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Sunday, March 18, 2012

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Garmin nuvi 3790LMT

Garmin nuvi 3790LMT review

UPDATE: A new model, the Garmin nuvi 3490LMT, has superseded this one (despite the lower model number!).

The Garmin nüvi 3790LMT adds lifetime map updates to the nuvi 3790T, 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 3790LMT allows you to add a customizable wake up phrase for voice command, offers a gorgeous 3D terrain view, and uses historical road speeds in calculating the fastest route.

Before we get into more details, lets look at some closely…

Related units

Portions of the following were adapted from my hands on review of the nuvi 3790T.

What’s new on the 3790LMT

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.

Garmin nuvi 3790LMT thickness

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.

Garmin nuvi 37xx

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 3790LMT.

Garmin nuvi 3790LMT portrait view

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:

trafficTrends

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 3700 series 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.

myTrends

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.

Garmin nuvi 3790LMT voice command

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 3790 series 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 3790LMT. 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 on the 3790T:

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.

New menus

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.

Garmin nuvi 3790LMT where to

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 3790 series, the bottom, a nuvi 765T.

Garmin nuvi 3790LMT street names

765t-street-names

3D terrain

The 3D terrain imagery, found only on the 3790 models, 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!

Garmin nuvi 3790LMT 3D terrain

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.

Garmin nuvi 3790LMT more data

  • Lane Assist and Junction View – These features (respectively) are shown in the two images below; coverage seems to have expanded somewhat too.

Garmin nuvi 3790LMT lane assist Garmin nuvi 3790LMT junction view

  • 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.

Garmin nuvi 3790LMT speed limit warning

  • 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.

Garmin nuvi 3790LMT ecoroute

  • 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.

Garmin nuvi 3790LMT 3D buildings

Navigating with the nuvi 3790LMT

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.

Garmin nuvi 3790LMT text entry

The 3700 series 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.

Bluetooth

When I tested the 3790T, it 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.

Multi-destination routing

The 3790LMT 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.

Garmin nuvi 3790LMT edit multi route

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.

Garmin nuvi 3790LMT drag locations

Nuvi 3790LMT 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.

Lifetime Traffic

I do not live in an area with FM traffic coverage, though I did get to fringe reception areas while testing the 3700 series. 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 3790LMT traffic

Garmin nuvi 3790LMT traffic search

Garmin nuvi 3790LMT 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
  • Lifetime map updates

Garmin nuvi 3790LMT 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 3790 models feel 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 3790LMT is now the top dog.  If I could only convince the minister of finance of the need to buy one!

More Garmin nuvi 3790LMT reviews

I’ll be posting more hands on GPS reviews as they appear, but in the meantime, here are some…

Other Garmin nuvi 3790LMT resources

Compare prices on the Garmin nuvi 3790LMT at these merchants:

  • Check the current Garmin nüvi 3790LMT price at Amazon
  • As an older model, this item is no longer being carried by many online merchants

 

About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.

Comments

  1. Anyone other than Rich (unless he got a sample) have enough money to test out this baby ? It seems to have all others beaten, including the new but much cheaper Tom Toms 2505TM.

  2. Hey Rich,

    How does the Nuvi 3790LMT stack-up against the new TomTom Go 2535TM WTE? Would you still go with the Nuvi 3790LMT over TomTom’s new Go?? What ever your choice; why???

    • I can’t say until I try the new GO. Comparing the 3790LMT to the 2505, I’d go for the nuvi since the TomTom was a bit buggy.

    • Petaris says:

      Once you get a chance to test it I would like to know your opinion about which is better as well. I have a Nuvi 755T thats having some issues and might need to be replaced soon. Also I would like your opinion on the maps, I have noticed that there are a lot of roads that aren’t even on my Nuvi 755T (with 1 year old maps) and they aren’t new roads. Is it true that the TomTom’s maps are more inclusive? Looking at NavTechs maps online show the same road exclusions. I wish they were more accurate.

  3. How long does the battery last?
    I have a vintage car without a cigarette lighter or sometimes use it in pedestrian mode so long battery life is important. I anticipate turning off features that might consume power to prolong this (voice commands, BlueTooth, etc)
    Thank you

  4. Garmin says up to 4 hours, but I’d bet on closer to 2 or 3 under routine use. I think a search would turn up some AA chargers for nuvis though.

  5. Pierre gauthier says:

    I bought that GPS it’s very nice. But I can’t figure out how to get the speed limit logo on it, do I have to download a software???

    • The speed limit should show up automatically on roads that have it. You should certainly see it on Interstates, but it should also show on most major roads. Or are you wanting to display your current speed?

  6. Matt M. says:

    Hi Rich,

    Feel like I”m deluging you with questions (on other threads, too), but this is the first site I’ve come across that really made sense out of Garmin’s inane product line.

    So — two more questions :-)

    1. As of this writing, has Garmin released a firmware update that supports importing custom routes? This is important to me — I rarely want to take the best or fastest route when we travel for pleasure. I’ll either want to import custom routes or simply use the unit for mapping about 90 percent of the time.

