Garmin nuvi 1690 GPS unit

The Garmin nuvi 1690 GPS includes an integrated wireless module that allows access to online information including Google search, traffic, weather and fuel prices

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Garmin nuvi 1690
  • Garmin nuvi 1690
  • Garmin nuvi 1690

Pros

  • nuLink online services, sleek look and feel, straightforward and easy to use UI, excellent overall navigational experience, live traffic updates, great lane guidance, Bluetooth

Cons

  • No FM transmitter, Bluetooth hands-free microphone isn't the best quality

Bottom Line

Garmin's nuvi 1690 is Australia's first online GPS. The nuLink service adds to what already was an excellent overall navigational experience. If you're in the market for a top-end GPS with all the latest features, this is a must-have.

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Described by Garmin as Australia's "first online GPS," the nuvi 1690 includes an integrated wireless module that allows access to real-time, online information including Google search, traffic, weather and fuel prices. This feature-packed GPS also boasts Bluetooth, advanced lane guidance and live traffic updates, making it one of the most complete portable navigation solutions on the market.

The Garmin nuvi 1690T follows the design trend set by previous nuvi units, so this is a compact yet straightforward GPS. Being a flagship model, the nuvi 1690 gets an attractive gloss black finish and chrome edging, giving it a more professional feel than other nuvi models.

The nuvi 1690's standout feature is its ability to access online, real-time services through Garmin's nuLink portal. The nuvi 1690 is embedded with a data-enabled SIM card (the same kind used in mobile phones) from Dutch telco KPM. It therefore acts just like a smartphone — in addition using regular GPS capabilities, the nuvi 1690 uses the SIM card to connect to online services.

The best of these is undoubtedly the ability to search through Google for points of interest (POIs). Using simple search terms such as "pizza," "café", or "parks", Google local search expands on the already existing Garmin database of POIs. As it's always connected and online, the database is constantly expanding without further cost or upgrades. Other nuLink services include a real-time currency exchange, automatically updated safety camera alerts, flight status, fuel prices and weather updates. The pick of these services is fuel prices, giving you a list of the closest nearby petrol stations that subscribe to the MotorMouth service. The petrol stations are sorted by closest to your current location alongside the current listed price of your fuel type, but there is no way to sort by price.

The Garmin nuvi 1690 also includes the Ciao! friend finder service. This location-based social networking system connects multiple nuvi 1690 users, so it can act as a location tracker and make it easier to find friends, family or workmates. The nuLink service is free to use for the first 12 months, but will cost $99 per year to renew. Use is completely unlimited, with no extra charges.

The rest of the Garmin nuvi 1690 is relatively unchanged from existing models, and this is definitely a good thing. The nuvi 1690's user interface is simple and very effective, with menu items accompanied by either large boxes with text or clearly labelled icons. Tapping in various parts of the top map screen bar brings up quick menus for Bluetooth, GPS and mobile data information.

The Garmin nuvi 1690's map screen is clear and straightforward and the touch screen is responsive. We were also very impressed with the speed of this GPS; it's also one of the quickest units we've tested at finding a GPS signal and rerouting when you take a wrong turn.

The nuvi 1690's map screen is spacious and, although the maps aren't as detailed as those used by some competing units, street names are clear. Safety alerts are preloaded; they trigger an audible alert and voice warning but the notification on the map screen is a little small.

Garmin uses Whereis maps for its nuvi units, and although they once again missed a few 'no right turns', the maps warned of all the red light cameras we passed during testing. An advantage of the nuLink service is that red light cameras are constantly updated as soon as the information is available, so the latest NSW safety cameras (a new red light camera that doubles as a speed camera) are included. Like most GPS units the nuvi 1690 prefers main roads rather than faster back streets, but it has maps of both Australia and New Zealand preloaded.

Garmin's advanced lane guidance is the best we've seen on any GPS unit. Called Real View Advanced Lane Guidance, the nuvi 1690 displays an image of the road and its surroundings, along with road signs identical to those used in the real world. The static image appears on the screen in the lead up to turn offs and is especially useful on busy freeway and motorway junctions.

The Garmin nuvi 1690 also includes a lifetime subscription to the SUNA Traffic Channel, and best of all it uses the built-in SIM card rather than the standard FM receiver to get traffic details. This means there is no need for a traffic antenna, which is often built into the charger. A couple of missing features are an FM transmitter and the ability to avoid areas when planning a route, while the basic route preview feature isn't really helpful and could use an upgrade to provide more detail. Voice guidance is excellent and the Garmin nuvi 1690 includes two Australian text-to-speech voices that pronounce most street names accurately.

Bluetooth is included for hands-free calling and once the device is paired with your mobile phone you can browse your phonebook, read and send messages, use voice dialling and access your call history. Like most GPS units, though, the built-in microphone has questionable quality.

The Garmin nuvi 1690 also provides an "ecoRoute" feature. This function can display a fuel report and choose an economical route. After entering the cost of fuel and your car's rated fuel economy, the nuvi 1690 presents a report detailing the cost of fuel used, the carbon footprint and your average fuel economy based on your trips. When in use, ecoRoute will also preview your route before it begins by displaying the total fuel cost — this information is calculated based on the fuel price, type and fuel economy entered into the vehicle profile menu. ecoRoute also has a "Driving Challenge" feature that tests your driving habits, in particular your ability to smoothly accelerate and decelerate. For business users, a mileage report is great for keeping a record for tax purposes.

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