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Garmin Nüvi 680 Review

Highs

  • Bright and large 4.3-inch touchscreen display; lots of features; easy to use

Rating

Our Score 7
User Score 8

Lows

  • MSN Direct is sub par; no multi-point navigation; poor route redirecting
The Garmin Nuvi 680 is a solid choice for a midline feature-rich GPS system.

Summary

If you look up Nuvi in the dictionary, you won’t find anything, and on a traditional US keyboard, it’s hard to even type N ü (hold down alt, then on your numeric keypad type 0252) v i. Go ahead, give it a shot. But if you go into any major retail store that offers GPS units you will definitely find Garmin Nüvi GPS units all over the place competing as one of the best in car, on the trail or in the airplane navigation system solutions money can buy. Today we are looking at their 680 model which features Bluetooth connectivity and MSN Direct which provides real-time traffic data, movie times and more. The Garmin Nüvi 680 has a street price of around $399 USD. Check out our full review after the jump.

Features and Design

The Garmin nuvi 680 offers no real new design surprises compared to its younger sibling the 660 as the overall size and shape are the same. It’s 4.9 inches wide, 2.9 inches tall and less than an inch thick. The 680 weighs a little over 6 ounces, and has a nice bright 480 x 272 pixel touchscreen display aligned by a sleek silver trim. On the top of the unit is the power button and hinge for the GPS antennae. The right side of the unit has an SD card slot, mini USB jack and headphone jack, while the back of the unit has the mounts for the window brackets, reset button and speaker. Garmin does a nice job of not over glorifying its GPS units, while still keeping them attractive enough to not be embarrassed when hanging one of them in your 88 Camaro.

The mount that comes supplied for the 680 is a bit of a clunker, but still manages to get the job done. The lower black bracket fits snugly on the bottom of the unit and has a ball anchor for the window suction cup. During setup we were certain the ball joint apparatus was doomed to fail, but once we installed the unit, we were pleased to see no immediate failure. It still felt a little flimsy and with the right amount of speed bumps, you may have different results. The power cable has a proprietary end that fits into the lower bracket, then into your cigarette lighter. Not only does this supply power, but is needed to get the benefits of MSN’s traffic alerts by acting as the MSN Direct receiver and antennae.

Garmin nuvi 680
Image Courtesy of Garmin

Also included in the box is a USB to Mini USB cable, AC power plug, plastic disk for non window mounting and leather carrying pouch. There were several quick help guides included and our favorite was the Garmin Lock stickers. Garmin has a feature called Garmin Lock which serves as an anti theft feature. If a thief steals the unit, it’s useless to them. To prove it works, you can actually advertise that you have a Garmin GPS in your car and tempt fate. Rather, we suggest you give the stickers to your kids and hope someone doesn’t see you’re GPS when scouting for a 5 fingered discount.

Garmin’s 680 is feature-rich in all the right ways. A good GPS should offer text-to-speech capability, giving you directions out loud as you drive and the 680 provides this in addition to Bluetooth giving you hands free calling. The 680 has a built-in MP3 player that you can listen to using the integrated speaker or use the FM transmitter to beam your tunes to your car stereo. If you get a phone call during your favorite Rick Springfield song, the 680 will pause your music and allow you to take your call; when finished you can go back to “Jessie’s Girl” without any hassle.

If your planning a road trip, there is a feature called Travel Kit that allows you to access the Nuvi 680’s multimedia features and the optional travel related ad-on’s Garmin makes available for – a fee, of course. The Travel Kit is where you will find the following features: MP3 player, Audible Book Player, Picture Viewer, Calculator, Language Guide, Travel Guide, Savers Guide, World Clock, Currency converter and unit converter.