    2. Have you tried the 24K topo maps on this unit? As I mentioned elsewhere, we’re going to be driving lots of 4×4 roads this summer, and I’m curious about the differences between the 2450 and this model. The 3D terrain sounds like a big plus, but I haven’t seen enough screen shots to know for sure.

    Thanks!

  7. Geoffrey says:

    If Matt is not looking for the best or fastest route, doesn’t Garmin have a scenic route? If they don’t why is he looking to purchase a GPS when he wants to set up the routes exactly his own way. He should use a Mapquest/Google type program routing it just as he wants, then print it out and follow those directions.

  8. Matt M. says:

    Geoffrey,

    I’ve gone back and forth on that, and it’s the reason why I still haven’t bought a GPS. Having said that, there’s an advantage in having a GPS to use both just as a map (no programmed route) and using custom-loaded routes.

    Case in point: How many times have I blown past a turn onto a poorly-marked (or unmarked) side road? More times than I can count. Printing out directions doesn’t solve that problem.

    And then there’s the POI support (where’s the nearest coffee!?!), speed limit updates, etc. So I definitely have my reasons.

  9. Geoffrey says:

    Matt, For what you want maybe you don’t need a higher end GPS. Some of the basic Tom Toms and Garmins have good POI bases and most have TTS. It’s also nice to have a (GPS) voice to keep you awake should you be driving alone at night. Keep us appraised as to what you decide on.

  10. Geoffrey says:

    Matt, I didn’t originally know your reasons for getting a GPS if you wanted full control of the route, so you might need a GPS where you can block many roads/highways. That would narrow down your choices. Maybe Rich could recommend a few with these options (and speed limit verbal warnings) ?

  11. Matt M. says:

    Hi Geoffrey,

    Part of me is attracted to the 3790 because I”m a gadget whore. Might as well fess up to that. :-)

    The Garmins in general have something (if I understand correctly) the Tom Toms don’t — support for 1:24,000 scale topo maps. I”m genuinely curious to see how useful those might be on 4×4 routes like the Alpine Loop in Colorado.

    I also like the idea of either a 5″ display or a high-res display like the 3790. Lots of folks seem content with a 4.3″ display, but if you’re using a GPS frequently as a map, then the context a bigger display provides seems a lot more useful than if you’re just navigating a planned route.

    I’ll let you know what I go with. A week ago, I knew nothing about GPS, now I’ve graduated to knowing next to nothing :-) So that’s progress!

  12. Matt M. says:

    Think I just answered one of my own questions. Looking around, I don’t see a lot of love for the Garmin 24K topos.

    Lots of folks seem to like the Above the Timber 1:24K topos, and I’m just discovering some other sources (gpsfiledepot) for this kind of thing.

  13. Hello Rich,

    I will be upgrading from a Garmin Nuvi 265. I have built up a lot of addresses and destinations in it. Is it possible to sync it to the 3790LMT and transfer them over with out manually entering each one. Thanks

  14. I’ve had a 3790t for a bit over a year now, and had no problems moving my old Garmin favorites to it. On your Nuvi 265, look in the GPX folder and copy the file Current.gpx to your computer. Change the name to Temp.gpx, and copy it from your computer to the GPX folder in the 3790. When the GPS starts up, it will import all your favorites.

    Note that the 3700 series is not compatible with multi-point route transfer from a computer, but neither was your Nuvi 265 so that shouldn’t be an issue.

  15. Bob Scharnus says:

    My first LMT got real hot to touch while being charged in my jeep. It finally stopped working. Gave it back to Costco. Got new one at Best Buy. It also seems to be getting too hot. Anyone have any ideas? By the way…love this Garmin. Bob

    • Check the Jeep’s voltage regulator – might not be limiting the voltage as it should. That could be hard on the vehicle battery, too, after a while.

      HTH

  16. Mine has always run rather hot, but no problems after a little over a year of use.

  17. I need a unit that I can also take hiking with me to record maps to follow back later. With as smart and feature full these new units sport you would think that you could use these units for the same task.

  18. I have both – Montana and 3790t. They are both great units but the 3790 would not be very good for anything other than short hikes. None of the Nuvi’s really display topo maps optimally. You also have limited battery life, largely because the screen only works when the backlight is turned on.

    Real” handheld units have transreflective screens that work with no backlight under normal conditions. In its favor, the 3790 is very slim and easily fits in a pocket. It is kind of fragile though, with a glass screen, and would likely not survive being dropped on anything hard like a rock. Exposure to water would also be very bad for it.

    The Montana is fantastic though, I love mine and have not even turned the 3790 on since I got it. You will have to spend a lot more money for it though, especially since no maps are included and neither is an auto mount. It’s very large, but I actually like that. It’s the first unit that Garmin has made that works well in both the car and hand. Also has the most advanced features of anything they’ve ever made.

  19. What would be pro/cons vs the 1695? I have a shot at a 3790LMT on local CraigsList for $149 (“Only 3 months ,no scratches ,no blemishes”), although Garmin’s FAQ states Maps/Traffic are not transferable with a unit – worth paying Garmin to add back those services?

