Yesterday I purchased a new Garmin Nuvi 660 portable GPS receiver to use in my new vehicle. So far, I’m going to have to give this little unit a rating of 8.5 out of 10.
Things that are fantastic about this unit:
- Garmin offers free software that allows you to load your own custom Points of Interest into the unit. You can then go to POI sites such as POI-factory.com and download free POIs to include in your device.
- This GPS device voice announces streets by name. Most others simply say “Turn left ahead…”, but this one says “Turn left on President Bush Freeway in 1/4 mile…”. This means that you almost never need to even look at the unit.
- The unit automatically dims the screen when the light goes down to save the strain on your eyes.
- Nuvi will connect to a Bluetooth enabled cell phone and you can use it as a handsfree speakerphone. It will even let you dial out using a touchpad, voice commands (if supported by your phone), or directly to one of the built in Points of Interest phone numbers.
- You can load MP3′s into either the available internal storage space on the device (over 600MB) or simply put it in a directory called MP3 on an SD card. You can then play them back while you are navigating and doing other things with the unit either through the built in stereo speakers – or you can broadcast them to an FM station for playback on your car’s stereo system.
- It will even pause MP3 playback when it makes directional announcements or when you take a phone call through your Bluetooth phone.
- Garmin offers an automated WebUpdater which noticed that my unit needed an upgrade and handled the transaction flawlessly.
- The boot up and satellite acquisition times are very quick compared to other GPS units I’ve used.
- The sound quality of the internal speakers is far better than any other GPS unit I’ve seen. The quality of sound transmitted through the vehicle stereo is good, and callers report that the voice quality through the speakerphone on the other end is quite good as well. Even while driving in a Titan at highway speed everything sounded fine on both ends of a call.
- The screen quality is excellent and the touch sensitivity is perfect.
- It is incredibly light. Not only is it small, but when you pick it up you expect it to be heavier than it is!
There are more nice features than this, but I’ll leave a little out so that future buyers can have a few pleasant surprises.
Things that could use a little work on this unit:
- It is almost unforgivable that a $1,000 portable GPS unit doesn’t come with a printed manual. They only include the manual on the CD and also on the unit if you plug it into your PC and look on it’s internal storage. True, the device is very simple to use, but if you really want to get the most out of it you simply need a manual. In fact, I’d say this is the most feature-rich toy I’ve ever purchased that doesn’t include a manual.
- The Travel Kit area on this device includes several extras such as the MP3 player, a World Clock, calculator, etc. Unfortunately you can’t remove unused icons. For example, there is an icon for SaversGuide, but if you don’t choose to purchase it for $50 per year you can’t get rid of the damn icon. The same goes for other costly built ins such as the Language Guide ($75) and Audible Book Player. Luckily the unit I purchased came with a free Travel Guide which is pretty useful.
The bottom line is that this is a costly little tool, but it can do a LOT of things to make your life better:
- Use it as a wireless speakerphone for your bluetooth phone.
- Play back MP3s from your personal collection while you’re driving around.
- Navigate all over the country with ease, even routing around traffic incidents.
- Find places to eat or things to do in the built in database.
In addition to the fact that the Nuvi is very feature rich, the thing I most appreciate is that every time I tried out one of the new features it just worked. I didn’t have to jack around with it to get it to work or anything. Nowadays gadgets that simply work exactly as advertised are rare, so this is something to really appreciate.
I give the Nuvi 660 a hearty thumbs up and highly recommend this to anyone that can justify the price.
UPDATE: Incidentally my first trip with this device, and the main reason I bought it, was to bring my new NSX home from San Francisco to Dallas. From California to Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and through Texas it never got a single turn wrong and inspired tremendous confidence.
This little GPS has also made its way from Dallas through Austin and all the way down to Big Bend National Park in Texas, and it’s navigated me around Pittsburgh, PA. So far it has proven to be more accurate and faster than GPS units I have (or have had) in my 05′ Nissan Titan, 02′ Infinity Q45, 02′ Acura CL Type S, or 06′ Honda Civic. Plus I can travel with it!