If the success of 5-inch, 6-inch and 7-inch GPS navigators is any indication, it looks like people love big GPS devices. The same goes with smartphones too and they are fairly reliable as car GPS devices although they can be quite pricey and you will still need to purchase a special car mount for the phone. Big names in the GPS industry are responding by making large general purpose GPS devices that are not ridiculously priced. GPS devices with 7-inch screens have been around for quite some time but they were priced higher and marketed towards truck drivers as these navigators came with features that benefit these specific drivers. Garmin is taking the large screen GPS navigator craze a bit further by offering their first set of 6-inch Garmin nuvi products. The best part? They all come with entry-level price tags including the most expensive variant – the Garmin nuvi 66LMT.
Not much thought has been put into the design of this budget Garmin nuvi device. It is rectangular, sports a bezel that isn’t exactly thin and has a nice big 6-inch display made of the usual materials. This isn’t the glass multi-touch screen found in more premium models but it at least boasts the higher 800 x 480 resolution resulting to better text and map detail and broader map coverage. It weighs about 2 ounces more than the 5-inch model suggesting that the internal battery hasn’t gotten any bigger. This explains the 1 hour battery life estimate so you need to keep the unit plugged in for lengthier trips. It also uses the same vehicle suction cup mount that recent Garmin products are using.
The nuvi 66LMT is the largest model of the Garmin nuvi 2014 Essential line and only member of the family that costs slightly more than $200. It also possesses the most features out of the 4 Garmin nuvi devices with 6-inch screens so it is important to get the key differences out of the way. Breaking down the model name, the first digit indicates the screen size while the second digit refers to the City Navigator NT maps that are preloaded on the device. Because it is “6” as well, the device comes with both US and Canada maps. This differs from the Garmin nuvi 65LMT which costs less than $200 but only includes map data within the 49 US states. “LMT” stands for “Lifetime Maps and Traffic” making the Garmin nuvi 66LMT the most future proof out of the entire Garmin nuvi 2014 Essential devices so far. Like just every other modern Garmin nuvi device, millions of points of interest are preloaded on to the navigator but the lifetime maps privilege entitles you to the latest official map updates directly from Garmin with no expiry and no subscription required. You are also guaranteed the fastest route because real-time traffic statistics is taken into consideration to make sure that the generated route avoids the traffic. If you choose to face the traffic, the device can give you an estimated duration of the traffic delay.
The biggest improvement that the nuvi 66LMT and the 2014 series brings to the table is the rehashed search functionality when looking for a destination. It consists of a single text box where you can enter an exact place or complete address and it works like it should. But you can enter a category or set of coordinates too so you can really head to a specific spot or find a list of places within a certain category all from the same search box.
School zone detection is a smaller but pretty significant new addition to the lineup. As soon as you drive near a school zone, two things will occur. A display prompt will be shown highlighting the school zone and an audible alert will be issued.
The last major addition isn’t exactly a new feature but it was absent from the 2013 Essential Line. The “Up Ahead” feature finally makes its way to the entry-level category making the Garmin nuvi 66LMT a more valuable GPS device for the price. As you drive towards your destination, you will see various icons depicting categories of points of interest including gas stations, restaurants, parking spaces and other important places that you may want to visit on the way. This eliminates the need to change the route to a restaurant if you suddenly need to grab a bite for instance. There is also a sidebar that tells you the distance from your current location to the closest POI of each listed category. The categories on the sidebar can be customized.
Lastly, the nuvi 66LMT comes with the staple feature that has always been present in Garmin nuvi entry-level devices – lane assist with junction view. The feature remains unchanged too as it splits the screen when you enter a highway so you can see the map view and a 3-D look of the lane complete with indicators so you won’t accidentally miss the exit.
The high screen resolution and large 6-inch screen are 2 fantastic selling points of the Garmin nuvi 66LMT and it is really amazing that Garmin managed to put a very affordable $209 price tag on it. It might not be the best GPS device for truck drivers since there are no specific truck features present but it can already be a candidate for the best entry-level GPS device especially when you consider all the new improvements that make the nuvi 66LMT more like a midrange performer.
Update: You may also consider these newer models :