Performance and Use

The Garmin Nuvi 680 powers up quickly and displays a few warning notices that if you drive and navigate at the same time you could die (in not so many words). Once the unit was up and running, we were ready to hit the road. We were immediately impressed at how quickly the GPS satellites were located and before we left our driveway the 680 was ready to lead. It took us to our destination without a problem, but on the way back we purposefully took a wrong turn to see how it would recalculate our way back on course. We were disappointed that instead of taking a quick turn around, or a one way street back to our general area, that it wanted to take us about a half mile away. We tried this scenario a few different times to test and retest the redirect functions of the 680. After 3 tests of wrong turns we chose to take Garmin’s way of getting back on track adding up the wasted pavement we had to cross. In total we wasted a total of 2.8 gallons of gas. Using regular gas and by following the National Gas Average, that’s well over $12.00. By looking around for obvious re-routes, our errors should have only cost us a few bucks. Simple re-routes are common for GPS devices and should not be this labor intensive.

Gamrin nuvi 680 screenshot
Screenshot of the traffic route

The Nuvi 680 does not allow for multi point navigation, meaning you can only choose one destination at a time. Should you add another address, it will blank out your previous entry and perform the latest request. If this was a lower end model in Garmin’s line, we could understand that not being a feature, but for a unit in the middle of Garmin’s lineup, this feature was missed. Also, there are no Point of Interest (POI’S) on the map while you drive. Magellan offers this feature and for those traveling and looking for gas or a quick bite to eat, it’s a really great feature. The Nuvi does get you to your destination quickly and with the text to speech feature, it was easily one of the least worry free trips a person could ask for.

Garmin nuvi 680 Screenshot
A screenshot of the main menu

Garmin uses MSN Direct for its real time traffic updates, gas station prices, weather updates and even movie times. When testing for traffic updates, we found them to be non-existent. This could have been due to a lack of heavy traffic or accidents, but after looking for some bad traffic, the updates were either inconsistent or delayed. The gas station prices were off, and in most cases did not show up at all, but the weather coverage worked as promised. You do get a year of MSN service for free with the purchase of the 680, so we would suggest playing with it often before deciding on a longer term financial commitment.

Garmin nuvi 680 screenshot
A screenshot of the weather updates

We tried the FM transmitter in the inner and outer city limits to test reception and overall quality. We were impressed with the 680’s reception for all outer city locations. We did have some interference as we got closer to the city, then once in the city center, we had lost all reception. This was not a major surprise as it wasn’t the first time we’ve seen this problem occur on other GPS units including TomTom and Magellan. For most of our travels however, the reception was very good and the unit itself did not need to be extremely close to the car stereo to pick up reception. If you need a work around, there is a headphone jack on the 680 that you could plug into a car stereo that’s equally equipped. Not many people want that many cables running around their cars dashboard, but if you get desperate, you can’t say we didn’t offer you another solution.

The overall usability and intuitiveness of the Nuvi 680 is astounding and anyone with or without experience operating a GPS will be up and running right out of the box. The menu is simple to operate, and the screen is bright enough to see even on the sunniest of days. Installation only takes minutes and can easily be moved from vehicle to vehicle. The 680 comes loaded with maps for all of North America and would make an excellent travel companion for your local driving or long distance road trips when you need to rely on a navigator, not the guy sitting in the front seat of your car with a half eaten bag of Doritos.

Conclusion

The Garmin Nuvi 680 is a solid choice for a midline feature-rich GPS system. Don’t rely too heavily on the MSN Direct feature, and expect some challenges and wasted gas when redirecting after wrong turns. The MP3 player, Bluetooth and FM transmitter are all stout features that should be included in all GPS units in the future, but were thankful Garmin added them to the 680. We’re hoping that someday a Qwerty keyboard will replace the ABC keyboard that Garmin still uses as most people are accustomed to text messaging in the qwerty style and now expect everything tech related to follow – especially GPS units. The street price of the Nuvi 680 is around $399.99USD to $499.99USD depending on the retailer and includes everything you need to start navigating the road right out of the box.

Pros:

• Bright 4.3-inch touchscreen
• Lots of Features
• Extremely easy and Intuitive to use

Cons:

• MSN Direct is sub par
• No Multipoint Navigation
• Redirecting route is poor

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