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Finding Your Way Home: How the TomTom XL 335 GPS Stacks Up

written by: Shawn S. Lealos•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/30/2011
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When looking for a decent GPS unit for your car, there are many choices. Garmin, Magellan and TomTom all offer units that have similar features and it is not always clear which choice is best. Here is a look at the TomTom XL 335 and what it offers for the money.

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    The TomTom XL 335 unit offers both basic versions as well as models with lifetime map and traffic updates included, for a small price increase. Since some units somehow still do not offer free map updates and can charge up to $100 to put the latest map on your older unit, this small fee is well worth the price. Once purchased, the question remains of whether it serves its purpose as an upgrade from my old Magellan unit or not.

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    Design

    Rating Average

    tomtom The TomTom XL 335 GPS system is a 4.3-inch unit that comes with a window suction cup that attaches right onto the back of the unit itself. The suction cup then attaches to the front window with the turn of a dial. For those who live in states that do not allow anything to attach to the front window, it fastens easily to a strip you place on the dashboard. This is great for storing the unit away as my last GPS system’s window attachment was large and bulky and always got in the way. Once the unit is placed on the window, it can be adjusted in any direction for proper viewing.

    The GPS unit has a touch screen that is easy to operate. It is user friendly and is easily accessible to someone who may have never used a GPS unit before. The on switch is located on top of the unit and the power connector plugs into the bottom. The one downfall to the unit is that you can’t use a normal USB connector because the plug is indented into the unit and the cord that comes with it is specially made to fit into the indention. This means if you lose the cord, you can’t just head to Wal-Mart to buy a replacement.

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    Features

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    There are some nice bells and whistles that come with the TomTom XL 335. None of these are necessities but they offer some fun and interesting additions to a basic GPS unit. One neat addition is the Speed Limit options on the bottom left corner of the unit. If it is known, the GPS tells you the speed limit of the street you are driving on. It also shows what the GPS records as your current speed. When you are driving, if you haven't seen a speed limit sign in a while and are worried about getting a ticket, this is a quality addition.

    In the bottom right hand corner of the device, you are provided with an estimate of what time you will arrive at your pre-selected destination. The time of destination will change slightly, depending on your average speed, but it has been spot-on every time I have used it. When I have to get somewhere at a specific time, I can see how close I will be to my arrival time with this option. It also lets you choose different routes when driving and shows the new arrival time to give you a variation on your route.

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    Performance

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    When I took the unit out of the box, I charged it and soon plugged it into the computer to update the maps. The updating went smooth but I found a slight problem when I went to use it the next time. The first time I used it, before I updated the maps, I went to the POI (point of interest) screen and found the largest casino in the state. I punched it in and headed that way but the map led to a smaller casino nearby. I assumed this was an error but when I updated the maps, the large, popular casino is now no longer listed on the POI screen. There are a number of POI’s that are wrong on the map, including restaurants showing up where there are vacant fields and certain places missing altogether. That makes this a little unreliable when using it to find places in strange towns.

    The unit also gets confused when driving through a parking lot; when in the parking lot at a local mall, the map shows the vehicle driving through what looks like an empty field and doesn't understand where the streets are. Another slight problem is dropping a connection when driving between large buildings. While traveling through downtown Houston, the GPS unit lost touch occasionally and that made it tricky to know when and where to turn.

    However, when it comes to following specific directions, it is almost perfect. Punch in the address, using either the zip code, town or specific address, and it has never let me down. The unit also displays in 3D and shows up close animated images of the roads to specify what lane(s) you need to be in to go where you are supposed to. This is invaluable because, when driving in strange locations, it lets you know when you need to change lanes to avoid unexpected splits in the highway.

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    Price to Value

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    The TomTom XL 335 only costs $149 from amazon.com with lifetime map and traffic upgrades as of May 2011. If you are not interested in the upgrades, the unit is under $100 but the extra money for the maps is well worth it. The unit is great performing its main job of leading you to specific locations but leaves a little to be desired when it comes to points of interest. There is also a 5-inch version which works for trucks and vans but this smaller version is the perfect size for cars.

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    References

    Review written based on author's personal experience.

    Purchase at Amazon.com

    Image also courtesy of Amazon.com