TomTom XL340TM Portable GPS Navigator Review

TomTom XL340TM GPS Navigator

I originally bought the TomTom XL350TM and I ended up taking the GPS unit back to the place I purchased it from (it was very hard to walk away from the $129 sale price) and purchased the TomTom XL340TM.  Here are the reasons why.

TomTom GPS

TomTom XL340TM GPS

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The main reason I traded this unit in for a new one was the user interface. I completely understand that TomTom wants to create a simple user interface geared towards the 80% of people who want a simple and easy to understand GPS unit. On this, the XL 350 TM performs exceptionally well. However, if you want to really customize the GPS to do things for you, then you are out of luck because you cannot update very many preferences in the unit. I like to tinker with the GPS unit and in the end I want ultimate control over what is on the screen and what information I can or cannot get. The 350 TM does not give you ANY leeway to set up the GPS in the exact way you want. If you see the words “Easy Menu” on the box and you like to have control over everything the GPS displays then the unit will not be for you.  If you want simple and easy-to-understand-out-of-the-box performance, then this GPS will work fine.

The XL340TM GPS uses the old menu system from TomTom. I ended up paying $60 more for this GPS but it was important to me to be
able to customize the menu system. This unit also has lifetime maps and traffic and this was my main reason for buying a new GPS. Instead of two options on the main screen, I have ten. Under the preferences menu this unit lets me check seven different boxes under the Safety Preferences menu. Additionally there are two other sub-screens under this that let me set when I am driving on the wrong  side of the road and to choose if I ever want the map display shut off. I can also change the information displayed on the status bar and on the 350 I could not. There was no compass function that I could see on the 350 that is available here. It also lets me set up different information on the Quick Menu preferences and this option was not available on the 350 at all. It also lets me check off about 15 different items under planning preferences including things like avoiding toll roads, avoiding ferries, plan routes by fastest times, shortest  routes, avoiding freeways etc. Under Advanced Preferences it lets you select options like displaying street names, house numbers before street names, lane images etc. You can also prepare routes on this unit and also build an itinerary including waypoints.

I also sent an email to the TomTom support team asking if there was anyway I could get and use the old menu system they used and was told that is was not possible. The problem with this response?  It took TomTom over a week to answer my question. That seems like a very long response time and is another reason I took one more star off of my rating.

Overall the 350 was a nice unit and easy to use, it simply did not allow me to customize the GPS like I wanted to.

 My original review on Amazon of the TomTom XL350 GPS GPS

I traveled a lot for my job and have used an older model Mio GPS unit to get me to my destinations. The Mio worked fine for the most part, but the last time I went to a new city the maps were very old and out of date. I decided it was time to upgrade to a new GPS unit and researched Garmin and TomToms because they are the two biggest players in the market. In the end, the lifetime traffic and lifetime map upgrades pushed me towards the TomTom XL 350 TM, a model that just came out at the end of May 2010.

In my research for a new GPS it seems that people either liked Garmin or the TomTom because of the interface.  People usually had a strong bias for one or the other. The interface did not matter to me as much as what I could get for my money. I seriously looked at the
Garmin nuvi 780 because this is a top-of-the-line Garmin, albeit a discontinued model, and Amazon is selling it for 74% off the original price. For the money it seemed like a fantastic deal except for two things. This unit uses MSN Direct content for traffic and you have to pay a subscription fee after the trial period ends, and MSN is discontinuing this service at the beginning of 2011.  This unit did not include lifetime updated maps, which is a big deal for someone buying a new GPS unit simply because the old one had maps in it that are getting
obsolete.

Since lifetime maps were very important to me (without having to shell out $100 more for the upgrade) my choices were suddenly locked in on TomTom units. I researched their products and decided I was either going to get the XL 540 TM (the TM is lifetime traffic and maps) or the same unit but with a smaller screen size, the XL 340 TM. I decided I was going to go for the one with the 4.3″ wide screen, the XL 340 TM, instead of the bigger 5″ screen because I read that the 5″ screen is cumbersome for the window mount to handle.

