GPS devices with 4.3-inch screens is still the standard for cars while the slightly bigger 5-inch models are for the crowd that is willing to spend a bit more to see more of the map or still be able to read the interface with your seat moved back. But things could change this time around as Garmin didn’t introduce any new Garmin nuvi products for 2014. The 5-inch GPS models look like the new standard while 7-inch devices mainly focus on truck drivers. But Garmin wants to tackle the rising 6-inch category too and the Garmin nuvi 66LM is a part of this new arsenal.
The Garmin nuvi 66LM steps away from the rounded design that many older models have and stylish design that a few current high-end models have. What you end up with is a usual rectangular slab with a reasonably thick bezel and the iconic Garmin logo on the bottom. But this kind of mediocre design isn’t a big detriment for 2 reasons: the entry-level price tag and the big 6-inch display.
A larger display usually means a lower PPI or pixels per inch making the visuals look more pixelated and jaggy. But that only applies if the screen stays the same and the Garmin nuvi 66LM breaks the tradition of entry-level products by having a nice high resolution of 800 x 480. Those that have big flagship smartphones may find this unimpressive but the nuvi 66LM cannot play back movies and games anyway. This resolution matches well with the 6-inch display and you can immediately tell by browsing the friendly user interface and seeing the vibrant maps. It also gives you more windshield mounting possibilities with the vehicle suction cup mount since you can place the GPS unit further away and still see the map.
The Garmin nuvi 66LM may be suited for beginner GPS device users and people on a tight budget, there are plenty of neat features to like. The user interface is very straight forward where you can simply decide to view your current location on the map or quickly enter a destination so the nuvi 66LM can generate the fastest route. It won’t be able to figure out which routes have traffic (get the Garmin nuvi 66LMT instead) but you will have access to the latest map information straight from Garmin. Garmin issues map updates when necessary to ensure that the destinations you are trying to reach are indeed in that location. All Garmin’s 6-inch entry-level GPS products come with lifetime maps at the time of this writing so you cannot make a mistake in choosing a good device. No subscription is required either.
You can really get a sense on how updated the maps are by using the “Up Ahead” feature which shows you the locations of restaurants, restrooms, parking spaces, lodging and ATM machines right on the map as you cruise along to your destination. It was a feature that made midrange Garmin devices more worth getting and it is finally bringing value to the entry-level lineup. Seeing how far away you are from a particular restaurant or hotel is simple as there is a panel that you can customize to show the categories you care most about.
Many people choose Garmin nuvi devices over competing products because the Garmin ones are much easier to use. Garmin even wants to make the experience on the Garmin nuvi 66LM even easier by featuring a multi-purpose search bar. This search bar works as it should by locating the address or place you wish to find so your route can be planned. But it is much smarter now as it supports coordinates and categories. Finding all the cool pizza parlors in your area is a lot easier.
The nuvi 66LMT is the device to get if you need real-time detection features on your 6-inch device but the nuvi 66LM is still capable in detecting other areas including school zones and junctions. The ability to detect school zones is a fresh new feature and it works by providing you with a prompt once you enter the zone along with an audible sound so you really know about the particular school zone. The junction view is an older feature that is part of the lane assist functionality which simply changes the view to a split-screen mode where you can pay attention to the lane you must go to without losing your position on the map.
While the 6-inch screen is impressive in full 3-D view, dual screen and even vertical orientation, the one thing that takes the big hit is battery life. The Garmin nuvi 66LM will last for about an hour because of that high resolution display so you should keep the device attached to the included power cable.
If you are not the type that really needs to reach a destination in the quickest time possible, you could probably do away with the traffic features and manage to buy an impressive 6-inch GPS device with full US and Canada maps for just $189. You can even save more if you don’t need the Canada maps by opting for the Garmin nuvi 65LM. Garmin came out strong with its first selection of 6-inch GPS devices and the better screen might be enough to convince owners of smaller GPS devices and smartphones to jump straight to the 6-inch ones like the Garmin nuvi 66LM .
Update: You may also consider these newer models :