The newest top-of-the-line Garmin Nuvi 3790T is sleek, sexy, and stylish—words you wouldn’t normally associate with a GPS device. For its new 3000 series of Nuvis, Garmin completely redesigned the case and the screen. The Nuvi 3790T sports a new 4.3-inch glass screen with a higher-resolution 800 by 480 display. And like the iPhone, it offers multitouch (pinch and zoom) controls and automatic screen orientation. The 3790T includes almost every feature in Garmin’s bag of tricks, but its $450 price tag (as of October 28, 2010) makes it a tough sell.
The Nuvi 3790T measures 4.8 by 2.9 by 0.35 inches and weighs 4.1 ounces without the mounting bracket. Those dimensions make it the thinnest dedicated GPS device on the market. The mounting bracket has a standard Garmin ball-and-socket adjustment mechanism—and a built-in speaker for robust sound. Power and traffic data feed through the bracket, so all you have to do is snap the device into the bracket and you’re ready to go. To handle pedestrian-mode navigation, the 3790t packs an internal speaker as well.
The 3790T comes with advertising-supported lifetime Navteq traffic.That it’s advertising supported is surprising: Many competing products at a lower price provide lifetime traffic without the bother of ads. Another surprise: Garmin doesn’t provide lifetime map updates, also featured on cheaper competitors.
The list of holdover features from other Nuvi models is extensive: a choice of QWERTY or ABC keyboard, Garmin Locate (which marks your location when you remove the device from the bracket), lane assistance with junction view, multisegment routing, a robust built-in POI database, a world clock, a photo viewer, a measurement converter, an alarm clock, a calculator, and EcoRoutes (which provides you with fuel-efficient routes and helps you improve your vehicle’s fuel efficiency as you drive).
New premium features include a 3D building and terrain view, and two new NuRoute technologies, dubbed TrafficTrends and MyTrends. According to Garmin, TrafficTrends learns daytime traffic flow to estimate your time of arrival more accurately, while MyTrends figures out, over time, which favorite destination you’re headed toward and automatically provides ETA and relevant traffic information. Another nicety: Garmin built an FM traffic receiver and antenna into the power cable, so you won’t have additional cords cluttering up your dashboard.
In the past, on products such as the now-discontinued Nuvi 800 series, Garmin included voice-activated commands in the form of a “push to talk” switch that the user mounted on the steering wheel to activate voice commands. In a new twist, users now activate the voice command feature on the 3790T by voicing a wake-up phrase; the default phrase is “voice command,” but you can customize it to your liking.
Like all other Garmin Nuvi products, the 3790T features Garmin’s ‘Where To’ and ‘View Map’ main menu. Small icons across the top of the screen indicate GPS signal strength, navigation mode (auto or pedestrian), Bluetooth status, current time, and battery condition. Icons at the bottom of the screen provide access to the tools menu, volume control, and (if paired with a Bluetooth phone) dialing menu. Garmin takes advantage of the 800-by-480-pixel screen to display more information than was possible on lower-resolution 4.3-inch screens. The device’s auto zoom provides you with a good, zoomed-out view of your route, but it also zooms in as you approach a turn. Like other Nuvis, this model displays highway speed limits.
In my tests, the device’s voice recognition was surprisingly accurate, and it required no training. “Voice command” opens a menu of recognized commands. You can control most features by voice, including entering a new address, searching POIs by category, navigating to an address from your favorites or canceling a trip. But Garmin’s voice command can’t match Google Voice searches on smartphones that let you find the nearest Starbucks.
The Bluetooth phone interface found on this and other Garmin Nuvis is far better than what you find on competitive products. It’s easy to set up; and depending on the phone, it can read the contents of your phone’s contact list. I paired the 3790T successfully with my old LG VX9900 EnV phone, and it read the phone’s contact list without a problem. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t read the contact list from my new Droid X. Sound quality on my test calls was good, on a par with the Droid’s built-in speakerphone.
The 3790T generated good routes, but the routes differed slightly from the routes generated by a Magellan RoadMate which also uses Navteq maps. Perhaps the variations are due to Garmin’s NuRoute technology, which the company says will learn traffic flow trends and your driving schedule to achieve more-accurate travel times. Recalculation after a missed turn was slightly faster on the 3790T than on the Magellan 3065 in a side-by-side test, but both were acceptably fast. Text to speech worked as expected on the 3790T, and the device provided announcements of upcoming turns at appropriate intervals in advance of the required maneuvers.
Macworld’s buying advice
The Nuvi 3790T is a nicely designed GPS with a sleek, light case, and the 800 by 480 screen packs a lot of information onto the display. But for the device’s premium price of $450, I would have expected advertising-free live traffic and lifetime map updates, since competing products priced at around $200 offer these features.
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