TomTom Via 135 review

Is this the right time for voice-controlled sat navs?

TomTom Via 135
The TomTom Via 135 UK & Ireland offers voice recognition

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While the idea of using voice commands to navigate your way around the country is a neat one, the reality still has a surprisingly long way to go. At times the TomTom Via 135 works well, but it's amazing how quickly not being understood can frustrate.

We liked

The compact design of the TomTom Via 135 works well. It's easy to fold up and slip into your pocket, yet is solid in use and adheres to the windscreen well.

The route finding is accurate, and the predicted arrival times are up to TomTom's usual excellent standard. The audio navigation is clear and precise, with spoken street names and the ability to change voices if you're annoyed by the default offering.

We disliked

Having to press a (quite small) button to use the voice navigation means that you'll need to take at least one hand off the wheel and use your eyes in order to enjoy this hands-free navigation.

To make yourself understood you'll have to talk in a stilted manner, undermining the concept of voice recognition - it's often quicker to simply enter your destination by hand.

The maps cover just the UK and Ireland, which means that from a pure value perspective, this £149.99 (around $230) sat nav isn't the best option out there, or even the best option from TomTom - the TomTom Start 60 Europe doesn't cost much more, and covers Europe, too.

Final verdict

While TomTom should be applauded for trying to get voice recognition out there and in cars, the Via 135 doesn't feel like it's at a stage where it's ready for mass consumption just yet.

There are moments where it works perfectly, but there are plenty of times where the sensitive microphone picks up background noise or the sat nav just fails to understand you. It's all too easy to resort to touch input, making other more affordable options look like better buys.

Having used the TomTom Start 60, with its larger screen, we'd still rather spend our money there, especially given the European maps offered by that device.