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TomTom Via 1535TM vs. Garmin Nuvi 1490LMT
on July 10, 2011
July 12, 2012
After having the Nuvi 1490LMT in my car for the longest time, I finally took it inside the house a couple of days ago and updated its map/software. In the update, they took care of the "disappearing map" glitch for this particular unit. They also updated some of the map graphics, especially the junction and lane assist views - they have a more polished look (they look better IMO).
I tested the Nuvi and happy to report that the "disappearing map" glitch is indeed fixed. I did not experience a map reload during the entire 1-hour drive.
Garmin Nuvi 1490LMT vs. TomTom Via 1535TM
I purchased both units to compare them and in the end pick the unit that best suits my needs and preferences. I wanted to get a new GPS unit because the built in unit I have in my SUV is outdated. The portability, being able to use on another vehicle, and the free lifetime maps are really what I'm after but decided that lifetime traffic alerts is not a bad option either. I would like to point out that whatever you chose between the two, the decision will not be a mistake as they are both good GPS units, they both have their own strengths and weaknesses, but it will come down to what you really prefer or your comfort level.
I tested both units driving around where I live and when we went on vacation in Las Vegas. I had them mounted next to each other most of the time.
TomTom Via 1535TM
- By default, provides more info (speed, distance, time etc) on the status bar, located on bottom of screen, compared to the Nuvi. And just above the Via's status bar, it shows the street name that you are currently on (I find this very helpful), the Nuvi does not have this feature while navigating. The Nuvi will give you the option to display the same info on its status bar, but it will place the status bar vertically on the right side of the display that makes the main screen smaller (like an old 3.5" GPS screen) I really really like this feature and how it's displayed on the screen, it's really cool to have all this info ready at all times. Something you might say, "Honey, I'm about 65 miles away and will be home in about 50 minutes, by 2:30pm, I should be pulling up by the driveway." All this info is displayed on the unit at all times, you don't have to calculate in your head.
- Consistently finds POIs faster than the Nuvi. It's almost instant whereas the Nuvi could take seconds, sometimes even several minutes to find its first POI (this really sucks when you are so ready to go, even a minute feels like an eternity!). But this also depends on how popular the POI is, if you're looking for McDonalds or something well known, then both units will give you an instant list.
- The voice command feature is great when it works and it works most of the time. I really like this feature especially when driving to a new address; it is so much easier saying where you are going instead of manually inputting everything onto the unit. It's also great for looking for a certain POI while driving, I love how you can just say "Go to the nearest Starbucks" and it will get you there with just a single button input! The voice command feature is not perfect though, as some POI names, no matter how your pronounce it, just won't get recognized by the unit. I tried IKEA and 7-ELEVEN numerous times with no success. I was driving on the freeway one time and my low fuel indicator flashed and in a city I'm not familiar with and all I have to say was "Go to the nearest gas station" and within minutes I'm filling up my gas tank! This is so cool! I didn't have to fiddle with the unit to input and chose where I needed to go, keeping my attention on the road - where it should be. Even with the feature's shortcomings, I found this feature to be a deal breaker!
- I also like the fact that you can still access the device while connected to the computer. This is helpful if you wanted to change settings or play around with the unit. The Nuvi locks you out the minute you plug in the USB cord.
- The voice on the unit sounds a lot better than the Garmin Nuvi. The voice sounds more human, better to the ears while the Nuvi's voice sounds too robotic. The volume on the Nuvi is much louder than the Via though.
- Preloaded speed traps/traffic camera POIs. The unit will beep to alert you of incoming traffic cameras! It'll make you rethink about running that red light!! The Nuvi does not have any traffic camera POIs preloaded, although you can download these from online.
- The Via takes a long time to acquire a satellite signal! It takes anywhere from 1 to 4 minutes just to get a lock on a signal! You're probably saying, what's 1-4 minutes?! Well, I had the Nuvi next to it turned on the same and it acquired a signal in less than 30 seconds! The 4 minutes of waiting feels like forever! And this is not sometimes... this is all the time!!
- Like a lot of people say, the LCD screen of the TomTom Via is inferior to that of the Garmin Nuvi's. And I have to agree! The display gets easily washed up under the sun! There are times when you have to really focus on the screen just to read what is on there. It also doesn't help that the letters and graphics on the screen are smaller and the colors are not that vivid! The icons look flat as well. I was shocked when one day I was driving (almost sunset) when the sun's rays coming from the rear window hit the Via's screen and I totally couldn't see it, while the Nuvi sitting next to it was still visible!
- The unit is not very responsive, very sluggish... You press an icon and it almost takes a full second to respond! There are also no beeps when you click on something, unlike the Nuvi that responds faster and gives you an audio cue every time you touch something on the screen.
