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Garmin nuvi 1390T Sat-Nav Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £168.98

We recently found ourselves relatively impressed by Garmin’s latest 5in sat-nav, the nuvi 1490T, which is already seeing some stiff competition from Medion’s similarly great value GoPal P5235. The 1390T is essentially the 4.3in screen version of the 1490T. Has it lost any features during the shrinking process?

Like the 1490T, the 1390T comes with maps of Europe, although Eastern European coverage is less detailed, with just major roads included for Ukraine and Byelorussia. It also runs the same navigational software. We’ve been quite keen on Garmin’s clear and uncluttered menu interface for some time. In this generation, a Search All facility has been added to the destination address entry system. You no longer have to drill down from city to street to house number. Instead, simply begin entering the street name, and before you’ve finished the 1390T will pop up a list of suggestions. You can then choose the right one to find your chosen street destination.

The Points of Interest database has a similar Spell Name facility. So instead of having to scroll through categories to find the right one containing your intended destination, you can simply search for a keyword and choose it from the resulting list. However, the address and POI search systems are separate, unlike the Keyword facility offered by Mio’s Navman Spirit 500. But at least both still allow you to search across an entire country.

The nuvi 1390T is also another Garmin sat-nav which supports cityXplorer maps when in pedestrian mode. These include more details about pathways only available to those on foot, allowing the calculation of more direct routes. But they also take into account public transport. So, for example, if you’re on the outskirts of a city looking to head into town towards a sightseeing location, the cityXplorer mode will navigate you on foot to the nearest public transport, tell you which train lines or bus to take, then lead you on foot to your destination at the other end. It’s an effective system, but the maps don’t come as standard. Instead, you will need to download the individual data for the cities in which you want to travel, and it’s not cheap. London, for example, will set you back £10.99.

Aside from the usual walking and bicycle options, the 1390T’s Automobile mode includes Garmin’s EcoRoute system. You specify the type and current price per litre of the fuel your vehicle uses, and the car’s usage specifications for urban and extra-urban driving. You can then choose a Less Fuel route preference, as well as Faster Time, Shorter Distance, or Off Road options. Reports are available for your journey estimating the amount and cost of fuel used, average fuel economy, and carbon footprint. There’s even a Driving Challenge facility, which sets you the task of using as little fuel as possible when driving. A score out of 100 is shown in the sat-nav map screen, based on how well you are maintaining a constant speed, or accelerating and decelerating as smoothly as possible.

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.

Trusted Score

Score in detail

  • Value 9
  • Features 8
  • Design 9


Screen Size (inches) (Inch) 4.30 in
Display Type Color
General Features Voice Prompt

Physical Specifications

Battery life (Hour) 4 Hour Maximumhr

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