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Garmin nuvi 1690 Sat-Nav review




  • Recommended by TR

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Garmin nuvi 1690 Sat-Nav
  • Garmin nuvi 1690 Sat-Nav
  • Garmin nuvi 1690 Sat-Nav
  • Garmin nuvi 1690 Sat-Nav
  • Garmin nuvi 1690 Sat-Nav
  • nuvi 1690 GPS Sat Nav (Automobile Navigator, 4.3" LCD)


Our Score:



  • Frequently updated database
  • Built-in mobile data connection
  • Year's free subscription


  • Not all features work abroad
  • Subscription costs

Key Features

  • 4.3in widescreen
  • Full-screen graphics
  • Safety camera warnings
  • Live currency converter
  • Flight information
  • Manufacturer: Garmin
  • Review Price: £156.40

Just over a year ago, TomTom radically changed the nature of the personal navigation device. Previously, it had been an essentially passive system, receiving location signals from satellites and providing routing information accordingly. Then TomTom introduced its LIVE Services with the x40 series, which hooked up to a mobile data link to provide a range of connected facilities. It has taken a long time for other manufacturers to answer TomTom, but now one of the oldest brands in the sat-nav business is meeting the challenge, and potentially raising the bar still further. With the nuvi 1690, Garmin is introducing its NuLink!, which mirrors TomTom’s LIVE and adds quite a bit more.

Like TomTom’s LIVE sat-navs, the 1690 has a mobile data connection built in. So it can download and receive information from the Internet. Garmin uses this to provide a comprehensive range of services. For a start, instead of using the traditional FM radio receiver to receive RDS-TMC traffic updates, the 1690 uses its data link. Garmin calls this Hot Traffic, as information is updated much more frequently. However, in the UK the supplier remains Trafficmaster, so the actual information isn’t quite as detailed as TomTom’s HD Traffic, although the similar service now provided by NAVTEQ is used in some European countries.

We found Hot Traffic was more proactive than previous RDS-TMC-based Garmin sat-nav traffic implementations, and was more able to send us away from jams on major roads. So it is a step forward from standard RDS-TMC, just not quite as far as TomTom’s HD Traffic. Garmin also keeps its safety camera database up to date over the mobile data link, with frequent updates. So you will be less likely to get caught out by an impromptu mobile speed check.

NuLink! also provides Google Local Search, which is part of TomTom LIVE as well. This augments the Points of Interest (POI) database stored locally on the device. It’s a pretty comprehensive service, and in the past we’ve been able to track down numerous destinations which are not usually part of most POI category systems, such as dog rescue homes and minor urban art galleries. Garmin provides its Google Local Search as a separate menu option, but also integrates it as a second tab in its POI Search Name interface. So if your POI search draws a blank, you can simply switch to the Google tab without having to re-type your search string.

Google Local Search results often include phone numbers. However, Garmin also provides a standalone Phonebook, which lets you search for personal telephone numbers by last and first name, then narrow your search down by postcode or nearest city. We didn’t find this discovered every phone number we tried, but it was effective enough to be potentially useful.

Another feature in common with TomTom LIVE is the Fuel Prices system. Although this still lists petrol stations in order of distance, beside each entry is the cost per litre for the fuel type of your choosing. The cheapest options are marked in green, with the remainder highlighted in red. Best of all, Garmin also lists how old the price information is in days, so if you know there was a recent national hike, you won’t end up going to a station listing its pre-increase data.


January 18, 2010, 5:19 am

Hmm, I dont even travel this much, and I'm tempted by this with the 1 year built in subscription the value proposition is decent.

Still I have unlimited data on my phone plan, so it feels strange to have to pay for another mobile connector. Petrol Price data, weather info etc is all freely available. So traffic over data would be all I need and the LIVE subscription has always looked pricey.


January 18, 2010, 7:39 pm

If this traffic data comes from TrafficMaster, then aren't ALK charging £20 per year for the same thing? I realise that you get more from the Garmin offering (not least of which is a stand-alone SIM and wireless data package), but these packages really need to come down in price before the casual user can take advantage of these services. £20-30 per year is more like it. Perhaps even a PAYG model?

I was hoping for a Garmin-TomTom price war in this regard, but that doesn't seem to be happening...

James Morris

January 18, 2010, 9:16 pm

There's no price war yet, but Navigon has a "live" device due very shortly too. So we will start to see more competition. Note that with the CoPilot software, you supply your own mobile data subscription, whereas TomTom and Garmin have to roll that into the price of the services they offer. What's the cheapest data-enabled phone tariff with no per-MB charge? Subtract that from the monthly charges for these services and they look a lot better value.


