Garmin Nuvi 1390

It mightn't offer the bigger bang for buck, but the 1390 is a solid and dependable choice. We particularly like its comprehensive lane guidance and easy-to-use interface.

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CNET Editor

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.


There's really nothing much to say about the design of the Nuvi 1390. 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.

Within the 1390'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.


Bluetooth hands-free, text-to-speech, camera locations, junction view and lane guidance are standard inclusions with both the 1390 and 1390T. Priced at an extra AU$100, the 1390T sole difference is its traffic messaging hardware and lifetime subscription to the Suna traffic service.

We were able to sync up a variety of mobile phones easily with the 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 conveyances. 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 1390'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 1390 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 1390 no longer switches itself 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 1390 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 1390 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.


It mightn't offer the bigger bang for buck, but the 1390 is a solid and dependable choice. Those who must have traffic messaging can splash out another AU$100 for the otherwise identical Garmin Nuvi 1390T.

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John posted a comment   

I have owned my Garmin 1390 now for four months. Am very happy with it but note the (turning off) as previous posts have aired. Mine does this as well but only for a few seconds as it is coupled with mobile phone line into a cigerette lighter for power. This adaptor has a reset button and after I hit the button the Garmin is back on active duty within 20 seconds. Overall as with DOT AU I am very happy with it.


DebK posted a review   

The Good:when it works

The Bad:shuts off ALL the time

IT DOES AHUT OFF ALL THE TIME! This is a nice gps unit and the size and graphics are great BUT, it doesn't stay working. The battery will be full and it will be plugged in, in the car and it keeps shutting off.


parkchan posted a review   

The Good:Design and interface

The Bad:The unit dies while driving

It happened to me and my wife 4 times since we bought this unit that it suddently dies while using it even though the battery was full and had power cable plugged in. When it dies it takes about 30 mins to be able to restart. So we keep an old GPS for backup in the car.

Dot AU

Dot AU posted a review   

The Good:It's a Garmin and it works really well.

The Bad:It doesn't make me a coffee in the morning.

I think this unit works exceptionally well for the price. It's a Garmin so the unit is accurate and reliable. I have used this GPS to get me from point A to point B in areas that I'm familiar with. There are obviously numerous ways to get from A to B and the unit has to pick one. It seems to pick the best route for someone who doesn't know the area. Sure, it might not pick the faster, the one with the least traffic or the one the goes past your favorite bottle-shop but it does pick a reasonable and safe route. Perfect, that's what I want when I'm towing a heavy tandem trailer through a city I barely know. I also note that the unit detects when you've taken a different route and it gives the the new route. Again perfect. The unit works exceptionally well and is very accurate.

I can't believe some of the criticisms of GPS unit which are posted on this site, some are usually as follows:

"It wants to send me on main roads rather than the back streets which I know are faster" - If you know your way from point A to B, why do you need a GPS to tell you which way to go?

"It doesn't have my local supermarket on it" - That's not the fault of the GPS unit. This site, and the user reviews, are used to review the GPS unit and how it performs.

"It doesn't instantly acquire satelite signals" - You may still be parked in your garage, under wet trees, in amongst skyscrapers, parked in the Crown casino carpark or underwater. I find that when I'm in an open area the unit picks up signals within 15 seconds EVERYTIME! That still impresses me when I think that it is communicated with multiple satelites orbiting planet Earth.

"It turns off when I turn my car off" - Do you still need to know where you're going when you turn your car off? To clarify, the unit actually starts a timer to turn off but gives you the option to have it remain on.

"The interface is hard to use" - Only if your over 80 years old, a technotard, have poor eyesight and severe arthritis. My 4 year old can work it.

"It doesn't tell me when I'm speeding" - Really? Why are you speeding? What did you do before GPS? Did you want a GPS unit or a personal policeman?

"I can't see the speed limits on the right hand side of the screen" - Open your eyes. It's scarey that people who complain about being able to see a GPS are behind the wheel of a car.

"It doesn't have bluetooth/FM radio/MP3" - Go and buy an Apple Iphone.

There. I've had my whinge. This is a GPS unit. It works really well. If you want a reliable, accurate and very useful GPS then almost any Garmin GPS unit will do it for you, this unit included.


Zarrar posted a review   

The Good:Better than Mio


I bought this by mistake today. I should have read the reviews on this site.
No red light camera alerts, also its resetting itself while i was driving. Wont recommend anyone.


Jacek posted a review   

The Good:Maps

The Bad:Interface, chooses bad roads

It is really unbelievable just how bad this navigation is. I do not mean navigation itself, but the user interface.

I had a tom-tom before but I wanted to try someting else and I cannot believe that this navigation is actually sold and bought.

One example-preparing your journey at home(no gps signal). Tom-tom goes to menu-navigation-navigate from A to B.Done. Garmin- go to menu, go to settings, go to satellites, choose satellite simulation ON. Huh? Then go to map, find the start location, choose "set position" and then you can continue. There is NO manual attached to this navigation, so you have to figure that out yourself. Took me 3 hours to figure that out. Man selling me this navigation in the store also gave up after half an hour. This is the most unintuitive thing I have ever seen. And why don't you have manual attached to something that cost over 100 EUR ???

Second example-while navigating battery gets low. In Tom-tom- sound signal and small flashing object on the screen. In Garmin- map gets off(!!!) and you get a warning with "OK" that must be pressed on the screen. Imagine that happening right before some big crossing. You are left without any help, not to mention how dangerous can it be to be forced to press the screen while driving.

Third example-connecting the navigation to computer with USB. You can not turn it on. There is no program to use in an your computer while connected. You have to hope that this thing is actually charging and disconnect it when you think that the time is right.

Fourth example- finding alternatives to the calculated route. No feature "avoid part of the route", no feature "road blocked in...". And "Find another route" ? I had set navigation from North Poland to centre of Czech republic. About 1000 km long. Plenty of possibilities to drive. And when I wanted to see what the other possibilities are, the system calculated alternative, when only difference was after leaving parking lot i should turn not left to the main street, but right and go around the block. So the only difference was on the first 50 meters. What is that supposed to be ? Joke ?

Straight catastrophe.


Paul posted a review   

The Good:clear lane directions, easy to use

The Bad:Chooses bad routes

All up I am happy with my Nuvi, but it does make some weird route decisions like tells you to get off the freeway 3 exits early so you can go on a highway/ backstreets that will invariably have roadworks like everywhere in VIC does these days. Apart from that it's fine but i worry it will tell me retarded ways to go where i don't know the area at all. Have had no problems with it alerting me to fixed speed cameras, it has saved me a few times.


greyeagle posted a comment   

Truly not impressed with the Nuvi 1390 . Navman c 60 has more. Much more details and cheaper to buy.Would I have purchaced a Garmin had i known. NO. Would I recomend it to other people. Hell no.

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User Reviews / Comments  Garmin Nuvi 1390

  • John


    "I have owned my Garmin 1390 now for four months. Am very happy with it but note the (turning off) as previous posts have aired. Mine does this as well but only for a few seconds as it is coupled wi..."

  • DebK



    "IT DOES AHUT OFF ALL THE TIME! This is a nice gps unit and the size and graphics are great BUT, it doesn't stay working. The battery will be full and it will be plugged in, in the car and it keeps ..."

  • parkchan



    "It happened to me and my wife 4 times since we bought this unit that it suddently dies while using it even though the battery was full and had power cable plugged in. When it dies it takes about 30..."

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