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New Garmin Nuvi 800 Series In Car GPS Sat Nav Range Review

Now Introducing Voice Recognition To The Garmin Range, Activated Via A Switch On Your Steering Wheel, We Look At The 850. 860 and 880.

Garmin Nuvi 850Garmin, Garmin, Garmin. Apologies for repeating myself, but I figure that how can I possibly keep up with the huge in-car GPS Sat Nav range that they currently have without just making boiler-plate reviews and repeating myself! On the serious side, with the 800 range, comprising currently of the Nuvi 850, 860 and 880, Garmin have introduced speech recognition, and in a way that makes it safer than in the equivalent TomToms.

Ok, first up lets look at the basic differences with the three models, then we can look at some of their more advanced features.

The 850 is aimed at users in the USA or Canada, coming pre-installed with Garmin's maps of North America. It does not have Bluetooth for hands-free calling, and although compatible with TMC traffic services (and MSN Direct) it doesn't at this time come bundled with any aerials, you'd have to buy them as an extra.

The Garmin Nuvi 860 is for European users, coming pre-installed with Garmin maps of Europe. It does have Bluetooth for hands-free calling, and does come with a TMC traffic aerial for re-routing you around congestion and queues.

Finishing up with the top of the range Garmin Nuvi 880, this unit is again squarely aimed at the American and Canadian market, coming pre-installed with those maps. It includes Bluetooth for hands free calling, and an MSN Direct Aerial, and 3 months free subscription to that service. (It gives your GPS traffic info and data about local services, listings, etc.)

So now we've got a rough idea about the different units, lets look at their common features, and how they'll benefit you if you buy one.

All of the Garmin Nuvi 800 series basically look the same. They're widescreen GPS units with a great colour, 3d maps display that is very bright. You enter addresses and data via the touchscreen, and that extra screen real-estate makes a difference for those of us with fat fingers who find the virtual keyboards on smaller units a problem.

Building on the form factor of the 200 and 700 series, the Nuvi 800's have a built in GPS antennae, so no flip-out one to break. Hopefully this won't lead to the reception problems that 700 series owners have reported, but keep an eye on the Amazon user reviews to see if this becomes a problem, before you buy.

Having written so many of these articles I tend to brush over how easy it is to use these type of devices, but trust me, it is so. Basically you can enter your address with Post Codes (in Europe) or your address, town, recent destinations, etc. The Nuvi has thousands of Points of Interest files pre-installed, so it will find you the nearest petrol stations, hospitals, cash-points, garages, etc.

If you're a bit of a road warrior and have to visit several destinations in a day, the Nuvi 800's route planning capability will be of interest. Simply enter a number of addresses and the Garmin will work out the quickest route between the, great for delivery drivers, sales reps, etc.

The Garmin has some cool minor features too. It remembers where it is when you take it off its windscreen mount (so you can't forget where your car is!), its got a built in mp3 player, audio book reader and several other travel functions that you probably won't use. You can also download games if you want to.

One of the most useful features is the FM Transmitter or modulator. This turns your Nuvi into a mini radio station, so voice instructions can be transmitted, via your car radio, to your car speakers. Obviously you can't listen to radio stations at the same time, but you can listen to mp3's, so its great in noisier vehicles. Just be aware that in some cities the FM Radio band can be pretty much saturated, making use of the FM transmitter difficult.

I can hear you muttering "What About The Speech Recognition!", well it activated via a remote that you fix to your steering wheel, so you don't have to take your attention away from driving. Simply tap the button, and chat away, ask it to find near POIs or new destinations.

I should point out that the 800's also have text-to-speech, which means that the device will read out road names, which is a great feature. There's nothing worse when you're using a GPS, and it says "Turn Left in 200 ft", and you can see two left turns. You don't get this with the 800's, as it with say "Turn left onto main street".

What else? As I said, the 860 and 880 come with Bluetooth for hands-free calling. Easily pair up your cell or mobile with the Nuvi, then when someone phones you, the unit rings, and you talk via the built-in microphone. Makes you legal, but make sure you check whether your phone is compatible.

So which one to buy? If you're in Europe, it's easy, 'cos there's only the Nuvi 860, but in the States you've got to decide if you'll benefit from the extra hands-free calling and supplied MSN Direct aerial for Traffic info with the 880, but if al you're interested in is the voice recognition, maybe you should steer towards the the Nuvi 850.

Comments / Questions:

: Can you tell me if the 860 or the 700 series cover the Slovakian/Ukraine areas.
Will they get me to Slovakia. Jovan.

Find which maps come on the unit in the country where you're buying it, then check Garmins map coverage website.

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