Garmin's phone-styled sat-nav shows the way forward
Hardware sat-nav needs to get with the programme if it’s going to survive. That programme includes capacitive multitouch screens (you know, like you’ve had on your phone for the last five years), Google-style location searching and a battery that won’t start bleating after an hour.
Garmin Nüvi 3490LMT – phone or sat-nav?
Fortunately, Garmin has realised this. The 3490LMT looks and feels more like a phone than a sat-nav. It’s just 9mm thick and has multitouch screen that reminds you just how archaic those resistive tappity-tap displays are on most of its rivals. It’s also got a four-hour battery life, which in sat-nav terms is pretty good.
Garmin Nüvi 3490LMT – messy cables
However, if you want to take advantage of the Garmin’s subscription-free traffic info you’ll have to plug it into your car's 12-volt socket, since the antenna that’s needed to pick up that TMC data from the FM airwaves connects via the power cable. That’s a shame because on the battery it’s a remarkably compact little unit, but plugged in you’ve got two cables snaking around the dashboard, gear stick and windscreen.
Garmin Nüvi 3490LMT – traffic info
The traffic info itself is neatly integrated into the maps, with roads coloured according to traffic levels. You can also get a traffic report for your route once you’ve entered it.
Garmin Nüvi 3490LMT – clear maps
On-screen the Garmin scores an easy victory over its rivals with colourful but clear Europe maps that even include 3D mountains, should you be Highland-bound. And if you are, seeking out a destination without a postcode or full address is much easier than with most hardware, thanks to its general search box and reasonably responsive virtual keyboard.
Garmin Nüvi 3490LMT – searching
It’s not Google, so it won’t dig up everything, but if you have a vague idea of where you want to be, or the name of a park, business or some other attraction it’s worth tapping it into the search box before pursuing the full address method.
Garmin Nüvi 3490LMT – voice control
We had less success with the voice control. Perhaps it just doesn’t like a southern mumble that’s been likened to that of David Beckham, but in our laboratory tests the Garmin failed to recognise our vocal prompts and searches as often as the TomTom 820 and Google Maps Navigation.
Garmin Nüvi 3490LMT – apps
There are loads of extras, as we’ve come to expect. Some are undeniably useful, such as lane guidance, whereas others are more niche. Enter the Apps menu and you’ll find options for reading audio books in Audible format, a picture viewer (no, it doesn’t have a camera), calculator, unit converter and a trial version of a multi-language dictionary, yours for £30.
Garmin Nüvi 3490LMT – unbeatable?
But these are mere distractions from the main issue, which is how well it finds places and how easily it takes you there. On that score the Garmin 3490LMT is just about unbeatable, with a more forward-thinking interface design than its rivals and far more responsive screen. It hasn’t quite reached its destination, but the 3490LMT has got farther down the road than anything else at this point.