NOTE BY GPSPASSION - this article was written by Rick, moderator of our nüvi forums under the NanaimoRick UserID. He shares his findings after a 4,000 mile real life comparison between the Garmin nüvi 1490t and the TomTom XXL 540s in the long GpsPasSion tradition of "you can't beat side by side comparisons" !
ROAD TESTING - Garmin Nuvi 1490T and TomTom XXL 540s
Garmin nuvi 1490t - 5-inch display, Bluetooth® wireless, FM lifetime traffic, lane assist with junction view, preloaded street maps for North America, speaks street names, Where am I?, photo navigation, ecoRoutes™, pedestrian navigation options
TomTom XXL 540s - 5-inch XXL screen, No Bluetooth, 24/7 IQ Route Technology, Advanced Lane Guidance, preloaded street maps of North America, speaks street names, Help Me!, TomTom Map Share Technology, Easy Port Mount
INTRODUCTION - In early December 2009 my wife and I traveled to our winter vacation home in Palm Springs California from our house on Vancouver Island in Canada. This trip, covered some 4500 miles in total, and stretched over 3 months, with us returning to Canada in mid March of this year.
During our trip we used both the TomTom XXL 540s and the Garmin Nuvi 1490T, together and separately. What this allowed us to do is give these units a side by side, as well as a one on one comparison along the west coast of the US and Canada, including the heavily populated areas of Los Angeles CA, Phoenix AZ, Portland OR, and Seattle WA. As our trip progressed we updated this topic in the AIO (All in One) Comparisons forums with our findings as we compared these units and took questions.
What we would like to do now is to summarize our findings in regard to the TomTom 540s and Nuvi 1490T. If you have questions or comments you can use this topic of the forums.
What’s in the Box?
The TomTom XXL 540s came with:
- A 5” touch LCD screen, preloaded with maps of North America including Canada, US and Mexico.
- Fold & Go Easyport Windshield Suction Cup Mount
- Dashboard Disk
- USB Car Charger and USB cable
- Users Guide
- NOTE – a RDS TMC Traffic Receiver was purchased separately.
The Gamin nuvi 1490T includes the following:
- A 5” touch LCD screen, preloaded with North America maps, Bluetooth support and a MicroSD Slot
- Windshield Suction Cup Mount
- Dashboard Disk
- USB cable for attaching the device to a PC or Mac
- FM traffic receiver with vehicle power cable
- Quick Start Manual
The TomTom 540s uses the TomTom Home software, available from their website. Once this software is installed on your PC, and the GPS attached via the USB cable, all updates of firmware and maps are handled through this software facility. The software also allows you to update satellite information through a facility called QuickGPSfix. This feature helps the TomTom find your position quickly when you turn your device on. The downloaded data contains information about where the GPS satellites will be for the next seven days. So you need to get new QuickGPSfix data at least once a week.
Another feature available on the TomTom and supported by TomTom Home is Mapshare. This is the facility which allows users to input map corrections and updates and then share them with other users. You can update your maps with all Mapshare changes inputted or just those verified by TomTom or something in between. We obtained literally thousands of updates using a combination of TomTom verified changes and those that had been submitted by many users. TomTom also provides regular official map updates that can be purchased and downloaded to the 540s. They also now sell other 540s models that include “lifetime” map updates as part of the purchase price. Similar to the Nuvi, if you purchase a 540s and new maps are released within 30 days, you are entitled to one free update.
TomTom Home also provides a consistent interface for fundamental maintenance and add-on functions. The software allows you to add additional maps, traffic services, voices, poi’s etc. to the device. In addition you can back up the unit, add and remove files from it, even operate the device using your computer screen and mouse.
Overall, we continue to like the TomTom Home facility, as we did in our initial comparison.
All firmware, voice, GPS, and other updates for the Nuvi are done by downloading the WebUpdater software from the Garmin website and installing it on your computer. Then you can attach the Nuvi to your PC or Mac and run the software. All available updates will be listed. You select the ones you want and the software downloads and installs them. Garmin also offers a web based update facility called My Dashboard, but at this time the WebUpdater is the preferred method.
To update the maps you must purchase an update from Garmin, either a “one time” or a “nuMaps Lifetime”. As the names imply, purchasing a “one time” update allows you to download and install one map update. Purchasing a lifetime update allows to download and install up to 4 updates annually for a single device for the life of the unit. Garmin also currently offers one free map update if one is released within 60 days of your new GPS first obtaining a satellite lock while moving. There is currently no facility from Garmin to update maps via user input as you can on the TomTom.
