March 9, 2013 – 10:46 am
I’ve owned the Garmin nuvi 1690 for about two years now (as of 2/2013) and I really like it, but I’m afraid that my free traffic information will expire at any time (it’s served up by AT&T towers and not lifetime), I’d like to have multi-point route editing, spoken road names and a newer set of maps. I have hesitated for months because I was thinking that the traffic information would be much worse than the 1690. I’ve adapted my 1690 review below:
(also posted on Amazon)
1. Best routes. This may be one of the main reasons Garmin dominates in the US — good routing. In my TomTom testing (in 2008), I found some routing to be very poor in some situations. Google Maps also has routing issues, in both cases I believe is due to a lack of good speed limit data. Of course, I wish it had more a brain and could think about traffic lights and general traffic in certain areas at certain times (not actual traffic reporting), but I guess needing brains is good.
2. New routing choices. A con from the 1690 moved to a pro! Garmin now allows you to choose a different route than the default! Click the “Routes” and you can scroll through route choices that show time, miles and traffic status. It looks to me like it looks for a shorter mileage route and gives you their estimated time. I noticed last week with both GPS units in the window that by taking a shorter distance shortcut, it didn’t recalculate after than on faster time, but on shorter distance. I’m not sure I like that.
3. Address entry. This is a GREAT upgrade is usability. Garmin has really improved this — when you go to enter an address it asks for a street number and street (street choices appear dynamically as you type) and it automatically searches the surrounding states based on your location. You can quickly change the state without deleting everything you just typed, tool. Thank you, Garmin!
4. Voice command. I had very low expectations for voice command and even thought for the first week that I was mistaken when I thought this unit had that feature. I was expecting something like the iPhone where you could push a voice button when entering data, but it’s nothing like that. I had to read the manual to understand how it works — you just say out loud “voice command!” and Garmin will turn into a Siri-like mode. (I changed my wakeup phrase to “hey, Garmin!”) I found this to be amazing. I made entering and address or searching for a POI to be a piece of cake. It actually works way better than Siri does and it has lots of possible things to say on the screen helping you through the process. It even found local “Sheetz” stores when Siri blew it. So, if I want to find a Sheetz, I just have to say, “Hey, Garmin, find place, Sheetz” and it shows a list. Or I could say, “Hey, Garmin, find address, 1234 Main Street Pittsburgh Pennsylvania” and if it shows the right place you can just say “Navigate.” It’s really good.
5. Exit services feature (Con moved to pro). AWESOME! What a surprise to see a simple, yet brilliant addition. All GPS’s I’ve used to distance-based POI, which is tough when doing interstate driving. This shows the new exit and has four tabs (gas, food, lodging, restroom) that show nearest POIs. The closest POI to the actually exit appear in order on their respective tabs.
6. Multiple stop route editing ENHANCED. You can view all your stops, move them around, delete just one, add a stop in between, or even have it calculate the best order of your stops. I just tried the optimal route feature and it looks good. You can even save a multiple stop route for future use. On the 1690, if you added a stop while driving and you chose it as a via point, it would just make it the next stop. This 2495 brings up the multiple stop screen and allows you to move it where it belongs. Great!
7. MUTE BUTTON ALWAYS ON SCREEN! Woohoo, this has been a complaint of mine in my 1690 and 205W reviews.
8. Processor speed. I wrote in my 1690 review that the processor was much faster than the 205W. Well, this is WAY faster than the 1690. Typing is able to keep up with fast typing and it calculates routes (especially 300 mile+ ones) much faster.
9. Look around. The 2495 is more powerful than the 1690 in looking around the map. If you touch the map twice, you can move around in the 3D view and rotate or touch the compass icon and switch to the 2D-type view with north being up.
10. Traffic (although more con than pro). I was not sure this could be as good as the 1690 and I was right, but so far it hasn’t been as bad as I expected. I’ve had both the 1690 and 2495 in my car for a few weeks. Driving into Pittsburgh on the main east interstate, the 1690 told me a 11 minute delay while the 2495 showed 6 minutes. It turned out to be about a 15 minute delay (two minutes merging, which isn’t accounted for on either). I was impressed that the 2495 did pick up the traffic delays within a few minutes of turning it on. On the way to and from Detroit, they both showed similar traffic delays at the same time. See below for many cons.
11. Automatic volume. This is a great idea. It comes checked by default and it says it changes the volume based on background noise. More to come on that in the warmer months.
12. Parking info appears. If you drive into an urban area, a Parking icon will appear and help you find a lot.
13. School zone alert. I was driving in an urban area and a warning tone along with bar on the screen told me that I was approaching a school zone. This is a great idea, although all the other school zones after that day have not produced the warning. Hopefully data will come..
14. No annoying shiny materials on this GPS unit (unlike the 1690)!
15. Lane assist (same as 1690). I’ve found this to be a very nice feature in real life — it guides you by showing you which lane is best to be in. This can really save big headaches, especially when far from home. I’ve noticed that in the image showing you which lane to be in, it sometimes shows the actual surrounding scenery like a building or overpass. It’s pretty stunning.
16. Where Am I? (Also, see my cons) Touch your car icon and it list your nearest street address. In this screen it also shows altitude and your coordinates.
17. Speed Limit sign (same as 1690). You can set it up to show the current speed limit on the screen. It has been super accurate to the instant of a speed limit change in real driving. If the sign is missing on the screen, you also then know that it doesn’t really know how to calculate arrival time from the road. You may want to use that information to take or avoid that road on your next trip.
18. Customizable box (same as 1690). In the bottom left of the navigation screen, it typical shows your arrival time. On the 1690, if you touch that area, you can choose to have it show: ETA, distance to destination, time to next via point (I think), direction on a compass, elevation or time of day.
