Gadget Guru: When your Tom Tom goes wrong

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Tom Tom Go 910 Personal GPS Navigation unit

Q. I just purchased the TomTom 910 and find it to be an excellent navigator when it works. The problem is that whenever I drive over a bump in the road (even very smooth ones) the Tom Tom unit shuts off and the screen goes blank; and the battery charge light also goes off at the same time.

Sometimes when I go over another bump, the Tom Tom switches back on again and picks up where it left off. Many times the unit goes blank right when I am receiving instructions which is particularly annoying and defeats the purpose of the device.

I suspect the problem is that the windscreen doc is not ‘docking’ snuggly with the Tom Tom, although it clicks when I attach it. This problem does not occur with my daughter’s lower end Tom Tom 300 which has a simpler windscreen dock.

Did you experience the problem I have described with the unit you tested and what do you recommend I do to resolve the problem?

Ashok Sikand.

A. I am sorry to hear you are having these problems. Certainly my test unit worked fine though I must admit I was a little nervous connecting/disconnecting it to the windscreen dock the first time because it took so much pressure and I though I might damage the connector.

I am sure you are right – the problem is that the docking connection is loose and since – unlike the Tom Tom 300, the power connector plugs into the dock not the Tom Tom 910 itself, when you go over a bump it is losing its power connection along with the connection to the dock.

This is not a long term solution, but if you charge the Tom Tom 910 up using its home dock and plug in power block overnight, then at least it won’t switch off when you hit a bump – the battery will take over.

I did some more research on the internet and found quite a few discussion group references to problems with the docking connector. In most cases the users had to get the docking station replaced so I suspect this may have been an issue with some early production units which hopefully has been resolved.

Q. Thank you for the column on the TomTom GPS units. You mention that the maps are preloaded onto its 20GB hard drive. How does one go about updating the software once new maps are available? Does TomTom (or some other vendor) sell updated map discs that can be installed onto the hard disks by the consumer? If that is the case, how much do these generally cost?

Laurie Lefcowitz

A. Yes, TomTom sells TeleAtlas map updates (and map data for other regions) which you download using an internet-based PC connected to the Go 910 using a supplied USB cable and the TomTom Home software package that also comes with the device.

You can find a list of the maps on the tomtom website (www.tomtom.com)

As for pricing, updated maps of Western Europe, for example, cost $198 and Hong Kong costs €39.98.

Q. I read your piece about satellite navigation portable GPS units this morning. I ended up buying the Garmin Quest because (a) it is waterproof and so can be used for hiking and (b) it has a bicycle clip. It wasn’t clear from your piece whether Tom Tom has got there too.

Ian R

A. Actually I think you made a good choice for the functionality you require. I really like the TomTom interface and the fact that the latest units use the new chipset, but their product range is somewhat more limited than Garmin.

There is a shoulder carry bag for the 910 and other models that costs about £33 but no bicycle mounting clip that I am aware of.

TomTom does sell a dedicated 2-wheel unit (the Rider) but it is designed primarily for motorbikes and scooters and is a bit bulky.

They also do a pocket bluetooth unit and software called TomTom Mobile 5 that costs about £200 and works with a reasonably large range of mobile phones and smartphones.

Q. Two notes on TomTom. 1) Isn’t the mapping database from TeleAtlas not Navtech? 2) Isn’t the TomTom 910 a successor to the 700, rather than the 300, which is a relatively low end device?

Charles Elliott

A. Well spotted Charles... I have just corrected the map source for the online version of the article to TeleAtlas (which supplies the maps for all versions but the Tom Tom Rider) and yes, strictly speaking the 910 succeeds the 700.

Q. I have often thought about a GPS system in my car. However, if you don’t take your car everywhere, then you don’t need one: I know my way around my own neighborhood!

Consider this as a viable alternative, even though it is unlikely that you will use it in your column. I travel extensively and I recently upgraded my BlackBerry to the 8700 model. I have Google local installed on it, which is, by and large, faultless. Two weeks ago in Seatlle, I directed a cab to a remote golf course well out of town. Last week in Dallas, I directed the cab from Dallas to a restaurant in Plano. I could go on, but you get the picture, if you will pardon the pun. The screen is as good as any, and I like the satellite view.

The only time I have got into trouble is when I did not believe or trust the instructions. Along with Google local, I use their SMS/text messaging system. I wanted sea food in New Orleans last week - no problem, there is a list of restaurants within two miles, directions, web links etc.

It is becoming a hand held world. My wife, who usually rolls her eyes at gadgets, is seriously impressed at this sort of technology, which is still in Beta form.

Gerald Levy

A. Thanks Gerald, I love my Blackberry 8700 as well and certainly the bigger screen and improved resolution makes it a much more useful tool. You are right, many people might be best served using a handheld wireless device like a BlackBerry rather than a dedicated GPS unit.

Indeed there are also quite a few Bluetooth add-ons that turn a handheld into a GPS device, and several software and mobile services that add GPS mapping capabilities to mobile phones.

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