TomTom Start 50 full review

TomTom Start 50 review

The Start 50 is currently TomTom’s cheapest in-car satnav (it's the same price as the smaller-screened Start 40), but it has mapping for 39 European countries which explains why it's a bit more expensive than, say, Garmin's entry-level nüvi 52LM which has only UK & Ireland maps. In other respects, though, the Start 50 has a similar specification to the nüvi 52LM.

Lifetime updates to the mapping data is provided, a welcome inclusion for a lower-priced unit. There is no provision for traffic conditions to be taken into account in planning a route and this is not available as a subscription service since the Start 50 doesn’t have any way of communicating with a smartphone as with the Go 50, for example. However, it will provide warning of fixed safety cameras, albeit updated free only for three months with an annual subscription payable thereafter.

Physically installing the Start 50 in the car couldn't be easier, being pretty much identical to all modern satnavs with a twist-to-grip suction mount. The screen, unfortunately, uses old-school resistive touch technology so is less responsive than smartphones and satnavs with capacitive screens (Garmin has switched to capacitive screens). This was our main gripe when we first used it, in particular, swiping isn’t particularly easy so navigating the menus isn’t as simple as we might have hoped.

The requirement for a firm touch is particularly annoying as it can cause the unit to wobble on its windscreen mount. Furthermore, it’s very easy to hit the wrong keys on the on-screen keyboard if you have big fingers. Other than this niggle, though, the menus are perfectly intuitive and most people would be up and running without reference to the manual.

The unit powers up to a map view instead of a main menu which looks nice but really isn’t the benefit that TomTom claims, given that the first thing you’ll probably do is select the main menu.

What we like is the combined address and POI search, called Quick Search. Rather than forcing you - as so many satnavs do - to enter an address in exactly the right format, or by selecting the right option first, the Start 50 lets you search for anything - a restaurant, hotel or simply a road name. It splits results into addresses and POIs, and you can tap on one to either navigate there or see where it is on the map.

The Start 50 has voice recognition which can save time tapping away on the keyboard but you have to activate it via an on-screen menu, so you can use it only while stopped.

Generally, the maps were easy to read and the verbal guidance was clear enough although you don’t get 3D buildings when viewing a map in 3D mode as you do with the TomTom Go 50. The routes offered seemed to be perfectly reasonable and, unlike the Garmin nüvi 52LM, we were able to ask for alternatives. We were also pleased that the Start 50 didn’t take the bait, as the Garmin unit did, when we asked it to guide us to a destination when the most direct route would have been along a wholly unsuitable road. Again, points of interest are provided in the form of Foursquare.

Online, you can pick up the Start 50 for around £110, which isn't much of a discount on the RRP. TomTom says the Start models (there's also a 6in version as well as 4.3in) are aimed at the 'leisure traveller' which is why you don't get live traffic. We'd have preferred a capacitive screen, but TomTom's new interface is easy to get to grips with and routing is very good. If you need traffic, it's worth spending the £30 extra on the Go 50.


TomTom Start 50: Specs

  • Standalone satnav
  • 5in (480x272) colour touchscreen display
  • USB
  • microSD
  • preloaded maps of Western Europe (inc UK)
  • Lithium-ion battery
  • claimed battery life 2 hours
  • 1-year warranty
  • 140x86x20mm
  • 209g

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