Garmin Nuvi 660 GPS review
A good unit, but the Nuvi 680 is better
This shows Garmin's
Nuvi 660 with its windshield mounting bracket behind it, and
the flip up antenna on the rear of the unit.
The easy user menu
choices can be seen on the unit's screen.
of our series on GPS - additional articles to be
published in coming weeks - see links on the right.
The Garmin Nuvi 660 is a great
GPS receiver. It has a nice bright screen with plenty of
pixels, making it easy to read, and with a 4.3" diagonal size,
the screen is larger than many of the other units out there.
It also offers FM Traffic
information, but our experience with this was massively
disappointing. Information was missing and/or inaccurate,
making the data either unhelpful or misleading.
As a GPS, the unit is priced
high and few people would be comfortable paying that much money,
and because the traffic data is a disappointment, there's no
real reason to consider this unit. The Nuvi 680 is a
better choice for people wanting a high end solution, and there
are plenty of other products offering better value and similar
functionality for people who don't want the real time traffic
and other data services.
About the Garmin Nuvi 660
Garmin has a family of four
current Nuvi 600 series models and two additional models sold
only in Europe.
The four current US models
are the 650, 660, 670 and 680. The differences between the
units are discussed on our Nuvi 680
Differences between the Nuvi
660 and the Nuvi 680
The obvious difference
between these two units is that the Nuvi 660 comes with an FM
Traffic data receiver, whereas the Nuvi 680 comes with a MSN
Direct Traffic data receiver, and can also support FM Traffic
data receivers too.
If you're in a part of the
US where MSN Direct traffic data is available, you'd almost
certainly find it vastly superior to the FM Traffic data, and
the wider range of data services offered - current gas prices,
weather forecasts for nearby locales, what is showing and when
at nearby movie theatres, plus the traffic data itself - make
MSN Direct, and therefore the Nuvi 680, your clearly superior
If you live somewhere
without MSN Direct coverage but with FM Traffic data available,
and regularly travel to places which offers it, you might choose
to still get a 680 and also buy an FM traffic receiver, so you
can get the FM data locally and the superior MSN Direct data
If you don't get any data
service locally, and don't travel a great deal, you might be
better off getting a less costly unit with no data support (eg
the new Nuvi 250W).
In addition to the obvious
difference between the two units - the type of traffic data it
receives - the Nuvi 660 comes with a slightly poorer set of
Instead of a mains power
adapter with removable/changeable plug tips for different places
in the world, it comes with an adapter with only the US plug end
And instead of having a
printed manual, it comes with a manual on a CD rom instead.
This in particular was very disappointing - the convenience of a
manual is close to essential when trying to learn how to use
something in your car and a long way from your computer screen.
And the only other alternative - to print out the manual -
causes you to end up with a thick clip of 76 printed out pages
that is nowhere near as nice as a properly sized and printed
manual with a protective cover on it.
Shame on Garmin for being so
penny pinching with a GPS receiver that they sell for the very
high price of $860. They charge a first class price and
provide a second class product.
Using the Unit
Using the unit is
indistinguishable from using the 680, other than for the
different type of realtime traffic information displayed.
I comment in the Nuvi 680
review about the inadequacies of the MSN Direct traffic data.
However, those inadequacies pale compared to the inadequacies of
the FM Traffic service used by the 660. It never ever
showed all the available traffic data on the map, and often
would completely ignore traffic on one side of the freeway.
Plus the data it would display was seldom accurate. All in
all, the FM Traffic service - at least in the Seattle area - was
close to useless and the information it offered unreliable and
often misleading. And like the MSN Direct service, no
information is given about when the data was last updated.
Garmin say the data is refreshed every 4 - 6 minutes, but that
did not seem to be consistently the case.
Perhaps this service works better in
other areas, but I can't understand why there should be any
problem in the Seattle area, which has excellent traffic data
which is published in raw format for free by the State Dept of
Transportation. So there's no problem with accessing
reliable raw data, but for some reason, it doesn't make it all
the way to the Nuvi 660.
Ken Kranseler, a Product
Manager with Inrix, the company that provides the raw data to
Clearchannel, the company that in turn provides the traffic data
that the Garmin unit receives, explained the reason for the poor
data in the Seattle area is due to Clearchannel still migrating
over to the new Inrix better data source. When this
migration is complete, perhaps in a couple of months, he said
the data will be much more complete and reliable.
Incidentally, Inrix is also located in the Seattle area, so he
knew exactly what I was complaining about.
There's another thing to
dislike about about Garmin's add-on FM Traffic receiver.
Unlike the 680, which displays status information about its data
receiver on one of its information screens, with the 660, you
are expected to memorize and decode a series of colored light
displays on the receiver itself. There is an LED to
indicate if the unit is receiving power, and a second LED that
can variously be green, red, yellow, or flashing yellow.
This is very insensitive to
the concept of designing a user friendly intuitive interface.
It is unacceptable laziness on Garmin's part not to add a few
more lines of programming code to the 660 - a unit with a very
high $857 list price - so as to show plain English language
status messages about the FM Traffic receiver on the 660 screen
instead of requiring us to memorize the various messages
indicated by colored light combinations on the receiver unit.
The Bottom Line
The Nuvi 660 is a good unit
in general, but its traffic data service is close to useless and
calls to mind the adage 'a little knowledge is a dangerous
thing' because sometimes the incorrect information it offers
could cause you to take what you thought was a sensible detour
to avoid one congested freeway, but in reality you might be
leaving a wide open freeway and instead detouring to a stop and
If you want traffic data,
the MSN Direct service seems vastly better, but still not as
reliable as web pages traffic reports.
If you're going to spend the
$570 (street) cost of the Nuvi 660, you're probably better
advised, assuming you're in an area with MSN Direct coverage, to
spend about $100 more to buy a Nuvi 680.
Most information is identical to the Nuvi
680, only points of difference are listed
here. Please visit the
review for the rest of information
that relates to the Nuvi 660 as well.
Garmin Nuvi 660
price $857.13 (what a strange price)
I purchased my unit through Costco.com for
$590, but at the time of writing the review
the lowest price now seems to be with
Amazon.com for $567.
Feb08 update - Amazon now sell it for $370.
purchased and reviewed in June
came with software version 3.70, GPS
software version 2.90, audio version 1.80,
and Bluetooth SW version 2.40.
After checking the Garmin website and
updating, the software became version 3.80,
the British English voice set was updated, and the Bluetooth was upgraded to
comes with a very complete package of just
about everything you're likely to need :
Windshield mounting bracket
mounting adhesive disk
guide but on a CD rather than in a
neatly printed manual as was the case
with the Nuvi 680
other promotional literature
does not come with a backup CD/DVD with the
map data on it, although it is not clear why
you'd necessarily need this.
by itself weighs 6.7 ounces. The unit
complete with screen mounting hardware and
power cable weighs 12.4 ounces (the same as
These are satisfactory light weights and
make the unit practical to travel with.
The system can display prompts in 24
It can speak
directions in 48 different combinations of
languages, dialects and genders, of which 21
support full street name speech, the other
27 are just generic turn type instructions.
real time traffic reporting
works with FM
The unit comes complete with a free 3 month
subscription to FM Traffic.
Note : Most information is identical
to the Nuvi 680, only points of difference
are listed here. Please visit the
review for the rest of information
that relates to the Nuvi 660 as well.
Read more in the GPS
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29 June 2007, last update
28 May 2011
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