It was always a mystery to us why last year's Go GPS models — the Go 730 and Go 930 — didn't come with a redesigned windshield mount, when their cheaper siblings — the fourth-gen One and second-gen XL — came equipped with the company's devilishly compact EasyPort mount. Although it wasn't without its flaws, at least it had a ratcheting suction cup which would keep the GPS firmly affixed to the windscreen regardless of the passing road acne. Well, at last, the Go range has a windscreen mount that will, with the aid of a chunky rotating rubber lever, stick firmly to the glass.
As far as style goes, the Go 950 is distinctly on the chunky side with its gently rounded corners, curved back and large windshield cradle. The rubber coating on the unit's derriere, its midnight black hue and the metallic speaker grille give it an air of class, though. A rather superfluous computer docking base is also provided as part of the package.
The Go 950 features a 4.3-inch touchscreen boasting a bog standard resolution of 480x272. Aside from some nice zooming and sliding animations, a clutch of recoloured icons and backgrounds, and greater prominence for mobile phone functions, TomTom's menu system remains pretty much unaltered. Destination entry is a simple task with an on-screen QWERTY keyboard enabled by default.
Style mightn't be a strong suit, but legibility is high.
While the map screen mightn't win any awards for pizzazz, it's effective and clear. As can be seen above, TomTom has split the information boxes at the bottom into three lots. Tapping on each of the boxes yields a quick shortcut to a popular function; from left to right: volume, switching between 2D and 3D view, and route overview. Drivers can also configure shortcut buttons that appear on the left-hand side for functions, like voice commands and phone manipulation.
It's price may be some AU$200 less than the Go 930 at launch, but along the way the Go 950 has had to shed some features, most noticeably the FM transmitter and MP3 player. Helping to assuage the pain are Bluetooth hands-free, dead reckoning, text-to-speech, speed and red light camera alerts, voice commands, lane guidance and junction view, map correction and sharing, and detailed maps for 39 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the US, Canada and much of Western Europe.
We had no issues pairing the Go 950 with a number of phones via Bluetooth. Hands-free call quality was suitable for a quick conversation, but you probably wouldn't want to discuss the works of Jean-Paul Sartre with it. Although text-to-speech for spoken street names is present it's annoyingly not enabled by default. It's not terribly proficient at pronouncing words of Australian or Aboriginal origin, such as Bourke and Parramatta. There's also a slightly awkward pause in the middle of some words.
Speed and red light cameras are heralded by an attention grabbing, but not too annoying, audio alert. Unfortunately, the accompanying visuals aren't anywhere near as prominent — a flashing icon on the map and a small warning in the top left corner (see screen capture above). It also doesn't work as intended, with some cameras AWOL when approaching from certain directions, while other warnings don't blare until after you've passed the camera or intersection.
Learn this list by rote, otherwise voice commands may not work as planned.
Voice commands allow the driver to use the Go 950 in a largely hands-off manner, although you'll still need to tap the screen to put the Go into listening mode. The system works quite well and has a fairly good hit rate when you're uttering street and suburb names. Oddly you can't enter a point of interest via voice, but, like many similar systems, the biggest drawback is that you have to utter the correct phrase. For instance, you have to know that it's not "mute" but "turn sound off". And although there's a list of correct commands (above), uttering them perfectly still won't guarantee that the unit won't decide to spit watermelon pips in your eye instead.
The Go 950 starts up in a not particularly speedy 10 seconds and route calculation times are acceptable — interestingly, the Go 950 is about 8 per cent slower than the bottom-of-the-range TomTom Start that we're currently putting through its paces.
Without any form of traffic messaging, the Go 950 relies on the company's IQ Routes technology that hoovers up anonymous street by street average speed data from TomTom users. While the routes generated by the Go 950 are a smidge better than its rivals, there's still a lot of scope for improvement. More often than we'd like to recall that we were asked to perform nigh-on-impossible right-hand turns, drive through clogged intersections or sit patiently on streets that are parking lots for 18 hours out of 24.
Junction view eats highway exits and intersections for breakfast.
In the suburbs positioning was pretty much spot on and thanks to its dead reckoning, the Go 950 remained fairly accurate inside tunnels. The flipside is that its CBD performance is worse than average as it often locks on to an incorrect position and then follows it blindly via dead reckoning. Fitted with Whereis' Australian map and optioned up with lane guidance and junction view, the Go 950 has lane information for most multi-lane roads, and full screen lane guidance and signage for highway on and off ramps.
Hero model it may be, but features-wise it's a mixed bag — props for the excellent windshield mount, boo for the deleted FM transmitter and MP3 playback, and missing traffic capability. Indeed, with its collection of Australian, Kiwi, European and North American maps, it's best suited to frequent flyers.