There doesn’t appear to be any facility within the 1490T like the QuickGPSfix function on the TomTom. This being said we noticed very little difference, over time, between the two units and how fast they obtained satellite lock.
We like the flexibility of the TomTom Home facility and the ability to update our maps on a daily basis with user inputted changes, additions and corrections to the map file. As far as QuickGPSfix is concerned, in our months of daily use we found that the TomTom and Nuvi usually obtained satellite lock quickly and almost at the same time. Overall the TomTom could be faster the first time we turned them on in the morning but after that there was very little difference and we didn’t need to get new satellite information on a regular basis for the Nuvi like we did with the TomTom.
TTS – Text to Speech
We used the American female voice Susan on the TomTom unit. We found the voice to be clear and provided more volume than we needed. One nice feature on this model is the ability to set it up so that the volume increases as your highway speed goes up. This does mean you have to be careful when manually setting the voice level prior to driving as any automatic volume increase will be an increase to the level you have manually set.
Again we find that the TTS facility on the TomTom does not compare favorably with the Nuvi. We didn't find as much "clipping" of spoken words and phrases as we did with earlier models but the pronunciation of city and street names was noticeably worse than we remember from using the 920/930 a year or so ago.
The distances from turn announcements were also different between the TomTom and Nuvi devices. At highway speeds the TomTom always made its first turn announcement at 2 miles from the turn. It then remained silent until ½ mile from the turn. Further instructions came at regular intervals and always included the distance to the maneuver as well as what to do after it, for example “then stay in the left lane”. This additional guidance with more and frequent notification , especially when coming up to and through an interchange is helpful.
The TomTom never announces which side of the road your destination is on, only that you had reached it.
We used the American male voice Jack on the Nuvi 1490T. We found the voice to be clear and provided more volume than we needed, even at highway speeds. The larger speakers in this model really do make a difference in both sound volume and quality.
Overall we were much more satisfied with the TTS facility on the Nuvi. The Nuvi rarely “clipped” an instruction and handled all street and city names well, with only the occasional pronunciation issue. As the majority of our trip was in southern California where many street names and cities are Spanish, the Nuvi handled pronouncing them very well compared to the TomTom which couldn't pronounce even large cities like Los Angeles and San Bernardino properly.
When you reach your destination the Nuvi always announces which side of the road it is on. This features is one that once you have it, you can't really live without it.
Overall we liked the quality of the Nuvi TTS facility. Although we found that the TomTom provided more information about the next turn and what to do after you make it, the poor pronunciation became irritating.
The Nuvi rarely if ever suffered from these problems. Like in our first comparison, the Nuvi’s ability to announce that you have reached your destination and which side of the street it was on was very helpful and something we found we missed almost immediately when we started using the TomTom. The TomTom’s ability to announce the first turn at 2 miles out, instead of the 1490T's one mile, was something that we appreciated, especially at 75 MPH in areas that we were not familiar with.
The TomTom XXL 540s uses a 5 inch full-color, TFT LCD widescreen touch display. We found the screen easy to read in most conditions and certainly better than our experience with the older 920 and 930 models.
That being said the brightness and clarity is not as good as the Nuvi's which is probably the best screen we have ever used. Using the device in direct sunlight caused it to 'washout' more than on the Nuvi as well. However, the display overall seemed to have less "jagged edges" than in our previous comparison while maintaining a smooth screen draw.
We used 3D map viewing mode exclusively on both units. Since we are more familiar with the Nuvi than the TomTom we noticed that there is a fair bit of difference between the 3D viewing angles and default zoom levels between the two devices. Overall we liked the Nuvi's angle and zoom more as it tended to show more detail concerning the surrounding area. This may, however, be just a case of personal preference.
One nice feature of the TomTom unit is that you can display the street name you are driving on, on the map screen whether you have a route calculated or not. Overall the 540s probably showed more street name detail on the map screen than did the Nuvi. There wasn't a major difference and it tended to be a 'trade off' situation, where the Nuvi would show more detail of the surrounding streets but the TomTom would display a few more names of streets but have less of them displayed.
The Nuvi unit uses a 5" inch WQVGA color screen with white backlighting. It is a big bright clear screen that is visible in all light conditions.
