Sat navs are a dying breed. With smartphones now capable of running Google Maps, and most new cars offering integrated systems, less and less people are buying dedicated navigation devices.
Don’t go ruling out the faithful sat nav yet, though, there’s still a few tricks up this old dog’s sleeve (yeah, we know that’s a mixed metaphor). If you’re in the market for a budget device which tells you where to go, the TomTom Via 52 is a pretty good shout.
What Is It?
A mid-range sat nav which offers basic navigation, as well as some more advanced features such as smartphone pairing, traffic updates, and three months of speed camera warnings. It’s designed for motorists, rather than cyclists or runners.
Who Is It For?
People that need to get somewhere but don’t know how to get there. Anyone who has a car without sat nav built in, and doesn’t trust Google Maps on their smartphone. Over 50s, basically.
The TomTom Via 52 is a very functional looking device. It gets the job done and doesn’t mess around. It has a 5-inch touchscreen on the front and a power button and reversible suction mount on the rear.
The Via 52 is made of matte plastic, which feels quite premium, and is lightweight at 209g. It’s portable, measuring 14.45 x 9.05 x 2.38 cm, which means you can happily bung it into a rucksack and not worry about bulk.
The TomTom is supplied with a separate USB cable and cigarette lighter adapter for charging. This is useful as you can also use the adapter for your smartphone.
In conclusion, sure, it ain’t going to win any beauty contests, but it gets the job done, and we like that.
The set-up is nice and simple – TomTom’s interface has become really streamlined over the years. So simple a dog with thumbs could set it up. There are some really smart touches in the UI, such as the excellent on-screen keyboard which features long press keys, and custom colour settings.
The suction mount is also easy to use. It’s reversible, so can either be ‘hung’ from the windscreen, or ‘stood’ on the dash. It features a twist to tighten suction cup which is okay, but not the most solid mount we’ve ever tested.
Finding a destination is easy thanks to the onscreen keyboard and predictive results. The navigation UI is really clean and uncluttered, very easy to understand. We really like the progress bar along the right-hand side which shows POIs along the way.
It’s also incredibly precise. I test these devices against Google Maps, which tends to be reliable and accurate. The TomTom always selected the same route and estimated a similar ETA.
In summary, the TomTom Via 52 is a pleasure to use and reliable - the company has really nailed it with its years of experience.
In addition to the navigation stuff, with your smartphone paired the Via 52 can also act as a hands-free speaker phone. Useful for keeping your eyes on the road.
The design feels distinctly retro, which I like, it's also not too big. The UI makes it a pleasure to use and the navigation is rock solid. The matte screen is a big bonus, especially on sunny days where reflective smartphone screens don’t perform so well. I also like the small form factor, which doesn't block too much of the windscreen.
Why is the battery life so bad? One hour simply isn’t good enough for such a chunky device. If my iPhone can run Google Maps over an hour, sat navs should be able to last days. It doesn’t have any interesting additional features such as the Garmin Nuvi which packs an integrated dashcam, making it just a little more useful.
Should You Buy It?
Mid-range devices are difficult to recommend. It depends on how useful you think the smartphone functions are. I’d be more tempted to buy the TomTom Start 52, which is £20 cheaper, or the TomTom Go 510, which is £20 more expensive but features a better design, multi-touch screen, and double the battery life.
Of course, there’s also competition from Google Maps, Waze, or Here, which are free...
TomTom Via 52 Specs
Screen Size: 5-inch
Screen Resolution: 480 x 272 pixels
Battery life: Up to 1 hour
Smartphone functions: TomTom Traffic, TomTom Speed Cameras, QuickGPSfix
Size: 14.45 x 9.05 x 2.38 cm