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Fabien Pionneau Published on January 13, 2011
Translated by Jack Sims


  • Dimensions / Weight 122 x 75 x 8.9 mm / 113 g
  • Antenna type SiRF Star III / Built-in
  • Screen size / touchscreen 4.3 inches / Yes (capacitive)
  • Battery life 4 hrs
  • Maps / Countries included NAVTEQ / UK & Europe 43
  • Software Garmin
Out with the old cumbersome sat nav and in with the Garmin nüvi 3790T, an ultra-slim and light device. With its nice high res multi-point touch screen, its voice recognition system and 3D maps, the new high-end Garmin sat nav has plenty to get excited about.

Hardware: a nice screen, nice look but the mount could be improved

The Garmin nüvi 3790T is quite a surprise. It's so light you feel as if you have a phone rather than a sat nav in your hand. Although it has a 4.3-inch display, the new Garmin is very slim (8.9 mm). It does however make quite an impression, design-wise! Brushed aluminium, silver edging, glossy black on the front. Nice! The finish is generally pretty good, though not up to the standards of the iPhone 4 for example. It's the nicest GPS we've seen all the same.

Garmin 3790T iPhone 4
Garmin nüLink! 1695, Garmin nüvi 3790T, Apple iPhone 4

In addition, the nüvi 3790T's screen has a nice 800 x 480 pixel definition - against the usual 480 x 272 pixels - which gives it excellent legibility. Brightness is also intense enough to counter the reflectivity of the glossy screen.

Navigation in the menus and on maps is also a pleasant experience. You just slide your fingers across the multi-point touch sensitive screen. We also like being able to use the device in portrait mode as well as landscape, particularly when you're on foot. Going from one to the other is handled automatically by the built-in gyroscope.

On the right a microSD card reader allows you to add maps of other countries or view photos on the sat nav.
Underneath, a micro-USB socket gives access to updates from your PC.

Garmin NUVI 3790T
Garmin NUVI 3790T

There's an active suction-mount system. The cigarette lighter cable can be plugged in on the right hand side to charge the sat nav up and there's a more powerful speaker in the mount. Best to leave the mount in the vehicle, especially as it's quite big with its cigarette lighter cable that includes the TMC (traffic-info) module. The only drawback, and this can be annoying, is that it isn't always easy to fix the sat nav back onto the mount, or get it off again, with just one hand.

Garmin NUVI 3790T
Garmin NUVI 3790T

Design and build: a successful interface with simple menus

The nüvi 3790T starts up in 36 seconds, which is 13 seconds less than the other high-end Garmin, the nüLink! 1695. Satellite detection is however the same. It requires a minute if reception conditions are good.

Responsiveness in the menus is good and moving between different screens of options is logical and intuitive, ideal for beginners. Scrolling with your finger facilitates navigation a good deal, except when you're driving of course, when it's harder to be precise

The predictive text feature for addresses hasn't unfortunately been developed and could be improved as it simply offers a list of places sorted by alphabetical order when few choices are possible. Thankfully entering text isn't too slow.

Voice recognition, unique to this model, works very well, apart from the address search, when it often struggles to understand the names of towns. We had to try up to ten times for some towns! Best to go for the option of spelling the town name when you're struggling.

The graphics quality of the maps was also a nice surprise. All in 3D, the display is very clean and shows hills as well as some monuments in 3D. Not indispensable but nice to look at!

Changing the volume setting during navigation is still as impractical as ever, unfortunately, as you need to go through two operations to get to the settings menu, then two more to return to the display of the map. We would have liked to be able to set this straight from the navigation screen, or with a physical button on the side.

Lastly, there's a route planner, which is very easy to use.

Route guidance: voice commands yes, but where are the connected features?

The Garmin nüvi 3790T includes all the now standard features: traffic lane assistant with display of junctions and signs, speed alert and Text-to-Speech which announces the names of streets.

The instructions are precise and journey calculations quite fast. We would have liked a little more responsiveness when recalculating a journey in case of error - you sometimes need to wait almost ten seconds before getting your new route. For city driving this is too much and you end up missing the intersection.

We are however particularly surprised to see that the nüLink! services are absent on what is such a high-end GPS. In spite of costing a good deal more (£30 or so) than the nüLink! 1695, the nüvi 3790T makes do with Premium traffic (TMC) and fixed speed cameras.

Besides this, Garmin has added its nüRoute technology which is supposed to gain time for the driver. For this, the trafficTrends feature is supposed to get us on the fastest route depending on the day, time and traffic on the road. Apparently however, the service is still too recent to be completely reliable as several times it had us taking routes that cost us time. While distances were slightly cut, the actual speed of the routes was under the authorised speed limit. This was because we were recommended a more windy and therefore more dangerous route, particularly as it's winter and there's often more black ice on minor roads. Even if this journey had proved faster we would have liked to be offered an alternative, less dangerous route where traffic was fluid. Lets hope the reliability of the system improves with time.

The nüRoute technology also has a feature known as myTrends, which automatically offers a journey according to routes commonly taken.

You still get the ecoRoute feature for economising on fuel with more fluid, though longer, journeys.

Extra features: Bluetooth hands-free mode

Like the  nüLink! 1695, the Garmin nüvi 3790T is equipped with Bluetooth allowing you to use your phone on hands-free. Audio quality is fine and sufficient for occasional usage. Major users will prefer their own dedicated kit which allows you to position the microphone closer to the driver.

We would have liked to be able to transmit audio to the vehicle's speakers via an FM transmitter. It's a shame that more manufacturers don't offer this feature, like the MP3 player that the latest (even high-end) sat navs don't include anymore.
Dedicated sat nav or mobile app?

More than any other sat nav, the Garmin nüvi 3790T has led us to question whether it's really worth having a dedicated sat nav or better just to go for a smartphone app.

The ultra-slim format and look of the 3790T give it the feel of an iPhone... which immediately made us want to compare the two devices.

The Garmin nüvi 3790T is as slim as an iPhone 4 (0.5 mm slimmer), lighter by 24 grammes and has a bigger screen: 4.3 inches against 3.5 inches on the iPhone! This is the major benefit of retaining a separate GPS, as otherwise, the new GPS apps for mobile phones are pretty much a match for dedicated sat navs... as long as you have a good phone.

It's the screen that makes all the difference. A small mobile phone screen makes it difficult to read the display when driving and speakers are often less powerful than on a sat nav. However, your mobile phone has the advantage that you almost always have it on you!


  • Thoughtful design, slim and light
  • Well-defined display and 3D maps
  • Good responsiveness in menus
  • Functional vocal commands
  • Functional vocal commands


  • No nüLink! connected services
  • No FM transmitter
  • Predictive text could be improved
  • Address search problematic with voice recognition


Ultra-slim, light and well finished, the Garmin 3790T is the nicest looking sat nav we've seen. It has a nice high res screen, good responsiveness and aims to supply what is quite a gamut of features for such an easily transportable model. The lack of connected features is a real drawback however.
4 Garmin nüvi 3790T DigitalVersus 2011-01-13 00:00:00
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