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Customer Review

817 of 844 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's a mixed bag but overall is pretty good, November 9, 2010
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This review is from: Garmin nüvi 1390LMT 4.3-Inch Portable Bluetooth GPS Navigator with Lifetime Map & Traffic Updates (Discontinued by Manufacturer) (Electronics)
12/10/2010 Addendum: Alert - I bought a second nuvi 1390LMT and that one started giving me pop-up warnings after it turned on. Two different pop-ups were observed. 1. "This accessory is not supported" 2. "XM is not supported." Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the USB power plug and USB plug receptacle on the nuvi were severely corroded. They had come that way from the factory and I had not noticed the defect during installation. I called Garmin and they advised me to return the device to Amazon for replacement, which I have done. Got to love Amazon for their excellent return policy. Also have to question Garmin quality control to let something like this slip through. I have posted an image of the corroded plug and receptacle in the customer images area. Now back to my original review.....

In a nutshell, the 1390LMT performed reasonably well. It has features that I will never use or will use infrequently at best, like Bluetooth and EcoRoute. The "Where am I?" feature is very useful. The initial satellite acquisition took a couple minutes which is normal. Subsequent satellite acquisition was pretty quick after the initial acquisition. I like that I will never have to pay for another map update. For the rest of the story, read on...

I bought the 1390LMT as an upgrade to my aging StreetPilot c340 Garmin StreetPilot c340 3.5-Inch Portable GPS Navigator. I actually have no issues with my c340... it is a solid, basic GPS that usually gets me where I want to go. I say usually because the maps are now 3 years old and it sometimes doesn't know about new streets and such. Plus, as most GPS's will occasionally do, you sometimes get directed to non-existent locations. Someday I'll tell you the story of being guided to Home Depot only to find that I had "arrived" but all I saw was a big open field with a bunch of mooing cows but no Home Depot. Another time I was told to turn left into a parking lot and once that happened I was stuck in an endless loop of mis-direction by the Garmin. Most hardened GPS users will have similar tales... being told to turn left when the display indicates a right turn and things of this nature.

In any case, I was not willing to pay the high price for a map upgrade for my old and comparatively large & clunky c340 so I began to search for a replacement. I looked at and read a mind-numbing number of reviews for Magellan, TomTom and Garmin GPS's. Since I had had relatively good luck with my Garmin c340 (I'll tell you about my misadventure with the nuvi 1300 later on in this review) I took a look at the bewildering product mix of GPS's that Garmin produces. Each series of Garmin GPS has between 2 to 8 variations. For instance the 1300 series includes the nuvi 1300, 1300LM, 1350, 1350T, 1350LMT, 1370T, 1390T and 1390LMT. That's a lot of choices and that is just for the 1300 series. You've also got the 205 series, 500 series, 705 series, 1200 series, 1400 series, 1600 series, 2200 series, 2300 series, 3700 series representing about 45 differing GPS devices.

Let me help you if you are as lost as I was... the "T" stands for Traffic. "L" stands for Lifetime. "M" stands for Maps, "W" stands for Widescreen and so forth. So a 1300T gives you lifetime Traffic updates whereas a 1350LMT will give you lifetime maps -and- traffic updates. And within each model you will get varying amounts of other features like Bluetooth, the speaking of street names, photo navigation, MP3 player, 3D terrain view and such. Then you've got 2.8" displays, 4.3" displays and 5" displays. You will also have to decide what maps you want included with your GPS... do you want or need Canada and Mexico? If so, make sure the model you choose has those installed by default. Or you could add them later I think by purchasing the map you need but of course that will entail spending more money. It can literally take years off your life trying to decipher all this and decide on a GPS that is most appropriate for you.

My take on this is to get the most basic GPS you can deal with. 4.3" screen is probably the best size for most people and cars. Truckers may want the 5" screen. Traffic updates don't work in rural areas and many small cities. Even in big cities, traffic updates are of dubious value (many people complain about this feature.) Do you really need an mp3 player in your GPS? Probably not. Do you really care about "EcoRoute"? Probably not. "Lane Assist" sounds really helpful, and it is when and where it works, but it doesn't work everywhere so it's not as helpful as it sounds.

It's not easy picking a GPS. But I chose the 1390LMT contrary to my advice to you. It has a lot of feature bloat. Many of the features I will not use and quite honestly, all -I- really want a GPS to do is get me to my destination as accurately as possible.

As it happens, I have both my c340 and the 1390LMT installed in my car so I can evaluate their performance simultaneously, side by side. It's quite strange because sometimes they are both talking and saying exactly the same thing at exactly the same time. Other times, like announcing upcoming turns, the 1390LMT will speak up first... sometimes by just a couple seconds, other times it announces the next turn as the last thing it says after announcing a previous turn... for instance it will say "Turn left on Main Street then turn right in 1 miles." Whereas the c340 will say "Turn left on Main street" and after a while it will say "Turn right in point-three miles." I can't figure it out but usually the 1390LMT gives more detailed instructions and generally does so with a bit more advance notice, which is greatly appreciated, especially at highway speeds.