January 20, 2010, 12:42 am

@James, yeah I mentioned that these packages include a data subscription, so I would expect them to cost more. That said, the standard price for a 3GB 'mobile broadband' package now seems to be £15pm, and you'd have to be doing something very odd to download anything close to 3GB in a month's usage with one of these things.

I just can't help but feel that these 'Live' packages should cost about half what they do currently. I've held off from buying a TomTom in case some rival 'Live' services hit the market, so here's hoping Navigon will undercut the rest.


December 5, 2010, 9:35 pm

James, I currently have the nuvi 255w and am thinking of replacing it. I see the 1690 and the 3760 with interest. What I would like clarification of is 1, is the windscreen mount the same as the 255 has? i.e. pull the lever down to get max suction. 2. Does it have to be wired up as I normally have mine wire free unless I need to recharge during a very long journey?


January 23, 2011, 1:16 pm

Until recently I was regularly using my (somewhat old) Tomtom One, but decided to upgrade to the Garmin Nuvi 1690 on the strength of some reasonably good reviews. Two weeks later and several hundred miles of frustration later I sent the Garmin back for a refund.

While it's a nice slim, modern looking device with a clear screen, there were a number of flaws which don't seem to come out in many reviews, like:

- Navigation stops when the device thinks you've arrived at your destination. Not very helpful if you have to overshoot, which can easily happen in unfamiliar areas, cities, one-way systems etc.

- While the device warns you not to 'interact' with it while driving, if it looses its satellite lock it pops up a window telling you. The pop-up obscures the whole map and you have to touch the OK button onscreen to dismiss it or wait until it re-acquires a lock, plus it repeatedly announces the fact. That's just sloppy design.

- Menus are unintuitive - e.g. you would expect custom POIs that you add yourself to appear somewhere under the POI menu, perhaps under a 'Custom' category of POI. Actually what you have to do is ignore the POI menu and instead go to the Extras menu and look there.

- It would forget everything between sessions, so if you switch the unit off (e.g. at a rest stop), then you have to re-enter your destination and restart guidance to resume.

- Despite the larger screen, if you select to have the detailed view then the size of the actual map is barely larger than that on the Tomtom One. The extra details keep going back to default settings every time you switch the device on, so any customisation is lost. Also, two of the defaults (compass heading and elevation) are not particularly helpful when driving a car!

- Guidance at roundabouts was basic. While my old TomTom shows you an arrow representing the approximate position of your exit (which helps you get in the right approach lane), the Garmin merely showed a circle with an arrow pointing out of the top, which is somewhat unhelpful.

- Spoken directions were less helpful. E.g. when approaching a T-juntion the Tomtom will say "At the end of the road, turn..." indicating that the road you're on is coming to an end. The Garmin merely says "After <distance>, turn ..." which is less helpful.

- You can't customize the map colours, so you are stuck with the manufacturers rather baffling choice.

- Distance units on the Garmin were always spoken as a percentage of a mile/km, while the Tomtom switches to yards (or metres) for short distances.

- The selection of downloadable POIs for the UK is considerably smaller than what's available for the Tomtom, and the two I downloaded were incomplete (e.g. missing entries).

- The synthesized voice on the Garmin was pretty irritating. How come my 'ancient' Tomtom One can manage a 'real' default voice?

Obviously opinions vary at the end of the day, but it felt to me like Garmin had concentrated on trying to cram in features rather than on getting the core function and usability right. Yes it's got bluetooth and live services, but things like weather, currency, picture viewer, world clock, calculator and unit converter are (inferior) duplicates of what the average smartphone already has.

Maybe I should try one of the new Tomtom models like the 1000 or Via 120... or even just stick with the old 'One'? Would certainly like lane guidance and traffic/intelligent routes though.

Brian Holmes

August 10, 2012, 11:20 pm

I replaced my stolen Tomtom with a Garmin nuvi 1440 A big mistake, it has a speed limit auidible warning that is really irritating and it cannot be turned off.It is going on Ebay


September 20, 2012, 8:55 pm

I have used my Garmin Nuvi 1690 in the UK, France and Spain.

Despite regular updates it still doesn't know where it is. Set up to go around Paris, Garmin put us alongside the Seine in the rush hour...Brilliantly unhelpful.

Spoken direction comes too late...Touch Screen very very poor, very unresponsive in this touch screen world.

Constantly "Recalculating" for no apparent reason.

In Spain it tells you turn next left when you are on a motorway.

Not a good product...and they make Navigation equipment for boats...Bon Voyage and be lucky.

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