Garmin plays second (or even third) fiddle to TomTom when it comes to satnav in the UK and it’s hard to see why. The nuvi 770 competes head-to-head against TomTom’s flagship 920 T and it’s just as worthy of pole position.
The immediate thing you notice about the Garmin nuvi 770 is how slim it is, despite the fact that it has the same size screen as its TomTom Go 920 T rival. Its skinniness can’t readily be explained by a lack of features either - it also has a built-in speaker, Bluetooth, SD memory card slot and a USB mini-jack connector so you can hook the device up to a PC or Mac.
The user interface is a blast. You’re presented with just two options when you switch it on for the first time - on the left is a magnifying glass with a simple ‘where to’ caption. On the right are map and system setup options. Garmin carries on with this simple approach throughout its UI - you never feel bemused and confused like you can be with TomTom’s ever lengthening feature list - and you’re really only a couple of virtual button presses away from where you want to be.
You’ll also notice that the Garmin’s screen is much, much brighter than that of the TomTom Go 920 T: a genuine advantage when it comes to using - and seeing - the screen on bright, sunny days.
Proper Points Of Interest
As you’d expect from the price tag, European and North American country maps from Navteq are included, as are a very long list of Points Of Interest, many of which are genuinely useful. Want to find a decent country pub where you can take your mum / wife / mistress to lunch, your nearest hospital, petrol station or cashpoint? You’ll find it all here. Naturally you can also buy additional maps for other countries, which are supplied on micro SD / SD memory card from £50 to £250 a pop.
One of the big differences between this Garmin satnav and its rivals is that the nuvi 770 also includes off-road route mapping, handy if you like to, erm, off-road. The idea is to get you from point on road A to point on road B across country, suiting both casual Chelsea tractor drivers and serious off-road adventurers. We also like the fact that Garmin has teamed up with MAD Maps to direct you to your destination along scenic routes too. The nuvi 770 even includes a currency converter and a phrase book for trips abroad, again with the option to add others.
Out on the road, the nuvi 770 does a sterling job, getting us around our test route with zero fuss. The high level of detail on Navteq’s maps is also very useful, although it can be daunting at you’re used to the less detailed 2D or 3D drawings served up by TomTom personal navigation devices.
The voice of reason?
Our only real criticism is that the Garmin’s default voices aren’t quite so comforting as those served up by TomTom. The nuvi 770 has a slight tendency to bark orders at you, rather than gently suggest them. The default voice is rendered in a digitised slightly mechanical way at times a "you... are... approaching... your... destination" type way. Luckily there are plenty of other voices to choose from as standard, although there’s nothing any of them can do with the disappointing speech synthesiser.
Garmin scores over TomTom in another respect however - it actually gives you the name of the road you are turning into - eg ‘turn right on to the high street’ rather than the more generic ‘turn right’ or, worse still, ‘turn right on to the A-one-hundred-and-twenty-seven’ - one of TomTom’s bigger sins.
The nuvi 770’s Points Of Interest (POI) data is also better than that of the TomTom Go 920 T, which we also tested. The nüvi 770 had no problem finding the popular tourist destination of Bristol Zoo Gardens in a suburb of that city. The closest the TomTom Go 920 T got was its car park - and it only gave us that after a speculative name search - this is due no doubt to the fact that the Garmin nuvi 770 comes with highly-detailed City Navigator NT maps built-in.
Like the TomTo Go 920 T, the nuvi 770 also includes Traffic Message Channel (TMC) data to help you avoid jams, plus fixed and mobile speed camera alerts from Cyclops. Both are offered on a 30-day trial basis initially - you’ll have to stump up for a sub if you decide to keep using them.
And that’s about it really. Having not played with nuvis for a little while we were surprised how well the nuvi 770 fared against our previous favourites from TomTom. The Garmin nuvi 770 looks classy, has a bright clear screen, is phenomenally easy to use and works really, really well. And although it boasts many of the same features at the TomTom Go 920 T, its user interface doesn’t feel over-burdened by them.