Hands on with the Garmin nuvi 3490LMT
UPDATE: There is now a 5″ version of this model, the nuvi 3590LMT.
The Garmin nüvi 3490LMT (despite the lower model number) updates the 3790LMT with a host of new customization options, Exit Services and ad-free HD traffic. And just like with the previous version, you get all this in a super-thin package sporting a 4.3” multi-touch capacitive glass touchscreen.
The 3490LMT offers preloaded maps of the US, Canada and Mexico, lifetime map updates, voice command and Bluetooth for hands free calling.
- Drop down to the nuvi 3450LM and you’ll lose Bluetooth, traffic and voice command
- To see how the 3490LMT stacks up against other models, check out my Garmin nuvi comparison chart
One nuvi to rule them all?
It appears that with the 3490LMT, we once again have a “top of the line” nuvi. So what do you get on the 3490LMT, one of the Prestige series units, that you don’t get on the Advanced series (e.g., the 2x95LMT models)? Here’s the list:
- Powered mount
- Capacitive, multi-touch screen
- Higher resolution screen
- 3D terrain and buildings
- Screen orientation changes automatically
- HD Traffic
- MyTrends (anticipates your destination based on your driving habits)
Garmin nuvi 3490 LMT hardware notes
Just like it’s predecessor, the 3790LMT, the 3490LMT is super-thin (.35”) and sports a multi-touch capacitive glass display. Also like the 3790 series, this one tends to run a little hot, but I haven’t seen signs that this causes trouble. One welcome difference is that the 3490LMT seems to lock onto satellites faster than the 37xx series, which didn’t seem to acquire quite as quickly as most nuvis.
Also notable, unlike other 2012 models, the 34xx series features a powered mount. In the picture below, with the suction cup removed, you can see the additional speaker that is part of the mount.
Powering on and off
The nuvi 3490LMT powers off and on automatically when connected to the charger in your car. When you press the power button to turn it off, it actually goes into sleep mode. According to the manual, “a battery charge lasts for weeks” in this mode. The advantage here is an almost instantaneous power on from sleep mode. To fully shut down the device, hold the power button down for several seconds.
The features listed below are new to the 2012 nuvi lineup.
There are eight different dashboards available on the 3490LMT. Basically, these are data field layouts. They are accessed via Settings > Map & Vehicle > Dashboards. You can see one in the image below.
Map changes – Buttons, layers, and more, oh my
The icons on the right side of the map screen are termed map buttons. You can have up to three of the following: Traffic, Mute, Stop, Phone, Detour, Exit services, Where am I?, Trip computer, Map layers, Brightness, Where to? and Audible. This is a nice feature. BTW, see the menu icon (three horizontal lines) in the lower right portion of the nuvi screen above? You can tap that to bring up all twelve of the items available for the map buttons, so it’s easy enough to reach the other nine.
Map Layers offers additional customization options. You can choose to layer/display any or all of the following on the map: Traffic, Trip log, Places along the road, 3D buildings and 3D terrain. Enabling Places along the road will display points of interest (POIs). In the screenshot below, you can see that more information appears on the screen if you tap a POI icon. Which POIs feature corporate logos seems to be solely related to which ones are available to Garmin; it has nothing to do with zoom levels.
While you cannot customize which POIs to display on the 3D moving map, it’s a different story when you go into browse map mode. There you can drill down through many categories, as you can see below.
One other thing. I’m beginning to notice that POI display may vary on the moving map, depending upon time of day. At lunch time you might see more restaurants. Driving late at night? Hotels seem to show up more.
Selecting a destination
Tap Where To? and you’ll see the following screen…
There are a few things to note here:
- You can add a shortcut to a favorite search (e.g., Starbucks), a category or subcategory, a saved place, etc.; this is one of the more helpful new features, IMHO
- Note that you can remove any of the pre-existing shortcuts
- You can have up to six screens, for a total of 36 shortcuts
- The Categories icon gives you access to the full range of choices, in addition to any shortcuts showing
- You can do a universal search, entering an address or a POI name
- Tap the Searching Near field in the upper right hand portion of the screen to access options such as My active route, My destination, etc.
Of course, you can also use voice command, just like on several other recent models. I’ll discuss that in more detail shortly.
Your choice of routes
Once you enter a search and tap a result, you’ll see a drop down box like the one below.
While not a new feature per se (the presentation is a bit different here), Tap Routes and you’ll get your choice of faster time, shorter distance and less fuel routes (according to the manual; they aren’t labeled)…
First seen on the dezl trucker series, and similar to Magellan’s Exit POIs, this is another new feature that I think people will find very helpful indeed. So much so that it will undoubtedly end up as one of the buttons on my map screen. It shows you POIs for upcoming exits…
Recent nuvis had deep menu options that were painful to access. Improved nesting and better use of check boxes have reduced many steps. For example, on some previous models, you had the following sequence to set avoidances: Tools > Settings > Navigation > nuRoute > Avoidances. On the 34×0 series, it’s Settings > Navigation > Avoidances.
Voice command functioned well during my testing, though I didn’t find it to be as accurate as on the 2xx5 series. In addition to the options shown below, there are also commands for Detour, Volume and Brightness.
As with other recent models, you can use a customizable wakeup phrase (“voice command” is the default).
You can do one shot address or POI entry on the 3490LMT. Just say Find Address and then rattle off the entire address. Another improvement is that Find Place seems to work with nearly any POI in the database now.
