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July 14, 2008

TomTom GO 920T Review

GPSmagazine Rating: 3.5 of 5
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6. Map Screen

TomTom's Map Screen
Figure 51: TomTom's Map Screen

Whether navigating to a destination, or simply driving around, most of your time with the GO 920T will be spent looking at the Map Screen, shown above.

By default, the following information is displayed on the map:

  1. Zoom In
  2. Navigation instruction for the road ahead. Tapping this area repeats the last verbal instruction
  3. Highlighted Route (the path you'll be driving)
  4. The name of the next major road, or road sign information, if applicable
  5. Zoom Out
  6. GPS signal strength
  7. Trip information: trip time, remaining distance, arrival time. The information displayed in this box can be customized, as shown later in this review
  8. The name of the road you are currently traveling on

The Map Screen is one of the most critical aspects of any GPS. A well designed map screen should convey essential navigation information in an intuitive and visually appealing manner.

Speed Limit Information
Figure 52: Speed Limit Information

TomTom's go 920T displays speed limit information when driving on most major roadways. If your current speed exceeds the posted speed limit for the road you are traveling on, the current versus legal speed limit is displayed in the lower-right corner of the GPS, as shown above.

In this example, the posted speed limit is 55, but the GO 920T is traveling at 62 MPH.

Automatic Map Zooming
Figure 53: Automatic Map Zooming

When navigating to a destination, the GO 920T automatically adjusts the map's zoom level to suit the situation. For example, when approaching an upcoming turn, the GPS automatically zooms in to a street level view. Once the turn is complete, the map will gradually return to a more zoomed out view.

Automatic map zooming can be turned on or off in the system preferences.

Figure 54: Status Bar Position

The GO 920T allows the map screen's status bar to be highly customized to suit your own personal preferences. The status bar position option, shown above, allows users to choose whether they want the status bar to be displayed horizontally (default) or vertically.

Configuring the Status Bar, Part I
Figure 55: Configuring the Status Bar, Part I

The GO 920T ships with the remaining time, distance, current time, arrival time, and speed selected for display on the map screen's status bar. This screen lets users customize how much or little they care to see displayed on the status bar.

Configuring the Status Bar, Part II
Figure 56: Configuring the Status Bar, Part II

Although it can be tempting to turn on all available information, the default settings can appear cluttered, and make it difficult to read the map.

Some drivers will prefer to disable some of the default settings, instead opting for a cleaner map screen that can be more easily read from the driver's seat.

TomTom versus Garmin Map Screen
Figure 57: TomTom versus Garmin Map Screen

Compared to Garmin's map screen, TomTom's display is more cluttered. Mapping lines also appear slightly more jagged on TomTom's map than Garmin's.

Notice that Garmin's map screen displays the name of the upcoming exit as a large, green banner across the top of the map with white text that mimics the font and colors used in actual highway signs. The vanishing point on the 3D map is also less severe on Garmin's map, making it easier to see what lies ahead.

On the other hand, TomTom's map is capable of displaying more information than Garmin's, and can be customized to suit your own preference, something Garmin's software does not permit. Notice that the GO 920T's map screen in the figure above is showing lane guidance information, as well the number of minutes ahead of schedule we should arrive at our destination, neither of which are displayed on Garmin's map.

For many, the map screen will be more a matter of personal preference rather than a "good" or "bad" judgment. I tend to prefer the Garmin map, but many people find TomTom's map satisfactory, and appreciate the additional information TomTom offers on its map screen.

7. Enhanced Positioning Technology

Enhanced Positioning Technology (EPT)
Figure 58: Enhanced Positioning Technology (EPT)

Enhanced Positioning Technology, or EPT, is another TomTom feature unique to the GO 900 series. EPT estimates your location when GPS reception is poor, such as when you drive between tall buildings, or through a tunnel. Sensors inside the GO 920T detect your current speed and heading, and are able to estimate your position on the map for short periods of time when no GPS signal is available.

When the GO 920T is making use of Enhanced Positioning Technology, the EPT icon is shown on lower-right portion of the status bar, as shown in the above figure.

EPT worked well in my testing. When driving through a tunnel, EPT took over and continued to show my progress as I drove through the tunnel. Once through the tunnel and back in satellite reception, EPT automatically turned off and normal GPS positioning resumed.