Close your eyes, think of a Garmin Nuvi 1390T and scale it up to fit a 5-inch touchscreen and — bam! — you've got the Garmin Nuvi 1490T. There's a rubberised back that feels great and a simple, compact windscreen mount that sticks firmly.
At 16mm thick the 1450T is catwalk thin, but the unit's 5-inch screen means that it gobbles up real estate like Cookie Monster chomps on you-know-what and on smaller cars, or ones with shallow windscreens, this may present a slight safety hazard. On the upside, destination entry is a breeze thanks to the large keys on the virtual keyboard. The menus and their friendly icons will be familiar to anyone who has ever used a Garmin GPS before.
Instructions are easy to read at a glance, with turn instructions posted prominently in the left-hand corner. Lane guidance is available for most multi-lane roads and there's full-screen junction view graphics, complete with real-world photos, for motorway exits. The map screen is clear, but Garmin insists on hiding non-major roads by default, which can make it seem like you're driving through the countryside even when you're traversing the inner city.
Routes generated by the 1490T often favour clogged main roads and sometimes confound well-versed locals with their counter-intuitiveness. The 1490T comes preloaded with the latest Whereis maps and while these prove to be more reliable in the inner city (especially with turn restrictions) and in the bush than Navteq's offering, it's still likely to lead you to the wrong part of the street as street numbering is nowhere close to being 100 per cent accurate.
A lifetime Suna traffic messaging subscription is included and this allows the 1450T to display traffic incidents, like planned roadworks, special events, jams and accidents, either via a coloured overlay on a black-and-white version of the normal map, as an easily digestible list or as a series of possible delays on your route. As we've mentioned before, the traffic messaging alerts are handy as a guide, but we would often run into delays that had yet to turn up in the system or ones that had already cleared.
If you happen to enter a tunnel, there's no dead reckoning to make up for the lack of GPS satellite reception nor are there any instructions, so if there's a particular tunnel exit that needs to be taken, good luck. Positioning accuracy is good in the suburbs, but the unit can lose track of satellites in the CBD leading to either incorrect positioning or complete signal drop out, which is normal.
Red light and speed camera locations are hailed by a warning chime and a signposted icon on the map. Though this is better than the indecipherable flashing icons used by some other makers, the text could do with being a bit larger, even on the 5-inch screen. School zone locations need to be installed manually — check out our guide to find out how.
Text-to-speech works well enough, but it does mangle some Australian street names to comic effect. We do wish that the company would remove the "recalculating route" message from its GPS units, although thanks to Garmin's free Voice Studio software, these can be edited out — if you're willing to go without text-to-speech, that is.
MP3 playback and an FM transmitter are absent from the 1490T's feature list, but you do get Bluetooth hands-free. Bluetooth works quite well with decent sound quality at our end, although you do have to raise your voice to somewhere between a normal speaking volume and shouting to be heard at the other end.
While it mightn't be terribly exciting, the 1490T's combination of traffic messaging, junction view, ease of use and Bluetooth hands-free, make this the 5-inch GPS to get.