Saturday May 27th 2017

TomTom XL 340 TM

This review is about the TomTom 340 XL TM LIVE. The TM indicates that the unit comes with lifetime subscriptions to both the traffic and map update services. The unit itself is the same as the plain TomTom 340 XL S or the TomTom 340 XL M (lifetime maps only.) It is also the same unit as TomTom XL 335, which excludes maps of Mexico.

Many years ago when GPS’s first entered the consumer market I purchased an original TomTom as my first GPS and was very happy with my experience. After using the original TomTom for many years I decided it was time for an upgrade. Although the original unit still works fine the maps were out of date and the unit is much larger and clunkier than the current models. I knew right away I would get another TomTom because I was so pleased with the original. Unfortunately, my experiences with the 340 xl have been mixed.

Hardware/Screen

The TomTom 340xl has a 4.3” wide screen LCD. The LCD has a crisp and clear picture. I do not have any problems seeing it in the sun when it is aimed directly at me. The unit is quite thin and is comparable in size to other manufacturer’s units on the market. It has a speaker mounted on the backside of the unit as well as the hooks for the mount to attach. The unit feels sturdy and could probably take a few accidental drops without damage.

The screen is a touch screen like all GPS’s. I do not find the touch screen to be sensitive enough and often find that it misses my keystrokes. It becomes frustrating typing in addresses because I have to hit some of the letters 2 or 3 times before it recognizes the touch. Compared to the previous TomTom model I owned this touch screen is much harder to use. It is also harder to use than my touch screen cell phone.

The unit also has bluetooth phone integration. I have not personally tried it but when you search for a point of interest (POI) it has the phone number in the information and you can click to automatically call the number over bluetooth with your cell phone.

Battery Life

I find the battery life on the unit is very poor. I used to leave my GPS in the car all the time and just bring it in to charge now and then. This unit needs to be charged before each use, or constantly plugged into the car charger. If you allow the battery to get too low it does not have enough power to access the “LIVE” services so you can not Google search your address or get traffic. I do admit when I am using the device it is constantly connected to the internet for traffic updates; but, that is how the unit is mean to work. If they are selling it based on these features they should include a battery that can support it.

Mount

The mount is much smaller and easier to transport than other mounts I have seen. It is simply a large suction cup on one end and plastic ring on the other. It easily fits in my GPS case with the device.

The convenience of the mount size is negated however by the fact that it does not stick to the windshield. For the first few weeks I couldn’t get the suction cup to even grab the windshield at all. After it broke in a bit I was able to get it to stick to the windshield reliably and lock on. After a few more weeks however the locking mechanism on the suction cup loosened up a bit and now after traveling over a few potholes unlocks itself causing the entire unit to fall off the windshield! This is very dangerous while driving. I would recommend everyone by an after market mount.


Interface

I find the interface very easy to navigate. It is the same interface they have used since their first models so I have been using it for many years and can operate it without looking. Pretty much all of the functionality you may need while driving is within one or two clicks from the main display. All of the menus have fairly large brightly colored buttons that are easy to see and the fonts are in a bold type face that is easy to read.

Voice/Text to Speech

Like all GPS’s this unit reads the directions aloud. A new feature to this generation of TomTom’s is the text to speech feature also known as “spoken street names.” As the name indicates the device reads the names of streets as well as cities and towns when giving directions. Instead of saying just, “take the next left” it will say, “take the next left onto Main Street.” It is of course computer generated and sometimes the pronunciation is way off, but this is to be expected.

The only drawback of this feature is that only the computer voices can utilize this feature. If you want to download one of the special voices like Darth Vader or Spongebob you do not get to hear the street names. I believe there are only two english speaking computer voices available.

Maps and Lifetime Map Updates

I find the maps on TomTom to be very accurate and easy to read. The graphics make the streets easy to see and it is quite clear which road it wants you to turn on. TomTom also has “advanced lane guidance” which both visibly and audibly tells you which lane you need to be in for upcoming turns or to avoid turn only lanes. The maps also know the speed limit for major roadways, which I is more helpful than waiting to see a posted road sign. So far I have always found the speed limits to be accurate.

If you purchase a model with lifetime maps you receive free access to new map updates as they become available. This services is valid for the life of the device. In addition to full map updates you also receive the intermittent “map share” updates. I find this very valuable as upgrading a map otherwise is $60-$80. Having had an older device with a map that was a good five years old I can see the value in updating at least yearly. Otherwise you might get a rude awakening when the map tries to direct you down a street that has recently become one way or off an on ramp that has been moved.

