My wife has been harping me for a GPS in her car for some time. After a recent stint in a loaner car equipped with a factory GPS, I began searching in earnest for a good GPS to fill the need. I originally was looking at the Garmin Nuvi line but some of reviews commented on "commercials" appearing when the driver is stopped and I was totally unwilling to pay top dollar for a GPS just for the privilege of stairing at advertisements. When I saw the new GO and VIA lines from TomTom I decided to take a closer look. I ended up picking up both a GO2535TM and a VIA1505. The GO model is more of a "top of the line" model compared to the mid-grade VIA1505. I'll talk about some of the differences below but first let me give a brief summary of my findings with the 1505: Pros:
Very fast re-routing.
Very large screen.
Really helpful intersection detail screens pop up when going through a route.
No problem with polarized sunglasses. Cons:
Screen washes out badly in the Texas sun.
Battery life is less than 90 minutes.
Suction cup mount is permanently attached.
Speed limit data is often inaccurate.
User interface is kind of slow.
MyTomTom service is barely beta quality.
Very slow acquisition of GPS signal (> 90 seconds) FORM FACTOR
The VIA1505 is a very svelte GPS with a large screen. It's so thin and light (with such a big screen) that you can't help but recognize it features the very latest technologies. The price of the VIA1505 is low enough that I am willing to forgive many of the flaws I'm about to describe. MYTOMTOM SOFTWARE
The first thing I will comment about is the MyTomTom application that one uses to perform all firmware and map updates. TomTom is kind enough to provide an initial free map update for the VIA1505 through the MyTomTom application. I installed the MyTomTom app on both a Macintosh and a Windows 7 system. The UI was similar on both computers and I didn't detect any difference in the quality or features. The application had an annoying tendancy to keep launching even though I had changed the setting to tell it not to launch each time I turned on my computer. That is the first of many bugs. I initially activated my TomTom GO2535TM. This went smoothly however it did not find any map updates. I then tried to add the VIA1505 to my account but I received a very cryptic error "something has gone wrong". I'm serious, that was the error message. I googled but could not find anything. I tried about a dozen times and continued to get this error. I tried on both the Mac and Windows and continued to get the error. Finally I thought "maybe I need to create a separate login on MyTomTom for the second GPS?". Upon creating a second login on the TomTom website, the VIA1505 linked without error and proceeded to download firmware and map updates. Of course, this leads me to wonder why my GO2535TM is not seeing map updates! SCREEN
I took the GPS out to my car to go for a spin. I was immediately pleased to see that my polarized sunglasses did not interfere with screen visibility. Unfortunately, when I stepped outside of my house, the Texas sun so badly washed out the display that I thought something was wrong. I stepped into my dark garage and suddenly the screen was clearly visible again. I went into the settings to make sure there weren't any power saving options or screen brightness settings that needing adjustment- there were not. Once I mounted the GPS in my car and started driving around, I continued to find the screen (on battery power) to be barely visible. On a hunch, I plugged in the (included) 12volt adapter cord and suddenly the screen became noticeably brighter. It still wasn't great, but it was at least visible even in the bright sunlight. I later learned that the battery life on this unit is so bad that I have to leave it plugged in all the time anyway. VEHICLE MOUNT
The suction cup mount for this unit is permanently affixed to the GPS screen. This means you have to re-stick it to your windshield each time you get in your car. This unit is inexpensive enough that you might be tempted to leave it mounted in the car all the time but I talk to SO many people that have had their car broken into for GPS units- it seems like it's not worth the risk of broken windows/doorlocks to leave it mounted. Because of the design, unmounting and mounting each time is definitely a lot harder than you'd expect. My GO2535TM has a magnetic removable mount that is much nicer. USER INTERFACE
