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New GPS units are coming out with new features and extra helpful capabilities.

But not all units do everything they claim to do, and not all extra features are actually practical and helpful.

The TomTom Go 930 is a sad example of a unit that promises more than it delivers.

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TomTom Go 930 GPS review

Promises a lot but sadly flawed in execution

One of the distinctive features of the TomTom Go 930 is its extra graphical help guiding you through freeway interchanges and exits.

But - alas - this feature is limited and sometimes unhelpful.

Part of our series on GPS - additional articles to be published in coming weeks - see links on the right.



The TomTom Go 930 is an attractive unit, but there's little to like about it, and it disappoints in just about every one of the so called premium features it offers in return for its high asking price.

Not recommended.

The TomTom Go 930 GPS - What You Get

Tomtom's Go 930 comes in a cardboard box with a reasonable range of accessories and extras.

There is, of course, the unit itself.  Equally predictable is the presence of a car cigarette lighter power adapter and a windshield mount adapter.  There is also a USB cord to connect the Go 930 to a computer; one end is a regular USB plug (to connect to your computer) and the other end terminates in a desktop cradle into which you can plug your GPS.

An adhesive disk allows the windshield mount to be used in other locations (like the dash board).

The unit comes with a remote control and the two AAA batteries needed to operate it.

A CD-rom and documentation complete the contents of the package.  The documentation comprises a three language Quick Start user manual (English, French and Spanish), an installation poster, a license sheet and a promotional booklet.  The CD-rom has a copy of the complete manual on it as well as software for managing your unit from your PC.

As always, the first thing you should do upon receiving the unit is to connect it to the internet and download all the latest updates, and also download a new copy of the manual.  The CD-rom's manual was out of date with some errors in it that were only resolved after downloading a new manual from TomTom's website.

The Go 930 has a one year limited and non-transferable warranty.  I'm not sure what its list price is, because for reasons best known to itself, the TomTom website insists on pricing the unit only in pounds sterling (400 or about $720).  However, it is available at for $400.

Using the Unit

In theory, I should love this unit, because it appears to offer an enormously greater range of options and features than any other unit I've yet encountered - for example, there are an impressive 40 different sub-categories within its Configuration menu.

But I found myself never comfortable with the Go 930, and never found it easy to get it to do what I wanted.  And those 40 different options on the configuration menu get successively more and more buried - it can take up to ten key strokes/menu choices to get to some of the furtherest away options.  How unfriendly and difficult is that if you're driving down the freeway and wishing to change something on the unit at the same time?

Annoyingly, if you're on one of the later screens of options and make a change, many times the unit doesn't return to the configuration page but instead goes all the way back to the home screen, requiring as many as another ten screen taps to bring you back to where you were.  Sometimes you're taken back a level to the previous menu, sometimes you're taken all the way back to the navigation screen, so you never really know what to expect.

There is an option to restrict the number of options you have available to you by hiding some of the less frequently used options, but Murphy's Law tends to suggest that if you do that, then the thing you most want to do is hidden, and you either forget about its existence and don't realize the unit can do that thing, or can't work out how to unhide the feature or where it is/was.

The interface isn't intuitive, and things you'd expect the unit to do (and which most other units do) are not present.  For example, with just about every other GPS I've tested, if you touch the map screen then drag your finger along, this drags the map with your finger.  Not so with the TomTom unit.  Scrolling around on the map to get a better feeling of where you are and what is ahead is a difficult thing that I never managed to master.

Even more disappointing was that the special extra features which had made this unit appear so promising and full of potential ended up being non-events.

IQ Routes Feature

Perhaps the most exciting feature offered by this unit is what they call their 'IQ Routes Feature'.  In theory this adjusts the unit's decision about how to route you where you are going based on historical traffic patterns accumulated over the last however many months and years.

This means that the unit 'knows' - just like you know, as an experienced local driver - which routes get congested and when.  You know that some times of day, some freeways in some directions are parking lots, while at other times of day they may be wide open, and you sort of know how to adjust your driving route to reflect these things.

