TomTom vs. Garmin on a Motorcycle - Who Wins? (Garmin Zumo 660 Does)
large widescreen display, bright colours and text, clear directions and great bike-mounting options.
pricey compared to auto GPS units, important to keep GPS software updated
The Bottom Line:
After extensive use of TomTom Riders and the Garmin Zumo 660, the Zumo wins the day handily although it is almost twice the price.
Motorcyclists choice - Garmin Zumo 660 or TomTom Rider 2?
A weatherprooof GPS device can be a godsend for a motorcyclist. Bikers have both hands occupied with the task of operating the vehicle. Paper maps are essentially unmanageable on a bike. Being able to obtain clear, concise directions - safely - while riding was simply not an option before the GPS device came along.
A motorcyclist who wants a stand-alone handlebar-mounted GPS that is easy to read and manipulate has essentially 2 choices: the Garmin Zumo 660 and the TomTom Rider 2. (The older - and very good - Garmin Zumo 550 is still available but perhaps not for long.)
Over the past 5 years, I have ridden over 35,000 kilometers in North America using 3 GPS units...the first TomTom Rider, the Rider 2, and this year the Garmin 660. For safety reasons, I avoid the use of multimedia features, phone-linking capabilities, etc. When riding a motorcycle, every ounce of concentration I can muster is dedicated to the act of riding, with occasional glances at a clear, bright GPS screen for map guidance. Although each of these units has a car-mount option either included or available, I would guess the primary use would be on a motorcycle. Car GPS units are available for much less money.
And of course there is the debate about distracted driving of ALL kinds and whether ANYONE should be using multimedia/phone functions while driving a vehicle of any kind.
My review tries to answer one question......which device is the best GPS for use on a motorcycle? Here goes:
TomTom Rider 1 - horrible, thin-steel mount that breaks easily and allows the Rider 1 to pop right off the mounting clip during a ride (it happened to me.) Rubber strap holds the unit onto the mount, but the rubber degrades in the sun and becomes brittle.The mount also developed an inability to charge the device while mounted due to misaligned contacts.
TomTom Rider 2 - vastly improved mount due to inclusion of RAM-manufactured mounting stalk and plate. (RAM is a company that specializes in the manufacture of quality mounting hardware.) The Rider 2 unit has a flange built right into the backplate, allowing the Rider 2 to slide right onto the mounting plate and assures excellent mating of the contacts and no chance of losing the unit during a ride. Minor beef - The mounting plate looks a bit goofy on the bike without the unit installed.
Garmin 660 - excellent mount, also supplied by RAM. The device snaps into the mounting plate with a satisfying click and it is the easiest of all 3 to remove the device from the plate. Contacts make solid contact. The mounting plate is the smallest of the 3 and looks “least goofy” on the bike when the unit is not attached.
WINNER - Garmin Zumo 660
Once you have the mount installed on the bike, it’s wise to plug your GPS into your computer and update the firmware/software on your unit before using it for the first time. I have performed numerous updates on both a PC and a Mac.
TomTom Rider 1 and 2 - TomTom’s website is among the worst I have ever seen, and their TomTom Home software is a tough slog. It is especially rough riding when used on a Mac. While updating my Rider 1, the update stopped in mid-process and bricked the unit, which (after 3 hours on the phone with Tech) resulted in my having to send the unit back to them for replacement. Updating the Rider 2 went more smoothly but the website is a pain to navigate and if you own more than one TomTom device, good luck since the software (as of this writing) seems unable to believe you could actually own more than one. (My wife has a car TomTom as well.)
Garmin 660 - very good website. Create your account, plug in your device. and the site tells you what you need along with instructions on how to proceed. Worked equally well for PC or Mac. Tracks the configuration for multiple units. The 660 required a series of both software and firmware updates. As of today (Sept. 8, 2009) the unit is fully updated with no problems.
WINNER - Garmin Zumo 660
When turning the unit on and off, you probably would like the on/off switch to be easy to access and activate.
Both TomTom Riders have a rubber-covered round power switch on the right-hand side. It takes intense finger pressure to activate this switch. You need two hands...one to hold the unit and another to jam your thumb down on the switch. It should not be this hard to power-up and down.
The Garmin Zumo 660 has a convenient and very smooth power switch mounted along the top edge of the unit. A simple finger press with light pressure does the job.
When taking a break during a ride, you will probably want to quickly remove the GPS from its mount and take it with you. (None of these units are physically lockable to the mount although you can password-protect the units via software - which probably won’t stop the initial theft.
