Personal navigation devices are designed to be portable. But the small screens which pocket friendliness entails can be a little hard to read. Larger devices are available, but they're not common, and usually priced according to their size. Garmin clearly intends to change all that with the nuvi 1490T. Where most widescreens have a 4.3in diagonal, the 1490T's extends to 5in.
Despite its large screen, the nuvi 1490T is not particularly hefty or fat. In fact, it's no heavier than TomTom's GO 740 LIVE, a mere 4.3in widescreen device, and a little bit thinner. The screen mount is a simple suction cup and clip system, leaving you to connect the mini-USB-based car power adapter. The latter also incorporates the necessary aerial and FM receiver hardware for picking up RDS-TMC updates, a UK subscription for which the 1490T includes.
Garmin has given its interface a mild update, for a slightly cleaner appearance. This wasn't strictly necessary, as Garmin's design is about the most logical on the market, with a clear hierarchy between the features you will use all the time and those you will call upon less frequently. The most amusing update is the section where you can change the car icon. This looks like a large 3D showroom, with a ceiling spotlight picking out your current selection. Not exactly useful, but fun.
Entering a destination follows the usual options, and at first glance this hasn't changed at all from previous Garmins. You can enter an address, select a point of interest (POI), or enter raw coordinates. However, there is an important addition to the address and POI sections - the ability to do a general search. If you are in the address section, Search All allows you to enter a street name without knowing the town it's in. You will then be given a list of possible matches to choose from. Navman added a similar feature with the Keyword Search facility included in its Spirit devices, such as the S100. It's really very useful indeed.
However, a general search is potentially even more handy when it comes to POIs. With most POI systems, you not only need to know what town your POI is situated within, but also which category the sat-nav manufacturer will have used to store it. This isn't always logical, and it can be quite time consuming hunting around for the right category. Garmin's Spell Name lets you find any POI in the country simply by its title. Again, Navman got there first with its Keyword Search, but this is still a facility not every sat-nav has. TomTom's latest devices allow you to search freely within a city, near a destination, or along a route, but not globally across an entire country.
The other major new feature is ecoRoute. This was released as a free software update for the 205 and 705 models in February 2009, but it comes as standard in the 1490T. First, you enter the urban and extra-urban petrol consumption figures for you car. You can then select routes which use the least fuel, as well as those which are fastest or the shortest distance. You can also get reports on your fuel usage, and set yourself driving challenges where you minimise consumption, receiving a score out of 100 representing your achievement.