That is the theory of the IQ Routes.  But, alas, the reality is a far cry fro the theory.  But first, let's consider one more bit of theory.  Say you live in a bedroom suburb and, like all your neighbors, you commute into the city center each morning to work, and home again each evening.  This means that the traffic going in to town in the morning is bad, while the reverse commute is light, and when you come home, the opposite is the case, right?

This underscores a key part of the IQ Routes concept.  It needs to be sensitive to what time of day you are traveling.  Traffic patterns are totally different for the morning commute than for the afternoon commute.

Now for the problem in the reality.  The IQ Routes makes no differentiation for different times of day!  Although the publicity proudly boasts of having over 6.2 billion road miles of data to use, somehow TomTom blends together the entire day's traffic patterns, and then merges them into an average which, while an exact average, never ever matches the actual reality of the traffic flows.

This makes the IQ Routes feature worse than useless.  It truly is worse than useless because the data it gives is more likely to be wrong than right, causing you to potentially make bad decisions rather than good decisions.

Other Problems and Limitations

Data Access Problem

In addition to the historic routing information, the Go 930 also offers real time traffic data, but to get that you need to pay a monthly subscription and you need a data receiver to get the information.

The good news is that you can save yourself the cost of the $100+ data receiver if you connect the Go 930, via Bluetooth, to your cell phone and use your cell phone's data service to access the traffic information through the internet.

The bad news is that almost no phones are supported to give you this capability.  Do you have a Blackberry?  Unless it is an 8100, it won't work.  Do you have a new iPhone?  Sorry, neither the original nor the new 3G iPhone will work.  And so on.

The even worse news is that if you do miraculously have one of the few phones that is supported by the Go 930, while it is connected and sending data, you can't use the phone for voice calls.  No incoming calls will be accepted and no outgoing calls can be placed.   Oooops.

Computer Access Problem

A clever feature of the unit is the ability to download and share corrections and updates to the map data loaded inside it.  This is a great concept, and is actively used - it seems that over one thousand map corrections are released each week.

This information is downloaded by connecting the Go 930 via USB cable to your computer, and then using a program to access TomTom's site and send the information on to the Go 930.  The program is reasonably simple and easy to use, making the process close to automatic.

But.  At least half the time, when I connected my unit to my computer, some sort of program bug would disable my computer's internet access, and the entire computer would stop communicating with the internet.  This required the computer to be rebooted - indeed, on at least one occasion, a warm reboot was insufficient, and I had to physically power the machine off then restart it from scratch.  Yuck.

When I tried to get some support and problem resolution from TomTom's support people, the person I was speaking with first of all failed to understand the problem, then (clearly reading from a script) said that their software would only work if all firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spyware programs were first disabled!

Get real, TomTom!  Completely disabling all of the computer protection features that is absolutely essential, even for five minutes, is an unacceptable risk in today's dangerous computing world (to say nothing of the risk that you'll forget to restart those features again when you've finished your TomTom connection.

But even causing one's computer to be totally naked and exposed in the hostile world of the raw internet, my problem is not solved.  The support people had no further suggestions to offer.

TomTom earns itself another failing grade for this 'feature'.

Lane Guidance

It can be difficult to know which lane to get into when preparing to take an offramp on a freeway - particularly when traffic is a bit congested, you don't want to find yourself way over in the left lane and having to suddenly move across three or four lanes.

The lane guidance feature of the Go 930 is touted as solving this problem - clearly telling you which lane you need to get into, and even showing stylized pictures of what the road ahead of you looks like.  Sounds good, yes?

Again, there is a but.

The first part of the but is that this information isn't offered until you are within half a mile of the exit.  That's too late if traffic is tightly packed and you're way over on the wrong side.  And that can happen - made worse by the TomTom first telling you 'keep left' and then a couple of seconds later, showing you a diagram that requires you to move way over to the right within the next half mile.  Why can't the unit say, when you're approaching your exit, instead of 'keep to the left', perhaps 'keep to the middle'.

And the much touted pictures of exits - not only are they heavily stylized (ie not exactly what you see out the windshield) but they almost never ever appear.  Another non-feature for most of the time.

