November 19, 2010

Review: Garmin Nuvi 3790T/3790LMT Review - Impressive Next Generation of GPS Units


Nuvi3790TMain.jpg

The Garmin Nuvi 3790T brings a fresh physical and interface design to the GPS category that makes using the navigator a pleasure; not overly touted as a major improvement, but clearly tipping the awesomeness scale is the quality of the screen. The new 800x480 pixel WVGA display makes the screen pop that, combined with the 3-D shaded map, make for a richer overall experience. This is the gold standard against which other GPS units will be compared.


I used the Nuvi 3790T across several weeks, on two long trips to the White Mountains, NYC and upstate NY from our house near Boston, and logged a lot of local miles while testing the unit out for over several weeks' time. The navigation is typical Garmin (very good), the overall experience of using the GPS is impressive. It's the best looking, and most refined GPS I have used.


The product design changes that make the difference on the Nuvi 3790T are:

  • Rich multi-touch display - beautiful colors and brightness, with easy zooming and menu navigation
  • Portrait or Landscape orientation - auto-rotating makes use of the Nuvi easy
  • Mount-based amplified speaker - super loud directions with windows down on the highway
  • Super thin design - nice to look at, easy to store

More after the jump....


Informative, Easy to Use
The rich multi-touch display is a new improvement that allows the easy navigation of the menus and maps on the Nuvi 3790. Since the launch of the iPhone, the multi-touch experience has become an expectation of how to interact with screens on electronics; it's just plain intuitive. Zooming with "+/-" buttons just pales in comparison to the pinching and panning with flicks of a finger.

In the Nuvi 3790T Garmin has adopted this new multi-touch standard and has implemented it well. Menus keep the up/down arrows on the screen when navigating the menus just in case you want to use them instead of flicking he screen. Personally, I found that the multi-touch was great using the map while I liked the up and down arrows when choosing specific options deep in the menus as the difference between "tap" and "flick" in these menus needs a little more refinement. The Nuvi kept thinking that the flick motion meant "tap" so instead of panning a menu, I would open up an item.

Nuvi3790TScreenViews.jpg
Garmin Nuvi 3790T: Dual Views available by just rotating the screen. Note the extra data fields you can easily add to the portrait view on the right.


Flipping the display to a portrait orientation gives an easy look-ahead view on the road. I liked the extra data available on the screen when I traveled long distance; having speed, miles and ETA available made me feel more aware of our trip status. You can change the individual fields by tapping them and selecting from the available data fields. Tap on data fields and bring up the option for Direction of travel, Elevation, and Time of Day, under normal driving conditions, which increases to add Arrival Time, Distance (to destination), and Time to Destination when navigating somewhere.


Trip Computer - by tapping the "Speed" field, you can bring up a detailed trip computer that has expanded to include an increased array of data which also has a Trip "A" and Trip "B" odometer, speed, and a set of data that allow you to use this interface as the main driving screen when you don't want a map. Tap the up or down arrow and you reveal a second view; one I would call a forward looking view that includes time/distance to turn, estimated cost of the fuel for the trip, etc. The second view is a rear looking view on the trip including moving times, averages, max speed, etc.

Nuvi3790T_TripComp.jpg
Nuvi 3790T: Plenty of info for the Data-hounds; I love the trip cost information you get once you add the cost of gas and customize the unit for your car's gas mileage


Quick Starting - The Nuvi 3790 is also quick to start; coming awake from a sleep mode versus re-booting from a complete shut-down. This keeps up with the zero-latency trend that we are seeing across the consumer electronics board. While the unit still needs time to collect satellite signals, the difference is dramatic and is another subtle but poignant improvement in the overall navigator design.

Navigation
The Nuvi 3790 has several subtle improvements here to make it a winner in the navigation area too, from finding where you want to go to navigating on the road. Typical modes of entering your destination exist alongside the Voice Command entry; both are fairly easy.


The entry for states and towns type ahead for you; a la Google search entry, allowing you to type "B-O-" and have "Boston" pop up in a bubble that you tap on and move forward. Again, easy and intuitive. Going "Home" is still a smart button to have front and center. You can elect to also navigate to: Points of Interest, Recent Destinations, Favorites, Parking, Intersections and Cities. The Nuvi 3790 also includes a Trip Planner, allowing you to add Points of Interest, Cities or saved favorites in sequence to create a multi-point trip. While not revolutionary, the feature is good to have.


