In the short time I have had the Garmin Nuvi 660, I have to say that it’s the best GPS I have ever used. It has all of the features that make a GPS worth loving, and with its super bright widescreen, it really stands out in the sun. The slim form factor, at less than an inch thick, is great. For those who are familiar with the Garmin interface, this won’t be a huge departure from what you are used to, simplicity and ease of use reign. The integrated traffic TMC traffic receiver is a welcome addition that allows you to be aware of all the traffic issues that you can now avoid with your smart Nuvi 660 doing the navigating.
Garmin Nuvi 660 Features & Use
As with all Garmin Automotive products you are greeted with the easy to understand "Where to?", and "View Map" buttons. The Nuvi adds the "Travel Kit options", and with the extra real estate from the widescreen, it throws the configuration buttons over to the right side of the unit. (Top is set-up and bottom is for volume/brightness.)
I have to keep coming back to the screen and it’s 4.3-inch widescreen format. It is super bright, and there is NO ISSUE seeing what’s going on in the sunlight. Below you can see the Garmin Nuvi 660 widescreen screenshot with a screenshot of the Garmin StreetPilot C550 superimposed on top of it (I reviewed the C550 this summer). These are both full size and it should give you an idea of the real world implications of seeing more with the widescreen. Check out all the extra real estate, and you will see why this is a big deal.
The SiRF star III chipset allows you to lock onto satellites in tough situations. The flip up antenna is OK, not my favorite, but I can deal with it. The Nuvi 660 also features a built in battery that recharges and keeps you going for several hours (3-7 hours depending on use per Garmin). I ran navigation for more than two hours on one trip when I left the charger at home and had no issues with battery performance; I barely changed the battery charge status icon.
The Nuvi 660 comes with rock solid maps from NAVTEQ, and a sizable Point of Interest (POI) database that is easily searchable. The Nuvi allows you to search POI’s where you are currently, a different city, along your route, and your destination city. The last two are available if you are currently navigating. I took the Nuvi 660 to New Hampshire this past weekend, and needed to stop for food. I was able to search for Food POI’s that were along the route, pull up some fast food, and add it as a via point on my route. I was able to get directions to the restaurant, and then right back on my normal route to my final destination. That was great.
The Nuvi 660 also comes with MP3 and Audiobook capabilities. You can plug the Nuvi into your computer via a mini-USB plug and load the Nuvi up taking advantage of the approximately 575 MB of free space. You can also stick an SD card in the slot on the right side of the unit if you prefer. The Nuvi can play through its speakers, or through your stereo via its built in FM modulator. Now around Boston, and I would imagine that we are not alone; there is almost no space to find a good empty slot for the Nuvi to play on. So, the performance was OK. One thing that helped find a decent frequency was that the Nuvi has an Auto Tune feature that searches the FM spectrum for the best open slot. It did a good job and found the best possible slot given the crowded dial. When you have songs or books playing through the stereo, the GPS mutes the music to tell you navigation instructions. When the instructions are done, the music comes back on.
The windshield mount performs double duty as the mount, and the charging station/traffic receiver feed. It’s easy to mount and dismount the GPS with a small release tab that feels like a natural place to put your thumb when grabbing the Nuvi 660 off the mount. The charging cable and the mount therefore stay together. There is no place to put the charger and traffic feed in the Nuvi 660; potentially a minor design flaw. I might like to take the Nuvi and its charger along for the trip without the mount, but I guess not with this set-up. It’s a minor issue, and nothing that takes the shine off the overall performance and wow factor. In this mount picture you can also see the external antenna hook up located on the side of the flip up antenna if you need to use an external antenna because your windshield has a metallic coating that prevents your unit from getting signals. Along the side of the Nuvi 660 you'll see the SD card slot, the mini-USB slot and finally the audio out (headphone) jack. It is also worth mentioning that there is an audio out jack on the bottom of the mount that can allow you to leave the cable plugged into your stereo if you have an audio in jack on the stereo unit.
Traffic feeds come in via TMC traffic channel that is in most major cities across the US. The Garmin system here is the same interface and underlying technology as the StreetPilot C550, which is a good thing. Again, I thought that the traffic in the C550 was great, and the Nuvi 660 traffic system still is. With the FM traffic receiver plugged in, you are warned if there is going to be any traffic along your route. The small yellow diamond icon pops up on the screen and by tapping it you enter into a dialog where you’ll learn exactly where the issue is, and you can decide to route around the issue.
I was happy to see that I can now navigate to a set of latitude and longitude coordinates. This past weekend, we navigated to a cabin that does NOT have an address, but luckily I was able to plug in the coordinates and get delivered right to its front door. Another thing that I have noticed as an improvement is the fact that you can pan the maps. I LOVE this. With the map on the screen, tap the screen to pull up a couple of buttons: Save, and Go. At this point the Nuvi 660 thinks that you are saving a waypoint or a destination; well you can also drag the map to pan across the landscape. This is a big plus and allows you to see what’s up ahead or where you are in relation to something else.
When you are on the main navigation screen there are a couple of easy shortcuts to information that are big helps. The first is to tap the power key once, which brings up the volume and screen brightness adjustments. The second is to tap on the lower left part of the screen to bring up the trip computer that has average speed, max speed, odometer, etc. The third is to tap on the lower right part of the screen which when you are navigating a route, will bring up a list of turns with a map showing you the turn. If you tap on the top bar at the top of the screen when navigating a route, you will bring up a route summary that also give you access to an overview map. All of these are helpful when you are concentrating on something else.
In a run through of other things – the Nuvi has Bluetooth handsfree calling, is light as well as small (190g and 4.9”W x 2.9”H x 0.9” D), Garmin Lock – a way to lock the GPS to make it useless without a password, and preloaded maps of North America (or Europe). You can add other maps in if you want. The text to speech engine is a good one, and makes navigating easy when the voice calls out the name of the upcoming street.
Review Summary Garmin Nuvi 660
The Garmin Nuvi 660 is a great GPS unit, again, the best I have used. The combination of its slim profile, and small form factor, with its great functionality and traffic alerts built in, you can’t go wrong. You’ll pay to get this performance, but if you can afford it, you can’t go wrong. The Garmin Nuvi 660 is an excellent choice for a complete navigation package; put it at the top of your wish-list this year, you won’t regret it. Now a bit on pricing and should you go for the Nuvi 660 or what: If you are at all interested in traffic feeds, buy the Nuvi 660. If you buy the Garmin Nuvi 350 at about $600, then add the optional traffic receiver at another $160, you are right around the current Nuvi 660 price of $750! It's like buying the traffic capabilities and getting the widescreen and the Bluetooth capabilities for free!