When travelling in 3D mode, the Nuvi displays more detail about your surroundings than the TomTom. Most roads within your immediate area are displayed on the map. There are usually no names associated with these roads however it does give you more of a sense of what’s around you than the TT.
In our last comparison we said "In our use of these devices we found that either will provide a decent, easy to view screen. However, overall we prefer the screen on the Nuvi”. This trip we found that although the TomTom screen has improved, the big beautiful screen on the Nuvi is the clear winner. It is brighter and the text and maps are smoother looking.
The TomTom does provide a little more detail on road names and exit numbers but the Nuvi provided more information on the whereabouts of nearby roads as you travel.
Advanced Lane Assist - Junction View
The mapping data of both the TomTom 540s and the Nuvi 1490T contains details which allow for screens and data to be displayed that highlight which lane(s) a user should be in to successfully navigate a freeway interchange and other complicated driving situations. On the TomTom this feature is called Advanced Lane Assist and on the Nuvi, Junction View. Part of the system also provides visual lane instructions in addition to the displayed highlighted lane screens. This information is part of the Advanced Lane Assist feature on the TomTom and is called Lane Assist on the Nuvi.
As we wrote in our last comparison, Advanced Lane Assist provides TTS instructions for the direction of the next turn or exit off an interstate and also a picture that shows all lanes while highlighting the ones you should be using. Even the road dividers are displayed. In addition the 540s also offers a static screen of your intersection which blows the ALA part of the screen up to full screen with your useable lane flashing. This feature is a great help when driving on unfamiliar interstates with complicated interchanges.
What isn't obvious from the picture above is the fact that the green arrows displayed on the highway are flashing. We found this more useful than the Nuvi's "static" pink arrow display. Also you will notice the white arrows on the bottom left of the screen. These are the equivalent of the separate "lane assist" arrows shown on the Nuvi.
Similar to the TomTom, the Nuvi 1490T provides special screens which highlight what lanes to take through intersections or interchanges of major highways. The feature is known as Junction View.
There are a number of differences between the 2 units as far as what is displayed. On the Nuvi you will notice that there is a single pink arrow highlighting what maneuver to make and in addition this arrow is 'static' and does not flash. On the 1490 there is also no lane assist data on these special Junction View screens. Although the lane assist data may be present, it is not viewable until the unit reverts back to the normal map screen. At that point the lane assist arrows (like the white arrows on the TomTom) will appear in the upper left corner of the map screen, replacing the normal 'next turn' arrow.
Overall we found the TomTom implementation of this feature more to our liking not only because it was presented better but also because, at this time, it is far more available than in the Nuvi. In our 3 months of using these devices we saw dozens of Advanced Lane Assist intersections/interchanges shown on the TomTom while very few on the Nuvi. It has been reported that later versions of the Garmin maps now include more Junction Views so in time it would appear that the 'gap' will close but for now the TomTom has the advantage.
The Nuvi on the other hand makes more use of the Lane Assist feature. While the 1490 doesn't provide a lot of Junction View screens, many intersection/interchanges show lane guidance arrows in the upper left corner of the map screen. This in many cases is as good or better information than the static junction view screen provides.
The TomTom 540s had Tele Atlas USA_Canada_Mexico_Puerto Rico maps version 8.40.2568 installed.
TomTom offers a facility called Mapshare that allows users to input changes, additions, and deletions to the map product, and once verified by TomTom, these alterations are made available to all users through the TomTom Home facility detailed above. The 540s also provides an option to avoid parts of a calculated route or to have the unit calculate alternative routes to the one initially determined. You can also update the maps on your units immediately for errors that you find in the map data such as speed limits, turn restrictions, Street names, direction of traffic, as well as add missing POI information or edit existing POI data. Updates you make can then be forwarded to TomTom for inclusion in future map updates.
The POI database on the 540s is reportedly larger than that on the Nuvi. However as we reported in our previous comparison, the accuracy of the POI locations still seems to an issue. As you have seen in our daily updates we ran into problems with the TomTom POI having an incorrect location for a listed site. This is frustrating and could be dangerous under certain circumstances.
Speed limit information is also included in the map data for most highways. We also found that, at least in the Vancouver BC area, speed information for Canada was also present. Were we found the TomTom lacking was speed limit information for city streets. The data displayed was for the most part very accurate.
The Nuvi had Navteq City Navigator North America NT V2010.20 installed.
