With GPS fast becoming common as every smartphone, feature-phone, and new car ships with it, it’s tough for standalone devices to thrash out a market. Tomtom and Garmin are arguably the largest competitors in this field and it shows with their devices still selling pretty well.
TomTom Via 130: Design and build quality
The Via 130 is solidly built and has a nice feel when being held. Of course, that’s not the most common position you’ll have it in so you should be happy to hear that it’s solid as a rock mounted on your windscreen as well.
The device is small enough to fit in a pocket and is light enough that you’re unlikely to be annoyed. There were times when I quite frankly forgot that I was carrying it and I’m normally pretty picky about what goes in there (this is why I’m eternally happy that my wife has a large handbag).
The Via’s 4.3-inch screen is noticeably tough to the touch but responsive, so it’s a breeze to carry out onscreen commands.
Aesthetically, there’s not much to say here – the Via looks much like all its cousins and sibling devices, the market seems to have latched onto a design and they’re sticking with it.
One potential annoyance was the placement of both the charging slot and the power button on the rear of the device. I understand that it’s done to preserve precious screen real estate but I would personally have been much happier with a side-mount button as well as socket. It gets a little fiddly to turn the device on or off while driving and you certainly don’t want to be plugging it in to charge while handling the steering wheel.
TomTom Via 130: User Interface and Features
The screen is a breeze to use and feels as responsive as some of the smartphones currently on the market – and a large portion more responsive than some GPS units I’ve used. The screen is bright enough that you’ll have no trouble seeing it in full sunlight while driving; the switch to night mode when everything is a little dark is well executed. Going with a matt finish instead of gloss was also an excellent choice.
Menus are a little clumsy – especially once you’ve paired the GPS with a smartphone and are trying to access features. I counted up to 9 clicks to actually get to a place where I could call using the hands free option.
I was able to pair the Via 130 with my Blackberry 9320 but my Galaxy S2 stubbornly refused to pair – I’m not certain whether I should put that down to something defective with the SGS 2 but I’ve never had trouble connecting before.
Amusingly, the GPS has some serious trouble pronouncing some normal words (Phonebook comes out as fon-a-book) and some South African street names nearly had it melting on its mounting.
The new Tomtom “Speak and Go” system has improved massively over the past offerings. It recognises well over 1000 natural language expressions so at least you don’t have to fight to get exactly the correct wording.
The GPS does struggle to convert some of our street names into something it can deal with (see above) so faking an American accent should help you out there. Unfortunately, the mic isn’t exactly stellar and when there’s a fair amount of road noise around, you may struggle to make yourself heard.
The real problem here is that the device isn’t totally voice controlled. You have to physically click a button to launch voice recognition and then click several times to accept the destination that the Via has picked out for you.
Resolution of satellites was impressively fast with the GPS mostly being ready to go within 15-20 seconds. At most (once the device has run down the battery completely), I waited around 45 seconds before the Via knew where I was.
Battery life is excellent all round and I only ended up charging it twice in a 14 day period. Not too shabby.
TomTom Via 130: Conclusion
So, is the Via worthwhile? Retailing at R1,629 (Sybaritic), it’s a little steep if you already have a smartphone with a suitable GPS. If you’re a road warrior and need a dedicated device or simply don’t like the idea of using your phone for long trips, you could definitely do worse.
- Solid design
- Battery Life
- Easy screen use
- Good map updates & Accuracy
- Power button and USB placement
- Menu structure
- Voice control can be picky