UPDATE: A new model, the Garmin nuvi 3490LMT, has superseded this one (despite the lower model number!).
Hands on with the best nuvi yet
The Garmin nüvi 3790T , introduced this summer, is Garmin’s latest and greatest navigator. With its 4.3” glass screen and minimalist 0.35” thickness, it resembles an iPhone more than past nuvis. In addition to most of the goodies found on previous models, the 3790T allows you to add a customizable wake up phrase for voice command, offers a gorgeous 3D terrain view, and is the first nuvi to use historical road speeds in calculating the fastest route.
Before we get into more details, lets look at some closely…
- Garmin nuvi 3790LMT – Adds lifetime map updates to the 3790T’s feature set
- Garmin nüvi 3760T – This model drops voice commands, 3D terrain and 3D buildings
- Garmin nüvi 3750 – This model offers even less, dropping Bluetooth and lifetime traffic from the 3760T’s feature set
What’s new on the 3790T
Form factor and display
One of the first things you notice with the 3700 series is just how thin they are. You can see this in the image below, comparing it to my nuvi 765T. Also note the standard micro-USB connection (a cable is included to allow you connect it to the USB port on your computer). Micro-USB connections are becoming quite common as PNDs and mobile phones get thinner and thinner.
The capacitive glass display is beautiful, but is quite the fingerprint magnet; of course, these don’t really show much unless the unit is off. It is very bright, even in full sun. I’ve always found the nuvi series to have the brightest screens of any portable navigators, but at certain angles this model makes my 765T looked washed out.
Also new is the built-in accelerometer, allowing the display to rotate and be viewed in portrait or landscape mode, as seen below. At left you see junction view, which comes up in split screen mode when in portrait orientation. To the right is the map view, giving you a peek at 3D terrain on the 3790T.
The screen is much more responsive than previous nuvis; tapping takes less pressure and dragging / panning the map is much easier. The multi-touch display allows you to zoom in by pinching or double-tapping. Here’s a video demo showing quite a few additional multi-touch tips:
The 3700 series is the first to use historical road speed data in calculating routes, which should result in improved routing, especially in areas with routine traffic problems. I saw definite improvements in routing behavior over my nuvi 765T, with the 3790T sending me on locally known shortcuts and alternative routes, routing me on freeways where my 765T would keep me on a parallel road, etc. While I occasionally saw some wonky choices, for the most part the trafficTrends feature selected faster routes.
This feature enables routine routing (home to work, work to home) to be automatically set at that time of day. This feature can be enabled/disabled under Tools > Settings > Navigation > Automobile > nuRoute > myTrends. I did not see this happen with my test unit but then, my schedule has been quite erratic lately.
UPDATE: It has also recently become clear that myTrends does more than just that. It actually learns your preferred routes.
New voice command interface
Garmin has dropped the awkward steering wheel remote found on the nuvi 8xx series units, opting instead for a customizable wakeup phrase to initiate voice command. Once you say the magic words, the following screen appears.
If you say or tap “down,” you’ll also see options for volume and brightness.
In some ways I found the voice command mode easier to use than on the 8xx series, with less delays while the unit processed the commands. However, many things seemed to work less well than on 8xx series units I’ve tested.
Some phrases were more difficult than others for the unit to understand – unfortunately for me, one of those was the frequent response “yes.” The good news is that after selecting a destination, you can say “navigate” instead. I found that I often had to repeat commands a second time for the 3790T to understand me.
On the 8xx series, you can use voice command for nearly any menu item on any screen. Your options are much more limited on the 3790T. I especially missed the familiar Near option, which allows you to search near your destination, along your route, etc.
Here’s a video showing the mount and a quick look at the voice command interface:
New speaker / mount
This is probably the loudest nuvi I’ve ever heard. Much of the reason for this is the powered mount which has a second speaker integrated into it. I generally kept the unit at 80% in my noisy truck and 50% in my somewhat quieter car. This despite me usually having music or a podcast going and the fact that my hearing isn’t the greatest.
The menus have changed a bit, and share a similar interface to those found on Garmin-Asus phones. In the sample Where To? screenshot below, on the left side are icons for menu, up, down and back. As with other nuvis, you can hold down the back icon to return to the main screen.
The new menus may take some getting used to. For example, consider this path for navigation preferences: Tools > Settings > Navigation > Automobile > nuRoute > Calculation Mode > Off Road.
More Street labels
It appears that Garmin has finally listened to years of complaints by nuvi owners and started showing more surrounding street names. You can see this in the screenshots below; the top one is the nuvi 3790T, the bottom, a nuvi 765T.
The 3D terrain imagery, found only on the 3790T model, is quite beautiful. I especially enjoy it in the mountainous terrain where I live and work. It doesn’t have that much functionality, but I like it!
Features from previous generation nuvis
In addition to the above, you’ll also find:
- Customizable data fields – Tap the left data field to see the options; these are different depending upon whether or not you are navigating. Only the left data field can be changed.
- Additional data fields (shown below) – Switch the data fields to the right side of the screen and get two additional fields which can be customized; you can do this from Tools. Settings > Navigation > Automobile > Map data layout > More data.
- Lane Assist and Junction View – These features (respectively) are shown in the two images below; coverage seems to have expanded somewhat too.
- Speed limit display and warning – In the image below you can see the posted speed limit and the fact that your current speed field turns red when exceeding the posted limit. In my testing, Garmin has had greater speed limit coverage for secondary roads than TomTom, though they also tend to be less accurate as to the posted speed limit.
- ecoRoute – This feature adds a “less fuel” option to your routing choices and gives you fuel and mileage reports, estimated fuel cost for trips, and even a “driving challenge” to improve your fuel efficiency.
- CityXplorer map compatibility – These add-on maps offer advanced pedestrian routing options including mass transit.
