November 26, 2011, 8:09 AM — One thing that has remained constant over the years is that we still like to travel. Whether it's by plane, train or automobile, we're always on the go. They say that the journey is more important than the destination, so we feel that if you have to make the journey, at least use some devices and gadgets that can make you more productive, comfortable or informed during the trip. Here are our favorite gift ideas for the road warrior on your list:
Products reviewed in this category:
Go LIVE 2535 M GPS unit, by TomTom
Omni-Heat Thermal Electric Jacket, by Columbia
Powerbag backpack, by Powerbag
Whirl Mini Notebook Laser Mouse and Mouse Pad Travel Pouch, by Smartfish
USB Dual Mobile Charging Hub, by Qmadix
TruConnect Mobile Broadband service, by TruConnect Mobile
Qumi Q2-W HD Pocket Projector, by Vivitek
SHOWWX+ Laser Pico Projector, by Microvision
Via 1535 GPS unit, by TomTom
Joos Orange portable solar charger, by Solar Components
Guide 10 Plus Mobile Kit (solar charging), by GoalZero
Steamer Beverage Heater, by GoalZero
With GPS now appearing on practically every portable device (smartphones, tablets, etc.) or being built directly into cars themselves, the makers of stand-alone GPS units need to make sure they have more and more features to make them appealing. In the case of TomTom, this means adding things like Internet access (to search for places or services depending on your position), live traffic updates, voice commands and Bluetooth speaker capabilities for your smartphone.
The Go Live 2535 M unit we tried from TomTom included all of these features - the most appealing is the HD Traffic Service, which delivers traffic updates to your device every two minutes, to help the user get around traffic jams and other commuter nightmare scenarios. The updates are delivered to the unit when the car charger cable is attached, and in my tests it did a really accurate job of telling me where the traffic jam was going to occur, and approximately how long it would take me to get through it. In cases where an alternate route would provide a faster trip, the system can re-route you automatically (in case you ever wondered if getting off the exit would be faster or not, now the TomTom can tell you).
Your appreciation of this feature will depend on many things - how often do you travel in bad traffic situations, the availability of alternate routes that would help you, and the accuracy of the traffic information (sometimes, traffic data information is very slow and unreliable). In my case, there usually isn't a better alternate route on my commute, at least one that speeds up the trip, unless the traffic jam is a major one. But for longer trips or when going to places where you might not know the side roads, this is an interesting option.
The voice command feature was also fun to try - instead of awkwardly trying to type in an address or location where you'd like to navigate, you can use your voice - issuing commands like "take me home" or "take me to an address", and then dictating the address and city - again, in my tests, the unit was quite accurate as long as I didn't have a stereo blasting or kids blabbing in the back seat.
Other features of this unit include Google Local Search, a fuel price service, latest weather conditions, advanced lane guidance (always helpful on long trips, the system lets you know what lane is best so you don't have to cross four lanes to get to your exit) and street name pronunciations. Some of these services are wrapped up in the company's LIVE services, which costs $59.95 per year, and are only available in the U.S. TomTom also has a wide variety of voices that you can program into the device, including Simpsons characters (Homer and Mr. Burns, particularly are funny), as well as KITT from Knight Rider, and some Star Wars characters (Darth Vader, especially). Those cost about $13 extra and can be downloaded from TomTom's web site.
One final note - the unit's Click & Lock Mount was amazingly easy to connect - no longer do you have to worry about whether the mount is going to fall off during your trip - the magnetic mount makes it easy to put the unit on the mount, and the suction-cup part screws in and clicks to lock. Yay!
This is a premium GPS unit, so I'd recommend this for people who travel to new destinations on a daily basis, or need the benefits of the live traffic updates - for casual GPS users, I'd recommend other versions of TomTom's navigation devices.
Cool Yule rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Keith Shaw