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Garmin Nuvi 1390T review: Garmin Nuvi 1390T

There's nothing particularly flash about it, but the 1390T is a solid and dependable choice, with traffic, lane guidance, Aussie and NZ maps, and Bluetooth hands-free amongst its features.

Derek Fung
Derek loves nothing more than punching a remote location into a GPS, queuing up some music and heading out on a long drive, so it's a good thing he's in charge of CNET Australia's Car Tech channel.
Derek Fung
4 min read


There's really nothing much to say about the design of the Nuvi 1390T. It's rectangular and rounded; new elements are restricted to the piano black bezel, rubberised back and an added dash of thinness. Garmin keeps on telling us that it's an engineering-led company, so it's entirely likely that the design department consists of a man who's rapidly becoming the world's greatest expert on baseball statistics.


Garmin Nuvi 1390T

The Good

Simple, clean interface. Lane guidance for almost every road.

The Bad

Traffic messaging is hit and miss. Bluetooth hands-free just passable. Not particularly flash.

The Bottom Line

There's nothing particularly flash about it, but the 1390T is a solid and dependable choice, with traffic, lane guidance, Aussie and NZ maps, and Bluetooth hands-free amongst its features.

Within the 1390T's neat, but non-descript body, there's a bog standard 4.3-inch touchscreen with a matte finish. Except for the power switch along the top edge, the Garmin is controlled entirely via this 480x272 resolution screen. The windshield mount is pretty compact, easy to set up, sticks soundly to the windscreen and offers plenty of adjustability when affixed.

The interface has also only received a mild tweak or two, with the main menu gaining a few reflections and a few spiffy animations for that extra bit of spit and polish. Functionality-wise, it's the same Garmin interface that we know and love.

The main screen features two large icons (Where To? and View Map), underneath which are an array of smaller icons for the phone, volume and tools. Unlike lesser Garmins, destination entry is not hobbled by the ABCDE keyboard layout, as a proper on-screen QWERTY keyboard is provided.

Traffic messaging

Bluetooth hands-free, text-to-speech, camera locations, junction view and lane guidance are standard inclusions with both the 1390 and 1390T. As its T suffix suggests, the 1390T comes with a lifetime subscription to Suna's traffic messaging service and a TMC (traffic messaging channel) antenna built into the in-car charging cable. The cable is double the regular thickness and has a chunky rectangular segment which, on our car at least, annoyingly jingle jangled against the dash.

In Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Adelaide, Perth and Canberra, the 1390T is able to warn drivers about roadworks, accidents, special events and plain old traffic jams. At times it works as theory says it should, at other times we encountered incidents that had already cleared up, events that had yet to begin and jams that hadn't been picked up. Known delays can be viewed as either a list or a fiddly overlay for the main map screen.

Other features

We were able to sync up a variety of mobile phones easily with the Nuvi. Sound quality is passable but the mic's lack of sensitivity means that raising one's voice is a necessity in less quiet situations. In general, it's fine for a quick status update, but not really suited to a discourse on our government's immigration policies. The text-to-speech system for pronouncing street names works OK, but does stumble from time to time with some Aboriginal, Australian and Irish names.

After ripping open 1390T's box and hurriedly affixing the unit to our windscreen, we rushed (at legal speeds, of course) to our nearest red light camera and — knock us down! — discovered that Garmin has finally pre-installed speed and red light camera warnings. Visually there's a small map icon, a black warning bar (the text for which is on the small side) and a small warning chime. School zone alerts still need to be downloaded and installed manually, though; find out how by checking out our handy little guide.

We don't really care much for picture viewers, calculators, currency and measurement converts, and world clocks in GPS navigators, but they're present on the 1390T if you need them.


While its battery life benefits from not having a standby mode, the roughly 19-second start-up time is annoying if you're rushing for a quick escape. Thankfully, one of our bugbears with previous Garmins has been fixed — the 1390T no longer switches itself off instantly when the car's battery power is cut, thus presenting the situation where you enter a destination, start the car and, lo and behold, the Garmin's rebooted itself, necessitating a wait and some disappointed button bashing.

The latest Garmins, the 1390T included, come loaded with Whereis Australian maps, as well as maps for across the ditch in New Zealand. For most multi-lane roads and streets, lane guidance for the next turn appears prominently in the top left corner.

Also present is junction view, which on certain highway and motorway exits replaces the usual navigation display with a large graphic of the junction, prominent arrows for the appropriate lanes and the relevant signs. For the 1390 and 1390T, the computer-generated graphic is replaced by a photo, making it slightly easier to comprehend the fast approaching turn off.

Route calculation times and route selection are nothing out of the ordinary; respectively, they're acceptable and it will get you there, eventually. Usually we know how to get into the general vicinity of our destination and only require instructions for the final leg, so it's annoying to hear "route recalculation" every time we elect not to travel on a clogged artery, instead preferring our own tricky dicky back roads.

Garmin's ecoRoute feature is present on the 1390T and allows users to opt for routes that consume the least fuel. In our experience, though, these routes differ little from those generated with the fastest time option. Another facet of ecoRoute is a driving challenge mode that adds a leaf to the main map screen. With some slow and steady driving we were able to attain a decent score, but the immediate feedback isn't the best: the leaf is green when you're travelling at a fairly constant pace, but any mild bout of acceleration or deceleration sends it orange then red, and sitting at the lights is an instant red leaf.


There's nothing particularly flash about it, but the 1390T is a solid and dependable choice. Those who can live without traffic messaging would be well advised to save AU$100 and get the otherwise identical Garmin Nuvi 1390.