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Preview: TomTom XL 350, XXL 550 GPS navigators

Consumer Reports News: May 14, 2010 05:12 PM

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TomTom XL 350
Photo: TomTom
TomTom has announced its latest portable navigation devices (PND), the new XL 350 and XXL 550. On sale later this month, these two units evolve the company's current units without reinventing them. The focus for these wide-screen devices is ease of use and bundling popular features—a strategy that should play well with consumers.

Both units feature the latest "EasyMenu" onscreen controls, providing a simple touchscreen menu and friendly graphics like those found on the recently tested, entry-level TomTom Ease. (See our GPS ratings.)

IQ Routes and MapShare are included, providing historic traffic data for intelligent route guidance and a feedback mechanism that allows users to make and share map updates.
TomTom-XXL-550-gps
TomTom XXL 550
Photo: TomTom

Some XL 350 and XXL 550 variations will include lifetime map updates and traffic updates (denoted by "M" and/or "T" in the name), and these services may be purchased separately for $30 on units that are not so-equipped. TomTom reports that 18 percent of road information changes each year. With the lifetime updates, users will be able to download the latest maps every few months or as needed. Lifetime traffic provides real-time traffic information to more accurately predict travel times, plot efficient routes, and provide alternate routes as necessary.

Both XL 350 and XXL 500 series include maps for the United States, Canada, and Mexico, along with over 7 million points of interest. Text-to-speech enables the devices to provide spoken street names, enhanced by advanced lane guidance to graphically indicate the appropriate lane for imminent maneuvers on major roadways.

The XL 350 has a 4.3-inch screen and retails for $169. For an additional $30 retail, the XL 550 has a larger 5.0-inch screen. Versions that include either lifetime maps or traffic command a price premium.

Right now, TomTom.com has these new devices listed as coming soon with a $20-$40 discount, depending on the version. Other online retailers have them listed a full price but available for pre-order. As we have learned through the years, don't pay retail; GPS navigator prices drop over time. Sometimes it is better to be the second on your block with a new gadget, and still have some money in your wallet.

We will test these devices once they become available. And invariably, we'll pay full price to get them first.

Jeff Bartlett

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