Friday, December 29, 2006

Gadget of the Week #7

Tis the season... to get new gadgets and this season was definitely not one to complain about. The top of the list:

The Garmin Nuvi 660 GPS Device


I bought the Garmin Street Pilot 2720 last year for my wife for Christmas and she really liked it, so we looked around for one for me.

The Nuvi 660 stood out for many reasons, not the least of which was:

  • It's portable (battery powered) so I can use it for walking trips as well as driving -- very useful for my many Liberty Alliance meetings around the world.
  • I can get European maps for it as well. This past October, I rented a car in the UK and paid £10/day (total of £50 or about $100 for the trip) -- this will make that expenditure unnecessary -- and having a GPS certainly made driving there much, much easier.
  • We were very happy with the quality and interface on the StreetPilot and so felt very comfortable staying in the Garmin line.

There were other reasons as well, but those were the driving factors.

We tested it this week on our typical Christmas trip up to New York to visit with my parents. The device worked great.. Particular charms include:

  • The selection of voices are excellent. I especially like Emily (British accent) and Karen (Aussie accent). My wife was quite interested in the male voices, but for some reason they didn't do much for me.
  • The predicted arrival time was way more accurate than most mapping software I have used (and this on the first use, so the system didn't have time to learn my driving habits). We left for NY just before noon with a predicted arrival time of 4:57 and got there around 4:53 -- this with my not-so-typical lead foot. Similarly when we headed back home, the difference was only 10 minutes (and that was with a 5AM start and no traffic the entire trip.
  • The screen is extremely crisp and readable.
  • The voice directions are very understandable (other than a couple of times when Emily said "Clubhouse Doctor" for "Clubhouse Dr." and "va" (not "V-A" or "Virginia") route 15 -- Karen didn't seem to have that problem).

There were a few, minor, issues with the system:

  • The raw GPS information (most notably, the elevation/altitude) was not directly available via a menu, but if you clicked on the GPS signal indicator, the page was displayed -- took me a long time to figure that out.
  • Re-routing seems to place a heavy-weight on following the original course. At one fork in the road where it's about a 50/50 split as to which way to go, I chose to go a different way than the device had selected. As I continued down that path, for the next 4 or 5 exits, the system kept trying to put me back on my old path (and the arrival time kept extending, starting from 4:55 to 5:01 to 5:15 to 5:21 before it finally gave up and selected the route I wanted, which resulted in an estimated arrival time of 4:53).

As a comparison, I had a top-of-the-line factory-installed GPS system on my Lexus SC430 and the Nuvi 660 compares quite well against it. I would recommend the portable solution over the factor-installed anytime given the lower cost ($800 vs $2,000), easier and cheaper updates ($100 vs $400) and, especially, the portability.

All-in-all, I'm very happy with the Nuvi 660 and recommend it to anyone who wants a GPS system for their car. I will certainly enjoy riding around with Karen.

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George Fletcher said...

So my question is... does it track you while you walk around and show you where you've been? I've been looking at the Magellan Crossover (aka 2500T) because of its "offroad" capabilities. Being able to geo-tag my digital photos is a feature I'm looking for.

Conor P. Cahill said...

I haven't found any explicit support for geotagging or tracking.