- Although the unit generates a POI list very fast, the list it provides shows very little info. It will only list found POIs and the distance in miles away from your location... Drilling down further will only provide a phone number and a mini map of its location. I found this very annoying as I always like to know the address of where I'm going, what city, what street it's on etc. I live in the Bay Area (California) and would always like to know the city of my destination since I would rather travel more miles than to cross one of the bridges, deal with the traffic and pay toll! I find it uncomfortable to just drive to a location xx miles away and with no other info... The Nuvi provides the full address, phone number and more info of all its POIs.
- Voice Command when making calls is almost useless. If you have an iPhone, use its Voice Control feature to make calls instead - it will give you better results. The Via has a hard time recognizing names, so when you say "Call (insert name here)", it'll give you a list of your contact info, and you have to scroll down to get to the person you want to call then say the number of the contact before it'll dial. And given how the unit is very unresponsive to inputs, this little call could become very annoying fast!
- There is also a bug that they need to fix. After updating the maps, all your favorites get deleted! This can get frustrating if you end up doing these four times a year (number of times they issue map updates in a year). MyTomTom, their online support, is still not fully functional. The only thing that it really does is update maps; you can't download extra voices, extra POIs and other things.
Garmin Nuvi 1490LMT
- The LCD Screen on the Nuvi shows very well under the sun. The colors pop and you won't get the washed up colors you get with the Via. The display is not cluttered with unnecessary info, very easy to read with big letters, better contrast and vivid colors. This is one of the main selling points of the Garmins, they are very easy to understand and use! You glance at the screen instead of "focusing" because of how easy it is to digest. The Garmin just has a better GUI (in my opinion) compared to the Via. I find the icons on the Nuvis looking better compared to the Via's flat look. The Nuvi just displays everything better, it's "prettier" and easier to look at than the Via. The Via is like reading a book where the Nuvi is like reading a book with pictures. The presentation is just better with the Nuvi.
- Detailed POIs. The Nuvi generates POIs with complete addresses, phone numbers and how far it is from your location. I really like that Garmin included the complete address instead of just the distance. It gives you a better sense of direction and the comfort of knowing where you're going. The downside is that the Nuvi takes longer than the Via when looking for POIs that are not very common. It is also very convenient when saving these POIs to your favorites as you don't have to enter/edit too much info.
- Acquires satellite signals very quickly compared to the Via, which usually takes 1-4 minutes. The Nuvi usually takes less than 30 seconds to lock on a signal, a minute at the longest. The GPS start up is also very quick. The unit is also very responsive to your commands; it gives you audio cues when inputting commands. It seems that the Nuvi just does everything a tad quicker than the Via.
- I actually like the fact that Nuvi will say "Recalculating" when you miss a turn. I like to know when I make a mistake, so for example, when I come back to the same place without the GPS, I'm not taking the "wrong turn" and thinking that it's the correct way... The Nuvi recalculates fairly quickly and usually gets you on the right track right away. The Via will not give you an audio cue if you miss a turn, it'll just instantly recalculate and show you the next correct turn as if you were on the correct path all along. Some people actually prefer this as they are sick of hearing "recalculating".
- When you put an entry in your Favorites, the Nuvi will actually pronounce the name you give it. (BTW, the Nuvi does this for all destinations) For example, if I name my friends address as "Fat Joe's House", the Nuvi will actually say "Arriving at Fat Joe's House in .5 miles" or "You have arrived at Fat Joe's House on the right". Just imagine the possibilities... hahaha! It's surprising how many words and names the Nuvi can pronounce! The Via, on the other hand, will just give you the default message - "You have arrived at your destination on the right". Some folks might not find this as a PRO but I sure am entertained by this!
- I wished that they could've added the same info on the status bar like that of the Via. On the status bar on the bottom of the screen, it only shows the estimated time of arrival on the left pane, the current speed and the speed limit on the right pane, the middle pane shows the lane assist feature when needed. The Nuvi also does not show the current street you're driving on, and if you have forgotten, the only option is for you to look out the window and look for street signs.
- Looking up non-common POIs can be very frustrating! My family decided to check out the Boiling Crab, a very popular restaurant that serves mostly seafood (super yummy!). Upon entering the name, the Via showed 2 Boiling Crab locations instantly while the Nuvi was still "searching". We decided to just go and not wait for the the Nuvi. 50 minutes later, we are parking the car and the Nuvi is still "searching"! C'mon Garmin, if it's not in the POI database, then just make the unit say "not found" or something like that, instead of making us wait! The Via will show you "not found" if it didn't find the POI in its database, it won't make you wait forever!
- The traffic alerts comes with its evil twin - advertisement! If the TomTom Via can give you lifetime traffic alerts without ads then why can't the Garmin Nuvi? I found that the ads will pop up when at a complete stop and when your are driving on unmarked roads, like parking lots, the ads do not block too much of the screen to become a safety hazard but still annoying to some people (it doesn't bother me at all). There's an option to disable the ads but doing so will also disable the traffic alerts.
