I got some strange looks from friends when I went about mounting the TomTom VIA 1435TM GPS to my window. One actually said “What’s that for, you’ve got a smartphone?” After using the TomTom for six weeks to navigate up and down the west coast I can safely say this: Phones are for calling. GPS is for navigation. This is one device that, for the best experience, needs to be separate.

I’ve used my phone as a GPS for nearly a year after coming from a long line of GPS units stretching back to the time when they were $600 a pop. There have been a few things that have annoyed me: I can never get my phone quite right in the 3rd party window mount, the notifications on both my iPhone and my Android phone are too annoying to easily dismiss while driving, and despite the availability of custom GPS apps, the standard apps use data (which is a killer if you’re headed to the US).

The TomTom VIA 1435TM was like a breath of fresh air. Let’s start with the basics.

 

Hardware

It’s thin, it’s light, and it’s beautiful. TomTom has permanently fixed the window/dash mount onto the unit using a smooth ball-joint; this makes it less “portable” than my old TomTom One – but it cements the place for the 1435TM as in-the-car. If you need GPS on foot, THAT’S when you should use your phone.

The mount itself is the best one I’ve ever used. I’ve had old press-on suction mounts, lever-lock suction mounts, and even snap-on-to-your-fan-grille mounts, and all of them were a pain for a variety of reasons. The VIA 1435TM comes with a screw-down EasyPort® suction mount that is ridiculously powerful – simply place it against your windshield, tighten the base like a nut and bolt and you’ve got some very powerful suction on your side. Note: doing this to your desk can mean ten minutes of trying to pry your GPS up, until you remember that you can unscrew the mount to pull it away.

The VIA TM also comes with a flat, adhesive disk; this gives the VIA dash-mounting capabilities for those who would prefer their GPS at that level.

The screen is 4.3” diagonally measured, it’s responsive to touch, and looks great in both direct sunlight and the dark of night. The VIA 1435TM can automatically adjust the screen colours based on time, giving you the right contrast for the time of day.

Also in the box is a USB micro cable (the same cable used by many Android and BlackBerry smartphones) to sync data with your computer, a car adapter (don’t leave home without it!), and a manual with a code for your lifetime Map updates.

 

Performance

A very large power button on the upper-right-rear section of the unit is pinchable, making it easy to turn on and off without having to search for the right spot. The unit starts up in under 20 seconds (enough time to adjust your seat and your mirrors) and presents an easy-to-read screen giving you your popular destinations or a map (your choice, set in options). It acquired GPS signal consistently in under ten seconds in my tests, meaning that by the time I had started my ignition it was ready for instructions.

Map navigation was more accurate than my smartphone; there’s a lot of construction going on in the lower mainland of BC where I live, and TomTom was up-to-date across the board. I also turned on Map Corrections, a feature that lets end-users (that’s us) submit downloadable corrections back to TomTom to help other users get around in areas where maps haven’t been updated recently. I didn’t come across any corrections while driving, but it’s good to know that they’re out there.

Navigation of routes was fast, both to inputted addresses and Points of Interest. I deliberately took a few off-course turns, and the TomTom VIA 1435TM recalculated the route very quickly. Out of ten destinations, 9 delivered me to exactly the right spot. The tenth no longer existed and appears to be a new condo development. It’s Vancouver, I’m not surprised.

 

Other features

I typically use a BlackBerry Bluetooth speakerphone for my car, but I paired my phone to the TomTom to try its capabilities out. Voice Dial worked perfectly with my iPhone, and audio quality is excellent.

 

Maps for life

This is really the biggie; in the past GPS units typically charged for map updates year after year. It was a great source of profit for GPS manufacturers but not so good for ordinary users. With the arrival of the smartphone-as-GPS, map updates have been supplied to smartphone users for free. That’s the sound of a market disruption that you’re hearing.

Thus enters the FREE FOR LIFE! map updates in consumer GPS – and it is a good thing. The VIA 1435TM also includes free traffic data, but you need an external hardware piece for that, so I wasn’t able to test it. What I can say is that I was able to download a free map update for the VIA, install it easily through TomTom’s included TomTom Home software, and then get back on the road without pulling out my credit card. This, my friends, is progress.

 

Conclusion

So, is the TomTom VIA1435TM a better choice than using your smartphone? Yes, it is. It’s a cleaner solution (the mount alone is worth the price of entry) with better performance and fewer distractions. Integrating devices can be a good thing, but when your safety and timeliness are on the line, the need for a stand-alone GPS becomes clear.

 

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