Let's assume you've already decided that you want a hardware sat-nav to direct your roads trips rather than a smartphone app. Well, let's assume that to start with anyway. In that case, you probably want something smart, simple and easy to use. One box for one job, right? Good, because the TomTom Go Live 820 Europe is just that.
It's a good start. The 820 is ready to go, straight out of the box. There's no Krypton Factor mount to assemble, just a sucker on a ball-and-socket joint that's permanently attached to the back. Depending on your windscreen and dashboard you might want to mount it "upside down", and that's fine as the screen automatically flips itself accordingly, just like a tablet.
The first hurdle
Most sat-navs fall at the first hurdle: entering a destination. The 820 doesn't exactly fall, but it's a frustratingly familiar stumble via a resistive touchscreen through icons and onscreen keyboards. Unlike many of its smartphone app counterparts, the 820 demands you categorise your search before you enter it, so rather than a global search box you have to say whether you're going to enter an address, a point of interest (and then wants you to choose from five types of POI), a favourite, a recent destination, do a Google local search (then say whether you want to search near you or near a city), drop a point on a map, enter co-ordinates...
... But once you spot the option to speak your location things pick up. The voice recognition and spoken feedback works well but still you have to tell it your destination in the format it demands, starting with a city name. What if you're headed to a farm or a beach? Grrr... If you do have the full address of your destination then it's very quick and easy to get on your way from this point.
And now the good news
Once that nonsense is out of the way the 820 starts to make a lot more sense. Even though the battery life of 2 hours means you'll have to get used to wires trailing around the dashboard, almost everything else it does is very tidy and useful.
Realising you've suffered enough, it doesn't hassle you once you're on the move but does deliver all the info you need, including a readout of your current speed next to the current speed limit, along with alerts for upcoming speed cameras. Once you get to a motorway junction it puts up a static artist's impression of which lane you need to be in.
Traffic hotspots are beamed to the 820 every couple of minutes, which appear as highlighted sections on your route or on the map. You get this service included in the price for a year. After that you'll have to shell out for a subscription to keep it active. While you're driving, one of the many voices you've chosen from likes to keep you updated on whether or not you're still on the fastest route accordingly to traffic conditions.
That built-in data connection allows the 820 to serve up some other handy extras, such as weather reports and Google searches for businesses and activities in a particular area. Not the kind of things you're likely to use on a regular basis but they might just save the day when you need them. As with the traffic info, you'll need to renew your subscription to keep these activated in the long-term.
As hardware sat-nav goes, this is about as good as it gets. Even so, there's still much room for improvement.