Still more problems and limitations

The Go 930 boasts the ability to accept voice commands for address entry.  But not only does it have a patchy ability to recognize words, it only accepts limited commands, meaning you still need to look at and enter additional commands through its touch screen.  The voice command feature is as much a gimmick as it is a truly useful feature, made even more limited by my inability to get the larger part of the voice functions to work at all.

The Bottom Line

The Go 930 is TomTom's current top of the line GPS unit.  While it looks good on paper, with some interesting value-add features such as inertial dead reckoning and IQ routing, in reality these value-adds are of very little value at all, and indeed perhaps they are of negative value because they may engender a greater degree of confidence in what the unit is telling you than is truly justified.

A cumbersome interface, some operational quirks, and a poorly visible screen in adverse lighting all make this a less than optimum choice for most potential purchasers.

The unit costs $400 through - more than twice the price of less expensive units, and it is hard to see any extra value associated with the extra cost.

Not recommended.

Feature Analysis


Test Unit


TomTom Go 930 GPS


List price of about $700

Purchased through for $400

Review Date/Details

Unit was reviewed in Sept 2008.

Its software was immediately updated.

TomTom software version 8.010

North America map version 800.1727

Western/Central Europe map version 800.1765


One year non transferable limited warranty.


Online and via phone (866 486-6866).

Phone support is Monday - Friday 8.30am - 7pm and Saturday 9am - 6pm, and is based in the Eastern time zone.

I called twice with questions.  Both calls were answered quickly, the first support person was of average competence, the second support person was incompetent.  He tried to tell me that the unit used 'the 12 Tele Atlas satellites' - in actual fact, it used the 36+ Dept of Defense satellites and to mistake this point shows a fundamental complete lack of knowledge about what GPS is and how it works.  He also had no idea what WAAS was.  Tele Atlas is actually a subsidiary of TomTom and is the provider of the unit's street map data - nothing to do with GPS satellites at all.


The unit comes with the usual things - screen mount, car power supply and basic documentation.

Plus it has some bonuses - a remote control (which is probably more bother than it is worth), and a cradle with USB cable for connecting to a computer.

Runs out of the box

Yes, it is immediately ready to start operating, but you really need to read through the manual quite a bit before being able to understand its complex and often obscured commands.


Comparable to other units with similar screen size, and fits in a shirt pocket.

It measures 4.6" x 3.2" x 0.5 - 0.8".


The unit by itself weighs 7.6 oz, and when combined with the screen mount and power cable, totals 11.3 oz.  This is suitably light weight.

Mounting Accessories

The unit comes with a windshield suction cup mount, with a single flexible joint to help orientate the unit inside the vehicle.

This is not quite as flexible a mount as provided by (eg) Garmin and other companies, and requires you to get the windshield mount more exactly affixed to the windshield to start with.

But it seems to work well, and is smaller and lighter than units from other companies.

Screen Size

4.3" diagonal screen

2.1" x 3.7" =  9:16 aspect ratio

Screen Pixels

272 x 480, same as almost every other unit with a 4.3" screen.

Screen Colors

Unknown but sufficient.

Screen Visibility

I had thought that due to the standard screen size and resolution (4.3" and 272x480) that perhaps all the screens in these types of GPS units (and personal video players) were made by the same company.

That may be a wrong perception, because this screen is markedly inferior to other screens in terms of visibility, particularly when the sun is shining on it.

The screen washes out to almost invisibility with the sun shining on it, and is much worse than other units with similar 4.3" screens (I tested it alongside a Garmin 680 and the Dash Express, all three mounted side by side on the dashboard).

Screen Backlighting

Yes, multiple levels offered for both the day and night screens.

Day/Night Mode


The best units switch between day and night automatically, based on when the unit knows that the sun has set.

This unit instead switches to night mode when it senses the ambient lighting has become sufficiently dim as to imply darkness.  But its sensor is easily tricked - if you're driving on a cloudy afternoon and there are some trees shading the road, it will switch to night mode, then switch back again when the tree cover disappears, then switch on again when something else causes the light level to drop, and so on, back and forth, annoyingly.


