TomTom sets the pace with the cheapest included lifetime traffic and lifetime map updates.
The TomTom XL 350-TM ($170, price as of 1/5/2011) should appeal to both existing fans of TomTom navigators and newcomers alike. Like other models in the XL 350 series, this unit boasts a 4.3-inch touchscreen.
The basic feature set of the 350 series of products match the features discussed in the previously reviewed XXL 540-S. Of course, the XL 350-TM includes lifetime, subscription-free live traffic and lifetime map updates. All of the 350 models include TomTom's IQRoutes technology, 7 million Points of Interest, Text to Speech, and maps for the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The included map sets often provide a point of differentiation between competing models, as many don't include maps for Mexico, and Canadian maps are often excluded from models with lower price points.
Not surprisingly, the XL 350-TM is identical in features to the XXL 550-TM. The only real difference between the two series of products is the screen size. The XXL 550s all feature a 5.0-inch diagonal screen, and the XL 350 products all have a standard 4.3-inch screen.
All XL 350 models, like the XXL 550 models, can be upgraded to a recently announced operating system upgrade. (By contrast, XXL 540 and XL 340 models cannot be upgraded with the latest OS update.) The new operating system includes quick access to the volume control and day/night settings directly from the main menu. Help is also available from the main menu with single touch access touch access to "Where am I" information that details street location, a map view and latitude/longitude. While this information is available on earlier models, getting the information takes an additional screen tap.
When planning a route, the route summary screen now includes a new "Change Route" option. This option takes you to an additional menu that provides choices to calculate an alternative route, plan a new route, minimize delays, avoid a roadblock, avoid part of a route, or travel via another way point. That way point can be any of the options available on the new "Plan route" menu which include Home, Favorite, Address, Recent Destination, Point of Interest or Point on Map. While these functions were available on the XL 340 products, you had to go to the main menu to access them. The XL 350 series puts them these functions in a more logical place--a nice UI tweak.
Overall, the menu structure and user interface on the XL350 is simplified and more streamlined than what you find on the XL 340 models. The "Change Preferences" menu, now called options on the XL 350, now consists of only three screens of choices as compared to the six screens of options that you'll find on the XL 340. Often used features in the new user interface can require fewer screen taps. However, TomTom removed the "quick menu" feature found in the XL 340 that provided single tap access to your choice of commonly used features.
Though the XL 350-TM lacks a Bluetooth phone interface, the subscription free lifetime built-in traffic, and lifetime map updates makes this product one of the best values on the market. If you're thinking of buying one of the other XL 350 models, do yourself a favor--skip a Starbucks or two and buy the TM. You'll be set for life.
This story, "Review: TomTom XL 350-TM" was originally published by PCWorld.
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