Now, truth be told, this particular set of Engadeteers didn't possess an encyclopedic knowledge of GPS units when we loaded up the car and plotted a course to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (for wedding planning, amongst other things) -- but to the 720's credit, that didn't stop us from getting a lot of use out of the do-it-all navigator.
The first thing that strikes you about the 720 is its spartan design. There's really nothing going on here except a nice, big 4.3-inch screen, a small silver strip for the microphone, a power button, plus the speaker and a slot on the back for mounting. The casing has a nice rubberized feel, and all of the jacks are conveniently located along the bottom. You're not going to be holding this in your hand that much, but it's definitely comfortable when you do.
The display is crisp and bright, and there are a slew of settings for switching between night- and day-time displays, though it's easiest just to set it to auto switch. The 3D overview is simple, and pretty much what you've come to expect from TomTom. The redraw is nice and quick, while the on screen text does a great job of keeping track of things like POIs, street names, trip time and speed without cluttering things up. The unit had US and Canadian maps installed, though you can add new maps via the SD card slot. The on-board SiRFStar III chip kept everything positioned properly, but that's pretty much what we've come to expect from what has effectively turned into the industry standard. The course directions were clear and easy to understand, but it would have been nice to be able to "pause" the trip when we stopped to eat or sightsee.
One feature that TomTom is really stoked on is its new "MapShare" function, which allows you to add or change errors in maps depending on construction or rerouting, etc. (some have described it as "Wikipedia for GPS"). We didn't really get much of a chance to use the feature, because we found it more entertaining to watch our car icon go floating off into space when we hit roadwork which diverted traffic. Otherwise, the provided maps are quite impressive. Even when we took the car off to some serious backwoods, the 720 kept chugging along, finding some impressively obscure trails for us to motor across.
The Bluetooth integration is solid on the device, though getting it to connect to AT&T for traffic info was a bit troublesome, and it only seemed to want to download some -- but not all -- of our contact list. Regardless, the sound quality on calls was more than adequate, and the setup only took a few minutes.
TomTom has been blazing an increasingly popular path (no pun intended) in the GPS world for some time now, and it's easy to see why. The GO 720 is a smartly designed, simple to understand, and feature-rich navigation tool which could appeal as easily to gadget-mavens as much as it would to families needing some guidance for roadtrips. At the $499 price point, it should be able to garner both those crowds.