- While navigating, the Nuvi's display would all of a sudden turn blank (white screen) for about half a second and it then quickly "re-draws" the map. It seems like it "reloads" the map at certain points. This reload does not affect the navigation in any way but it's just odd that it does this. I'm not sure if it's a defect on my unit... I will contact Garmin about this and will keep you guys updated. This happens at least once every time I use the GPS unit! I find this annoying as I never saw this happening with the Via. Anyone else experiencing this on their 1490LMT? Please comment...
- These two units will get you to your destination one way or another. I drove with these 2 units around my neighborhood and found that both make "mistakes". Mistakes, meaning they will take me to longer routes or make unnecessary turns... From South San Francisco to San Francisco - The Nuvi made me drive on El Camino Real, a long boulevard, (after purposely missing some turns) before making me hop on the freeway (I-280) at the end, while the Via kept directing me to hop on the freeway entrances along the way. From SF to SSF - I'm driving down 10th street towards the I-280 freeway entrance when all of a sudden the Via told me to make a left, then a right, another right and finally another left to get back on 10th street! WTF?! Bottom line, they will both make navigation mistakes but they will both get you where you're supposed to go.
- The traffic routing is hit or miss. If the accident or the delay is not reported then there's no way for you to find out or avoid it in time. There was only one time in which the Nuvi gave me better traffic routing than the Via. Most of the time, both of the units, gave me the same routing. I also found that both units also report delays inaccurately... for example, both units will say a 2 minute delay (afternoon traffic) along my route but it really is more like a 10-15 minute delay!
- Both units monitor how fast you're going compared to the speed limit. The Nuvi's display will turn red if you surpass the speed limit even by 1mph, the Via will only turn red if you go 5mph faster.
- The Nuvi always shows an earlier estimated time of arrival compared to the Via. There's usually a 10-minute gap between the two units. For example, the Nuvi will estimate a time of arrival of 2:30, the Via at 2:40 but you actually get there by 2:35 The Nuvi seems to base its estimate as if as though you will not encounter traffic delays and the opposite can be said about the Via.
- The Nuvi shows a very accurate picture of the junction views - it will actually show you all the signs like how you would see them on the actual freeway. It grays out the signs that you are not suppose to take. The Via only shows the sign that you are suppose to take, it's as if it is the only sign on the freeway. I wonder if this might confuse some drivers. They both do a great job at illustrating which lanes to take. The Via shows the junction views longer than the Nuvi. The Nuvi shows the picture for about 7-9 seconds while the Via shows it close to 15 seconds.
- Updating the maps on these units are very straightforward but the process is much quicker on the Nuvi that that of the Via. The Via took hours to complete! Close to 3 hours if I'm not mistaken. Updating gadgets should not have to take that long...
- Both units paired with my iPhone 3GS without a hitch. Both units automatically pair up with my iPhone and downloads my contact info upon boot up. Receiving a call is easy with both units but found that the Nuvi is easier at making calls. You have to use the Via's troublesome Voice Command feature to make calls while the Nuvi uses the iPhone's Voice Control feature that is so much easier to use. I find the bluetooth functionality very convenient as it makes making and receiving calls that much easier while driving.
It took me almost a month to decide which one to keep... and in the end I chose the Garmin Nuvi. I went with the Garmin because of its LCD display and it's GUI (Graphic User Interface) - it's simple, easy to read, understand and use. It puts me at ease that my wife can use it without asking me how to use it! I like the fact that the display stays sharp and vivid under the sun. I like how it gives the full addresses on POIs and how easier it is at making phone calls. As much as I like the Via's Voice Command feature and its included traffic/speed POIs, I can't overlook the fact that the Nuvi is a much "polished" product. I really don't care that the Via's MyTomTom online support is non-existent at the moment (it's still in beta) as long as they can provide me with updated maps, which they can. Although, it made me smile when I could download my little kids favorites - Spongebob and Dora, as Voices and car characters from the Nuvi's online support page.
I really really like all the info that the Via shows on the screen but I find myself looking at it too much instead of the road! I like computers, so I like data and info as much as the next nerd but my wife had to tell me to keep my eyes on the road a couple of times while on a long drive... the Via became somewhat of a distraction. I really miss the Via's Voice Command... it is soooo cool! It doesn't work sometimes but when it does, I feel like Captain Kirk! A couple of updates on the voice command feature and it'll probably work much better! If I were given a few more days with the Via, I would have probably picked it over the Nuvi... I don't know, it's just a super cool device for the same price!!
I'm a family man with wife and kids. So in the end, I chose a unit that I feel is very safe on the road that could easily aid us in getting where we need to go. The less distraction the better... '