Technology in the smartphone sector is evolving at a rapid pace. Despite that, there are certain categories of devices like GPS devices, portable media players and digital cameras that still sell well because they focus more on specific features.

Just look at the Garmin nuvi 3490LMT which one of Garmin’s 2012 devices in the Prestige series. Priced at $349, you might be tempted to get a 7-inch tablet which has some GPS features and plenty of other functionality. But there are far more GPS features in the Garmin nuvi 3490LMT than any smartphone or tablet right now.

Garmin nuvi 3490LMT

Garmin nuvi 3490LMT

Design

Unlike other portable gadgets, the Garmin nuvi 3490LMT isn’t really the device to carry in a pocket or hold with one hand. Since car GPS devices are normally mounted on the windshield or dashboard, form factor doesn’t matter all that much. But Garmin understands that the trend is heading towards thin and light, and the 3490LMT joins that bandwagon by having a thickness of just 9mm. That is about the same thickness as a pencil which is a great achievement for Garmin. The 4.3-inch touchscreen display may sound pretty standard but it is a glass screen for better accuracy and it has multitouch support. Plus, it has a higher 800×480 resolution for crisper graphics.

Features

Although the Garmin nuvi 3490LMT is marketed towards enthusiasts, new users that want extra bells and whistles in a GPS device can still use the interface with ease. The simplistic pair of large icons will appear on the main screen when the device is turned on so it feels like an entry-level device.

But the Garmin nuvi 3490LMT isn’t just a small iterative upgrade over older Garmin products. The 3490LMT boasts a new interface update known as Garmin Guidance 3.0. One of the additions that this new interface brings is the InstaRoute feature which makes maps load a lot quicker. Combined with some performance improvements under the hood, planning a route with this high-end GPS device is much faster. Thanks to multitouch, using the map view is more intuitive as you can easily zoom in or out using pinch gestures. Touch input is only just one of the ways to operate the device as there is support for voice input as well. You can issue a menu command and the Garmin nuvi 3490LMT will head to that menu. This should make the driving experience much safer since you can focus on what is ahead.

The presence of the text-to-speech feature means that the device can talk back to you every turn of the way. Like any other Garmin car GPS model, street names are voiced out for easier navigation. There are also 8 million points of interest covering the US, Canada and Mexico areas. With its updated graphics engine, several landmarks and some terrain features use 3D graphics. Map updates can be downloaded for free 4 times yearly to ensure that the map database stays fresh. When planning multiple routes, the myTrends technology can optionally be used if you want the Garmin device to intelligently predict your next destination.

One of the most useful features that most Garmin devices had was lane assist. This feature hasn’t had any updates for several years but 2012 devices including the Garmin nuvi 3490LMT finally get something new. The name of this feature is now called photoReal as the graphics look photorealistic. The high resolution also contributes to the clearer road signs. If you still need to see the map while driving in the highway, the Garmin nuvi 3490LMT boasts a split-screen view that works in landscape and portrait mode. A Bird’s Eye view can also be used to easily see any upcoming interchanges. Only Garmin devices with Garmin Guidance 3.0 get the Bird’s Eye view.

In addition to the free lifetime map updates, lifetime traffic updates are provided as well. But the specific traffic features that are included are far more than previous LMT models. Garmin’s new traffic service checks the conditions a lot more frequently (around 2 billion times a month). Any status updates of planned routes can also be given through the traffic avoidance service so the Garmin nuvi 3490LMT can immediately come up with a detour route if heavy traffic jams or poor weather conditions are detected. It uses multiple sources including data from other Garmin nuvi users and news stations to get accurate updates. No additional accessories or extra fees are required to use these new improvements.

Bluetooth functionality isn’t exactly a breakthrough feature for car GPS devices but Garmin managed to add some enhancements too. The new Safe Texting feature makes its debut in 2012 Garmin nuvi devices which works once a Bluetooth connection is made between the device and a smartphone or tablet. When a text message is received in the connected mobile device, the Garmin nuvi 3490LMT picks it up and reads it using the text-to-speech engine. From there, you can decide to call the person using the hands-free speaker phone where you can engage in conversations while driving safely. Combine that with voice commands and the Garmin nuvi 3490LMT turns out to be one of the safest car GPS devices available.

Some of the older Garmin features are still featured in the Garmin nuvi 3490LMT like the highly-useful “Where Am I” function which relays position information to emergency services if problems on the road arise. There is also a feature that helps locate your vehicle if you forgot where you parked the car.

Conclusion

The Garmin nuvi 3490LMT first launched at a $400 price tag and currently it is now being sold for just $350. That is still a lot to spend for a 4.3-inch car GPS device that lacks the flexibility of a smartphone or tablet. But as a GPS and car navigation device, the features are as complete as it gets with a high-resolution display, great graphics, speedy performance, rich map content, valuable Garmin services and free map and traffic updates for life.

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