Garmin's latest sat-nav takes a novel approach in its quest to keep you up to date with the very latest traffic developments. Rather than having a 3G data connection built in, the 3590LMT downloads realtime updates over your smartphone's data connection, linked via Bluetooth.
You might think that would banish the concept of subscription services, but alas not. You can use the 3590 as it comes without paying any additional costs and still take advantage of free traffic info delivered via TMC (over the FM radio airwaves), and also access free map updates for life, including alerts for speed cameras.
However, once you've downloaded the free Android app (an iOS app is in the works), the live traffic upgrade will cost you £19.99 a year, static images from traffic cameras are £8.45 a year and if you add subscriptions for advanced weather forecasts, parking info, fuel prices and speed cameras, the total cost is £62.24 a year. All of a sudden it doesn't look quite such a clever idea.
Looking up a destination is made easier by a universal search box, but even so this has its frustrations. For example, it likes to search very close to your current position, so if you enter just the name of a road that's, say, five miles away, it'll draw a blank unless you give it the name of the town as well.
Entering "York" whilst in Brentford returns 50 results, with the ancient city at the bottom of the list, below numerous pubs, a pet shop, a building society, a camera shop and a deli. You can mess around with the settings but it never quite nails the search, which is a shame because it's so close to being excellent. You can still look up addresses the old fashioned way with towns, postcodes and so on.
on the road
On the road it's very easy to live with, switchable from landscape to portrait orientation, and it can keep going for about four hours on the battery. Once it's plugged into the 12-volt socket (a requirement for the TMC traffic info), thankfully the cabling is much tidier than the 3490.
The ability to pinch-zoom the maps and skim around them as you would on a phone is welcome, and the maps themselves are clear but still detailed, with the bonus of 3D terrain and 3D buildings in big cities.
If it's features you're after, the 3590LMT will give you plenty to play around with. Hands-free calling works well, importing your phone's contacts via Bluetooth. Combined with the 3590's voice control skills, it's quick and easy to dial and chat while driving. If you don't want to pay for the enhanced weather info there's a pre-loaded weather widget that works just fine without a subscription, and you can be entertained by audio books in Audible format to pass the time. There's also built-in lane guidance and "photoReal" junction views at certain intersections.
Those live traffic camera feeds are great when they work. You won't see video, but you do get up-to-date stills of the current road conditions from stacks of cameras around the country. It can be temperamental, perhaps if your phone's 3G reception is less than perfect at the time, and in some cases will give up, but when it does work it's empowering to see what lies ahead.
We like the idea of the smartphone link, but when you factor in those subscription costs, the tidier solutions to live traffic offered by TomTom seem to make more sense.
The 3590LMT is still a great sat-nav, but you might be better off saving a few quid and opting for the 3490 instead. You'll get much the same deal, minus the smartphone link.