Junction View and Lane Assist
There has been a huge increase in the number of exits showing Junction View imagery (pictured below on the right side of the screen). It seems to pop up at almost every exit in cities where I’ve never even seen it before. I’ll also note that this series includes what Garmin terms photoReal Junction View, where the background scenery should generally match reality. Lane Assist is displayed in the upper left portion of the screen above, letting you know which lane you need to be in for an upcoming turn. This feature shows up not only on freeways, but on some urban surface streets as well.
This is a nice feature, especially for those of us fortunate enough to live in mountainous regions.
I can see how 3D buildings could be helpful, but I’m not sure how well that really works out. I’m still a bit inclined to categorize this feature as eye candy.
The Trip Planner, used for planning multi-destination routes, is now found under Apps. It seems that Garmin is continuing to make improvements here. While I didn’t do extensive testing of this feature, I did note a couple of things. For one, Time to Via and final destination arrival times seem to be accurately reflected on the dashboard (although it still doesn’t take into account duration of stop, if you’ve entered that info). Also, just like on the 2xx5 series, I was able to successfully transfer a multi-destination route from BaseCamp, using City Navigator POIs converted to waypoints.
Other returning features
Some other important features introduced on previous generation nuvis, which are also found on the 3490LMT:
- Orientation (portrait style shown below) can be set by by going to Settings > Display > Orientation; unlike the 2xx5 series, the orientation of the 34×0 series changes automatically
- Custom avoidances – Allows you to exclude a road or area from routing
- Advanced detours – Lets you exclude roads from the active route on the fly
- Trip log – Now part of “Where I’ve Been,” you can clear it from within the app and enable/disable and clear it from Settings > Device; unfortunately the only option is to clear all travel history including myTrends
The nuvi paired with my Motorola Droid on the first try. Sound quality was good, but not as awesome as on the 2×95 series.
The 3490LMT offers a SafeText feature, which allows texts to be read aloud to you. This requires a phone with Bluetooth MAP (Message Access Protocol) support. At this point, there appear to be only a few Android and Blackberry phones with this capability.
The 3490LMT comes with a new traffic receiver, the GTM 60. Unlike other lifetime traffic models from Garmin, this one is not ad-supported. It uses an HD-radio delivered traffic network, which Garmin is referring to as Digital 3D Traffic. This should mean faster updates (every 30 seconds) and additional coverage of smaller roadways.
Unfortunately, the roll out hasn’t gone entirely smoothly. My experience with the 3490LMT’s traffic capabilities has been hit or miss. I tested it in four metropolitan areas with traffic coverage. In some early tests the receiver failed to even pick up a signal at all, whereas the 2555LT I was using had no trouble.
Following the 3.50 firmware update, reception seemed to improve, although that’s just my perception; I have no objective tests to verify that. I will say that the GTM 60 does not appear to perform as well in fringe reception areas as earlier receivers; coverage may be more limited at the periphery of metros with coverage. Some screenshots…
Garmin nuvi 3490LMT performance
The unit I tested was a pre-production model, but I saw no shutdowns or other glitchy behavior. Map redraws were a little slow when viewing traffic incidents, but that’s the only time I noticed it.
The unit responded to taps without noticeable delays. Menu responsiveness was fast. POI searches were reasonably fast, certainly better than on previous generation nuvis. Routing speed has also been improved. I noticed no routing abnormalities during the time I tested the 3490LMT.
The biggest problem I had was with the HD traffic, as discussed above. And I did find voice command responsiveness to be somewhat weaker than on the 2×95 series.
Garmin nuvi 3490LMT pros
- Strong customization options
- Powered mount
- Exit services
- Lifetime map updates included
- Lifetime traffic (ad free)
- Good Bluetooth sound quality
- POIs can be displayed on the map
- Offers several choices of routes
- Voice commands
- Extensive junction view and lane assist coverage
- Advanced detours allow you to exclude roads from active route
- Custom avoidances allow you to exclude roads or areas from all routes
Garmin nuvi 3490LMT cons
- HD traffic reception is weaker than that of standard traffic receivers
- Voice command responsiveness not as good as on the nuvi 2×95 series
Conclusion and recommendation
Overall the nuvi 3490LMT is a nice model. Hopefully the HD traffic reception issues will be resolved over time. For myself and for now, I’d go with one of the 2x95LMT models over the 3490LMT. But folks who have to deal with traffic on a daily basis may want to keep an eye on the forums and see how quickly the traffic reception issues are resolved. A better option for many, especially if you rely on voice command and Bluetooth, would be to buy the 2595LMT and add the GTM 60 traffic receiver once the bugs are worked out.
More Garmin nuvi 3490LMT reviews
- Consumer-authored Garmin nuvi 3490LMT reviews have been posted at Amazon
- User reviews of the nuvi 3490LMT at GpsPasSion
- More consumer written Garmin nuvi 3490LMT reviews are posted at GPS City
- Stuff.tv gives a 5 out of 5 star rating in their 3490LMT review
- I’ll be posting more hands on GPS reviews as they appear, but in the meantime, here are some…
Other Garmin nuvi 3490LMT resources
- The Garmin nuvi 3490LMT owners manual
- Want to see how the 3490LMT 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
- Our auto GPS FAQs, which includes quite a few nuvi tips and tricks
- The official Garmin nuvi 3490LMT web page
Compare prices on the Garmin nuvi 3490LMT at these merchants:
- Check the current Garmin nüvi 3490LMT 4.3-Inch Portable GPS Navigator price at Amazon
- Get a great deal on the Garmin nuvi 3490LMT at GPS City
- Find the nuvi 3490LMT at Abt Electronics
- Buy the nüvi® 3490LMT direct from Garmin