Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Garmin Nuvi 680 Full Review

...it has the ability to pull down information about weather, movies, traffic and gas prices.

The MSN Direct system will retrieve movie theater locations and what's playing at those theaters too, allowing you to search by movie or theater.

When you tap on the weather button you get a forecast for a city or town close to you. As the unit pulls down more weather information, the display will show you the opportunity for a weather forecast at most cities and the option to browse other cities.

You get a list of towns and cities near you and then as you continue to scroll you start to get a list of major cities near you.

MSN Direct covers about 100,000 gas stations across the country, and after doing a little research I found that the US has 121,000 gas stations, making for about 83% coverage of major gas stations (there are about another 10,000 outlets with no employees, making them, in my mind, so small they may not be worth considering; even if you add those, that's still an impressive coverage number - 75%)

MSN Direct Traffic on the Nuvi 680
This gets a little messy, and to fully understand the traffic area, you need to understand the suppliers of traffic data. The Nuvi 680 uses MSN Direct Traffic. MSN Direct uses Traffic.com's data (being acquired by NAVTEQ), which relies on road sensors for the most part to gather information about traffic flow and incidents.

The Nuvi 660 and most of the Garmin line uses TMC traffic also supplied over the FM band by ClearChannel communications. The data is fed by Inrix. I have written a lot about Inrix, and their miles of road covered is superior to Traffic.com's from what I can tell. Check out how Inrix collects more information about roads that don't have expensive installed sensors; it's called the Dust Network, and it's pretty innovative.

Don't walk away from the Traffic.com fed MSN traffic yet. The data feed coming from Traffic.com tells you anticipated delays along your route, where speed data is given. So something like: "2 incidents on your route. 15 minute delay." I like this, as it informs me about what is going on and how much trouble I am in for. The trade-off here is coverage, for what is a pretty useful feature in my mind.

You can compare the coverage for your area at Inrix or at Traffic.com. At Inrix, just click on your city to see a what roads are covered in your area. At Traffic.com, click on your city and then on the Map tab to show the coverage graphically.

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