Setting up a Garmin nuvi 660 in 2022
I bought a Garmin nuvi 660, and wow did I learn some eye-opening things by actually getting one of these.
Before getting into that, this is how to set one of these things up:
- Understand that the maximum map file size allowed on either the 660 itself or any memory card (up to 32GB) can be 2GB maximum.
- Understand the 660 will only recognize two map file images. The first is gmapprom.img which MUST reside within the Garmin folder on the nuvi itself, and the second is gmapsupp.img which MUST reside within the Garmin folder on the memory card.
- Understand the 660 never had lifetime maps, so you have three options here. Either a) pay Garmin for maps and then use MapSource or MapInstall from BaseCamp to specifically create under-2GB map images for the nuvi and its memory card, b) use one or two (your choice) OpenStreetMap map images from OpenMapChest, or c) use the full United States BaseCamp map image from OpenMapChest and create your own under-2GB map images using MapSource or BaseCamp to send to the 660 and its memory card.
- Understand that for full screen brightness, the power cradle must be used. Powering it from the mini USB port on the side does not get the screen to full brightness.
It is not easy getting a 660 all set up and working.
However, once it is working, it is a genuine joy to use.
Back in 2006, the 660 sold for over $800. Yes, it was grossly overpriced in '06, especially considering the 360, a 3.5" model, was under $400 at the same time the 660 was being sold. In '06, a $400 price tag was normal for a GPS back then.
The 660 was not the top model as there were two others. The 670 had transatlantic maps, and the 680 featured an optional Microsoft MSN service (which was not free) to provide additional local travel info such as gas prices and weather. The MSN service has been discontinued for a long time now.
All three 600 series models had Bluetooth, an FM transmitter to transmit the audio to your car stereo if so desired, MP3 player, and Audible audiobooks. Traffic reporting was also available via a GTM20 or GTM21. You can still source a "lifetime traffic" version of one of those on eBay, however, it only works if you have Garmin-issued maps loaded on the nuvi. If it's OpenStreetMap, the traffic reporting doesn't work.
When used strictly as a navigator (meaning no Bluetooth and no traffic reporting), the 660 still works great even today.
The matte screen it uses is super-bright, back when Garmin actually gave a crap about putting in decent screens in their automotive models. It may be only 4.3", but oh yes, very bright and can be read in daylight without a problem.
Nearly every font displayed on the 660 is big and easy-to-read. Yes, there is a decidedly mid-2000s look to the UI (the PDA and Windows XP influence of the era is obvious), but the low-res screen and big fonts allow for better legibility compared to any smartphone and most infotainment systems.
The ability to send the audio out from the 660 via 3.5mm cable or FM transmitter to a radio frequency is amazing. And the fact you can load up MP3s on the memory card (all you have to do is create a folder called MP3 and drop the .mp3 files there) where you can use the 660 as the navigator and the music player seamlessly?
Very good stuff.
Because this is an early Garmin navigator, it is 100% nag-free. The only thing that could qualify as a nag is one agreement prompt on boot - but that's it.
A bit of a chore to get working, but once you do...
...it's great. Truly.
It is easier to get a nuvi 50LM up and running. No question about that. Getting a 660 working in 2022 does require some rather nerdy procedures just to make it work.
However, what the 660 has shown me is that in the end, it's all about the map data. If the maps are current, that's all that matters. The 660 is dinosaur-era as far as tech is concerned, but with modern maps, it not only works but works very nicely.
Using a 660 (or 50LM for that matter) also just goes to prove that simple navigation totally works.