Garmin provides updates to their maps on an approximate quarterly basis. With the exception of possibly the first update (see Update Ability) all updates must be purchased and they offer no facility such as TomTom’s Mapshare to provide more frequent updates to the installed maps.
Garmin states that the Nuvi contains more than 6 million POIs in their database. We found that when we could locate a place using the POI search facility, the 1490 calculated an accurate route to the location.
Since the POI database on the Nuvi isn't constantly being updated by user input it is probably not as up to date but our experience has been that it is often more reliable as far as accuracy of location is concerned.
The map data in V2010.20 is very accurate when it comes to speed limits. A major update over our last Nuvi was that you can now display both the posted speed limit as well as your actual speed on the map screen.
This makes much more sense than on older Nuvi models which forced you to go to another screen to see your actual speed. We found little, if any, speed limit data for Canada but that may change as newer maps are made available (v2011.10 is currently the newest). What we did notice was that in the areas we travelled in, the 1490 contained more speed limit data for city streets than the TomTom.
Not much has changed since our last comparison when we said "This one is pretty much a draw. Both the Tele Atlas and Navteq maps will get you from A to B with little difficulty. POI data is suspect on both units
but could be a bigger problem on the TomTom’s because of the inaccuracy of where they route you to. However, the ability of those maps to be updated continuously with user input is intriguing."
In general, the TomTom 540s , using it's IQRoutes facility which takes into account speed limits, time of day and known travel times to help calculate the best and fastest route, provided good routing. IQroutes help make the ETA calculations very accurate. We did however notice several occasions where the 540s would initially calculate a route substantially different than the one calculated by the Nuvi but within minutes/miles announce that "a better route had been found" and ask if we wanted to take it. Answering yes, then allowed the TomTom to present a route that was identical to the one the Nuvi had calculated in the first place.
As long time Nuvi users we are very familiar with the concept of "Favorites" where you can search for an address, POI, map location, etc., request the Nuvi calculate a route to that location and then save the spot so that it can easily be called up in the future. There is also a Favorite facility on the 540s but it is very limited and much more difficult to use. A member of our forum, cleo43, was kind enough to point out that Favorites on a TomTom are really meant as a quick way to mark a spot (like the 'Mark' button on a handheld), a recent destination etc. It's not designed to store information for long term planning. Moreover every map update will wipe them out. Instead of using Favorites as you do on the Nuvi, cleo43 recommends using the POI facility on the TomTom. Unlike Custom POIs on the Nuvi which are separate files loaded using Garmin's POIloader software, a POI on the TomTom can be created "on the fly". This offers the same convenience as Nuvi Favorites, of being able to call them up at a later time for route planning, but also allows you to put them into categories, like the new facility in the 1490T.
One feature that we like about the Nuvi is that once you have a destination calculated you can quickly add one other location on the fly as a ‘waypoint’, using the same input method as you did for your original destination entry. The Nuvi will recalculate the route, taking you to your waypoint first and then to your destination. You have this ability on the TomTom as well but it is slightly more difficult to use as instead of simply entering a destination that will be used as the waypoint, you need to go to a different screen called "Find Alternative" and select "Travel Via" and then enter your via point destination. The Find Alternative screen also holds options to calculate alternative routes, avoid roadblocks and avoid part of a calculated route, items that for the most part, the Nuvi doesn't offer.
The 540s provided for a facility called Itinerary Planning which is basically the same as the multipoint Route creation feature in the 1490T. Building routes and itineraries on both units is straight forward and both can be done using addresses, POIs, recently selected locations etc.
A couple of things we didn't like about the TomTom is that it doesn't take into account Time Zone changes when calculating ETA and when you arrive at your destination it doesn't announce which side of the road it is on. The latter can cause some confusion when your destination is in unfamiliar areas.
We found the Nuvi 1490T consistently provided good accurate routing Without additional features like IQRoutes, our Nuvi consistently calculated a route that was the same as the TomTom's eventually presented. Also on a daily basis, the routes calculated and the ETA displayed on these two units where virtually identical.
Although the Nuvi contains some 6 million points of interest (POI) which can be selected and a route calculated to, they do not appear on the map screen. Custom POIs added using POIloader will show on the map screen if properly transferred to the 1490T and then only at certain zoom levels. This is different than on the TomTom which as the option of showing an icon for any POI category on the map screen.
