TomTom has carved this satnav out of its larger, older brothers to create a simple but somewhat lacking alternative. But at less than $200, is this a low-budget bargain?
The TomTom VIA 220 is the entry-level model in the VIA family of GPS navigators, sitting at $199. For the price, you get a 4.3 inch resistive touch screen that could be better though is mostly quite responsive for a pressure-sensitive screen. The build comes in a sturdy plastic that is fairly light though still feels firm in the hand. Around the back is a fixed suction cup that is one of the best and simplest mounting solutions in the satnav world. There also sits the indented power button and microSD card for updating maps (which can also be updated on the fly by the user through the menu).
As a shelled-out, entry-level model, the VIA 220 ditches some of the additives of the pricier TomTom models, including Bluetooth hands-free mobile control. It's a fairly big drop considering how standard Bluetooth pairing has become in GPS devices, and follows a longer list of drop-outs including ditched voice-recognition, landmark views and media play.
The VIA 220 uses IQ Routes software instead of FM transmitted data for traffic tips, using real-world traffic data accumulated from users to calculate faster routes. In reality, this function suffers the same pitfalls as it does on other models, working for major highways but seemingly forgetting many other main roads.
The interface is simple and mostly lag-free, though in general is slower than more expensive units around. The same goes for the GPS signal detection which is slow to act outdoors and impossible indoors (which isn't a big issue, though some of the more expensive units still stand a chance without direct line-of-sight). The screen quality redeems it a little, with a day and night mode to make for optimum viewing with minimum glare regardless of the lighting.
Lane guidance is wide and easy to follow, even on the not-so-large screen, and menu items appearing on the screen can be customised in the menu. On the physical side, the fold-up, window-mounting suction cup is one of the neatest additives to a GPS we've looked at, with a rotating cap system that twists the suction on and off being the simplest little mechanism around for attaching a GPS device to your windshield.
The TomTom VIA 220 is an attractively neat option with a simple, mostly lag-free interface that is simple in itself yet quite customisable too. We've seen simpler and we've seen much, much better, but this unit gives a clean finish to the entry level by skimping on a few of the GPS luxuries items.