Need functioning, *problem-free* GPS for Europe trip...

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I'm a 63 year old, non-teckkie lady leaving on a 3 month solo trip to Europe August 17--first 6 weeks will be driving around countryside of Normandy and Brittany. I've never used a GPS & altho my leased car will have one, I want to pre-program my intricate routes before I go; hence buying one is the best bet.

I need a reliable unit which comes with a clear instruction manual guiding me through simple programming instructions, including how to disable features I don't want or need. I don't need traffic jam monitors, speed camera notice (in fact, France passed a law against it), hotels or stuff like that. If I use POI's, I'd like to select them myself before downloading every single one in France!

Reading reviews of ALL GPS units--whether Garmin or Tom-Tom--is extremely discouraging. Seems quality control has gone the way of all products these days--from average-if-you're-lucky to lousy. In past years, reviews were generally great, but now have grown very poor.

I've read the FAQ about 540's (my logical choice since the Euro maps are preloaded), which was written in 2011. I need to know if the problems have been fixed in the units themselves, or if I'll have to fiddle with the instructions in the FAQ. I'm just adjusting to a new MacBookPro with Lion, and I don't need ANY tech problems!!

I'm assuming this forum is run by the Tom Tom company, so don't know how much honesty I can reasonably consider, but I thought at least I'd ask.

What are my options, in order of reliability?

Thanks,
Karen
 
Thank you for responding. Pardon my cynicism.

The particular model you linked does not have European maps--at least according to the product description on Amazon. Does that mean I should choose the 540S World model? (Which isn't actually available there.)

And, what say you about the 540 glitches in the FAQ?

Karen
 
P.S. I see that Amazon has a 'used' one (which for them means 'returned') from their 'Fulfillment Center'. So it's an option.

And, can you direct me to a 'Tom Tom' Programming for Dummies' type site with easy to follow instructions?

Thanks,
Karen
 
P.S. I see that Amazon has a 'used' one (which for them means 'returned') from their 'Fulfillment Center'. So it's an option.

And, can you direct me to a 'Tom Tom' Programming for Dummies' type site with easy to follow instructions?

Thanks,
Karen
One thing that you might want to investigate about purchasing a used unit is whether or not it will come with lifetime maps. I have heard stories of people who have bought used devices and discovered that the original owner had registered the GPS, and now "owned" the rights to the lifetime maps for that unit - TomTom would not transfer the rights to the new owner.

There are some potential future advantages to the "World" version of the XXL540TM in addition to coming preloaded with the Europe map so you would not have to buy it separately. (Which you should take into account when comparing the cost of buying the standard XXL540TM plus a Europe map with buying the XXL540TM World version.)

The US maps are getting very close to filling all of the memory of the devices such as the XXL540 that have 2GB and no provision for an SD card for expansion. There is speculation that TomTom may start splitting North American maps into regions for 2GB models, as they have already done with Europe. Since the XXL540TM World has 4GB of memory, you would not have to deal with that issue, if and when it happens.

As dhn said above, look for the XXL540T to get the ability to receive lifetime traffic information via the special FM antenna that will be included in the box. It's not quite up to the performance level of more expensive devices that get the LIVE HD Traffic via a built-in cell phone, but my experience with it in the Los Angeles area has been quite good. Ideally, get the XXL540TM, which will also give you lifetime maps.

The difference in the street price when compared to the models without lifetime maps was quite small when I checked recently, which makes it a good deal. (The difference used to be much more, and might have required more debate as to which model to get.)

In regard to your question about programming, are you literally looking to do programming of the unit (which is possible with the XXL540) or are you actually thinking of actions such as how to choose among the available settings,how to set up destinations in advance, and how to load custom POI files? These latter actions are reasonably straight-forward compared to actual programming.

With best wishes,
- Tom -
 
Last edited:
Tom,

Thank you so much for such a thorough and thoughtful reply. I appreciate it.

My thoughts re: the points you made:

* I mostly expect to use this in the first 6 weeks meandering the countryside of Normandy and Brittany, hence little need to have traffic updates. I'll be in Paris, Prague & Barcelona after that, without a car. I occasionally travel to San Francisco or Berkeley from Marin, but that's about as urban as I get. May come in handy driving from my friend's house in Evry up into Normandy as I'll have to go around Paris to get there.