I did notice that the screen icons and menus have changed somewhat between the c340 and the 1390LMT. Similar in many ways but just different enough that if you are familiar with the old layout, the new layout will frustrate you a bit until you un-learn the old way of navigating the menus/screens. One thing that really frustrates me is that "Spell Name" for a location requires an additional screen touch. With the c340 I'd just have to touch "Where To?" and then "Name Search" but with the 1390LMT I have to touch "Where To?", then "Points of Interest" -then- "Spell Name." One extra button push may not seem like a lot, but it is if you are not used to it.

I briefly owned a nuvi 1300 about a year ago and due to terrible touchscreen responsiveness, I returned it. I'm very happy to report that that is no longer an issue with the newer devices. Apparently a firmware/software update a few months ago addressed that and other issues. The touchscreen on the 1390LMT is quite responsive and accurate.

The volume and sound quality of the 1390LMT is decent enough although the c340 had a fuller sound whereas the 1390LMT has a scratchier, more treble sound. I did not notice any distortion that some people have reported at 100% volume.

Screen brightness is good and the screen can be seen pretty well even in bright light although it does wash out a little. The screen also does a pretty good job in the glare department, reducing it to a manageable level.

What I like the most is the "Where am I?" feature. When you click that button on-screen, it shows you your exact latitude and longitude coordinates, the nearest address and intersection, and the closest hospitals, police stations and fuel stations. You can also then save that locations as a favorite. Very handy.

What I like the least is when you arrive at your destination, the nuvi does not always say what side of the street it is on. As a comparison my c340 would say, "Arriving at Home, on left."

The Bluetooth works but it's not the best quality sound. I prefer my Plantronics bluetooth headset Plantronics Voyager 510 Bluetooth Headset [Retail Packaging]. But in a pinch (like when my headset battery dies) this will work. I had no issues pairing my phone to the nuvi.

If you are looking for your first time GPS, this -might- be a good choice, but you could save money by getting the more basic 1300LM which gives you the lifetime maps updates and dispenses with many of the non-essential "features." On the other hand, if you liVe in a large metropolitan area and you think the Traffic feature would be beneficial, then get one of the models that have that features.

I could probably write a lot more but I've probably bored you enough by now. I like the 1390LMT overall but don't and won't use many of the features so I should have opted for the 1300LM which would have provided me the main function of getting me where I need to go and lifetime maps which is important and will save me lots of money in the long run.

Inexplicably, the nuvi 1390LMT sometimes routes me crazily. For instance I was .1 mile from an expressway that would have taken me to my destination the fastest, but the GPS routed me on local roads... the same distance but would have taken much longer. I made sure that the settings were for "Fastest" not "Shortest" so I can't explain this bizarre behavior. It happens frequently so I just go how I know to go and the Garmin will then "recalculate" the route and the second time is usually the right route (or the route that I think is the best.)

I'd recommend getting the Garmin Portable Friction Mount as it will make hiding your GPS much easier when you are in parking garages and other places where GPS theft is a likelihood. The suction-mount rarely works well in the long-run. My c340 was always falling off the windshield because the suction would be lost, particularly in super hot, or very cold weather.

Finally, in order to install the newest maps, you -will- have to delete unneeded voices from the device to make room for the maps. With memory price as cheap as it is, it's totally baffling why Garmin doesn't include enough memory with enough overhead to handle a map update. Why should less tech-savvy people have to deal with hooking up the device to a PC, navigating to the proper directory location and then carefully deleting the correct files in order to make room for a map update? It's ridiculous in my opinion. Nevertheless, it is what it is so if you attempt to update your maps, be forewarned that you will need to make room for them by deleting some voices that you will never use anyway.

Happy trekking.

UPDATE: 11/12/2010 - I can't believe I forgot to include this on my original review, but the length of time it took to download and install the map update from Garmin was absurd. Ittook over an 1.5 hours. I had read other people saying that the map update took this long but I just assumed they had a crappy/slow internet connection or just didn't know what they were doing. Well, they knew what they were doing and it does take this long. I have a very fast RoadRunner internet connection. I download huge files frequently and I have never, ever, had a download take so long. It felt like I was back in the dial-up days. So be forewarned, again, that the map updating process is not something that you can do in 10 minutes. Plan on more like an hour... at least.

UPDATE: 11/16/2010 - I've learned that the "inexplicable" routing choices by the nuvi was due, in part, to the fact that Traffic was enabled. If the nuvi thinks that there is a traffic issue, it re-routes you. The problem is that you are not aware that this is happened, you don't know why you are being re-routed and the instances where it has happened to me, there was no traffic issue at all that would have necessitated re-routing. I don't like that feature and have now dis-abled it.

