Tom Tom Navigator 5 Review

Review: TomTom Navigator 5 for Treo 650

Ratings: 5

By: Christopher Meinck

Navigations systems such as TomTom Go run around $799 and up from Best Buy. By using the existing hardware of the Treo 650, TomTom aims to turn your Treo 650 into a full fledged portable Treo GPS navigation system for a little under $300. With a trip to Canada on the horizon, I was ready to test out the TomTom 5 in the real world.

TomTom Navigator 5 GPS for Treo 650

Inside the TomTom 5 Package

The TomTom bundle was small, but contained everything that I needed for navigation. Included in the package was:

  • Bluetooth GPS receiver
  • Car Charger
  • TomTom Installation CD
  • 8 Map CD’s
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Product Code Card

The first thing you notice is that it does not come with a home charger.
On my Ford Escape, I have two cigarette lighters, so I was able to use
one for the Treo 650 and one for the GPS receiver. On long trips, you could
potentially have power issues that would force you to swap between charging
your Treo 650 and charging your GPS. TomTom claims their receiver will last upwards of 10 hours on a full charge.

Out of box experience

The kit looked small and professional. I was aware of TomTom’s history making
GPS systems, so I felt pretty confident this would be an easy straight-forward setup. I received my kit three hours prior to my trip — surely enough time for a Treo veteran to get this GPS system installed and working ; or was it?

Installing TomTom on my Treo 650

The TomTom install disc is required to install the Navigation application (this is the main TomTom application), the Contacts Navigation and Voices. From the start, I had difficulty with the Install CD. It prompts you to select Pocket PC or Palm and
then offers you the option to install the application. On the first sync, it informed me that it would install the TomTom Navigator and Lori, who would be my personal assistant on the road. For reasons I never could figure out, this process just did not work on the Macintosh.

Installing the TomTom > Continued

I did a little research and found there was a new installer for the mac. I downloaded
the file and was on my way. I was able to complete my HotSync using Missing Sync and was ready to install maps for my trip. Since I was going to Canada, I would be needing New England and Mid-
Atlantic along with Canada. Midway through the installation process, I find out that my SD card is full and installation of the maps could not be completed. Okay, I probably shouldn’t have tried to install these on a 256MB card. I proceed to break out a fresh 512MB Card and continue the process. Note: You’ll want to have 512MB SD Card or greater. The initial load of the maps took a long time. Don’t expect to breeze through the install as if it were a standard hotsync. After locating the update, I was able to easily install the TomTom Navigator application along with the maps needed for my trip. Now all I have to do is activate the software.

Activating your TomTom maps

With the concern of software piracy, TomTom requires that you go through their activation process in order to use the maps. The first thing you’ll need is the card which contains the product code. According to the manual, I was able to do this via GPRS, but I quickly realized this was not working for me. Since I was online via broadband, I opted for the web activation. I entered my product code into the Treo 650 and received a device code. Now, I need both of these (Product Code on the credit card and Device Code from my Treo) to get the Activation Code. After running a faulty installer, having to reinstall the application and maps to my new SD card, frustration was starting to set in. Armed with my codes, I hit the web and visit the activation center. After one hour
of trying to activate my software, I have no choice but to begin the first leg of my trip to Canada without
the TomTom. I have faith because I am planning on stopping in upstate New York for the night and would be able to continue this activation process.

Ground Control To Major TomTom

The activation process should be three easy steps. Enter each code and it spits out an activation code. For over four hours, I tried unsuccessfully to get an activation code. After an email to tech support, I decided to retire for the evening and try again before hitting the road to Knowlton, Canada.

The next morning I received an email from TomTom support to inform me that the problem had been resolved. Rather than sending me the activation code (that would have been too easy), I was once again headed off to try my luck with the TTCode activation server. On the first try, I received the code. I took a screen shot, copied and pasted in a word document and also jotted it down on a piece of paper. At this point, it felt like I had won Lotto. Who cares if the application works; I finally received an activation code. I immediately entered the code using the QWERTY keyboard and it was rejected. So, I tried yet again thinking that maybe I had entered it incorrectly. After two attempts, I decided to use the keypad on the Treo screen rather than the keyboard. Sure enough, this activated my maps. Just in time, now let’s take it on the road. I entered the preferences area to select my voice. To my dismay, none of the voices were installed. I remembered that during the initial install, Lori was installed on my 256MB card. No problem, or so I thought, it should be that hard to add a voice considering it was one of the installable options. According to my HotSync process, the voice was installing. However, TomTom wouldn’t recognize the voice. Defeated, I realized that I was not going to be able to realize the full potential of the TomTom GPS on my trip to Canada. Luckily, I was following someone who had directions.

Realizing that something was incorrect with my initial install, I deleted Navigator and Contacts Navigation from my Treo. I re-installed using the installer I had downloaded from TomTom and immediately I had voices.

Pairing the TomTom 5 with the Treo

Like most other Bluetooth devices, pairing the TomTom was easy. Simply enter the Bluetooth menu and Add Device. The passkey is 0000. There are no directions to speak of, but the process was easy none the less.

Communication Between Treo 650 and TomTom GPS Receiver

I experienced spotty communication between my GPS receiver and the TomTom Navigator software on my Treo. The GPS receiver has one button and two lights. The orange light indicates the unit is charging. The green light indicates the unit is on. When it’s flashing, it is searching for satellites. There were a number of times when I would power on the receiver, see the green light and then the Treo would not see a GPS signal. In this situation, I tried to troubleshoot by using a variety of start-up procedures.