This newer Nuvi models, like our 1490T provide a nice feature that allows categorizing of "favorites". The Nuvi lists all favorites in distance order, from the one nearest your present location to the one farthest away. If you have many favorites saved, scrolling through this list to find a specific favorite can be time consuming. By categorizing the favorites you can now just search through a list of hotels, fuel stations, etc. depending on the type of favorite you’re looking for. Also you can use the pre-established categories or create your own. As mentioned above, creating POI's on the TomTom provides much the same facility.
The creation of multi point routes on the Nuvi is straight forward and for the most part similar to how you do it on the TomTom. The one advantage that the Nuvi may have over the TomTom is the ability to create these routes using PC software like Garmin's Mapsource and then transfer the route to the device.
Again, pretty much a draw in this category. Both the TomTom 540s and the Nuvi provide very accurate route and ETA calculations. We found little difference between a route calculation on the Nuvi and what the TomTom, using IQRoutes, would find and in a number of cases the Nuvi actually calculated the correct route the first time while the 540s calculated a different route initially and then offered a 'better route" subsequently.
Overall we found that the input of desired destinations and general layout of the input features on the Nuvi to be easier than on the 540s but this maybe because we are more familiar with the Garmin products.
The TomTom 540s has many customizable settings. Although there are less custom options than on our TomTom930 from the last comparison, for those that like to “tinker” with various settings and how the interface looks, the TomTom is for you.
Tapping the screen in the map area brings up the Main Menu. There are in now 2 main menu screens, each with 5 options to select things ranging from Navigator To, making manual corrections to the installed maps which you discover or caused by road closures and the like, planning an itinerary, adding a favorite, and a Help Me function similar to the “Where Am I” facility on the Nuvi, which quickly allows you see your present location and have 'one tap' access to the location of the nearest fire station, hospital, fuel station etc.
One of the selectable icons on the main menu is Change Preferences. Tapping that will bring up 6 pages of 5 icons each, all of which allow you to make some kind of change to the way the TomTom works by default. Of course tapping any of these 30 icons brings up additional pages where you select the specific change you want to make. Thankfully, when you become completely lost the very last Change Preferences icon is Reset Factory Settings.
There are of course some drawbacks to all of this customizability. For example, unlike the Nuvi, the TomTom doesn't automatically change time and ETA when travelling across time zones so you need to manually change the time on the 540s. Unfortunately the facility to allow you to do this is found on page 6 of 6 of the preference screens. TomTom does however provide for creating a "Quick Menu" which allows you to place 5 of your most used customization items in a single menu. Once the Quick Menu is created, a back arrow appears on the map screen. A single tap of that arrow will take you to the Quick Menu where you can select from any of the five items without going through all 6 preference screens.
The 540s provides for the display of various items on the map screen when an active route is present. These items include time of arrival, current speed, distance to destination, direction of travel, etc. The items displayed are selectable from the preference screens.
Unlike the Nuvi, which automatically turns on when attached to the DC adapter and you start your vehicle, you always need to press the power button on the TomTom to start it. Also you need to shut the 540s off, where on the Nuvi when you disconnect from the DC adapter you have the option to turn it off or to leave it running on battery, with the default being to turn it off 30 seconds after it was disconnected from the power supply.
There is little of the interface that can be customized on the Nuvi although with the 1490T your options have increased over earlier models. Most available features and options are reached by tapping the “Tools” icon on the opening screen. Most of the 2 two screens of icons under the Tools menu are used to access features of the device such as the calculator, world clock, unit converter, picture viewer, and the Nuvi's ecoRoutes facility. EcoRoutes allows for the setup and moderating of things like mileage reporting, fuel economy statistics, and tips on how to obtain the best fuel economy while driving.
Access to any customizable setting comes from tapping the Settings icon. This makes available 9 icons for customization. These include setting your language, what maps to use, brightness of screen, initial time zone and time information, setting a security access pin #, pairing your Bluetooth phone and setting the 'tone' to be used for proximity point alerts. One additional item available is “System”, which allows you to select that type of keyboard layout to use, whether to use miles or kilometers, the mode to use when calculating routes, e.g. automotive, pedestrian or bicycle and whether to allow for 'simulation' of a route or not.
Although the Nuvi has basically a “What you see is what you get” interface, Garmin has added a number of options to the map screen for what data is shown there. By default the 1490T shows the distance to your next turn, name of the road you will be turning onto, distance to your destination, and current speed on the map screen. It will also show the speed limit for the road being travelled if available. Optionally you can add to these default settings any 3 of the following items - estimated time of arrival, estimated time to destination, direction of travel, elevation, or time of day.
