Garmin Vs Tomtom comparison review

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Introduced: 19 October 2008
Last Updated : 02 July 2012

This page is my comparison review on the portable GPS navigation units the Garmin Nuvi 265W and the TomTom One. Now you say this is pointless comparing the two because they different models - I say don't be so small minded.  Both units are supposed to do the same thing!  The Tomtom just happens to be a coupe years older.  This comparison is based mainly on navigation capability!

So how does the 2.5 year old Tomtom One compared to the latest Garmin Nuvi?  Well you'll have to read further because its not a simple as you may think... 

The Tomtom uses the latest OS update available so a few options on the system don't work because the map data isn't up to date.  (Specifically the redlight cameras however they have on effect how I'm reviewing the two)  However it gives me a good idea on what the latest Tomtoms will be able to do!  The Garmin of course is new hence up to date - so new it still doesn't appear on the official website as a locally released model I write this.

To keep things fair I will discount the wide screen and additional map info - which the old Tomtom does not have.  Note also that my Tomtom's OS software is up to date so has all the functionality of the current V3 model.

The user interface of both units are easy enough to work out. 
- The Garmin has an easy to activate trip computer.
- The Tomtom can hide or show more navigation details on the map screen than the Garmin. However the Tomtom does not have trip computer functions.
- The Tomtom's user interface can be customised significantly more than the Garmin Nuvi (Any Garmin).
- Both are expandable by purchasing additional software but the Tomtom has more functions and scope for free updates and mods while the Garmin has some free stuff but more pay options eg. travel guides.
- The Garmin allows you to scroll the map by using the 'touch and grab'  like the iPod Touch.  The TomTom does not.

So I consider both user interfaces equal but the Tomtom rates higher by allowing you to change what the screen displays relatively easily.  While the Garmin rates higher by having a easy to access and view trip computer and trip summary.

The touch screens are sensitive and both work acceptably quick when using the various functions.

Tomtom: 1 Garmin: 1

The build quality of both GPS units are very good.  The Tomtom however, especially the new models are very sleek and look better.  The Garmin's are sturdy but not stylish.  The screens of both units are very good - bright and have reasonably pixel resolution. The wide screen Tomtom XL version is probably just as good. The Tomtom has a few squeaks now but the Garmin is rock solid. Neither company publishes the technical hard spec for obvious reasons. (Ie. the OS ultimately determines how good a GPS will be) Regardless both units are overall very good.

The major difference between the two is the speaker sound quality and voices.  Both units have numerous voices to choose from but the Tomtom sounds better - louder and clearer.  The Garmin was not as clear or loud. Because the voice navigation is so important I gave the TT One the winning point.

Tomtom: 1 Garmin:0

The navigation algorithm or computer is different for both units.  I inserted the same destination and both mapped out different routes!  So at the end of the street one said right and the other said left (Port Melbourne to QV Markets) Both did not accurately workout the time to destination although the distance was about right.  The criteria for the route was the same - quickest route.

POIs (point of interest) on both GPS units have the locations of all the major attractions and shops, fuel and so forth.

All Garmin's have a trip log feature which show past routes you've taken.  Not essential but handy to have when retracing routes.  This is most useful when driving on unmapped dirt roads.

I also noticed that the Garmin takes slightly longer to find satellites on bootup compared to the Tomtom.  However the Garmin was better at keeping the signal.

If you've moved a significant distance from the last time you turned on the unit Ie. 50Kms the Garmin took much longer than the TomTom to find your current position.

Tomtom: 1 Garmin: 1

Battery Life.  The Tomtom says 2 hours (it's old) and that's about right - very dependent of screen brightness.  Garmin says 4 hours and that's about right too - however if you use Bluetooth the battery drain is obvious and halves the time.  If you make phone calls even less - in the Garmin's case 45 minutes.  However that's expected.

Tomtom:0 Garmin: 1


The conclusion based soley on navigation capability, not additional features or price!  Afterall they are not equivalent models.

The basics are really good for both GPS units.  Navigation got me to where I wanted and showed parking lots. As for the other features it is up to you which features you value more. 

If my Tomtom One had the latest map data with redlight camera data factored into the comparison it would still be a draw.

Likewise if I did the comparison of the latest Tomtom One XL to the Garmin Nuvi 265W likewise a draw.  (Not taking the Garmin 265W's extra features into account.)

The only features that would sway my decision is whether I value the Garmin's easy to access trip computer (All Garmin models have this feature!) OR do I value Tomtom's screen customisation options more? I guess the deciding factor is price when choosing between the equivalent Tomtom or Garmin model.  The choice is yours!

More concluding opinions

As for street name text to speech capability on the Garmin - it is a great feature and helps when there are lots of side streets in close range to each other but it's usefulness is dependent on whether there are actual street name signs.  Also the pronunciation is a bit funny on occasion. (The latest Tomtom now comes with spoken street names.)

Taking the current economic crisis into account - if you only want basic navigation features then the Tomtom One is perfectly suitable (Priced between $199-250 AUS for the standard ONE or the XL widescreen version it's priced between $225-299). That said so are the cheaper Garmins. However if you want more features like proper hands free Bluetooth, spoken street names, speed zones and trip computer then the Garmin is perfect.  Note that: I feel that the older Garmins made prior to 2008 are not as good as the Tomtoms of the same age.

The Bluetooth hands free function works as advertised.  When paired there is an extra option on the main menu to access phone functions.  It's worth the effort if you get lots of phone calls.

Main Menu GPS Navigation equipment

Garmin Nuvi screen images
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