* However, I do see your point about memory and possible future use. So maybe I'll just go for it (the model you link) as time is closing and I need to program it.

* I STILL remain freaked at the possibility of getting a lemon or one that poops out on me in some way.

In regard to your question about programming, are you literally looking to do programming of the unit (which is possible with the XXL540) or are you actually thinking of actions such as how to choose among the available settings,how to set up destinations in advance, and how to load custom POI files? These latter actions are reasonably straight-forward compared to actual programming.

* Mostly your latter references: I'm asking about what to do from the moment I open up this "strange to me" device. First I have to understand basic menus without wanting to get lost into features I won't use or need. I only need to program country-road routes I've already worked out on Google maps, and Mark the places I'll be staying. I need it to be simple and quick. Yes, I'd like to download SOME POI's but don't want the darn thing so full of them that their icons take over the maps!

Any lead to such a 'beginners guide'?

Thanks so much, Tom.

Karen
 
P.S. Does the unit come with a 'stand' to place it on a flat dashboard? I prefer to not attach it to the window. I want to use one of these:

http://tinyurl.com/cqggyvr

Is the 'mount' that comes with it of a kind which can be used either on windshield OR flat surface; or need I buy a different kind of mount?

Thanks,
Karen
 
* I STILL remain freaked at the possibility of getting a lemon or one that poops out on me in some way.

My personal experience with the XXL540 has been quite satisfactory - but that small a sample size really means nothing, of course. A better indication - although not one that was obtained scientifically - is that the impression I have had from following several GPS forums is that the XXL540 series is no worse than any other model from TomTom - or any other GPS manufacturer.

There have been some issues this year that affected several TomTom models, but those were due to problems with the actual GPS signal receiver hardware that was purchased from specialty manufacturers. These issues also affected products from other companies, and appear to have been resolved.

Yes, I'd like to download SOME POI's but don't want the darn thing so full of them that their icons take over the maps!

FYI, you can load POI files onto your device, but set it up not to display their icons except when you turn on that specific category. The data is still there and available if you do a search, but it does not display on the map on a day-to-day basis until you tell it to do so.

Personally, I normally have all of of the POI that came with the GPS turned off, and have only a couple of the custom POI that I installed myself turned on. When I have a need for any of the other POI data, it takes only a few seconds to open up the menu and tap the box associated with a POI category that I wish to have displayed.

In regard to your question about programming, are you literally looking to do programming of the unit (which is possible with the XXL540) or are you actually thinking of actions such as how to choose among the available settings,how to set up destinations in advance, and how to load custom POI files? These latter actions are reasonably straight-forward compared to actual programming.

* Mostly your latter references: I'm asking about what to do from the moment I open up this "strange to me" device. First I have to understand basic menus without wanting to get lost into features I won't use or need. I only need to program country-road routes I've already worked out on Google maps, and Mark the places I'll be staying.

Any lead to such a 'beginners guide'?

The closest thing to such a document with which I am familiar is actually the factory guide to the XXL540 series, which is a PDF file that can be downloaded for free at:

http://download.tomtom.com/open/manuals/xxl/ReferenceGuide-US/refman/TomTom-XXL-en-US.pdf

Unfortunately, the manual was written a couple of years ago and has not been updated to reflect some changes to the user interface that have occurred since. However, it's a good starting point IMO, and I think that with it - and with some serious "trial and error" practice with the GPS and the manual in your hands - you will find that getting the results you want will become reasonably straight-forward.

I would describe it as similar to when I was first learning to ride a bicycle when I was young. At first it seemed to be very hard, and I was convinced that I would never learn how to do it. However, after a few hours practice everything fell into place, and I could not understand why riding a bike had ever seemed difficult.

If you do encounter a challenge that you cannot solve with the manual and a bit of trial and error practice, the folks here can probably put you on the right path as long as they can understand what you are attempting to do.

Bottom Line: Regardless of what model of GPS you get, and regardless of the manufacturer whose product you choose, the best thing you can do is to spend some time learning how to use it while you are still at home. You have said that this is what you plan to do, and I encourage you to follow your plan.

With best wishes,
- Tom -
 

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