The addition of customizable data displays on the Nuvi 1490T map screen is a welcome addition and for those that require items like a world clock and currency converter, those are only available on the Nuvi. If you feel you need to customize how your GPS looks and operates then the TomTom 540s would provide you with this functionality much more so than the Nuvi.
The 540s does not ship with a traffic receiver so we had to purchase one (subsequently TomTom now offers a 540s with lifetime traffic at an increased cost). Unfortunately we were not able to find one in any store we checked between our home and southern California. We ended up buying one after we arrived in the desert. As we noted in our last comparison, the receiver is a RDS TMC Traffic Receiver which is a separate cable you attach to the unit. The Traffic Message Channel (TMC) is a specific application of the FM Radio Data System (RDS) used for broadcasting real-time traffic and weather information. Data messages are received silently and decoded by the 540s, and delivered by alerting the driver of a problem on the planned route and calculating an alternative route to avoid the incident.
To receive traffic data you must attach the TMC receiver cable to the bottom of the TomTom and then suction cup the antenna wire to your windshield. This is not very convenient although once installed you don’t really need to take it off on a daily basis. Traffic conditions appear along a bar on the right side of the map screen, represented by small icons for traffic, construction, etc. delays. When slowdowns are determined the time of any delay appears in this area as well. Tapping the traffic bar on the map screen brings up additional screens where you can get additional information about the delays being reported. We did find however, that tapping the traffic bar was sometimes not that easy to do as it is narrow and hard to hit with your figure while driving.
One nice feature of the TomTom is that you can request that the details of the reported delays be spoken to you through the unit’s speakers. We found this more useful than having to read the details or determine what and where they were from a map screen.
The 1490T has an AC power cable which contains an integrated FM traffic receiver. Although this makes the cable wider and heavier it is more convenient to use than the 2 cable system found on the TomTom. Simply plugging the AC adapter into the Nuvi and turning your vehicle on provided traffic data without having to attach additional equipment.
Traffic delays are reported on the Nuvi map screen using different colored icons (red for heavy, yellow for moderate, green for good and grey when no traffic data was available). Tapping the icon will bring up a screen where you can see additional information or be routed around the problem. We fell victim to a software issue with the traffic receiver where the icon would go grey and not report any traffic until the 1490 was restarted. A firmware update eventually addressed this issue however.
When working properly the traffic receiver on the 1490 reported traffic conditions fairly accurately although we did run into situations where delays were reported that either didn't exist or were already cleared by the time we got to the reported area of the slowdowns.
Both the TomTom and Nuvi units reported traffic conditions more frequently and accurately than the receiver we used in our last comparison. Overall we preferred the ability of the 540s to read out details about reported problems and its ability to route you around long delays easily. For ease of use the Nuvi has a slight edge as it is initially easier to setup and when needed, easier to get details about delays by tapping the traffic screen icons.
Internal Storage and Memory
Both units have 2GB of internal storage. The one problem with them both is the very little "free space" available on the internal storage drive. On both devices we deleted all unneeded items such as foreign voices and help files, and still ended up with only about 100MB of available free space. This may end up being a bigger issue on the TomTom because, unlike the Nuvi, there is no ability to use a SD card to store additional maps, POI files etc. Anything you want/need to add to the 540s has to fit in the available internal storage.
The TomTom unit never displayed any problems which we would attribute to lack of processing power. Screen draws were consistently good with menus displaying without any noticeable lag and announcements being made without any 'clipping'. The Nuvi did display some of these annoying things however. Menu screens on the Nuvi often 'slide on and off the screen by design but on a number of occasions the slide would halt for a second and then continue. Attempting to run Topo Maps and TourGuide data while navigating through complicated interstate interchanges caused the 1490T to hang and reboot. Disabling the Topo Maps and TourGuides seemed to solve the problem as no further problems were noted. Overall we thought the Nuvi seemed under powered compared to the TomTom.
Only the Nuvi 1490T supported Bluetooth. It paired with all 3 of our cell phones (one Samsung and 2 Motorola models) with no problems. Support was available for the phonebook on all of the phones but there were certain features in each that you could not operate through the Nuvi. Certainly the Bluetooth function on the Nuvi isn't as robust as it is through our vehicle's Bluetooth but with its larger speakers and upgraded software, it is very useable on the 1490T. That may not have been said for Bluetooth on older Nuvi models.
