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Garmin nuvi 1390 - "For the love of Jill"


Maybe not the best 4.3" Garmin, but Jill is there.

The nuvi 1390 is, said honestly, not a GPS I recommend because database searching is slow, touchscreen response isn't that great, updating maps via Garmin Express is really slow (USB 1.1 and not USB 2.0), and with modern map data it's absolutely mandatory to set the map detail to "Normal" or "Minimal", because if set to "More", map draw time slows down quite a bit.

Basically put, the 1390 is a product of its time as it was originally released in 2009 (as was the 1490 and 1690.)

However, there are a few really nice things about the 1390.

Compared to other nuvi designs, this is one of the thinnest even when compared to other Garmin models of the same screen size. Garmin really did this one right.

Legibility is one of the best for a 4.3". The backlight is great but also the color choices are great too, as what's used is slightly "warmer" compared to other models.

And then there's Jill.


For those that used Garmin GPSes before 2010, you know Jill. She's probably the first Garmin TTS voice you ever heard. And the 1390 is what I believe to be the very last model before Jill was kicked to the curb and replaced with Samantha.

Jill is decidedly very computery in her tone. But out of all American TTS voices, she's still the best one to use.

Why is Jill the best? Simple answer. She's the easiest to understand.

Jill, as computery as she is, can be understood far better than Samantha. And even though there have been several versions of Samantha, it's still never lived up to Jill's pronunciation.

Can you download Jill?

Yes, but you can't use it on any modern Garmin. Jill will only work on older models like the 1390. Jill is a standard voice included on older models, so all you need to do is get one and she will be there.

If for some strange reason Jill isn't there, you can connect an older nuvi to Garmin Express, go to the "Tools & Content" area, then "Utilities", then "Optional Updates", expand "Language Files" and then check the box for "English." Download/install that and Jill will be included. Again, Jill only appears on older nuvi and StreetPilot models, otherwise you will get Samantha.

What makes Jill so good?

Again, it's the computery nature of her voice. The way she speaks is very deliberate and a bit over-pronounced - and that is exactly what you want when driving.

Modern TTS voices (on anything, be it Garmin GPS or smartphone) all sound too soft and friendly. Developers think this is what users want. This is wrong because the softer and friendlier a TTS voice is, the easier it can be ignored.

Garmin did an unbelievably fantastic job with Jill, but mainly by accident. They made the best possible most-human sounding TTS voice but were limited to 2009 technology. It's the combination of great effort with technical limitations that makes Jill so wonderful.

When driving, Jill cuts through traffic noise while at the same time not sound like she's yelling at you or trying to sound overly nicey-nicey. Jill is just right.

For any developers making TTS voices, I'd tell them to go get a Garmin 1390 or 1490, listen to Jill and make the voice sound like her. Jill is a TTS voice done right.

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