GETTING lost is pretty frustrating for a traveller. But with a GPS device, finding your way is now a breeze. TomTom’s Via 280 is one such device.
The design is simple, with a 5-inch touch-screen taking up most of the front panel.
What’s interesting about the design is the incorporation of a sleek docking mechanism at the back panel. This saves you from having a separate holder or cradle for the GPS.
There’s also a small pit that houses the USB port and microSD card, neatly tucked at the side of the back panel.
Using the Via 280 for the first time proves to be a breeze as its operation is user-friendly and straightforward. What I liked most is, it’s so easy to set up the device on my car front screen. Just plonk the device at the desired spot and twist the dial clockwise to lock the suction pad. Then tilt the screen to the position that gives the clearest view and you’re ready.
The big power button at the back is easily accessed. The screen is sharp enough and the text on the screen legible even on a sunny day. By default, the screen will switch to night setting automatically when the device is used after dark. You have to set it to day setting manually.
The map comes in 2-D and 3-D formats, which you can alternate by just tapping on the screen. I prefer the 3-D format as it shows many key places of interest such as the nearest oil station or commercial buildings that can serve as physical landmarks to help me find my way.
While navigating, the screen also shows the estimated time of arrival. The speed limit indicator will turn red if you exceed the local speed limit.
To test the Via 280, I first attempted to find my way to the Tenaga Nasional headquarters in Jalan Klang Lama, Kuala Lumpur, an area I was not familiar with. The address stated Jalan 3/1, but as I was behind the wheel I could not find the stroke (/) key on the main keypad. Thankfully, there was the Postcode Search function, so I found the office after few minutes driving around.
For my second attempt, I opted to find an office in a familiar area where one could take a few route options. After typing in the address, the route chosen by the Via 280 was not the shortest but the fastest as there were fewer traffic lights.
My only gripe: The location of the particular office was short by a few hundred metres on the device.
With almost two hours of battery time, the device can double up as a walking guide. For women, you can easily slip it into your handbag if you want to be discreet.
The device also supports hands-free calling through Bluetooth technology.
The voice navigator is set to English (UK), but there are ample voices and languages to choose from. Languages include Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin, English (US) and most major international languages, plus the option of saying or omitting street names while navigating.
With a sizeable speaker set, the voice navigation can cut through the noise, giving clear instructions at every turn.
With maps of other countries besides Malaysia, the Via 280 is suitable for the regular road-tripper and budget airline adventurer. Country maps pre-loaded into the device are Brunei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau, Singapore and Thailand.
Even if you don’t do much travelling abroad, the device is handy for driving around the country such as going to weddings in towns or villages that you’ve never been to.
Out of the box, this medium-range, budget-friendly GPS tool proves to be a good buy. Besides, the services offered online by TomTom, such as the latest versions of maps, ensure this product remains your driving and walking partner for years to come.