Traffic

Users should understand there are two types of traffic services available on the TomTom device. There is FM receiver traffic and the LIVE traffic. The lifetime traffic that comes included with the TomTom 340 TM package is referring to just the FM receiver traffic. The FM receiver traffic is broadcast over radio signals via ClearChannel. It covers only major highways and major metros. The more powerful traffic information comes with a LIVE subscription, which is not part of the lifetime services – it is an extra fee.

In addition to the two real time traffic services mentioned above TomTom also has it’s IQ Routing technology. This uses historical traffic information to put you on the fastest route.

A great feature of the traffic services is that TomTom will also re-route you if the traffic changes and you are no longer on the fastest route. This is very valuable when traveling during rush hour.

LIVE Services

This model of TomTom comes equipped with “LIVE” services. LIVE is a subscription service that costs $9.95/month. Currently all of the LIVE TomTom’s are shipping with a free three month trial subscription. With LIVE services you get the enhanced traffic information explained above, fuel prices, Google local search, weather, buddies, and Quick GPS fix.

Fuel prices allow you to find the cheapest gas either on your route or in your area with a simple click on the screen. To get these updates you need to regularly connect your device to your computer for weekly downloads. Google local search is similar to searching for a POI but utilizes Google to search for local restaurants, venues, stores, etc. In addition to returning the location it also has reviews and the same detailed information you would get when using Google Local on your computer. You do have to have a fully charged battery to access this service and sometimes I have found it takes too long to connect.

The other features such as weather and buddies are a bit silly. I don’t really find it useful to check the weather forecast on my GPS and I am not interested in knowing where my other friends with TomTom’s are located.

The final feature I do find useful is the quick gps fix. This is another service you have to connect to your computer to download. When you connect, it downloads the next 7 days locations of the GPS satellites so your device can very quickly connect to them. My old GPS sometimes took 2-3 minutes to connect to a satellite. With a recent Quick GPS Fix download I can connect to the satellites almost instantly.

TomTom Home

TomTom home is the computer software you use to update your TomTom with your PC. You need to use it to get map updates, quick gps fixes, fuel price updates and to buy new voices, etc. You can also use it to do some route planning that you can then download to your TomTom.

The interface is easy to use and very similar to the TomTom itself.

Customer Service

TomTom customer services is poor. When I purchased the unit I tried to activate the lifetime map subscription that came with the unit and the authentication failed. I immediately turned to Google to look for answers and there were countless other people having the exact same problem. The only resolution was for TomTom to reset something on their side. From the volume of people complaining about the problem it sounded like a known issue. Without recounting the entire drama it took almost 30 days of going back and forth with TomTom’s email support to get the issue resolved. It felt as though their “techs” were not reading my emails but simply sending copy and paste answers from their FAQ. It wasn’t until I inquired about returning the product that suddenly someone knew how to push an update to my account to activate the service.

Conclusion

I really want to like TomTom. Maybe I just like supporting the “alternative” brand in the corporate world or I have a soft spot for their fluffy marketing and European business style. Despite the flawed touch screen, lousy battery, dangerous mount and horrible customer service I still like the product. When I thought I would be returning the unit I researched other brands and found this unit offered the most features and value at this price point.

Also posted to Epinions: TomTom XL 340 TM GPS

Reader Feedback

One Response to “TomTom XL 340 TM”

  1. Dirk Highhat says:

    This is my second TomTom 340XL model, the first one which got lifted from my car (note to self: don’t store any sensitive POI’s on your GPS).
    Pros: I have had no issues with battery life (>3 hours per charge, but the unit will discharge if not used for a while).
    I also found it very easy to upgrade to other voices, I chose the GW Bush (“you have reached your destification” version.
    I find the unit very intuitive, you can use it right out of the box without needing to study the manual.
    Cons: For motorcycling, it is not possible to plug in a headset for directions. I was unaware of the Bluetooth feature, but will look for it at my next chance. Also, the map set is primarily for streets; the earlier version had a “bicyling” or “walking” path selection, I have not found it on the new unit. Hence, this unit is not ideal for boating (although few people need to have verbal directions for finding their way while on board).
    While there are newer units available, I highly recommend this GPS for everyday use. You just can’t beat it for the price.

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