The TomTom Go 710. A field test and review - driving around Europe
by Steve Macrie email@example.com
How many reviews have you read about Satellite Navigation systems? If you're a bit of a nerd like me, you'll probably read a few reviews before you make a purchase. And before I purchased the TomTom 710, a while back, I read several. Generally, they were positive. So, I purchased one. I don't drive often; it has to be said, because I live in London. But I was damned if I was going to buy a new TomTom for the trip.
Now, I had a massive trip around Europe planned. Starting in London, down through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Northern Italy, Monaco, Bordeaux and back to Blighty. All in the space of two weeks. In a rented camper van. A real field test for any Sat Nav system.
I planned to stop off at campsites along the way and maybe a few hotels when I got bored of sleeping in the van. (Second night, as it happens…)
I have a pretty poor sense of direction and so I was looking forward to relaxing, enjoying the drive, safe in the knowledge that I didn't need to know where I was going. The TomTom would take care of it all.
I downloaded the latest version of the European maps and not having time to download the ‘Mr T' voice over, I selected the plumy British woman for guidance. She sounded knowledgeable and authoritative. I felt like we were going on a trip together. That's why I'll refer to her as ‘her' and ‘she'. (By the end of the trip I had renamed her ‘that bitch')
I then got into the van on Friday night and started to enter in the relevant information to get me to Dover for the ferry. No problem. She took us through South East London and down to Kent. Good start.
I got onto the ferry and after an hour and a half I arrived in Calais. I figured I would just pull up on the roadside somewhere on the first night and sleep in the van ready to drive to Luxembourg in the morning. But I thought I would give the ‘Points of Interest' a bit of a workout and see if it could find a local campsite. It found one just outside Calais. I drove to it. But, it would be a bit of a stretc..h of the imagination to call it a campsite. It was a car park. It didn't have any washing facilities but it did have I toilet. Mind you, it looked pretty rough, so I locked the doors and slept with my cricket bat under the pillow. I didn't blame ‘her'. Maybe there wasn't anything else around. At least it was cheap.
Got up tired and early. This is where I first ran into problems with ‘her'. I had worked out a few campsites to stop in from the internet. And now I tried to enter them. However, much to my surprise – she didn't like European postcodes and if she did, she seemed to want extra information like the road. Fine, but she didn't list the road the sites were on – even with the correct postcode. Not good. I then tried a different method entering the road name and number. Not having a bar of it. So, I thought maybe if I get there she might find it under points of interest again.
I drove off to Luxembourg. She did know the way to Luxembourg. But then any clown can drive down a Motorway. After getting to Luxembourg I pulled over and searched for the campsite through the ‘Points of Interest' navigation menu. Nope. My campsite wasn't there. In a stroke of inspiration I logged onto the internet with my iphone – not cheap – and the campsite had thoughtfully put some GPS co-ordinates on. After programming these in, I eventually found the campsite. It wasn't all that and a bag of chips – but I suppose that wasn't her fault. And I figured if the website had the GPS co-ordinates – maybe this was a common problem.
Next day, I was set to go to Zurich. After a wet night in Luxembourg I had a lot of mud in the van. I was rapidly going off camping. So, I decided to book in to a hotel. And the TomTom found a best western in Zurich. Good girl I thought. We're still friends. So off I went.
Got to Zurich and my old pal started to have a bit of a flid. Didn't like the overhead train lines and roads and kept losing the signal. However, when she found the signal again, she didn't know how it got there and so it kept asking me to ‘turn around when possible'. After ten minutes of banging the steering wheel, I dried my frothing mouth and pulled over to ask someone. Not easy when your German is as good as mein (see what I did there) but I found the hotel in the end.
Next morning - on to Liechtenstein. I had found a campsite online the night before. To be fair it looked like just about the only campsite in Liechtenstein (160 square kilometres, 35,000 population, richest state per capita in the world = no pikies).
But my little friend didn't have a clue. Couldn't find it at all. So, I typed in Vaduz – the capital – and hoped she would get me there. I would then use 20th century technology to get me the final mile – i.e. rely on the kindness of locals giving directions.
However, I think my little friend had been drinking the night before. She just couldn't seem to find her way out of Zurich. Like a blind man without a cane, we visited quite a few suburbs of Zurich that morning (all as dull as each other). It was at this point we reached a new low in or relationship. At several points during the morning I was very angry. I had trouble keeping my eyes from popping out of my head and I very nearly destroyed her.
In the end, I navigated my own way to the motorway and eventually escaping Zurich, I reached Vaduz. She was alright on the motorways. ‘Straight ahead' she said. ‘Turn left in one kilometre'. ‘Stupid b*tch' I thought. ‘I'd like to smash her head in'.
Got to Vaduz. Nice little town. Surely I can't get too lost here….. Well she didn't know where the campsite was. And to be fair, nor did the locals. I eventually found it. It looked more like a halfway house. There were a lot of strange people with beards sitting around some 70's caravans. Realizing that this was a group of women, I jumped back into the van and headed straight to Italy.
A hotel for me again I thought. I didn't even try to put in the hotel details. I couldn't face that sinking feeling of watching her try and fail to find the right location.
So, Lake Como it was. Beautiful. If you get a chance to go, you should. The Italians were friendly and guided me into the hotel. Even had a parking spot. Lush. As for the TomTom, we hadn't fallen out because I hadn't asked her to do anything.
A few days later and I was back on my travels. This time Monaco. Monte Carlo to be precise. Playground of the rich and idle, classless, new money and no taste. But - some success. Found the hotel straight away. Drove in like a dream. Like she was meant to in the first place. Spent the night there and left for Bordeaux.
Again, didn't want to push my luck with her, so I just typed in Bordeaux. Had lunch and tried the address of the Best Western Hotel I was stopping at. The blank look of a deaf sheep dog. Ah well, I thought. My French is better than my German. After asking a few of our friendly French cousins for directions, I decided to buy a map… I was staying for a week. And I would need to get out if she decided to hit the sauce again like Zurich. Found it and had a great week.
Finally, reluctantly leaving the hotel, I typed in my final address. An English postcode in South West London. She knew where it was. Praise the lord, I set off as happy as a clam, eventually reaching my final destination.
So, after 2 weeks and several destinations, how would I rate the TomTom 710? Hmmm, overall I would say pretty poor. You see, the main roads in Europe are well signposted and logical. If you have an IQ of over 80 then you've got a pretty good chance of navigating from city to city and country to country on your own. (If you've got an IQ lower than 80 you've got no business going abroad anyway.)
In any strange town, it's the last mile where you need the help. And this is exactly where the TomTom will let you down. It's just not good enough. So, my advice is: If you are going to Europe and renting a camper van, by all means rent a Sat Nav system – just make sure it isn't this one. But make sure you plan well. Buy a good map. And when you get near to your destination, buy a local map. Really, it will save you hours of frustration. Finally, take a smart phone to log onto Google Maps for absolute emergencies (data connection will cost you an arm, a leg and probably 50% of your liver and kidneys).
But whatever you do. Do not purchase the TomTom 710.
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