Well the best laid plans sometimes go astray because when I went into Best Buy they had the brand new XL 350 TM on sale for $169.99 when the regular price was $229.99. I bought the unit immediately because I figured the unit was very similar if not an improvement over the XL 340 TM.

What you get in the XL350 TomTom GPS

Here are my first impressions after using the TomTom XL 350 TM for two days.

1. The design is sleek with a crisp and clear screen. My old Mio looks like a clunky old refrigerator compared to the new TomTom.
2. I wish TomTom had an external memory card on these units. I have read people have had problem updating maps because they have run out of room on the unit. Since I read about it, I was expecting it, and ended up backing up my unit and then deleting the French and
the Spanish language functions to free up space. This freed up about 30 mb on a 2 gb flash drive. TomTom could fix this issue by simply making the maps of Canada, the United States and Mexico separate. Anyway, the fix of deleting the French and Spanish speaking files worked well.
3. The instructions are very skimpy in the box. There are basically no instructions on how to set up and install the new software on the device. This was not a big deal for me because I researched the hell out of it, but for someone like my mom this would be a killer. I connected the device to my computer and found the setup program on the device and ran it.
4. When you first plug the unit into the computer it takes an hour and a half to download the new maps and the GPS fix software.
After it downloads all the software it needs, then you install the TomTom Home software. This is not really installed on your machine, but rather it is an account set up on a web site and the software seems to reside there.                                                                                                     5. Once you install the Home software or set up an account, the icons in TomTom Home are very easy to understand and use. I performed a backup of my unit and then I deleted the Spanish and French language files from the unit. If TomTom would ever install Mexico, Canada and the United States separately then space would not be an issue because most sane people would never rent a car or drive
in Mexico unless you lived there, and then if you did live in Mexico you most likely would not need maps of Canada. This is a very small issue but one that could be fixed with minimal issues.
6. Once you perform the backup and delete you install the software upgrade to the TomTom. This did not take long at all, maybe 15 minutes.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         7. The window unit is very different from the Mio. I like the looks of it because it looks elegant. It is a little awkward to use at first, but after you get used to it then it works as designed. My Mio had a linchpin system to hold the unit to the window unit and over time I lost the linchpin so the design there wasn’t perfect. This design is like a hip-joint, a ball in the socket, and although it moves stiff (I bet in order to keep the GPS unit still) it functions well and had no problems holding the unit on the window or dash. It is easy to unsnap the unit from the window mounting device so you can take the GPS unit with you instead of leaving it in the car.                                                                      8. The user interface on the GPS unit is simple and easy to use. It is very intuitive and when you fist turn it on there are pop-up balloons there to help guide you through the process. By playing around with it for a bit I became very adept at doing what I needed to get done for the GPS unit to function.
9. I like the graphics on this unit. The GPS fired up and found a signal within seconds (my old unit took up to a minute or so to lock onto a satellite). I typed in the address of where I wanted to go, it plotted a route for me, and I hit the done button to get the 3-D view map on the screen. From there it is easy because you follow the prompts. The section on the bottom of the screen tells you which way your next turn will be(left or right) and it tells you how far away from the turn you are at the moment. This unit is accurate to within 5 feet or so of where my car was so it would be very hard to miss a turn. My old unit was only locked in from about 20 yards, which caused problems sometimes when I was on a freeway and passed my exit going 70.                                                                                                                                10. I have not been able to get lane assist to work yet (I only drove local routes). This is part of the reason I bought this unit. From the pictures on other reviews it looks great.
11. I have no clue on how the routing is compared to my old unit yet. I will get a better judge of this over time. I like it a lot so far.
12. The screen is absolutely bright enough to see in the daytime. The sound is loud enough to hear the spoken street names and directions.

While the XL350 TomTom was a good little GPS unit it did not suit my needs because of the newer, simpler and easier-to-use menu interface.  I wanted more control over what data I could see, what instructions were given to me, and several other little tweaks and things that you cannot get with the simple menu.  I returned the original unit and got the XL340TM, the one I originally wanted, because I had more control over the unit.  The GPS has performed flawlessly and I am glad that I got this GPS unit.