As the T in the name suggests, the 1390T includes real-time traffic updates. These come via the traditional RDS-TMC, not the Navteq Traffic system provided with the new nuvi 1690. So an FM receiver is built into the car power adapter, which must be plugged in and receiving electricity for the system to work. You will also need to be able to receive radio reception. An icon will then appear in the navigational map screen, which you can use to browse the traffic updates received and take a closer look at any which might affect you. The routing system will also take traffic jams into account when calculating a path to your destination, so will take you away from any gridlock which can be avoided by an alternative route. However, as always with RDS-TMC, the infrequency of updates and far from universal road coverage mean it’s not exactly infallible.
The Tools menu offers a few extra widgets, which you could live without but might come in handy when on a journey. The picture viewer with slideshow capability is probably the least essential, but there’s also a world time clock with three customisable zones, a unit convertor, and a calculator, all of which you could envisage finding useful at some point. However, one widget we would like to have seen is a route planner. Creating a journey with multiple waypoints may not be something you do every day, but you will want to use it occasionally, particularly if you need to calculate the length of a journey which includes a number of drop-off points.
Garmin’s navigational map screen is as clear and uncluttered as its menu system, with different types of road colour coded, but using sufficiently few categories not to get confusing. Road names are shown onscreen, with your current speed at the bottom right and direction of travel, elevation or time of day on the bottom left. A bar at the top illustrates your next turning.
Speed camera notifications pop up as you approach their location, coloured in red if you happen to be above the limit. However, in areas where mobile cameras sometimes reside the notifications tend to ping a bit too frequently. The 1390T also offers full-screen lane guidance, showing which carriageway to be in at a junction and providing a realistic facsimile of the road signage to look out for. This is now an almost universal feature in sat-navs above entry level, so any device without it would be behind the times. Fortunately, Garmin’s version is as well designed as any.
The Garmin nuvi 1390T’s current street price puts it on par with Mio’s Navman Spirit 500 and TomTom’s XL IQ Routes Europe 42, although the latter doesn’t include live traffic updates. Choosing between the Garmin and the Mio is tough, as they match each other so closely on price and features. However, the Mio’s keyword search and Google Local Search facility in the Bluetooth-enabled Hands Free edition, which costs the same as the 1390T, just give it the edge. But only just.