Review: Garmin nüvi 1490T

Once Garmin announced the Nuviphone, it was clear they knew the writing was on the wall. The challenge for GPS manufacturers and a handful of portable product makers (like, say, Pure Digital) is what they're going to do now that mobile phones in the U.S. are starting to deliver improved video, photo, audio, GPS, etc. One approach: do as TomTom does and start making apps for the iPhone and other platforms. Another approach: keep adding features! Garmin's nüvi 1490T sports a fairly responsive five-inch touchscreen, microSD slot, picture viewer, and Bluetooth. You're also getting some of the best Garmin has to offer in terms of mapping, including ecoRoute (for hypermilers), traffic alerts, up to 10 saved routes, and lane assist, to name a few. The GPS is great, too: I actually discovered a faster route from my home to the freeway (a route Google Maps has never once suggested). Best of all, the 1490T is commendably lightweight (7.8 ounces) and extremely thin (0.6 inches thick), presumably to make it easier to pocket, too.*
nuvi collage.jpg
Unfortunately, the battery life isn't quite up to snuff, at least not for a device intended to be carried wirelessly. On one trip, my fully-charged 1490T lasted just over 2 hours before the "low battery" message came on the screen. Not a big deal if you're in the car, but for a device intended to be carried with you, presumably, everywhere and anywhere, it's certainly something to be aware of. If you're hoping to take this sightseeing or hiking for any prolonged period of time, I'd argue this is somewhat of a dealbreaker, especially since the 1490T only comes with a USB cable and 12-volt adapter. Thus, if you're out and about and looking to score some juice from a standard wall outlet, you'd need to pocket an adapter &mdash otherwise, you're SOL (three letters that should never come to mind when you think "GPS."). What's also missing: MP3 player/FM radio, headphone jack, Web browser, camera, and it can't make calls obviously (though it can be paired as a speaker for your cell phone). Sure it could be construed as entirely silly to expect all of these, but for $500, maybe holding my breath for some of these features isn't too much to ask? *note: I never attached the device to my windshield, mainly because I'm terrified of adding additional blindspots to my car. As a result, I left it sitting either in my lap or on the center console. Easier to grab when exiting, but unfortunately the speaker is in the rear. Thus, I had to choose between viewing the screen and muffling the sound, or forgoing the screen for a reasonable volume. Not a huge deal, but felt worth mentioning here in smaller print.
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11 Responses to Review: Garmin nüvi 1490T

  1. Herb Wynans says:

    Test drove the 1490t and found map detail a bit lacking but volume a major improvement over some newer Garmins such as the audibly-challenged Nuvi 855 which I bought recently and quickly returned. I wonder if there are any other adequately loud Garmins out there with a better feature set. BTW, I agree whole-heartedly with previous poster about inanely impractical picture display capability. What is that, a joke?

  2. schmod says:

    Any community recommendations for a mid-priced GPS? I’m in the market…

  3. styrofoam says:

    If you only use the audio cues, putting it out of your field of view is ok- but the blind spot in your lap is bigger than the one in your windshield, even with a GPS attached.

    I’ve seen a vent-mount attachment that would probably be the best selection from a safety standpoint- I’m not sure how well it positions, how sturdy it iwand if you’re one to bask in the heat or AC, it might be a dealbreaker as well.

  4. Alan says:

    Re blind spots —

    Instead of smack dab in the middle of the windshield, I usually position mine to my left at the edge of the windshield, as low as it will fit. Not only does this have minimal impact on what I can see, but actually is easier to reach and use. Only problem is the charger cord, which I have to lay across the dash and hope stays put.

  5. PaulR says:

    I got a ventilation-grill mounted cell phone holder (they’re cheap, too), modified to hold my GPS unit.

    It’s at the same eye-level and focusing distance as the instrument panel, and doesn’t block any of the windshield. I find that switching focusing from the GPS to the road, when it’s mounted at windshild height too distracting.

  6. strider_mt2k says:

    The Nuvi 760 I bought has been doing GREAT for my wife and I.

    (Actually it’s one that you folks at BBG followed as it took a price dive to 199.99, where I grabbed it.)

    It’s older at this point, admittedly, but still has traffic and it updated to the 2009 firmware and maps with no problems.

    We just used it on our vacation driving around eastern Pa.
    The stupid thing just did everything it was asked extremely well, including re-routing us around some traffic on the way home and even had good hotels and places to eat in it’s POI database.

    I haven’t used it’s MP3 player or photo viewer (?), but BT hands free is a great thing to have.

    Overall I’m very impressed and happy with my Garmin.

    I guess I’m lucky in that my windshield position doesn’t block anything.

  7. Sarah M Howell says:

    I have just bought the Nuvi 1490t – have been using it for a week and am having problems with the safety camera feature. It turns itself off after the beep to notifiy you of a camera or when passing a camera.
    Then you have to go trhought the accept procedure and re-start.
    Anybody had these problems on other Garmin models?

  8. xzzy says:

    I like my devices to do one thing and do it well.. but a $500 price tag for it is pretty ridiculous.

    My 3 year old tom-tom cost $99 and gets me from point A to B with minimal fuss, it’d have to be one ridiculously awesome GPS to be worth five times that.

  9. Bottlekid says:

    #4, you beat me to it. I put mine in the lower left-hand corner just off the dash. The only thing it blocks is my hood, and it’s easier to view and easy to adjust things like volume while driving.

    #5, it really depends on the features you want. I wanted US and Canada maps and a large screen. The Nuvi 250w is readily available under $200 and does a pretty good job at navigation. Sometimes is goes mad and you have to “force an unscheduled re-boot”, but that’s rare. I have also found their POI database to be outdated more than a few times.

  10. dculberson says:

    I have the same Nuvi 760 and it’s been good. We don’t use it very much, only when going to new or out-of-town areas. But it’s been really handy a few times.

  11. Clay says:

    What doesn’t make sense to me is auto GPS units doing things that have nothing to do with their primary purpose.

    A GPS device should help you navigate. Everything that is added to it should help you navigate in one way or another, whether it’s adding an option to automatically offer a new route if it detects you’re going slowly, or integrating a cellular data system that pulls in traffic and weather information.

    Someone has to be pretty lost to actually think people will use an in-car GPS unit to look at photos. “But how does it hurt you to have a dumb feature you won’t use,” one might ask? It unnecessarily complicates the UI, it diverts engineering and design from tasks that could actually improve the device, and adds more testing to the development process that ultimately makes the product either more expensive or less stable.

    It’s disappointing to me, actually, that Garmin has sullied its name with this rather inane feature creep that was once the province of cut-rate, no-name manufacturers.

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