19. Customizable menus. There is only 9 buttons on the “Where To?” screen, but it allows you to add other icons based on what you like to use.
20. Flexible search bar. In the “Where To?” screen, there is a search bar that you can type a POI name, address, category. It’s just simple.
21. Report bad POI info. You can actually mark a POI as closed or missing and it will report it to Garmin via your Smartphone Link or when you connect to your computer.
22. Lifetime maps. Gotta love that!
23. No ads so far..
1. Traffic minutes delay indicator. One of the best aspects of the traffic icon on the 1690 was a little time delay indicator. That is not here anymore, just green, yellow red. BOO. You must touch the icon and read in tiny print how long the delay is.
2. Stop route button in red. This is fine to have on the screen all the time, but it looks almost exactly like the red traffic icon, so it makes it easy to not notice the red traffic icon.
3. Traffic data reception time. With the 1690, it is almost always within 15 seconds that the traffic data loads. If it hadn’t loaded yet, it would be a gray icon. On the 2495, sometimes it is within a minutes, sometimes it is five minutes (even when leaving from the same location). If the 2495 hasn’t loaded yet, it has a green icon saying everything is clear. Many times I want to turn on my GPS and make a quick decision which route to take, but it’s hard to trust the 2495.
4. Actual traffic data. One day I was leaving downtown Pittsburgh and the 1690 showed a 2 minute delay and the 2495 showed none (it ended up being about 5 minutes). As soon as I got stuck in it, the 2495 showed it. Two mornings now, I was heading north into Pittsburgh on a south non-interstate (Route 51), which had a 13 minute delay on the 1690, but nothing ever showed on the 2495 (I stopped prior to getting closer than 10 miles from town). I confirmed that both took the same route. Another day I was leaving from west of Pittsburgh and heading east. The 1690 had 7:10 as my arrival time and 2495 had 7:04. After finally getting through all the traffic, both had 7:09 as the new arrival time. In summary, the 1690 is great on traffic and the 2495 is not nearly as good, but better than nothing.
5. Time calculations. I haven’t put my finger on it quite yet, but side-by-side, many times the 2495 shows a slightly longer time to get to a destination than the 1690. I found that I rarely could reduce the time on the 1690 (I go the speed limit), but I am able to on the 2495 more easily. Maybe they have tried to built in some traffic light time or something. More to come on this.
6. Smartphone Link. This sounds like a great idea to fill the gap with features that are gone from the 1690, BUT it’s only available with Android. And not just Android, but some Android devices (my Google Nexus 7 wasn’t able to download it). No Apple iPhone support, no Windows phone, nothing else. Too bad. Since I can’t use my iPhone, I got my hands on an Android phone and installed the Smartphone Link app and used tethering to get internet to the Android phone. I was able to easily pair the phone to the Garmin, but quickly found that just about everything you can do with the app costs additional annual fees. I bought the $19.99 Traffic subscription and started my testing. In summary, I found that it added some more roads that the FM receiver didn’t cover, but still nothing compared to the amount of data from the 1690. In my testing so far, it looks like the FM receiver covers the big interstates only and the Smartphone Link picked up some of the major non-interstates, but still not busy secondary roads that the 1690 had. Of course, your area could be different. I couldn’t find a way to choose between the Smartphone Link traffic and the FM traffic (it seemed as though the FM would override). I had to unplug the charger/antenna cable to get the Smartphone Link traffic to work right. I also had trouble getting the Smartphone Link traffic to refresh if there was a problem with internet connectivity at first. The other services you can buy as of 3/2013 are: Advanced Weather ($4.99), fuel prices ($9.99), photoLive ($9.99) for traffic cameras. I’m not willing to pay for those. With the app you can also look at your saved and recent addresses and direct the GPS to head there. After I wrote this, I found this excellent review of Garmin’s SmartLink app that has more information than I have here.
7. Wireless delivery of addresses. The 1690 allowed you to send an address from Google Maps on your computer directly over the air. That was a nice feature that is gone, too.
8. Points of Interest. This is a big step down from the 1690 since that had live access to Google’s massive POI database.
9. Windshield suction mount. In a another step backwards, the 2495 does not have the ability to plug the power cord into the windshield mount, it only connects to the GPS unit, so if you take it off each stop, you’ll have cable connecting/disconnecting.
10. Saving destinations. When I enter an address I can’t find a place to save the address in Favorite like all previous Garmin models I’ve owned. Ok, after reading the manual, you have to touch the “i”, then the triple bar icon, then Save.
11. Nearest intersection (same as 1690). This is within the “Where Am I” place in the menu. It could be very useful in an emergency to have the nearest intersection in addition to the nearest address. Much of the time if you are in an accident, the emergency responders are going to want to know where you are by the nearest intersection. However, I’ve found that they should have labeled it, “random intersection within a few miles.” It will generally show me a major intersection, and sometimes ignore dozens of closer small intersections. Multiple times I’ve had the closest intersection be one on the other side of a river!
12. Transfer of saved places. I’ve never figured out how to transfer addresses from an old Garmin to new. If it’s possible, it’s not in the instructions. I’ll write if I can figure it out.
13. Freezes. It did freeze one time in the first month.
1. World clock, calculator, unit converter. I don’t care to look at those.
2. Bluetooth speakerphone. This is intriguing, but I’m pleased with my bluetooth headset.
In summary, I’ve found that Garmin has made HUGE leaps in usability and features, BUT a critical feature for me — traffic — doesn’t work as well as the 1690. Comments, corrections or questions — please comment.