Despite being one rung down on the TomTom totem pole from the Go range, we find the new Vias to be more attractive. There's a brushed strip on the screen bezel that looks and feels fabulous; the rest of the Via's body is made from hard plastic. Thanks to its tapered shape, the Via seems to be not only thinner than its stated 19mm thickness, but also slimmer than the Go 1050, which is also 19mm thick.
There are two Via models that differ only in screen size: the 160 with a 4.3-inch screen and the 5-inch 180. Unlike the Go line-up, the Via still uses a resistive touchscreen instead of the more responsive capacitive form. This does have one major benefit, however: no distracting reflections during the day.
A compact windshield mount is built into the back of the device. An orientation sensor rotates the display depending on whether you've mounted the Via to the windscreen or dashboard.
Like the Go range, the Via features a reworked version of TomTom's easy-to-use interface. The changes are primarily superficial, with the layout and structure largely unchanged.
Destination entry via the QWERTY keyboard is easy enough. This is augmented by a voice recognition that, like a cheap seafood buffet, is considerably better in theory than practice. An extensive range of voice commands are available via a configurable on-screen shortcut, but these need to be learnt by rote, as available commands doesn't automatically appear — a full list is available via Help > Product manuals > What can I say?
Although it can understand whole street and suburb names, the hit rate is less than 50 per cent and frustration will soon make your fingers do the walking. An occasional bug means that the Via randomly stops listening during the destination entry process, necessitating yet another jab at the screen.
The Bluetooth hands-free system pairs quickly and easily with the Android and Apple phones that we threw at it. Sound quality on the Via's end is decent, but given the need to raise our voice, it's not really suited to long windy conversations.
When we filmed our video review, our Via unit had speed and red light camera alerts which worked perfectly fine. After using the new MyTomTom web-based PC software to upgrade the Via's firmware and maps, we were mightily disappointed that these camera alerts had disappeared like a politician's good intentions.
Speaking of the new MyTomTom PC software, it lacks many of the abilities of the now superseded TomTom Home. It won't, for example, let you purchase and install overseas maps, buy celebrity voices, or handle map correction and sharing.
The Via resumes from sleep in under three seconds, with a full reboot clocking in at 24 seconds. Route calculation is generally quite speedy but, as with any GPS device, the suggested route is more than likely not to be neither the fastest nor most intelligent way there.
With TomTom's Australian GPS range declared a traffic messaging free zone, IQ Routes — TomTom's collection of historical speed data — is used instead. The results are hit and miss; the Via will avoid certain roads at peak times, but it will more than happily lead you into other well-known congestion points.
The latest Whereis maps are included and upgradeable for free during the first 90 days of use. The maps include lane guidance for most roads, as well as full-screen lane junction graphics for motorway exits and junctions. Text-to-speech works well, but gets tripped up by a noticeable number of street names.
GPS reception is flawless in the suburbs and bush, but patchy in amongst the glass and concrete monsters lurking at the heart of every major city.
Pretty, but flawed. Somehow the recent the software has nixed the camera alerts and made a decent GPS less so.