The TomTom arrived with a completely new mounting system called the Flow and Go Easyport. This mount consists of a circular piece incorporated into the back of the 540s. This extra piece makes the device about 1 1/2 times deeper than the Nuvi and difficult to store in your shirt pocket. Around the outside of this piece are 3 springs that allow you to snap and hold the GPS inside a ring on the windshield mount. The mount is hinged so you can attach it to the windshield and then adjust the angle of the 540s for best viewing. We found the new mount easy enough to snap the GPS into and to find a good angle to view the screen but it did take some practice before we were comfortable that the TomTom wasn't going to come crashing to the floor. We did find an issue with the hinged windshield mounts however. The GPS ends up "hanging" from the circular holding ring which holds it fine but allows it to shake as we travelled over rough roads. At times the shaking was so bad we had trouble reading the map detail.
The Nuvi 1490T uses the same type of mount that all Nuvi models have used. The cradle that holds the 1490 is specific to the 1xxx models but the windshield mount itself is generic to all Nuvi's. In our case we used the cradle but installed it into a beanbag mount that sat on the dashboard. This was the only way we could reach the 2 units from the driver’s position.
Neither of the devices uses a "powered" mount and therefore both need the power cable to be inserted into the device itself, on the back of the Nuvi and on the bottom of the 540s.
Using GPS while attached to PC
Both the TomTom and Nuvi provide a USB cable which is required to attach the GPS to a PC/MAC. With the Nuvi simply attaching the device to your computer will put it into "USB Mode" where the device will be seen by the PC as a removable disk drive and you will be able to add and delete files from the 1490's internal storage drive but not use it as a GPS. With the TomTom, attaching it to you PC will result in a screen being presented asking whether you want to attach to your computer (USB mode) or whether you want to use it as a GPS to plot a route to a destination etc. TomTom's approach is much better than Garmin's which forces you to go through all kinds of things, depending on the model, in order to use the Nuvi as a GPS while attached to your PC/MAC.
Another thing we liked about how TomTom deals with the 540s attached to the PC is the ability to shut the GPS off and have its battery continue to charge through the USB cable. Although the 1490T will charge through the USB cable the device must be turned on. It cannot be turned off while connected to the PC.
For GPS users that wish to maintain logs showing were they have travelled with their unit only the Nuvi 1490T will provide this function. The Nuvi has a trip log feature that can be turned on and off through the menu system. The trip log is a file of up to 10000 'breadcrumb" points which are established as you travel with your 1490. Once the file reaches 10000 points, older data is replaced by newer points so it is important to move the written logs to your PC regularly in order to maintain them. In addition the 1490 has a full logging feature available through the diagnostic screens. This allows a user to maintain logs in GPX format and create output to places like Google Earth showing the routes they have taken. These log files are stored on the Nuvi's internal storage drive and the size and number of logs is limited only by the available free space on this storage.
The TomTom GPS systems offer no track logging but there are some third party tools that can enable it, see TomTom GPS Add-Ons : Tripmaster and Offroad v3 for Navcore 9 for more details.
It is our feeling that there are no two people that are going to use, or want the same thing from their GPS. What this comparison hopefully has given you is some insight into the features and abilities of these 2 fine GPS units so that you may be better equipped to make an informed purchase decision.
We feel that you will probably be very happy with either the TomTom 540s or the Nuvi 1490T. They are both excellent units. What your decision will probably boil down is:
The TomTom XXL 540s will probably be better for you if you want
- A more completely customizable interface
- To be able to update your current maps with user inputted changes or make changes as you find them and report those things so that others can use them.
- TTS isn’t as important to you as other GPS features.
- Junction views would be something that would be of assistance when you are driving in large metropolitan areas.
The nuvi 1490T would probably be better for you if you want
- A unit that has a simple, clean user interface with only a few options to deal with.
- A clear easily readable screen and excellent sound under all conditions.
- To use the maps supplied with your unit and only update them on no more than on an approximate quarterly basis.
- A clear understandable TTS voice under all conditions.
- Bluetooth compatibility with your cell phone
- Ability to add additional maps, custom POIs, etc. using the additional space available on an SD memory card (no memory slot on the TomTom XXL)
Hopefully you have found this comparison helpful and we have made your GPS buying decision a little easier. Again we thank you for all the kind words and encouragement, and hopefully we can do it again in the future.
If you have any further questions we’d be happy to attempt to answer them for you in the comparison topic in the forums.