UPDATE: 11/22/10 - In case you are considering a Tom Tom instead of a Garmin, I was too. I just went to a Sam's club and was toying with a TomTom XL335TM TomTom XL 335TM 4.3-Inch Portable GPS Navigator (Lifetime Traffic & Maps Edition). To be totally fair, I do not own it and was not able to use it while driving, but as far as navigating the menus and using the touchscreen, I spent quite a bit of time with it and in my opinion the Garmin is much easier to operate. The Garmin menu system and touchscreen was simply a better overall experience for me. Just thought I'd pass that along in case you are teetering between the two.

UPDATE: 12/13/2010 - I traveled to Buffalo a few days ago and the Traffic function came to life once I got into the Greater Buffalo area. And yes, it was essentially worthless. It alerted me to traffic delays that never materialized and it wasn't really clear to me what to make of the alerts it was giving me anyway. Maybe I'm too dense. I also started seeing the pop-up advertisements that others have commented and complained about. I did not find them obnoxious, they were quite small and only displayed when I was stopped. No big deal.

UPDATE: 12/3/2011 - I recently purchased a TomTom Go Live 1535M and have to tell you that the Garmin menu system, voice commands, accuracy and display of posted speed limit and so much more is significantly superior to the TomTom. Although the TomTom has a great looking display and the the 3D look is superb, the operation of the screen is very sluggish and the voice prompts are not as helpful as the Garmin.

On a negative note, the power cord for one of my Nuvi 1390LMT's stopped working. It was not a blown fuse since the LED indicator light is still lit on the plug. I did check the fuse though and it is fine. The cord or plug itself just must have developed a problem preventing it from working. Garmin support was helpful and is sending a warranty replacement. Kudos to Garmin for the quick help and resolution to the problem.
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Tracked by 11 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 75 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 10, 2010 7:14:02 AM PST
L. Vu says:
Thank you. I've never seen such a detailed and thorough review like this!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2010 8:26:15 AM PST
M. Erb says:
@ L You're welcome. I almost think it was too long but once I started, I couldn't stop. I always find it frustrating when reading reviews to end up having lots of unanswered, or unaddressed issues so I try to be as complete as possible. Unfortunately that makes the reviews long sometimes. Glad you found it useful.

Posted on Nov 11, 2010 2:58:03 PM PST
Babu says:
the most comprehensive review EVER!
thanks so much,
i am going to buy it!
its 180$ on
thanks a milllion...!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 12, 2010 1:33:24 PM PST
M. Erb says:
@Babu Hope you like it. Let us know what you think of it once you use it for a while.

Posted on Nov 12, 2010 6:55:35 PM PST
Sammy D says:
You noted that the unit sometimes inexplicably routes you the "long way" on surface streets, etc., when you know for sure that there is an expressway, etc., that you could take. Check to see if you have "Traffic" checked in the Navigation/Avoidances menu. If so, and the FM traffic thinks that an expressway is slow, you'll find yourself being directed through strange places you never would have even (wanted to) have gone. And note, too, that the detours it sends you on very likely have no traffic information for the GPS, and you may still find yourself in gridlock, but stuck at unfamiliar intersections where people come up wanting to wash your windshield!:)

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2010 5:40:28 PM PST
M. Erb says:
@sammy I thought about that. I had read so many people complaining about the Traffic feature that I thought I had turned it off. But when I checked based on your tip, I discovered that it was on. Sure enough turning it off resulted in me getting routed on the expressway. BUT, the thing is that there was no traffic issue on the expressway the day that it routed me on local roads.

Posted on Nov 13, 2010 7:56:49 PM PST
Rich H. says:
Excellent review. Two questions:
1. How bothersome do you find that the cable connects directly to the unit as opposed to the mount?
2. How annoying do you find the banner ads that come with the free lifetime maps?
I've had a nuvi 650 for 3 years. Was very happy with it until it recently died -- just a few mos after purchasing a lifetime update, of course.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 14, 2010 5:20:36 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 14, 2010 5:21:59 AM PST
M. Erb says:
@Rich On this model, the cable is quite thick and bulky. It contains the FM antenna/receiver for the Traffic function which is housed in a rectangular piece of plastic located a few inches from the plug that attaches to the GPS. This all makes it more difficult to lay the cable in your car. As for it attaching directly to the device instead of the mount... it means that you have to physically disconnect the cable from the unit every time you want to "hide" the unit and I wonder whether all this connecting and disconnecting will eventually result in a loose plug. To be honest, I've not even noticed a banner ad yet so they've not been obnoxious at all. Maybe I haven't seen an ad because I live in a small city that doesn't have many or any ads?

Posted on Nov 17, 2010 11:22:22 AM PST
Amazon guy says:
I just wanted to thank you for posting such a helpful review.

I think it's one of the best reviews that I have read on Amazon!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 17, 2010 5:18:04 PM PST
Rich H. says:
Great info. Especially pleased to hear you haven't even noticed the ads. I'm in a small town, too, so I'd likely have the same experience. Thanks again for a tremendous review and excellent follow-up info. -Rich
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