Voice Command - Gives you the power to change what the Nuvi is doing without touching the unit at all. Not only can you program in a new destination but you can also give it basic commands like Go Home, which was my most used command while navigating around.

Nuvi3790T_VoiceCommand.jpg
Nuvi 3790T: Plenty of easy commands are available through "Voice Command", and are reasonably accurate. If the Nuvi is unsure, it gives you a quick list of possibilities., like the list above when I said "Staples"


Start the whole Process by saying "Voice Command" getting you through some very reasonable sets of screens to get to your final choice. When the Nuvi isn't sure about where you want to go it offers you a list of possible choices, which allows you to pick from a menu. I was navigating to "Staples" for instance, and the menu offered me Stables, Staples, Stable or Stiefel. I thought it was fairly accurate overall, getting my choice about half the time right away and almost all of the time showing my choice on the first of four close choices. Overall the capability is powerful, giving you the ability to command a lot of activity on the Nuvi without even touching it (and not going off the road trying to tap it while driving).

One of the cool aspects of the Voice Command feature is that you can customize your command phrase, making it whatever you want. "Co-Pilot", or "Spock" seemed to be fun choices. If only Leonard Nimoy would sit for a while and lend his voice to the GPS voices cause......


Trip Consumption Information & ecoRoute - When ever you finish a drive with the Nuvi the ecoRoute feature offers you a trip summary screen reminding you of the key facts about your recent trip - Miles Traveled, estimated MPG, total cost of the trip based on the gasoline price that you enter, and the gallons of gasoline consumed. While the items that are related to gasoline are estimated, the information offers a glimpse of what these trips cost you and I found started to make me a little bit more aware of my driving and how to minimize it.

Nuvi3790TTripConsumption.jpg


ecoRoute gives you instantaneous feedback via a small leaf icon that is green, yellow or Nuvi3790T_EcoRouteleaf.jpg red depending on your driving habits at the time, with a little numerical score of 0-100 rating your every move. It is all very good feedback if you are interested, and can easily be shut off.

I liked having the feedback overall, and tried to play things smart to maximize my score. With a car full of kids on one trip I had to shut it off because with every slight move into the red, howls and screams of "We're killing trees" were emanating from the back seat. That kind of reminder was a bit over the top.... Garmin's more subtle approach is great.

If you are interested in longer term views of your driving habits and consumption rates, touching on the ecoRoute leaf that appears on the screen gives you a look at a consumption graph and breaks down your driving attributes, rating how green your speed braking and acceleration are. This all relies on an algorithm that takes into account the profile of your car (MPG in city and highway), and the information available to the GPS (rate of speed change and overall speed). In my testing, the trends were right; lighter foot, better scores and better real life MPG at the pump.

Nuvi3790T_EcoRoutegraph.jpg

The Nuvi 370T works by measuring your speed, acceleration and deceleration via the GPS readings. If you are interested in more accurate readouts and vehicle diagnostics, the Nuvi 3790T is compatible with the EcoRoute HD, a dongle that taps into your car's diagnostics plug and wirelessly shares data with the Nuvi 3790T, giving you accurate consumption data along with a look at car diagnostics performance. It's a $99 accessory.


Traffic - The "T" in the 3790T is for traffic and this unit uses TMC traffic signals over the air offering a subscription free traffic feed. The bandwidth is limited, so the details that you get are less than you would get on a 3G phone. As a result, this technology will not offer you the bleeding edge read on every traffic situation in your area.


I found the Nuvi 3790T to be very good when I needed a read on problem areas around Boston, and unexpected road restrictions due to construction. On several occasions it saved me some time due to traffic issues on my route, offering me the ability to change travel plans and move to another route option.

The free traffic is ad-supported (See Below), which I am fine with. The ads only pop up when you are stopped, and are not obtrusive; tapping on it allows you to save it for later and revisit the offer when you have more time.

NAVTEQ, the ones who run the ad network, seem to be fairly successful with the endeavor. I will gladly see these ads every once in a while versus paying the $60 a year for the traffic subscription.

Nuvi3790T_TrafficDelay.jpg


Bluetooth Hands Free
Nice addition to the unit, offering an easy way to talk on a Bluetooth phone; I had no problem configuring it to work with my iPhone. It took about 2 minutes and was set-up on it whenever I had the Bluetooth on for the phone.

