Review: TomTom XL 340S GPS

If you’re going on a journey, try not to do it with Evangeline Lilly or Matthew Fox: They’re known for getting stranded in random, unknown locations for long periods of time. Instead, opt for someone like Mr. T or John Cleese, who seem to have an uncanny knack for navigation. They’re among the amusing B-list celebrity voices you can add to TomTom’s XL 340S, a nicely appointed windshield-mounted GPS that’s smarter than the average navigator.

For starters, it offers Advanced Lane Guidance, a feature usually reserved for pricier models. GPS devices lacking this feature typically have us swerving across three lanes at the last second because we just realized we’re about to miss our exit. On the 340S, the GPS overlays a lane diagram and flashing arrows for early course corrections.

Then there’s IQ Routes, which relies on user-collected, real-world road data to calculate the fastest route to your destination. If your trip takes you down a stretch of highway that’s usually inflicted with bumper-to-bumper traffic, the 340S may steer you to nearby roads that have less congestion. That’s a way smarter solution than relying solely on speed-limit data.

Finally, like all gizmos should, the 340S carries its own software: Just connect it to your PC or Mac and the TomTom Home app installs itself on your computer automatically. This handy little program helps you add maps, plan routes, update your GPS and install new voices.

Speaking of voices, the celeb vocals (like the aforementioned John Cleese and Mr. T) cost $13 apiece, but you can choose from loads of user-created freebies as well. You can even add your own vocals if you’re feeling narcissistic. Just one problem: If you choose any voice other than “Susan, English U.S.,” you lose out on the 340S’s text-to-speech capability. That’s understandable (we pity the fool who thinks Mr. T will record every street and highway name on the continent), but it’s still disappointing.

TomTom’s UI rocks, with built-in tutorials for various features and handy extras like “Help Me!” that quickly locate nearby emergency services. You can plan itineraries right on the device and even make map corrections (add or edit POIs, change street names and so on). Smart stuff.

Indeed, while the 340S lacks higher-end goodies like Bluetooth and live traffic data (an optional $60 receiver adds the latter), it still delivers plenty of bang for your GPS buck and definitely won’t get you hopelessly lost. That is, unless you’re stuck on some weird South Pacific island that exists outside of normal space-time. Not even TomTom can help you there.

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