  • Cycle power on GPS recevier
  • Quit Navigator and relaunch
  • Turn on GPS receiver first and then launch Navigator

Suffice to say, I wasn’t sure what would get them talking and considered myself lucky when they did. After a few weeks of using the system, I realized a very easy way to get them communicating.

  • Turn on GPS receiver
  • Enter Bluetooth menu and turn Bluetooth OFF and then ON
  • Launch Navigator

Once I figured this out, I had no problems accessing the satellites and getting a quick fix. If you receive an incoming call on a Bluetooth headset during your trip, it will interrupt the GPS’s ability to communicate with the Treo. This is due to Palm’s implementation of Bluetooth and not the TomTom. I set up a button for the TomTom to quickly switch back to the Navigator after calls.

Taking it out on the road

It only took seven paragraphs, but I’m finally ready to use the TomTom. I loaded up the Canada map and headed for Vermont. Not so quick. The maps do not work hand in hand. So, you cannot plan a trip from say Canada to Amityville, Long Island. You need to plan a trip from Knowlton, Canada to the border and then switch maps. Knowing that it was only 2 turns to the US, I loaded up my New England Mid-Atlantic maps from the start. The GPS displayed the car, but nothing around. Once I crossed the border, the TomTom immediately tracked me down.

Navigating to Points of Interest

The default installation automatically enabled the Points of Interest. The categories included Restaurants, Gas Stations, Hotel/Motel, Parking Garage and Open Parking. I entered a small town in Vermont where we planned to stop for breakfast. I pressed:

  • Points of Interest
  • Restaurants
  • I received a list of restaurants relative to my area

We chose the Family Restaurant and the TomTom started calling out directions, "Turn Left 100 yards". "Turn Right". It continued until I heard, "You have reached your destination." I was literally right in front of restaurant. After 4 days of frustration, I looked over at my wife like a proud parent. From that moment on, my wife knew she had competition with Lori – the competition got heated when Lori managed to navigate me from Route 95 to a Starbuck’s.

Who needs Mapquest?

When you first enter the TomTom menu’s, you’re able enter your Home address. This way, no matter where you are, you can easily select Navigate to Home. When I selected Home from Vermont, the TomTom asked if I wanted to avoid Tolls. This is a nice option if you’re concerned about avoiding tolls and have extra time. Once you enter the destination along with your toll preference, the software starts analyzing roads to find the fastest route. When we first left this restaurant in Vermont, Lori started taking us through dirt roads. However, within minutes, we were back on the highway. As we travelled on 95 through cities, the TomTom would inform me to stay left. This was helpful as you avoid any incorrect merges. After our stop at Starbuck’s, I selected Navigate to Home and the TomTom took us back to the highway and eventually home. Once I go back to Queens, NY, I was well aware of the roads, but continued to use the TomTom. The navigation system took the same roads I would have chosen. Since then, I’ve used it numerous times for local driving to see what routes it takes. In most cases, I actually rely on the GPS system, rather than take my way. In the past few weeks, I’ve been actively using the TomTom and really putting it to the test. My wife and I are looking to buy a home, so we spend part of our weekends driving to varioius open houses. We print out 10-12 addresses and use the TomTom to guide us. Not once have we not gotten lost , but in fact our trips throughout the neighborhood are a much more effective use of our time. You also have an application called Contacts Navigation. With this app, you can select any one of your contacts and ask TomTom to take you there.


The TomTom is unlike most Palm applications in that you do not use your stylus or keyboard. Most everything is
done using the screen. The TomTom folks realize that you’re driving while using this app, so it doesn’t make sense to pull out your stylus in order to use the application. The TomTom Navigator does not come with a mount for your vehicle, but I would recommend it. There were times when I looked down at the TomTom and this just isn’t safe. A Vehicle Mount in the middle of your dashboard/windshield is a good option with this kit. I’m right-handed and used my thumb to select the screens. I found the interface to be very slick and worked great. It even has an option to change to Operate Left-handed. The software has every preference you could think of and really allows you customize your navigation experience. You can choose everything from night colors, map colors and more. You can download new voices from the CD and they have an option to purchase addition "fun" voices. These include a NY Cabbie, Holly and John Cleese who is their spokesperson.


If someone were to read the first half of this review, they would be missing out on a truly fantastic application for the Treo 650. The activation process was a complete nightmare and I’m hoping that I’m the exception rather than the rule. There were some issues that were "pilot errors" such as trying to install a large map on a 256MB SD Card and trying to rush the set up. That being said, while I understand the company is protecting itself against piracy, there is also potential for a tremendous amount of frustration. At a minimum, there should be clear and concise directions for activation.

When you’re set up, this product turns your Treo 650 into a robust GPS system that provides spot-on navigation and responsive software all in a very small package. While wireless, I used the charger 24×7, but there’s no reason you cannot take this GPS walking through the streets of any major city and use the benefits of GPS. The addition of Points of Interest takes the guesswork of finding a restaurant of your liking from the highway or in the middle of a busy city. With GPS Systems reaching almost $800, the TomTom 5 Navigator for Palm OS capitalizes on your existing Treo hardware making a GPS System for under $300 retail. What’s more, it’s portable meaning you can take it walking through the city or take it on business trips. Despite the initial hurdles, I highly recommend the TomTom 5 Bluetooth GPS Bundle – just allow time for set-up and plan on purchasing a 512MB or greater SD Card and a dashboard mount.

The TomTom 5 Navigator for Treo 650 starts at $279.95. Wired versions start at $229.95.

To discuss the TomTom Navigator 5 for Palm OS, please visit our Treo forum.

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