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Garmin's Nuvi 660 is a good unit and identical to others in the 600 series other than for minor differences.

But one of these minor differences - the type of realtime traffic and other location data - is enough to tip the scales clearly in favor of the Nuvi 680 rather than this unit.

 
 
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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.

Part 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.

Not recommended.

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 review page.

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 choice.

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 when traveling.

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 accessories.

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 on it.

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 go one.

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.

Feature Analysis
 

Feature

Test Unit

Note :  Most information is identical to the Nuvi 680, only points of difference are listed here.  Please visit the Nuvi 680 review for the rest of information that relates to the Nuvi 660 as well.

Model

Garmin Nuvi 660

Price

List 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.

Review Date/Details

Unit was purchased and reviewed in June 2007.

It 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 version 2.80.

Inclusions

The unit comes with a very complete package of just about everything you're likely to need :

  • The unit itself

  • Windshield mounting bracket

  • Dashboard mounting adhesive disk

  • Car power supply

  • USB cable

  • AC charger

  • Carry case

  • User guide but on a CD rather than in a neatly printed manual as was the case with the Nuvi 680

  • Quick reference guide

  • Various other promotional literature

The unit 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.

Weight

The unit by itself weighs 6.7 ounces.  The unit complete with screen mounting hardware and power cable weighs 12.4 ounces (the same as the 680).

These are satisfactory light weights and make the unit practical to travel with.

 

Mapping

Languages spoken

The system can display prompts in 24 different languages.

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.

 

Extra Features

Integrated with real time traffic reporting

Yes - works with FM Traffic services.

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 Nuvi 680 review for the rest of information that relates to the Nuvi 660 as well.

 

Read more in the GPS articles series

See the links at the top right of the page to visit other articles in our GPS series.

 

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Originally published 29 June 2007, last update 02 Jul 2017

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 

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