Garmin nuvi 1490T GPS unit

Featuring live traffic capabilities, excellent lane guidance and a simple but highly effective user interface, the nuvi 1490T is one of the best GPS units on the market

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Garmin nuvi 1490T
  • Expert Rating

    4.25 / 5


  • Large, responsive touch screen, quick to get a GPS fix and to reroute, effective UI, great lane guidance, Bluetooth, New Zealand maps included


  • Map lacks detail compared to competitors, traffic antenna built into car-charger, no FM transmitter

Bottom Line

This is a great Garmin GPS unit with a simple but effective user interface. It provides an outstanding navigational experience on the whole. Highly recommended.

Would you buy this?

Take Garmin's excellent 1390T GPS unit, add a large, 5in display and you end up with the nuvi 1490T — a bigger version of Garmin's former flagship nuvi device. Featuring live traffic capabilities, excellent lane guidance and a simple but highly effective user interface, the nuvi 1490T is one of the best GPS units on the market.

The Garmin nuvi 1490T follows the same design cues as the rest of the nuvi range — a simple yet stylish glossy black finish with a matte black bezel surrounding the display. Despite the large display, the nuvi 1490T GPS unit remains reasonably thin and the included window mount is compact and easily clipped on and off.

The nuvi 1490T's user interface is simple but very effective. Menu items are accompanied by either large boxes with text or clearly labelled icons, making this GPS easy to use even for novices. We would have appreciated a Bluetooth icon on the home screen to save us having to access the tools menu — but this is a minor quibble.

The Garmin nuvi 1490T's map screen is clear and straightforward. Most importantly the touch screen is responsive and doesn't skip a beat. We were very impressed with the speed of this GPS; not only is browsing the menu zippy, it’s also one of the quickest units we've tested at finding a GPS signal and rerouting when you take a wrong turn.

Garmin's maps aren't as detailed as those used by some competing units, but there is an option in the settings menu to display more detail (backstreets are the main inclusion). Importantly, street names are clear and safety alerts are preloaded (they trigger an audible alert and voice warning but the notification on the map screen is a little small). Enabling "more map data" in the settings menu places four boxes on the right side of the map screen that display information including distance and time to destination, current time, estimated time of arrival and speed.

Garmin uses Whereis maps for its automotive GPS range and we found them fairly accurate in most instances. The nuvi 1490T warned us of all the known red light and fixed speed cameras we passed, but — like most GPS units — it has a tendency to prefer main roads to the back streets that are often faster. The nuvi 1490T has maps of both Australia and New Zealand preloaded.

Garmin's Real View advanced lane guidance is the best we've seen on any GPS unit. It 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 1490T GPS unit also includes a lifetime subscription to the SUNA Traffic Channel (hence the 'T' in the name). The TMC antenna is built into the in-car charger, not the unit itself, so you'll need this connected to use traffic the feature. Despite the 1490T's position at the top of the nuvi range, Garmin hasn't seen fit to include an FM transmitter. You also can't avoid areas when planning a route, and the basic route preview feature could use an upgrade to provide some extra detail.

Voice guidance is excellent and the Garmin nuvi 1490T includes two Australian text-to-speech voices that pronounce most street names accurately. Unfortunately, audio isn’t overly loud or punchy, even at maximum volume. Bluetooth is included for hands-free calling and once the GPS 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 with Bluetooth connectivity, the built-in microphone doesn’t have the best range, though it's good enough to hold a conversation — provided you keep your windows closed.

The Garmin nuvi 1490T 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 1490T presents a report detailing the cost, 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. Strangely, you can't select premium unleaded fuel in the fuel type list, though diesel, ethanol and LPG options are available.

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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