Lane Assist with Junction View

This is a feature that is under-appreciated by many, one that I happen to like a lot. The feature pops up a little cartoon of what lane you need to be in for an upcoming highway exit. While it may not help you 90% of the time when an exit is a standard right side exit with a simple ramp, it's those complex, multi-lane exits in an unfamiliar area where this is a lifesaver. Every time I travel to NJ, I find myself getting hammered by the multi-lane exits peeling off left and right on the highways down there. Not so with the Nuvi 3790T that helped me in and around northern NJ on a recent trip. Below are the two views of Lane Assist with Junction View. Note that in the portrait version, things get a little tight as it pops over the map view. After a few seconds, the cartoon disappears and gives you the normal view back.

Nuvi3790TLaneAssist.jpg


Nuvi 3790T vs. Nuvi 3790 LMT
The recent addition of the "LMT" version adds lifetime maps to the product, allowing you to get updated maps on a regular basis essentially for the life of the product. The list price difference is only $50. Given that a map update currently about that much or more, I would recommend the move to the 3790 LMT model if the price difference is only $50. Right now, Garmin offers updates about every quarter.


Pros

  • Excellent overall design, screen quality and navigation on the road
  • Portrait or landscape views
  • Powered speaker in mount offers very loud directions - the loudest I've heard
Cons
  • Scrolling menus with a flick can actually open menu items
  • Several taps to get out of the lower menus back to the map page
  • Cost - right now the Nuvi 3790T is a pretty expensive unit
Review Summary
The Garmin Nuvi 3790T/LMT is hands down the best GPS I've ever used offering a new brighter, higher quality view into the world of GPS navigation. The thin design, higher definition, multi-touch screen and the ability to rotate the screen to portrait or landscape gives the user a great overall experience. Underlying the design is a solid navigation experience that I have come to expect from a top name in the industry.


At Amazon - Garmin Nuvi 3790T

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Posted by Scott Martin at November 19, 2010 10:50 AM

Recent Comments

i really enjoy my 3700lmt like above i like the unit except for theese few problems
1. sometimes it takes forever to find satilites a lot longer than my 2 previous models, my first unit even worked on an airplane, this unit when i got to hawaii it took aprox 2 to 3 hours to find satilites the same when i got back home.

2. sometimes it takes me very strange ways eg. it will tell me to take offramp on freeway then go around the block and get back on it again, and sometimes other strange ways. Again my older units worked much better,
I hope future software might solve theese prblems, otherwise i love this unit and for $450.00 it should work good


Posted by: kurt at April 17, 2011 3:20 AM

Missing from this review, and, unfortunately, from ALL the Nuvi line of Garmin GPS's are two important features: 1. With the Nuvi line, Garmin has eliminated info from the display that tells you the current route you are traveling. The older Streetpilot models, which work on the SAME maps, used to display info such as, "Route 128S to Exit 12" The Nuvi's only tell you the name of the next turn. I find this unacceptable, and is the reason I haven't upgraded my Streetpilot. Even TomTom's tell you the current road you are on. This is VERY helpful when you are in an unfamiliar area (which is why you use a GPS in the first place. 2. The Nuvi's also eliminated the Attention Tone. This is a helpful, though not as important as #1. With a GPS constantly on and talking, and your car radio playing, it is very easy to tune out the GPS and miss a turn. The Attention warning tone is thus invaluable, and it's elimination puzzling


Posted by: David at November 22, 2010 8:15 AM

Like most Garmin's, holding the back button a little longer until you hear a beep will bring it back to the top menu, skipping several presses.

Also, you can turn off the voice prompt, which turns the spoken instructions into a simple "beep", which greatly speeds up the process.


Posted by: Scott G. Lewis at November 19, 2010 1:01 PM

I had the same problem flicking in the menu. Glad to know its not just my fat fingers. I wonder if this will be resolved in an update.

I have noticed that with voice commands you have to wait for the mouth in the top right corner to turn green for it to listen. It is small and hard to notice when driving. I keep thinking that having the whole background change between red and green would make more sense. I named mine "computer" at first but now at my families prompting it is named "rogue leader." Overall it is pretty awesome though.


Posted by: Tom at November 19, 2010 12:51 PM
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