TomTom's got one. Magellan's got one. Now, we have our hands on Garmin's newest 5-inch GPS navigator. Dwarfing the current norm of 4.3-inch units, the Garmin Nuvi 1490T's big screen makes it that much easier to view from its perch on a car's dashboard or windshield. With Bluetooth hands-free calling, free traffic data, and a clever, green driving suite of tools, this big fellow is not a bad choice for people looking for a good blend of advanced functionality and ease of use.
The Nuvi 1490T's most distinguishing feature is its large 5-inch screen. Compared with the 4.3-inch units we normally see these days, the extra real estate is quite obvious. There also appears to be a slight increase in screen brightness. At arms length, the larger onscreen buttons are easier to hit, making light work of address entry. However, screen resolution remains the same 480x272 pixels as the 4.3-inch Garmin units, so the display's pixels are slightly more obvious and its text is rendered with more aliasing.
The unit features a glossy, black bezel with a small pinhole microphone in its lower left edge. The left side is home to a microSD card slot and on the top edge features the power/lock button. Flipping the Nuvi over reveals its matte-finished back panel. Here you'll find the Mini-USB port for charging and syncing and the unit's speaker.
Also in the box is a suction cup windshield-mounting bracket, a 12-volt car charger with a Mini-USB tip and integrated FM traffic antenna, an adhesive dashboard-mounting puck, and an assortment of user guides and warranty papers.
The Nuvi 1490T's home screen features two large icons for the two major functions of a portable navigation device: finding a destination and browsing the map. Along the top edge of this screen is a status bar with icons for GPS signal strength, Bluetooth status, navigation mode, current time, and battery state. Touching the Bluetooth icon jumps straight to a hands-free setup screen; the navigation mode icon lets users select between automobile, pedestrian, or bicycle navigation modes; and tapping the time brings up the time settings screen. Of course, the time is automatically set by the GPS signal, so this last option is largely unnecessary.
The bottom edge of the home screen is where you can find the volume controls and the tools menu. With a destination chosen, the bottom bar will also display options for detour and stop navigation and if a phone is paired, here is also where the phone menu will appear.
You can select your destination using an address or by searching a preloaded database of points of interest. Address entry and search use the onscreen QWERTY keyboard, which is quite nice as far as navigation keyboards go. It doesn't feature any sort of predictive blanking of keys, but will display a list of possible completions once you've gotten a few letters punched in. The resistive touch screen requires more pressing effort than most smartphones, but after a few entries, we quickly got used to bearing down.
Meanwhile, the map screen is able to display 2D or 3D maps that are easy to understand and read at a glance. The top bar displays the current street or the next turn. Along the bottom edge is a back button for returning to the home screen, a configurable button that displays routing data (ETA, direction of travel, elevation, etc.) and a speed display that, when clicked, takes you to a trip computer screen.
Along the map's left edge is the traffic icon that is gray when traffic data is unavailable, green when the route is all clear, or turns yellow or red when obstructions are ahead. It also displays an estimated delay time. On the right edge are transparent buttons for zooming in and out and an EcoChallenge score icon, which we discuss in the next section.
EcoRoute is a suite of tools and functions that the Nuvi uses to help drivers get to their destinations while using less fuel and emitting less carbon.
After inputting our vehicle's city and highway fuel economy (fueleconomy.gov is a good starting point) and estimated per gallon cost for fuel, the main ecoRoute function went to work, producing the EcoChallenge score. On the map screen, a circular icon appeared containing a numerical score (from 0-99) and a leaf that changes from red to green as your score increases. Driving smoothly caused our score to increase, whereas fast starts and harsh braking resulted in lower scores. The ecoChallenge score is an easy way to estimate how efficiently the vehicle is being driven, but for even more information, you can tap the EcoChallenge icon to view a detailed scoring screen with a historical graph of the past few hours' scores and breakout averages for overall, speed, braking, and acceleration scores. The detail screen is also accessible from the EcoRoute menu, from which you can also find options for viewing mileage reports, historical fuel economy graphs, vehicle profile information, and green driving tips.