- 3D buildings (see below) – These show up in major metropolitan areas.
Navigating with the nuvi 3790T
When typing a city or street name previously entered, you’ll see it pop up on the screen (shown below) after entering a few characters. Gone is the file icon to locate previously entered names.
The 3790T performed fairly well in all my tests. The historical road speed database, trafficTrends, generally resulted in superior routing, though it would have sent me on a slower route on at least one occasion. Still, it did so much better that I would definitely prefer it to a unit without this feature.
As a result of trafficTrends though, the 37xx series must crunch a lot more data to generate a route. This does result in a time delay. It was only a second or two for local destinations, but more distant ones took nearly 10 seconds for the initial route calculation (compared to just a second or so for my 765T). Recalculations took up to 7 seconds for long routes.
In local testing I expected to see missed turns when recalculating as a result of these delays, but didn’t experience any more than I did with my 765T.
The 3790T paired with my Motorola Droid with little trouble. There are separate volume controls available for your phone and navigation once you make a Bluetooth connection — use the menu (three line/equalizer) button on the volume control screen.
The sound quality for the person on the other end of the line was disappointing though – fuzzy, tunnel-like and distant, and not as good as I would have expected on this unit. It is definitely inferior to my 765T, which has two microphone holes in the housing, probably for noise cancellation.
The 3790T allows you to add multiple via points from Where To?, without going into the Trip Planner, but there is no route optimization option if you do it this way.
Alternatively, you can select Tools > Trip Planner to create a route. Once a route is created with a beginning, end and at least two via points, you can access the Menu for the options shown below.
You can tap a via point to select an item and specify an arrival time or duration of stop. This is quite the useful feature. I plugged in the duration of several stops, the time I wanted to arrive at my final destination, and was able to easily determine when I needed to start my trip.
I have seen quite a few message forum comments about problems with multi-destination routing on the 37xx series though, and there do appear to be some bugs. For one thing, you can’t import routes from MapSource. For another, the handles on the right below are a little tricky. It’s hard to drag an item up in the list without starting to drag it down first. Route optimization also appears to not work very well. Hopefully Garmin will address these issues in a firmware update in the near future.
Nuvi 3790T hardware notes
A couple of things are worth mentioning here. First, you may think the power button is non-responsive. I had no problem powering the unit on or off once I started pressing the right side of it. Startup is nearly instantaneous, by the way, on the order of a couple of seconds.
To carry the earlier iPhone analogy a bit further, there appear to have been some compromises made in the GPS antenna in the 37xx series. I did notice it being a few seconds slower to lock on occasion. This could cause problems if say, you fire it up in an urban canyon with expired ephemeris data, because you hadn’t used the unit in the past few days. It did not however, cause any significant problems in my testing.
I do not live in an area with FM traffic coverage, though I did get to fringe reception areas while testing the 3790T. Traffic functions appear identical to recent nuvis and, as with all Garmin lifetime traffic units, the subscription is ad-supported, as you can see below.
Garmin nuvi 3790T pros
- Very thin
- Gorgeous, bright screen
- The loudest nuvi yet
- Terrain view
- trafficTrends historical road speeds result in improved routing
- More streets are labeled than on recent nuvis
- Improved junction view and lane assist coverage
- Voice command eliminates 8xx series remote
Garmin nuvi 3790T cons
- Voice command performance and options weaker than expected
- Disappointing Bluetooth performance
- trafficTrends results in increased route calculation time
- Slightly weaker GPS receiver performance than other recent nuvi series
- Multi-destination routing needs improvement
Conclusion and recommendations
Highly recommended — the best nuvi yet. The 3790T feels like a work of art; the screen is drop dead gorgeous. Routing has been significantly improved with the addition of historical road speed data (trafficTrends). I expect that a couple of my complaints (the missing Near option for voice commands and multi-destination routing bugs) can be fixed with firmware updates, but the core functionality is very good.
For the past year or so, it’s been hard to point to a top of the line nuvi, with the 765T, 885T and 1690 all being able to lay claim to the mantle. No more though – while a few features may be missing, it’s pretty clear that the 3790T is now the top dog. If I could only convince the minister of finance of the need to buy one!
More Garmin nuvi 3790T reviews
- Consumer-authored Garmin nuvi 3790T reviews have been posted at Amazon
- And PC World reviews the nuvi 3790T from Down Under, giving it their Editor’s Choice award
- TechRadar gives a 4-1/2 out of 5 star rating in their Garmin nuvi 3790T review
- Engadget reviews the Garmin nuvi 3790T
- There is a nuvi 3790T user review thread at GpsPasSion
- PC Mag gives the nuvi 3790T a 4 out of 5 star review and their Editors Choice award
- GPS Magazine says the 3790T set the new standard for GPS navigation
- From across the pond, Crowded Brain gives it a 8-1/2 out of 10 rating in their nuvi 3790T review
- Another UK review of the 3790T, this time from Stuff.tv
- WebSneak has posted their own nuvi 3790T review
- About.com gives a 4-1/2 out of 5 star rating in their review of the nuvi 3790T
- CNet gives a 4-1/2 out of 5 star rating in their Garmin nuvi 3790T review
- GPS Lodge has posted their own review of the nuvi 3790T
- Pocket GPS World reviews the 3790T from across the pond
- ComputerActive gives a 4 out of 5 star review in their Garmin 3790T review
I’ll be posting more hands on GPS reviews as they appear, but in the meantime, here are some…
Other Garmin nuvi 3790T resources
- The Garmin nuvi 3790T owners manual, in the language of your choice
- Want to see how the 3790T 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
- The official Garmin nuvi 3790T web page
- How to access archived nuvi trip logs
- Five more tips for nuvi newbies
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