Garmin Nuvi: Compare the Nuvi 350 vs. 360 vs. 660
January 2007 Update: Check out the comparison of the new Nuvi line including the Nuvi 680.
So a lot of readers are interested in the Garmin Nuvi, and asking what's right for them. "Should I get the Nuvi 350?" "What's the advantage of the Nuvi 360?" "Is the Nuvi 660 the best GPS for me?" Well, let's look at a quick review of the capabilities of the three North American models of the Garmin Nuvi.
First a little background: The Garmin Nuvi was launched with the Nuvi 350 as a travel companion, most likely figuring that only a business traveler would pay the $900 for the flat pocketable model. Well, a year later, Flat is in, the Nuvi has dropped significantly in price, and the idea that these are for travelers alone, is absurd. Anyone who owns a GPS would benefit from the flat form factor.
As a traveler's assistant, the Nuvi 350, 360 and 660 navigation systems have extra capabilities that step towards PDA-world: language translators, travel guides (Fodor's type guides to restaurants, etc.), calculators and currency converters. The language translators and travel guides are available for purchase as an additional option.
The Garmin Nuvi 350 GPS is the most "basic" navigator in the line, with a SiRF star III chipset, a regular (not widescreen) touchscreen, pre-loaded maps and points of interest, and the ability to speak the road names ahead. It is capable of getting TMC Traffic signals, but you would need to buy the additional antenna. You can play MP3's and audiobooks through the speaker, or through a headphone jack. These can be loaded via the SD card slot on the side.
The Garmin Nuvi 360 offers all the features that the Nuvi 350 has, and adds on Bluetooth capability. This allows you to make handsfree calls through your Bluetooth mobile phone without touching the phone itself. With a quick set-up, you can call and receive calls through the Nuvi 360 while traveling down the road.
The Garmin Nuvi 660 is the newest Nuvi in the line, and is a widescreen format GPS system. The Nuvi 660 also features a very bright screen that in my use stands up to direct sunlight so that you can see what the GPS has to tell you in the brightest conditions. The Nuvi 660 also has Bluetooth capabilities, as well as all the features of the Nuvi 360, and also comes with TMC Traffic standard, with a great little receiver built right into the 12 volt power plug. This GTM-20 receiver is not what is available for the other Nuvis; they use a bulkier system of a second plug in antenna in addition to the power plug. (For more on the Nuvi 660 - See our Review. I'll tell you I loved it; best GPS I have used.)
KEY THOUGHT: If you want traffic capabilities in the Nuvi 350, it will cost you about the same (or pretty close to) the current cost of the Nuvi 660. So, for the same price as a Nuvi 350 + the optional traffic antenna, you get the Nuvi 660 and its Bluetooth and the super-bright widescreen Free! You should do the math, as prices are changing all the time.
Which Nuvi to buy?
Well you have to decide your budget. If you don't have a Bluetooth Phone and don't plan on getting one, then the handsfree capability is not helpful; look at the Nuvi 350. If you have some more bucks to spend, the Nuvi 660 and its wide screen is great. The three big advantages are the widescreen, the brightness of the screen and the traffic antenna included. So if you find that valuable, trade up. If not, the Nuvi 350 or the 360 (if you have a Bluetooth phone) are great.
Here's the compatibility list for the FM TMC system. It will cost $60 per year. My belief is that this will save you time in traffic if you travel traffic clogged roads in these bigger cities, and $60 is a cheap investment in your time. It has already saved me time on the road, and I am happy to fork over the money in exchange for a few hours not caught in traffic.
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Posted by Scott Martin at October 8, 2006 11:28 PM
The Nuvi 360 has TMC built in, but it requires the separate GTM-12 traffic cable to be purchased. It includes a 15 month subscription for $116-$150 depending where you can find the best price.
The Nuvi 660 has TMC onboard and includes the necessary traffic cable in the box and comes with a free 3 month subscription. After that, I believe it's around $60/year.
If you want the option to add traffic at a later date, buy the Nuvi 360, but if you want it right away, get the 660. If you add up the cost of the Nuvi 360 + the GTM-12, it almost equals the price of a 660, plus you get the wider screen.