I've been using GPS devices in one way or another for several years but I've never owned one. Most of the ones I've used have come with car rentals or have belonged to friends. I've been thinking of buying my own for at least a year or two but have always managed to talk myself out of it. This year though, my wife and I decided to get one. As always I did a ton of research weighing desired features against available units and there pricing. I decided to get the Garmin Nuvi 760. What follows is a short list of the features I really like after having used my Nuvi for over a month. This list is by no means a comprehensive list of features and is in no particular order.
Garmin Nuvi 760
One of the Nuvi 760 features that's making this blog post possible is it's ability to take screenshots. I've used this several different times over the last few months for various reasons. By default the unit does not have screenshots enabled. If you go to the Display settings you can enable screenshots which causes a small camera icon to appear in different corners of the screen. Pressing the icon will save a screenshot to the on board memory (and perhaps an external SD memory card if one is plugged in).
To retrieve the screenshots, which are stored in bitmap format, you plug in the supplied mini USB cable and mount the Nuvi to your Mac or Windows computer. The screenshots are stored in the scrn folder.
Traffic and Hazard Avoidance
One of the best features of the Nuvi 760 is traffic avoidance. After all, you bought a GPS to help you navigation from one location to another, why not get there in record time? The Nuvi 700 series (and perhaps previous Nuvi units) aggregates data from all Nuvi users in your area to help navigate you around accidents, construction, or other delays. If someone is caught it traffic their location and delay information is sent to Garmin so everyone else in the area benefits. You can set preferences on what type of things you want to avoid (traffic, highways, construction, etc.) and when something is in your way a little road sign icon will show up displaying the delay in minutes.
I found this feature to be quite useful during a recent bout of snow. Whether the delays were actually from the snow or the horrible Nashville drivers is anyones guess. Regardless, I was shown a 2 minute delay. Pressing the road sign changes the screen to a larger map view where you can see what part of your route is affected. In the screenshot above, I was driving south towards interstate 40. The 2 minute delay was on I-40 between me and my office. On this same screen is an Avoid button you can press to be routed around any problems.
Many of the Garmin GPS units support custom vehicle icons including the Nuvi 700 series. Garmin has a page on their site where you can download vehicle icons, but I'm not sure if you can make your own. The images are in a special format with a file extension I'm not familiar with. After downloading a single icon or icon pack you simply drag and drop the files to the right folder on your GPS (which obviously must be connected to your computer). To select a downloaded icon go to the Map preferences screen and select the option to choose a different vehicle. A screen like the two above will appear allowing you to preview all loaded vehicle icons. Since I ride motorcycles I like to select a bike icon when I'm riding around town or on trips.
In addition to vehicle icons Garmin allows you to customize the voice used to navigate your route way points. I'm quite fond of the built-in Australian voices but you can also download voices from Garmin's site.
Bluetooth has proliferated just about every type of mobile device these days except for GPS. Most Bluetooth-enabled GPS devices are high-end models that are quite expensive. The Nuvi 760 sits somewhere in the middle. It's a full-featured GPS without the incredible price tag. To enable Bluetooth on the 760 go to System preferences and select Bluetooth. You'll be presented with a screen allowing you to enable Bluetooth as well as configure a user-friendly name for your Nuvi.
I took the Bluetooth features of my Nuvi for a test drive and was quite impressed. It was easy to pair my first generation iPhone with the Nuvi and make calls from the GPS. But the features don't end in making phone calls, my entire iPhone address book could be navigated directly on the Nuvi. I was also able to setup the Nuvi with my trucks FM stereo system which directed all phone call audio through my sound system, wirelessly. Talking to my wife over the phone was almost like having her in the truck with me. I normally use a Jawbone 2 headset with my iPhone but I could definitely use the Nuvi with my iPhone if I were to forget my Jawbone.
Longitude / Latitude
Typical GPS use involves entering address information and pressing go. The Nuvi 760 also allows you to enter longitude/latitude coordinates and navigate accordingly. I don't personally use long/lat for anything but if you're one of the folks who dig geocaching you'll appreciate this feature. You simply enter the coordinates of your destination, just like you would an address, and get going.
Where Am I
GPS is all about telling you where you are and where you're going but the Nuvi 700 series takes this a bit further with the Where am I feature. Not only will this show your current longitude/latitude coordinates and your elevation but you can also do a quick search for hospitals, police stations, and fuel stations. This could be really useful if you find yourself in an emergency situation. You can also use this feature to find the nearest cross streets and to save your current location to your favorites list. I used this feature recently to save a favorite for the actual parking spot I use at work. If I entered in the building address the Nuvi would use a back road entrance to my office (that I never take) and show me as several hundred feet from where my building was. I was able to hone in my location using the Where am I feature.
Multiple Waypoints (Route Configuration)
One of the features that sets the Nuvi 760 apart from most other GPS devices is its support for multiple waypoints and route configuration. Every GPS allows you to pick a destination and navigate from point A to B but the Nuvi 760 allows you to completely customize your route with multiple stops. Going to Grandma's to drop off the kids before heading to Florida for a cruise with your wife? Simply enter both addresses as waypoints and start driving. I haven't had to use this feature much yet but it will without a doubt be useful on vacations where lots of driving is involved.
Speaking of driving vacations, the Nuvi 760 supports additional maps you can purchase from Garmin.com. My favorites are those from MAD (Motor Adventure Destination) Maps, On the Garmin site or madmaps.com you can purchase maps for a specific country, US region, US state, or my favorites, motorcycle rally tours or weekend getaways. My wife and I are planning a trip now and we are hoping to use one of the weekend getaway maps to enjoy some scenic driving.
If you purchase one of the Garmin maps for a foreign country you might enjoy Garmin's world clock. You can view the day and time in many different locations as well as take a peek at a world map and bone up on your geography.
Photos and Music
Two features I think are nice to have but probably don't get much use are the photo gallery and MP3 player. You can't take pictures with the Nuvi 760 but you can store your photos on the device and have them as backup. The 760 also has a built in MP3 player you can use as a standalone device (just plug in a headset) or with your vehicles stereo sound system. I carry my iPhone everywhere I go so I'm betting these two features won't be used. But, for less gadget hungry folks the Nuvi could help eliminate one or more existing devices.
Finally, GPS devices can accumulate personal data over time. Surely you don't want your home address, work address, and other info to end up in the wrong hands in the event your precious Nuvi is stolen. It happens you know. Fortunately, Garmin has a built-in locking mechanism that allows you to set a passcode on your GPS. Every time the unit is powered on the passcode must be entered. But here's the cool part. The passcode is registered at a specific location. Anytime you power on the device at that location the passcode doesn't have to be entered (you do have to wait 30 seconds or so for the passcode screen to disappear). Lastly, if you forget your passcode all is not lost. You just need to return to the location where the passcode was stored, power on the device and set a new passcode or disable the security feature until you get to your desired passcode location.
All-in-all I've been very happy with my Garmin Nuvi 760. I give it 5 out of 5 stars for all the features it has at its relatively low price point. Sure you can buy lots of GPS devices cheaper but none that have all the features offered by the Nuvi 760. If for some reason you desire less features or more features, I recommend you cruise on over to Garmin's Web site where you can use their product selector to find the right GPS for your lifestyle. Safe travels!