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Garmin nüvi 680 with MSN
Posté le 31 mai 2007 à 22:53:19 par gpspassion.

Garmin nüvi 680 - HD GPS with MSN Direct

Danham, a moderator of our nüvi forums and experienced user of the Garmin Nüvi 350 SD GPS, recently took the Nüvi 680 HD GPS with MSN Direct, kindly loaned by Garmin, on several long trips to put it through its paces. Here is his review that will be of interest to newcomers and to existing Garmin users who are considering a move to an MSN Direct system.

If you have questions or comments, you can use this thread of the nuvi forums.

The newest member of Garmin’s widescreen 6xx series is the nuvi 680 and its hefty price tag is based largely on inclusion of Microsoft’s MSN Direct real-time data services.

How It Compares
As experienced during a three-week road test of the 680, the question of whether that higher price (compared to the 660 and 650) is worth it hinges on where you live and drive and cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. For those new to GPS or to the nuvi line, the 680’s menus and interface are logical and easy to navigate while driving, with the exception of the MSN data – more on that later. For those familiar with an earlier nuvi, such as the 350, there are a few “surprises” due to functions being moved to different menu categories, but nothing which will degrade the user experience in my opinion.

The 680 comes pre-loaded with City Navigator North America full coverage in the US and though larger than the 350, still fits in a dress shirt pocket. As with all auto-routing GPS, if you really know the neighborhood you can often find a better route, but its choices are generally reliable and easy to follow, with street names spoken through its speakers. Its ETA calculations are accurate, but some would prefer a time-remaining feature instead.

Cold and warm start times – both map loading and satellite acquisition – are fast, even with an SD card mounted, as long as that card does not contain a huge number of supplemental map segments.

Audio quality is no better than most small GPS units – I would never use this to listen to music – but the volume seems to be louder and perhaps a tiny bit clearer than on my 350. I did not test the FM transmitter function because there was no need and to be honest, when I did think to at least try it we were in a crowded urban area where
there was no clear frequency open.

While some users have reported “lag” problems with 6xx nuvis, most of the time the 680’s screen cursor and the real world lined up perfectly. The only exceptions were when the unit was attempting numerous recalculations in a complex off-route situation, such as a serpentine mess of off-ramps we encountered after taking a wrong exit in New Orleans during the road test.

MSN Direct on the Road
So the big question is MSN. I’ll reveal my bias by saying that I have no use for movie times on a GPS and because we drive cars which get good gas mileage am not interested in driving across town to save a few cents on gasoline. But even for those who do wish to chase gas bargains, the data arrives very slowly and is often incomplete or out
of date anyway.

The potentially useful functions – weather and traffic – are an excellent idea but poorly executed and in need of major upgrading in both coverage and design before I can recommend spending extra money to receive them.

The worst deficiency is that it takes multiple presses to even find out if MSN data is being received. Given very sparse coverage on our 3200-mile round-trip route from Cape Cod to New Orleans, this is a huge flaw. After three presses all it does is show you one red bar to indicate lack of reception. If there is data coming in, you see no icon at all and must press deeper into the MSN menus to see what signal strength is there (green bars) and whether the battery in the MSN receiver is charged. This design is illogical and very user-unfriendly and absolutely unforgivable in a unit which – legal disclaimers aside –
is likely to be used by the driver while underway. An MSN reception icon on the main map screen (perhaps replacing the music icon) would fix this.

When the MSN traffic data is being received and when the information it is based on is fresh, the service can be extremely valuable. My fear, however, is that absent a serious investment in improvements by Microsoft, there will not be enough potential customers to warrant beefing up the performance and geographical coverage of this service – sort of a “chicken or the egg” conundrum.

The weather information suffers from many of the same drawbacks, but can also be useful when it is working. Both MSN weather and traffic are capable of displaying urgent warnings on the main map screen, but getting from there to truly useful information about traffic jams is needlessly complex. Display on the main map might fix this.

Final Words
For this nuvi 350 owner, the most compelling reason to upgrade to a 6xx series is the bigger, much brighter screen. This alone is worth the price of admission, especially if you can find a 650 discounted. But if you need or want Bluetooth connection for your cell phone or the FM transmitter, then you will need to choose between the 660 and 680. I have not tested TMC traffic so cannot judge whether the 660 is a good choice. Forum comments suggest that MSN traffic alerts are better – when it’s working – and so the 680 might be a better long-term investment if you trust Microsoft to improve and expand the service.

If you have questions or comments, you can use this thread of the nuvi forums.

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