximately 7.7 ounces! The size of the VIA is great!
8) Voices - The VIA comes with quite a few male and female voices to choose from. However, if you don't like these, you can use the HOME software to connect to the internet where you can purchase celebrity voices. If you choose to use the ones included, they are all easy to understand.
9) Multimedia Capabilities - Many GPS devices allow you to store MP3's (music), digital pictures, etc. on the device. The TomTom VIA does NOT offer this functionality. This is not that big of a deal for me, my car stereo already plays MP3's and I don't need to look at pictures while I'm driving. The VIA does include a slot for what appears to be a Micro-SD card, but this is only for downloading and storing additional maps, not for multimedia files.
10) Time to get signal - Turning on the VIA for the first time, I was a bit excited to check it out. My old TomTom ONE 3rd Edition would always find the signal pretty quickly, but this isn't the case with the VIA. Each time I turn it on, it seems to take SEVERAL MINUTES to find the GPS signal. This was a huge let down compared to the ONE! On a 1/2 hour drive to the airport, it was about 15 minutes into the drive before it found a signal. I will give kudos to TomTom for adding a new feature (compared to the ONE) that will at least allow you to use your last known location while it attempts to find the GPS signal. This makes things a little better, but still doesn't completely make up for the fact that it takes so long to get the initial signal. Your only real option is to turn on the device a few minutes before you're getting ready to leave, to ensure it has a GPS signal.
11) Bluetooth Integration - The VIA does NOT include any Bluetooth integration. This is one of the few negatives I found with this unit. Having Bluetooth would allow you to connect your phone to your GPS device to make calls and automatically dial your phone for you. Many of the other devices include Bluetooth, but for quite a bit more money. While this would have been a nice to have, I wasn't about to fork out the extra cash for it.
12) Voice Recognition - Just in case you missed my rant up above, while all the documentation says this unit comes with Voice to Text recognition, it's a lie! Only the VIA 1535 model comes with this functionality.
13) Computer Connectivity - If you're upgrading from an older TomTom unit (that used the TomTom HOME software), you might experience some issues. First, you will need to completely uninstall the old TomTom HOME software from your computer. Next, follow the instructions for installing the new MyTomTom software. Even if you have an existing online account with TomTom, I read too many complaints from people saying it wouldn't sync unless they created an entirely new online account with TomTom's website. I created a new account (with one of my secondary email accounts) and didn't have a single problem. Anyway, after the MyTomTom software is installed, it will allow you to connect your device to your computer (using the included USB cable) where you can download any new maps, voices, POI's, update your TomTom with the latest software, make backups, set a password and even use it to enter your trip (as opposed to typing on the TomTom unit).
14) Mounting - The VIA includes a strong suction cup for mounting to your windshield and a plastic disk that you can stick to your dashboard and then mount the suction cup to that. In order to mount the suction cup to the windshield, it requires you to stick it to the window and then turn a dial (over the suction cup) to tighten it. This feels a bit cumbersome when you're trying to reach into the windshield. However, since I wanted mine to be closer to me, I purchased on Ebay a vent mount and it works great. If interested, try doing a search on Ebay for "tomtom via 1505 vent mount" and check out the different kinds they have. I actually purchased a universal mount, so when I'm not using it for my TomTom, I use it to set my iPhone in while I'm driving.
* * * Conclusion * * *
As an entry level GPS device, I couldn't ask for anything more. I absolutely love everything about the TomTom VIA 1505TM and I find it very easy to use and navigate. So far, I haven't experienced any issues with the VIA sending me on a wild goose chase or out of the way. When needing to get from Point A to Point B, it did the job and it did a GREAT job at it! I would highly recommend this product to anyone in the market for a GPS unit.