There is an On/Off button on the top of the unit, and a recessed reset button on the bottom of the unit.  Everything else is controlled via touch screen menus.

Interactive help files available


Limited functionality when moving

This is an option.  You can specify all sorts of limitations when you are driving.  A very flexible option, but also very useless for most of us who will never use any of the available limitations.

Graphics processor speed


GPS Receiver

Receiver details not known.  When asked, TomTom said this was proprietary information and refused to disclose it!  Being as how there are only a couple of manufacturers of GPS receiver chips, one can only guess as to why TomTom seeks to keep this information a secret.

It quickly gets a lock on enough satellites to fix its position.  TomTom offer a feature they call 'QuickGPS Fix' data which is information you load to your Go 930 every week or so to help the unit more quickly locate the satellites.

It seems this data is the same as the almanac data the satellites themselves broadcast, in which case it is of no real benefit to download it from the internet, because the satellites are automatically broadcasting it anyway.

When asked exactly what the QuickGPS Fix data was, TomTom refused to disclose any information, which tends to confirm in my mind that this is a bit of marketing flim-flam rather than a bona fide feature.

Max number of satellites simultaneously tracked

Unknown, but the satellite signal screen has space to report on 14 different satellites simultaneously.

When asked, TomTom said that this was also proprietary data and refused to disclose the information.

WAAS enhanced

The support person at TomTom didn't even know what WAAS is.  Presumably this also is proprietary data.

It seems the unit does not support WAAS.

Dead reckoning capability


The unit offers what TomTom call 'Enhanced Positioning Technology'.  It uses acceleration sensors to calculate the vehicle's speed and direction at times when there is no satellite based GPS information available, but this dead reckoning is only approximate and quickly deteriorates in quality as the errors build up.

The dead reckoning only works after the unit has managed to get a current GPS fix, so if you turn the unit on, it is unhelpful until after locking on to satellites, however long that takes.

If you don't see value in this feature, you can choose the Go 730 instead which is basically the same unit but without the dead reckoning, but currently both the 730 and 930 are priced the same on Amazon, so why not get the more fully featured unit.

Satellite display

Yes - shows a sky map with satellites on it, signal bars for satellites being received, current latitude and longitude, speed and heading, and also the exact time.

Accuracy calculation


Can the unit show you your current latitude and longitude and compass heading

This information is shown on the satellite display screen.

Can the unit show you your current altitude


Can the unit show you the exact time

Yes, on the satellite screen (to the second) and on the main screen (to the minute).

External antenna capability

Yes.  Connection through socket on the bottom of the unit.

CPU processor speed

400 MHz.

Trip Computer functions

Not really.

It will show your estimated time of arrival, travel time remaining and distance remaining as well as current speed, but nothing else.

Battery Type

Lithium Polymer.

Battery Life

Tomtom's website claims, on the same page, 3 hours and 5 hours battery life.  You think they could at least get their story straight.

Power Input

The unit gets power through its USB port, either from the supplied car cigarette lighter adapter or via any computer USB cable.

Auto Power On/Off

No.  It will automatically power off, if you don't tell it to stay on within ten seconds of turning off your car's power/ignition.  But it doesn't power on automatically when you turn the ignition on.

This is stupid, and TomTom's rationale - 'we worried it would flatten the car battery' is even stupider.  Sure, the unit will drain power from the battery, but so too does everything else when you turn on the car's ignition.

The lack of real world comprehension shown in their design decision not to have the unit automatically power on (all the major competing units do automatically power on) is indicative of a general user-unfriendliness in the overall design of the unit.



Map provider

Tele Atlas.

Countries provided

US, Canada, and Western Europe all preloaded in the unit.

Update policy, frequency and cost

Not sure of frequency of hard copy map updates, but they also offer a quarterly e-update service, but only in Europe, and for an undisclosed cost.

Other countries also available

Yes.  Southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Turkey.

Prices range from about $30 to $130 per map.

How is map data loaded into the GPS receiver

Map data is pre-loaded on the unit in its internal memory.  No hard copy is provided.

Can the entire US be loaded into the unit

Yes.  The unit comes with all of the US, Canada, and Western Europe preloaded in the unit.