I entered a few destinations using the built in search feature. It was reasonably easy to find restaurants and other points of interest near my house. I was a bit perplexed by how slow the interface was- when I pushed a key on the virtual keyboard there was usually a noticeable delay. The delay was so long that sometimes I ended up pushing the same key multiple times before the letter showed up on the screen. This took some getting used to and seems like it could be fixed with better tuned firmware in the future. I'm crossing my fingers! BATTERY
With a full charge, I've been getting less than 90 minutes of battery life. I haven't actually used the unit until the battery totally expires but I have seen the low battery warning come on well before the 90 minute mark. This is a bit annoying as it means you realistically have to leave it plugged in most of the time. Due to the screen brightness issue, I'm having to leave it plugged in anyway. GPS SIGNAL ACQUISITION
The first time I left my house, I was puzzled because the GPS wasn't showing any movement. I drove out of my neighborhood and to a nearby stoplight. This is about a 90 second drive. During this time the GPS said it was "acquiring GPS signal". Finally, while sitting at the stoplight, the GPS updated and correctly showed my location for the remainder of my drive. This initial acquisition was a lot slower than I expected. Sometimes when I'm downtown at a baseball game I want to quickly figure out how to get home. If I have to wait 90 seconds to get a GPS signal, I'll be driving blind for quite some time before I get any guidance as to which one-way street is going to take me to the desired interstate. If I sit in my car for 90 seconds, tons of fans pour into the streets and cause endless backups. I'm pretty disappointed with this and am hoping it improves with firmware updates. SPEED LIMIT DISPLAY
One feature of the VIA1505 is that it displays posted speed limits on major roads. Unfortunately, I estimate that 25% of the speed limits in the VIA1505 are inaccurate. In many cases the posted speeds are slower than what the GPS displays. This is a recipe for a speeding ticket! In the end, I find that I can't trust and have to ignore these speed limits. I wish there was a way to hide them altogether since they can't be depended on. Both my VIA1505 and GO2535TM have this issue so it seems to be something in TomTom's data feed. POINTS OF INTEREST
I configured my VIA1505 to display restaurants and gas stations along my route. I found that it was a bit spotty. There were several gas stations (Citgo, Valero and even some Shell stations) that I drove by that did not appear on my map. Several Chevrons did show up. Likewise with restaurants, the TomTom was missing a Burger King, Jack in the Box and Chick-fil-a however it showed me several McDonalds and Sonics. I did not notice any "small" restaurants showing up on the GPS. Good luck finding a hole-in-the-wall gem with the TomTom. I'm not surprised or disappointed by that- just reporting the facts. NAVIGATION GUIDES
Where this unit really shines is in the most basic feature of taking you to a destination. First, I love the custom intersection and highway exit screens that come up to tell you which direction each lane can go. At one point I was on a 7-lane stretch of freeway and the TomTom dutifully drew all 7 lanes with arrows showing where they were headed (veering right, going straight, etc...). Very cool and very confidence inspiring! I love this feature. REROUTING
Also, this unit is very fast at recalculating routes. Even on a 60 minute drive, any slight change in my route resulted in a reroute in just a matter of seconds. I've read other GPS units taking 60-90 seconds to calculate a new route. Clearly this is not an issue for the VIA1505. My wife also commented on how quickly the unit rerouted when she altered her route. This is a very important feature and one at which the VIA1505 excels. IQ ROUTES
Another feature that seems to work as advertised is the "IQ Routes" that allow the VIA1505 to route you around predicted traffic jams. If I leave work at lunch time, it will take me home via one route. If I leave at 5:30, it takes me another route that completely bypasses a huge backup with the first route. This is a great feature to have given that this product does not have any traffic updates. SUMMARY
All told, I love my GO2535TM and am fairly neutral on the VIA1505. The lousy screen and lousy mounting options really detract from this otherwise fine product. For 70% more (about $100), the TomTom GO2535TM has a beautiful glass screen that shines brightly and a nifty magnetic mount that allows for easy snap-in/out. If the VIA1505 wasn't so cheap, I'd probably return it for another GO2535TM. As it is, it's just cheap and good enough that it will likely earn a permanent spot in my car. If any meaningful updates occur, I'll modify my review.
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