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Garmin nvui 660

December 12th, 2006 by Don Jones
 

Wait… what has this got to do with scripting? Nothing. But we’re geeks just like you (possibly even worse), and we like nothing more than a good gadget. So when we run across a notable one, we’ll share.

I had the opportunity to play with a Garmin nuvi 660 portable GPS – and I gotta say, I’m in love. I think Garmin gets just about every detail right, here. For one, the unit is tiny – a bit smaller than a paperback book – so it’s easy to carry around, like onto an airplane in your carry-on luggage. The windshield suction-cup mount is equally small, as is the power adapter. The nuvi runs fine on batteries for several hours – I clocked about 6 hours running unplugged – but the power adapter plus into a cigarrette lighter and then into the mounting base; the nuvi picks up its power from there. The adapter also includes an FM transmitter and a traffic data receiver.

The FM transmitter was a disappointment: I couldn’t reliably get a decent-sounding signal out of it into the car radio. The traffic data feature, however, kicked butt: On the way to Sacramento airport from SAPIEN World HQ in Napa, there was a bad pile-up on I-80. The nuvi detected it a mile out (CA apparantly sends signals when the CHP responds) and offered to route me around the delays. VERY cool.

The on-screen GUI is very simple and easy to use, even when… er… stopped in traffic, but not actually moving. Heh. It can also play MP3s; when it needs to give you spoken directions, it pauses the MP3 you’re playing. It accepts an SD card, so you can jack in quite a lot of music to take with you. The spoken guidance is language- and accent-selectable: I found a sexy Australian voice that I quite liked, although you can also choose from American English, British English, and more than a dozen other languages, most with male and female variants. Because nuvi uses a text-to-speech feature, it not only tells you where to turn, but also reads off the actual street or landmark name, which is very useful.

Nuvi also incorporates a Bluetooth hands-free phone option. You can select a point of interest (from its extensive, categorized, and searchable database) and call the POI using the built-in phone number directory. Or, dial using a keypad. Nuvi will also ring when your phone rings, and you’re given a great, big on-screen button to press to answer the call. The voice quality was pretty solid in a rented Lincoln, which was pretty quiet. MP3s pause while you’re on the phone, if you’re playing music. The Bluetooth range is excellent – my Cingular 8125 was in the trunk of the aforementioned Lincoln and nuvi had no problem communicating.

Routing was pretty flawless. I had one hiccup getting to SAPIEN World HQ, but I think I selected the wrong road – be careful when there’s a “North” and “South” variant of the road you want, for example. All in all, I quite liked the unit. Hmmm… wonder if anyone has ‘em on sale for Christmas this year?

http://www.garmin.com/products/nuvi660/

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