UPDATE: This model has been discontinued. For current recommendations, please refer to our auto GPS buyers guide.
Hands on review of the Garmin nuvi 1490T
The Garmin nüvi 1490T offers a 5” wide screen and multi-destination routing, features not found on any of the nuvi 12xx or 13xx models.
UPDATE: Now available bundled with lifetime map updates as the Garmin nuvi 1490LMT
Introduced in 2009 (here is a list of more recent nuvi introductions), the 1490T also includes text-to-speech, NAVTEQ lifetime traffic, Bluetooth for hands-free cell phone use, lane assist with junction view, speed limit and trip log display, and it is compatible with the pedestrian navigation features found in Garmin’s new CityXplorer maps.
- Step down to the nuvi 1450T, and you’ll get everything on the 1490T except Bluetooth
- Going the other direction, move up to the Garmin nuvi 1690 to add connected services like Google Local Search (but you’ll drop back down to a 4.3″ screen with this model)
- To see how the 1490T stacks up against other models, check out my Garmin nuvi comparison chart
New Garmin interface
There are several changes to the nuvi interface in the 12xx, 13xx and 14xx series. For one, the menu button is gone, replaced by the arrow in the lower left corner.
You can now “slide your finger” to move between screens. This comes in handy when panning the map, allowing you to move more than one screen width. But it pretty much falls into the “bells and whistles” category; I certainly don’t give it many points for usefulness.
These new models also allow you to customize the lower left data field on the map screen, a feature we first saw on the nuvi 7×5 series. Press this field to bring up the options listed below. When not navigating, the options are:
- Direction of travel (default)
- Time of day
When navigating, the options are as follows:
- Distance to destination
- Estimated time to destination
- Estimated time of arrival (default)
- Direction of travel
- Time of day
Also new, your speed changes to red if you are exceeding the speed limit (assuming the unit has the speed limit for the road you are on). This is a nice feature, but I wish Garmin would allow you to customize this to changes colors at 5 or 10 MPH over the limit, so it’s not constantly switching back and forth if you drive right at the limit.
Routing information is now presented in a different manner. When you select a POI, address or favorite, it will show up on the map as shown below.
I use this screen to verify the location of the destination (so I don’t create a route to the wrong place). Several times during my testing, I found that the information balloon obscured too much of the map for me to be able to do so. When you “press for more,” this is what you get…
The most noticeable change is the ability to shift data fields to the right side of the map, as shown below, a feature found only on the 13xx and 14xx series, and not the 12xx series. The top three fields can then be customized with the options discussed previously. This gives you the ability to display two more fields than can be shown in the traditional display mode.
Here’s a video showing some of the new interface changes in action:
Lane assist and junction view
I’m a big fan of these features, but there’s good and bad here. Let’s start with the good.
Garmin’s junction view, shown below, is the most realistic of any GPS manufacturer. What you see is pretty much what the sign looks like in real-life.
The lane assist feature is shown in the upper left corner below. I find this feature even more helpful than junction view, showing you exactly what lane to be in. During my testing, this appeared on surface streets all over the metro Atlanta area, not just on freeways.
Now for the bad. The only place I’ve seen junction view is in the Atlanta area. And I have tested units with this feature in two other metro areas with NAVTEQ traffic coverage (I would have expected such cities to be among the first to have this feature).
Bluetooth sound quality was adequate, though not as good as I found it to be on the nuvi 7×5 series.
I’m a big fan of powered (AKA active) mounts – where the power lead plugs into the mount, so you don’t have to attach it each time you use the unit. Unfortunately, the nuvi 1490T does not have this feature, so you need to plug in the cable into the the back of the unit each time you connect it.
Garmin nuvi 1490T pros
- 5” screen
- Very thin
- Multi-destination routing
- Lifetime traffic
- Lane assist with junction view
- Speed limit display
- Trip log display
- Compatible with CityXplorer maps’ enhanced pedestrian navigation features
- Customizable fields on map screen
- Quick access to previously entered cities and street names
- Visually warns when speeding
- Includes Garmin’s new ecoRoute feature
Garmin nuvi 1490T cons
- POI balloon obscures a significant portion of the map
- Junction view coverage very limited
- NAVTEQ lifetime traffic coverage very limited
- Power lead must be plugged directly into unit (does not power the mount)
More Garmin nuvi 1490T reviews
- Consumer-authored Garmin nuvi 1490T reviews have been posted at Amazon
- GPS Magazine has posted a typically thorough Garmin nuvi 1490T review
- BoingBoing has also posted a review of the nuvi 1490T
- Technical Itch has posted their own Garmin nuvi 1490T review
- A user-submitted nuvi 1490T review
- Cnet reviews the nuvi 1490T, giving it a 3-1/2 out of 5 star rating
- iTechTalk has posted their own Garmin nuvi 1490T review
- A review of the Garmin nuvi 1490T from Down Under
- A comparison of the nuvi 1490T and TomTom XXL 540-S
- More consumer-authored reviews of the Garmin 1490T have been posted at BestBuy.com
Other Garmin nuvi 1490T resources
- Want to see how the 1490T stacks up against other models? Check out this Garmin auto GPS comparison tool or my own Garmin nuvi comparison chart
- There is a dedicated Garmin nuvi message forum at GpsPasSion and another nuvi forum at GPS Review
- A PDF version of the Garmin nuvi 1490T owners manual
- The official Garmin nuvi 1490T web page
- How to access archived nuvi trip logs
- Five more tips for nuvi newbies
- The official Garmin nuvi 1490T web page
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