    In comparison another local CL offering is a 1695 for $200 still “new in box”, so presumably not registered for nuLink, etc. Since that has been listed for several weeks, and Crutchfield still offers it for $200, I suspect I can bargain that price down (or go with Crutchfield for better support if not). I am strongly attracted to the weather and Google features of the 1695 (although not so much its bulk ;-) ).

    TIA

    • That’s a great deal on the 3790LMT. Traffic is tied to the traffic receiver, so you should continue to get that. I’ve seen lifetime map updates sold for as low as $60.

      The nuLink features are nice, and traffic coverage is better in areas with marginal RDS reception.

      All in all though, the 3790LMT price is the better deal.

  20. The nulink 1695 is currently available new from Crutchfield for $200. Why would you mess with some questionable Craigslist deal instead of buying from a reputable dealer?

    If traffic is a very important thing for you, get the 1695. I used a friend’s for about a week and it’s a very solid unit. Note that you will have to pay a monthly fee after the first year of included service however. But $200 is a good deal IMO.

    The 3790 is a completely different kind of unit. In fact they are so different, it’s hard to compare them. Personally I don’t buy stuff from Craigslist or eBay. How will you know it isn’t stolen? If it has been registered to someone else, you won’t be able to register at Garmin and won’t be able to update the maps. Even though that sounds like a decent price, I would pass. A new 3790 can be found for about $300.

  21. Thanks for the pros and the cons, Rich and Boyd! Definitely contrasting views ;-)

    I have bought over 200 items from eBay, and have to say it has been mostly ok – a few duds of course with that many, but less than 10% I would guess, and hardly any worse than from “legitimate” businesses.

    The stolen property angle is a concern with CL, and I try to watch out for that – something along the lines of “must sell tonight!!”, “no power adapter/other accessories”, half the going price for a common item, etc are flags I heed. Otherwise, I play it by ear based on face-to-face dealings – I have sold a number of items on CL myself (none stolen ;-} ), and work on assumption most are equally legit, as most people are.

    Anyway, amazingly enough, I got an email offer from PayPal to buy anything at Crutchfields for extra $20 off in the hour between your 2 responses – spooky, but true. That sealed the deal, and the $180 1695 is ordered.

    Thanks again!

  22. That’s a great deal on the 1695! It gets a bit tricky with Garmin when you buy a unit though a third party. If you can’t register, it won’t be eligible for warranty service or map updates. You would need to get the previous owner to unregister the unit, or have them provide you with their original sales receipt from an authorized dealer.

    Over at GPSReview we have seen a number of threads on related issues. There was even one example where the police showed up at the door of a guy who tried to register a used unit (or so he claimed…). :)

  23. Keith Adams says:

    I have just purchased the Garmin Nuvi 3790 LMT. The only problem I have had to date is that, occasionally the unit will not “speak” the route, turns, etc. I am driving. I have checked the muting (was not on mute) and re-set the unit and it still did not “talk” to me at that time. I set up a trip and started from home and it would not give the turn by turn vocally. After about 30 miles, I stopped at a roadside rest for about 10 minutes and when I was pulling out, it started to “talk” again. Has anyone any suggestions?

    • Haven’t heard of that kind of error. Possibly a short in the speaker?

      Just to be clear. These are turns that are listed as the next turn in the upper left, and you’re not hearing anything?

  24. Actually this is a known issue that evidently appears at random. It has been discussed in several different threads on both GPSReview and GPSPassion ever since the 3790 was first released. AFAIK, Garmin has never addressed the problem with their firmware updates. I was an early 3790 adopter myself, but I had the spoken directions and leave it permanently muted, so I don’t have any personal experience.

    I’d suggest e-mailing a bug report to Garmin support. Probably won’t make much difference, but they recently did roll out a couple new 3790 firmware updates so maybe they will look into it if they get enough reports.

  25. Im now having issues with my 3790, with it constantly rebooting…It seems to work when i turn it on but about 5 minutes after i put it back in the car cradle, it constantly starts rebooting and doesnt seem to maintain GPS lock, in the cradle(alone it locks in)….any ideas? I have about a dozen of these devices for testing and this is the only one that is doing it, even after checking for a software upgrade….

    • Have you recently updated maps?

      I’d back up all your personal info and do a hard reset…

      http://forums.gpsreview.net/viewtopic.php?t=21511

      • Nothing was done crazy to it..it was just sitting in a vehicle and started this cycling. Thanks for the info on a hardboot, i will do that and see what happens next….

        • Yup, out of ideas now. I did that hard boot and when it was out of the cradle, it seemed to lock up..but then 5 minutes into the mount(two different mounts), it starts rebooting. It has to be something with that mount/power interface…but its a new one on me and i have tested a good number of GPS devices for Naval Special Warfare…

          • There are a lot of threads that turn up when I searched Google for this problem. Didn’t see any fixes right off the bat though. You might want to call Garmin on this one.

  26. That is a strange one. Have had a 3790 since it was first introduced and have never seen this. One thing occurs to me – are you using the original traffic receiver as the power source? If so, I would be suspicious that this is involved, instead of the cradle itself. Try using a generic USB power supply and see if you still have the problem.

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