TomTom Rider 1 and 2 - Both units are easily removed from their mount, but their awkward size and shape means you’ll be carrying it in your hand, not your pocket.
Garmin 660 - Nice, relatively thin profile, easily fits into your jacket or shirt pocket.
When the sun is out and shining directly on your screen, you’d like to be able to read it.
TomTom Rider 1 - Abysmal performance in bright light. Get out your paper map.
TomTom Rider 2 - Better than the Rider 1 but still no cigar.
Garmin Zumo 660 - Outperforms both Riders at 80% brightness (the default). Crank it up to 100% brightness and there is no contest.
Assuming you can read the screen, you would probably like to be able to decipher what the screen is telling you.
TomTom Rider 1 and 2 - Good luck. The smaller screen size (3.5 inch) crams map display and other info into a tiny space. Make sure you install the unit so it is VERY close to your eyes. Add the underwhelming brightness and there you go. You can mess around with the font sizes but the results are not impressive.
Garmin Zumo 660 - Bright, clear 4.3 inch display, with excellent contrast and colour. Text is black on the white background so it really stands out. No comparison with either TomTom Rider.
While you are riding, you may wish to make a few key presses to call up a new route, etc. and you’d like to do so while wearing your gloves. (NOTE- these units all have switchable "safe modes" that limit your interaction with the GPS unit while the vehicle is in motion.)
TomTom Rider 1 and 2 - The small screen makes for an impossibly small onscreen keyboard, and I defy you to type on it without many errors. Better to pull over, take off your gloves, and use your pinky finger to touch the keys.
Garmin Zumo 660 - Again, bigger, brighter screen means bigger keys. Also, Garmin breaks up the keyboard into 5 screens (A-L, M-X, Y-Z, 0-9 and symbols) so the keys on each screen are very large and easy to access with a gloved hand.
WINNER - For overall ergonomics, the Garmin Zumo 660 is the clear winner.
The Garmin Zumo 660 seems more responsive when drawing and updating maps. The larger, brighter screen is a huge plus on the road.
With all of the units updated to their latest software, they all navigated reliably 99% of the time. GPS technology is still not perfect and all 3 units had the occasional map error, misnamed street, etc. But this rarely happened and I was confident that the directions given by all 3 units were reliable the vast majority of the time.
On a 6000 km. trip, my TomTom Rider 2 suddenly stopped working mid-ride. An error message “could not write file to card” appeared in red text, then the unit shut down and proceeded to cycle continuously through the boot-up process. It had to be manually turned off to get rid of the distraction. I was able to use TomTom’s website at a Maine friend’s house to reset and reboot the unit, and it worked OK for awhile but just a coupe of weeks ago the same error appeared again. The unit is now almost useless and TomTom does not easily offer repair options for out-of-warranty gear.
The TomTom Rider 1’s display is now so dim as to be practically unreadable on anything resembling a bright day.
The Garmin is holding up well through this very wet and chilly summer and on a recent 5000 km trip it sailed through just fine.
The TomTom Rider battery is not user-replaceable - at least not easily. Once the internal battery fails to hold a charge, you must crack open the case (it is fastened using security screws requiring a special screwdriver bit) and - more probloematic - find a new battery that fits. More likely, folks will simply toss the unit in the trash. TomTom believes you will choose the latter and warns you on the case back to dispose "responsibly”.
The Garmin Zumo 660 battery is as simple to replace as popping off a small watertight hatch on the back of the unit. This reveals an LI battery pack that simply pops out. Replacement would take about 30 seconds with no tools required.
WINNER - Garmin Zumo 660
I said at the beginning that I wanted to evaluate these three GPS units for their ability to deliver a solid, simple function - mainly, to get me where I’m going reliably, with a minimum of distraction, and with clarity, on a motorcycle.
The TomTom Riders simply do not compare with the Garmin Zumo 660. The Rider 2 looks exactly like the Rider 1, so the form factor and probably the guts are long in the tooth considering the original Rider design was introduced in 2005. The display on both Riders is small and dim on sunny days. The Garmin outperforms in almost every parameter.
Could it be that TomTom knows their units are second-rate? Their most recent pricing is almost half what it was when the Riders first came out. Contrast that with the still-premium pricing of the Zumo 660 - almost twice the price of a Rider. I guess you get what you pay for.
So, IMHO, Garmin wins.