A microwave. A cellphone. A Blackberry. Sometimes a device can change your life. TomTom is one of those devices.

This portable GPS system was recommended to me by a friend before I left for LA. For a trip dedicated to finding random eateries in strip malls, it's an invaluable tool - especially for a New Yorker who experiences a sort of disorienting agoraphobia outside Manhattan. GPS systems are nothing new, but this portable device is great for rental cars and has much more sophisticated features than built-in GPS systems. Just stick it on the windshield, and TomTom will detect where you are. Program in an address, and TomTom will direct you there with clear-cut color graphics and the voice of your choosing - a lady with an American accent, say, or a British dude.

Unlike Mapquest, TomTom actually tells you the best, most convenient way to get from A to B, taking into account travel time, the fastest routes - even traffic. It avoids snaking two-lane roads through mountains and farmland. (That was really helpful in Colorado - thanks, Mapquest...) If you're a stranger in a strange land - in the U.S. or even Europe - you can even do a search, Google Maps-style, for "coffee" and find the nearest cafe. Or, if you know there's a Target around somewhere, type in "Target," and TomTom will find it.

As with the iPod, sometimes you don't have to look far to find the next "killer app" in technology. This time, it's right on the dash.

TomTom ONE

just released:
new features: larger screen, real-time traffic services

available at Radio Shack, Staples, and the Sharper Image