<img src="http://parcom.pro-networks.org/images/1113tom.jpg" align="right"></img>TomTom GO 920
Street price: $300-600
by Larry Richman
November 13, 2008
I just came back from the UPS Store where I returned my $300 TomTom GO 920 (the device retails for about $300-600). As a tech junkie, I buy lots of gadgets and occasionally have had some issues but this was the first time I wanted my money back but was forced to return it for a replacement instead.
I know how a good GPS unit is supposed to operate. I had a built-in one with the car that I just sold. Then I bought a new car, but instead of paying over $1000 for another built-in one, I decided to buy a portable one since they are so affordable and easy to get now. As usual, I did my homework. I checked a number of favorite websites, and finally relied on Consumer Reports since they have turned out to be pretty reliable. I took the list of their top recommendations and went to a store to try them out. There's no better way to make a decision (other than actually using it -- more on that later). I finally settled on the Tom Tom GO 920, which was a bit pricey but was their #2 top pick. I also figured you get what you pay for, right?
Right from the start I had technical problems. Sometimes it wouldn't turn on at all. Other times it wouldn't turn off. I called tech support and they were very helpful. They told me about some battery peculiarities -- it malfunctions if you charge it too long, and it malfunctions if you don't charge it long enough. You have to charge it for only a certain number of hours every certain number of hours. This wasn't even in the instructions. So I tried for awhile but had the same issues.
I called a second time. They told me you have to plug it into your computer at least once a month and update two things: the TomTom Home software which allows your computer to work with the device as well as the software on the unit itself. They are constantly updated and I was told that might have been the issue. That I did know, though, and had been doing it. But their software had been updated and they said several issues were fixed with the software itself and I should continue to use the device and see what happens. I plugged the device into my PC and updated the software online every few weeks.
I continued to have problems. It still wouldn't turn on at times. It would turn off and then turn itself on after I left the car, draining its battery. Sometimes I'd be driving and it would turn itself off and on while driving. Not very helpful, especially since I'd lose the routing and have to start over. I called a third time. This time they told me that the original software installation might have been faulty. So I uninstalled all the software on the device, rebooting it back to the factory default, losing all the information I had saved on it. I started over again with the new software installation.
Now I had other problems, and these were serious. Sometimes it would take a long time to lock onto a GPS signal. Sometimes it wouldn't find one at all. Not very useful if I don't know where I'm going. Then I had the chance to really test it. I drove up to New York City.
I'd driven in New York many times with my old GPS and knew exactly how it was supposed to work. Nothing worked right with the TomTom. First, the signal was lost in the tunnel going into Manhattan. It never happened with my old GPS, but I didn't fault it because I'd heard that was common with the portable ones. So it didn't bother me. But after emerging from the tunnel it had no idea where I was. I drove and drove and it was showing me on the wrong streets. It was leading me in totally the wrong direction.
At the end of the night I went to leave the city. I needed to take a different route to the tunnel than I had originally selected so I took a different turn. At this point it's supposed to recalculate the route. It sat there trying to recalculate while I drove aimlessly. It finally found a new route but by then I was nowhere near those streets. It did not help me find a new route at all.
After I got through the tunnel there was a detour. The highway was closed and all traffic had to exit onto local streets and drive for several miles, making many turns winding through this town until getting back to the highway. It should have been no problem at all. But every time it told me to take a turn the streets were going in the opposite direction. There were police every so often directing the traffic so I followed their route when I could. Meanwhile, the TomTom kept telling me to take a completely different route that was not even close to what I was actually doing to get back to the highway. If I hadn't been able to guess where to turn I would have been totally lost. The device not only didn't help me find a new route, it actually got me lost.
I called TomTom again -- now the fourth service call -- and they finally told me to return it. I wanted my money back but they would not offer a refund and, of course, by this time I was long past the return date from the retailer and only could deal with the manufacturer. So, at my own expense, I have now had to return the unit and all they will do is send me another one. I have to hope that the unit was actually defective and that a new one will work the way I'd hoped. but my fear is that it simply does not function the way it needs to, especially for the price. I'd read that cheaper units had trouble locating signals, finding new routes, etc. so I hoped that by buying one of the most expensive models out there that wouldn't happen. But it did. Hopefully the new one will work as advertised. But I don't recommend it. In fact, I will cross TomTom off my list of recommended brands.