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I bought the Garmin 1690 in December 2010 after my old basic Garmin died although I did consider
buying a basic model I was swayed by all the added extras (toys for the bored) on the 1690 such as European maps, handsfree Bluetooth calls and Nulink live updates. The extra toys allowed me to persuade myself that it was worth the extra money over the basic models especially as I drive for a living.
I personally like the Garmin mapping but a friend who has Tom Tom thinks it looks a bit like a cartoon with a kids paint brush drawing the route! I find it easy to follow it tells you the turn you need to make and also says the name of the street you are turning into which is handy if there are several streets close together. On motorways a screen flashes up showing exactly which lane to take as you approach your junction it also shows the motorway overhead signs so less there's chance of missing your junction or taking the wrong lane.
The Garmin 1690 was the first Garmin with Nulink which is Garmins rival to Tom Tom Live and at the time the Garmin came with a years subscription over the Tom Toms 3 months. The Nulink gives you access to Google search ,Live traffic and speed camera updates and up to date flight times, weather reports and fuel prices. Nulink also has the Ciao friend finder which shows your location and any friends in the area and navigates you to them.
In all honesty the Nulink services apart from traffic and camera updates have probably been wasted on me Google search is handy if I need to check an address or find somewhere remote but since I got a smartphone I usually check on that rather than the Sat Nav and I think I've used the flight checker twice in 9 months of ownership.
The 1690 comes with the usual Sat Nav add ons such as nearest fuel stations,hospitals etc. It also has a feature called find my car which sets the exact location you parked in so this is great for anyone who has ever struggled to find their car in airport car parks! although I've never used it for finding my car we do intend trying this at feature at music festivals to find our tent!
Of all the functions on this apart from navigation the Bluetooth handsfree is probably the most useful thing for me I don't like Bluetooth headsets so this saved me buying a stand alone Bluetooth unit. The sound quality is good although it would be even better if it was a bit louder but it's easy to use and it's easier to answer a call by tapping the sat nav screen. The connection is a bit too good at times on more than a few occasions the vans been parked up with sat nav trying to take the call and I'm halfway along the street trying to switch the connection back to the handset before it rings off.
The live traffic is helpful although it has been a bit hit and miss at times it's handy to have especially in a city you don't know as it will offer alternative routes to avoid the worst jams but it also caused some hilarity when we were driving through a deserted industrial estate at 3am and it announced there was heavy traffic ahead. To my knowledge heavy traffic usually consists of more than one lorry and a guy on a pushbike cycling to work! With the live traffic the 1690 will also keep updating your arrival time at your destination which gives you a good idea of how long the delay is and whether it is worth changing routes.
I like the fact this model comes with Western and Eastern European maps already installed this makes it handy for holidays as well as UK driving and you can purchase extra maps for USA etc if required.There is also the option of downloading city guides and AA guides for local attractions, pedestrian use and public transport which could be good for a city break.
Like a lot of Sat Navs you can download different voices and vehicles so it's possible to be navigated by anything from an ice cream van to a beach ball on screen while Dr Nightmare, Yoda or Spongebob tell you where to go. There are plenty of free voices and vehicles on the Garmin site or if you don't mind paying for a download there are plenty of celebrity downloads on other sites. You can also use the Garmin voice studio to record directions from family or friends.
The Garmin maps like most sat navs miss out some streets if using the street name to navigate but usually the postcode will bring up the correct street failing that it will get you close enough to find it. Overall I've not had too many problems with this it mainly occurs when a terrace or block of housing is part of a main road but has a different name from the main road itself.
The biggest downside I have found is my 1690 occasionally freezes and will not shutdown or restart until the battery discharges either that or it randomly shuts down without warning even though it is fully charged or plugged in then takes a few attempts to get it to restart. A trip to Garmins community forums tells me I am not alone in having problems with this and if anyone reading this review has problems with their Garmin the Garmin forum is a great source of ways to fix the problem and avoid the wait of sending your unit back to Garmin.
The 1690 would be brilliant if Garmin would do something about the freezing and shutdown glitches I don't want to have to send it back as was suggested when I tried to return it to the shop but on the other hand I didn't pay £170 to have to rely on paper maps when it freezes either. I do drive every day but the sat nav is only used a couple of times a day due to knowing most of the areas I work in pretty well.
To anyone considering buying this overall the 1690 is a good sat nav with a lot of useful features but be prepared to put up with the occasional freezes and shutdowns. If Garmin would iron out the glitches the 1690 would be the perfect sat nav system.