Speaks Directions


Speaks Street Names

Yes, but.....  It will only speak street names if you select the computer generated voice option.

If you choose one of the other 'real person' voice options, the unit doesn't speak street names.

Languages spoken

Too many to count!


Yes, your choice.

Can you choose between North up or Direction of Travel up


The unit is permanently in a direction of travel up mode.

Split screen mode


Map Scale Shown


The unit also has an auto zoom function that can be selected on or off.

Number of POIs provided

Believed to be about 5 million.

You can also download extra custom sets of points of interest (for example, I downloaded a set of the top 50 BBQ restaurants) from the TomTom website.

Number of user POIs that can be added


POI information includes phone number


POI proximity alert

Optional - you can turn this on and off and set the distance from the POI that the alarm will sound.

Speed limit warner

Sort of.  Sometimes it displays the posted speed limit for the road you're traveling on, and if you're driving more than a few miles over this speed, it lights up in red the part of the screen that shows your actual speed and the road's posted speed.

Note that the information in the unit about posted speed limits is very incomplete - it seems to be present for major freeways and just about no surface streets at all.  And the information which is present isn't always completely accurate.

You can also have it give an audible warning.

Does it show both miles and kilometers

Yes - you can set it to display either miles or kilometers, and degrees celsius or fahrenheit.


Route Planning

How to enter addresses and other data

The touch screen works in ABCD, QWERTY or AZERTY formats.

The keyboard doesn't grey out letters as an aid to typing in names, except when typing in city names.

You can partially type a name and then call up a list of matching places.

It also has very limited voice recognition abilities, limited to town/city names and street names.  This works adequately about half the time, but because you still have to access the screen to accept suggested names (there isn't a voice command for, eg, 'accept' or 'change') and to enter in the rest of the information, and because you have to work your way through several menus to turn the setting on/off, it is more a gimmick than a useful feature.

There was an enhanced 'dialog' type voice recognition option as well, but it never worked.

I found it very difficult to enter addresses, due to the formats it uses and bad sorting logic - for example, if I enter just the digit '5' for a street name, it won't first offer me 5th St, but instead, 50th, 51st, etc.

Entering addresses was always more difficult with this unit than with the Garmin or Dash units.

Can you build a multi-stop journey with waypoints


Will it solve the 'traveling salesman' puzzle


Can you program assumed speeds for different road types, and if so, how many different road types?


The unit's default settings are supposed to be enhanced by its IQ Route information, but due to the non-specific nature of this information, it really adds nothing at all to the unit's ability to calculate travel speeds.

Can you choose different settings for different types of vehicles


You can choose between fastest route, shortest route, avoiding freeways, walking routes, bicycle routes or limited speed routes.

I don't know what it means by a limited speed route, and its manual is silent on the point as well.

Can you program preferences for road/route types

The only option is the avoiding freeways option mentioned above.

Does the unit present you with multiple route choices to choose from


Can you choose between fastest/quickest and shortest route options

Yes, but only sort of.

Each time you select a destination the unit can optionally offer you a choice between faster time or shorter distance before calculating the route, so you don't get to actually see the implications of the two choices.

Will it show breadcrumb trails?



Extra Features



Export data to laptop

Yes - has a USB port for exporting and importing data.

Can it play MP3 or other digital audio


Can it play MP4 or other digital video


Can it display pictures

Yes, but poorly - it wastes a lot of the screen leaving only a narrow strip for the image.

Integrated with real time traffic reporting

Yes if you buy the optional additional external aerial or connect through your cell phone and sign up for the monthly traffic reporting service.

Integrated with other location services

Yes.  For a fee, can also advise about nearby gas prices and weather reports.  It doesn't offer local movie data.

Other features

It has an inertial sensor to calculate the vehicle's position for a short while using dead reckoning if you briefly lose satellite contact (eg driving through a tunnel).

IQ Routes and Advanced Lane Guidance - of very limited use, discussed in text.


Read more in the GPS articles series

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Originally published 3 Oct 2008, last update 21 Jul 2020

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.


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