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Garmin nuvi 1690 Sat-Nav - Garmin nuvi 1690 Sat-Nav

By James Morris



Our Score:


The Weather Forecast facility again mirrors a similar feature in TomTom LIVE, except that Garmin’s version lets you check weather in cities worldwide. So whilst the UK model of the 1690 only contains European maps, you can see what the climate’s like in Tokyo if you want to – and get a detailed 6-day forecast as well.

Aside from the aforementioned Phonebook, Garmin diverges from TomTom by providing a live currency convertor. A basic convertor was already available as a tool with a number of Garmin sat-navs, but previously you had to enter the exchange rate information yourself. Now NuLink! downloads it for you, making a quick check very rapid indeed.

Perhaps the most unique NuLink! facility is Flight Information. This lists the airports near your current location, allowing you to search for a flight number to check whether it’s on time and which terminal it will be using. This is a great facility for taxi drivers or anyone who regularly picks up friends from the airport.

Not every NuLink! feature is confined to the sat-nav itself. You can also install a plug-in for your Web browser which will allow you to send address information to your nuvi 1690. This was already possible with earlier Garmins, but only worked when they were attached to the host computer via USB. Now you can send the information wirelessly as well. When the device is on and has a mobile data link, the location will magically appear in the Favourites section ready for use as a destination.

Less useful will be the Ciao! Friend Finder. Once you have registered your sat-nav with myGarmin, this lets you link up with your mates to see where they are currently located. Except, of course, this system only works with other Garmin devices sporting NuLink!. So unless you can convince all your friends to buy nuvi 1690s it may not be so useful, although it could come in handy for a team of travelling salespeople.

Aside from offering more features, Garmin has found another way of competing with TomTom’s LIVE. Where the latter’s devices now come with just a single month of service for free, Garmin’s nuvi 1690 ships with a whole year of connectivity, and after that it’s £69.99 per annum, which is £10 cheaper than TomTom LIVE. This makes NuLink! considerably less expensive. Like the most recent update to TomTom LIVE, services are available in other parts of Europe too. In Garmin’s case, this includes 15 European countries, although not every feature will work in every country.

Other than the NuLink! features, the nuvi 1690 is very similar in operation to other premium Garmin sat-navs. It has a 4.3in widescreen, and the map view is identical. You get the usual safety camera warnings, and full-screen graphics to help you get in the right lane at complex multi-carriageway junctions. The pedestrian mode is also compatible with cityXplorer maps, so you can load these to plan walking routes which also suggest public transport links to shorten your journey.


We’ve waited a long time for another manufacturer to put up some competition for TomTom’s LIVE, and finally Garmin has met the challenge and even upped the ante somewhat. It’s a shame that the traffic provision is not as powerful as TomTom’s HD Traffic, but otherwise the nuvi 1690 meets every TomTom LIVE feature with aplomb, and adds a few very useful extras on the top. Garmin also undercuts TomTom considerably on price. The subscription costs are still not exactly cheap, but you won’t have to pay them for a year. So if you can make do with Trafficmaster-based traffic, the Garmin nuvi 1690 is better value. Over to you, TomTom.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Design 9
  • Features 10
  • Value 9


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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