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April 19, 2008

Garmin nuvi 780 GPS Review

GPSmagazine Rating: 3.5 of 5
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Verdict: Just like the nuvi 760, with MSN Direct

A widescreen display, preloaded maps, bluetooth, an FM transmitter, hands-free calling, and Enhanced MSN Direct service put Garmin's new nuvi 780 squarely into the premium GPS category. Sure, other GPS manufacturers offer similar features on some of their models, but unlike many competitors, the nuvi 780 manages to integrate a bevy of sophisticated features while still maintaining reliability and ease of use.

Note: Some sections of text in this review are taken directly from the Garmin nuvi 760 review, as in many respects the nuvi 760 and 780 units are functionally identical (the nuvi 780 is essentially a nuvi 760 with MSN Direct).

Note: Some sections of text in this review are taken directly from the Garmin nuvi 760 review, as in many respects the nuvi 760 and 780 units are functionally identical (the nuvi 780 is essentially a nuvi 760 with MSN Direct).

Table of Contents

  1. Specifications
  2. Garmin's New 700-Series nuvi GPS
  3. What's in the Box
  4. Mounting the nuvi 780 in the Car
  5. Nuvi 780's Enhanced MSN Direct Features
  6. Traffic
  7. Map Screen
  8. Finding an Address
  9. Automatic Map Scaling
  10. Finding a Restaurant
  11. Telling nuvi where to Search
  12. Setting the Home Address
  13. Using Favorites (Address Book)
  14. Creating and Using Routes
  15. Navigating to a set of Coordinates
  16. Using the nuvi 780 on foot (Pedestrian mode)
  17. Adding a Stop to the Current Trip
  18. Canceling the Route
  19. Saving Your Current Location
  20. Custom Vehicle Icons
  21. Routing Engine Performance
  22. Bluetooth & Hands-free Calling
  23. Playing Audio Through the Vehicle's Speakers (FM Transmitter)
  24. Media Player
  25. Garmin's New "Where Did I Park the Car?" Feature
  26. Where Am I?
  27. Currency Converter
  28. Unit Converter
  29. Language Guide
  30. Picture Viewer
  31. World Clock
  32. Calculator
  33. Text-to-Speech Voice Quality
  34. Garmin Lock
  35. Signal Reception Performance
  36. Configuring System Settings
  37. Keeping the nuvi Up-To-Date
  38. Pros
  39. Cons
  40. Conclusion

1. Specifications

Physical & Performance:
Unit dimensions, WxHxD: 4.8"W x 3.0"H x .8"D (12.2 x 7.6 x 2.0 cm)
Display size, WxH: 3.81"W x 2.25"H (9.7 x 5.7 cm); 4.3" diag (10.9 cm)
Display resolution, WxH: 480 x 272 pixels
Display type: WQVGA color TFT with white backlight
Weight: 6.2 ounces (176 g)
Battery: rechargeable lithium-ion
Battery life: up to 5 hours
Waterproof: no
High-sensitivity receiver: yes
RoHS version available: yes
Maps & Memory:
Basemap: yes
Preloaded maps: yes
Ability to add maps: yes
Built-in memory: internal solid state
Accepts data cards: SD card (not included)
Waypoints/favorites/locations: 500
Routes: 10
Voice prompts (e.g. "Turn right in 500 ft."): yes
Speaks street names (e.g. "Turn right ON ELM STREET in 500 ft.") : yes
Speech recognition (navigate with voice commands): no
3D map view: yes
Auto sort multiple destinations (provides most direct route): yes
Auto re-route (fast off-route and detour recalculation): yes
Choice of route setup (faster time, shorter distance, off road): yes
Route avoidance (avoid highways, tolls etc.): yes
Custom POIs (ability to add additional points of interest): yes
Hands-free calling with Bluetooth® wireless technology: yes
FM traffic compatible: yes
XM® Navtraffic (includes basic weather) & Radio for U.S. compatible: no
MSN® Direct for U.S. compatible: yes
Where Am I? feature (find closest hospitals, police & gas stations, nearest address & intersection): yes
Car locator feature (marks position when removed from windshield mount): yes
MP3 player: yes
Audio book player: yes
Picture viewer: yes
Configurable vehicle icons (select car-shaped icons for map navigation): yes
World travel clock, currency & measurement converter, calculator: yes
Touchscreen: yes
Qwerty or ABC keyboard (choose keyboard layout): yes
Remote control: no
FM transmitter: yes
Headphone jack/audio line-out: yes
Dead reckoning: no
Garmin Lock™ (anti-theft feature): yes
Motorcycle-friendly: no

2. Garmin's New 700-Series nuvi GPS

The 700-series nuvis are the most feature-packed automotive GPS units Garmin has released to date. Currently available in five different versions, the nuvi 710, 750, 760, 770, and 780 all share the same bright 4.3-inch display, have a built-in FM transmitter for broadcasting audio through you car's stereo system, and several other useful new navigation features unique to the 700-series (more on this later in the review).

The good news is that all 5 models will route the same way, so your purchasing decision can be based on the features you're willing to pay for.

The 710 is Europe-only model that has regional maps installed. The 750 lacks traffic and Bluetooth, the 760 adds Bluetooth, the 770 has both North American AND European maps, and the 780 adds Enhanced MSN Direct Service.

Here's a breakdown of the 700-series models and features:

Garmin nuvi Feature Matrix

nuvi 710
nuvi 750
nuvi 760
nuvi 770
nuvi 780

Map Coverage

North America
North America
North America & EU
North America



FM Transmitter


Live Traffic

Yes (FM TMC)
Yes (MSN Direct
Yes (MSN Direct)

MSN Direct










3. What's in the Box (Unboxing)

What's Included in the nuvi 780's Box
Figure 1: What's Included in the nuvi 780's Box

  • nüvi 780
  • Preloaded City Navigator® NT for North America
  • MSN Direct receiver with integrated vehicle power cable (3 months free MSN Direct service)
  • Vehicle suction cup mount
  • Dashboard disc
  • USB cable
  • Quick start manual

Garmin nuvi 780, Front
Figure 2: Garmin nuvi 780, Front

Except for the power switch on the top of the case, there are no visible controls on the nuvi 780. All operations are performed via the 4.3" color touch screen. If you look closely, you can also notice a small microphone hole along the left side of the frame. The microphone is used for hands-free calling (when paired with a bluetooth-enabled cellular phone).

The nuvi 760 and 780 have a black frame, while the less expensive nuvi 750 is cast in metallic gray. Garmin's 700-series nuvis share an almost identical physical design to the recently-announced nuvi 200-series (nuvi 250, 250W). Unlike the entry level 200-series, however, the 780 is equipped with a much brighter LCD display, text-to-speech, Bluetooth, FM transmitter, and includes an MSN Direct receiver built-in to the 12v power adapter.

The nuvi 780 feels quite solid in the hand, and the quality construction is obvious.

Garmin nuvi 780, Back
Figure 3: Garmin nuvi 780, Back

The speaker and external antenna connector are located on the rear of the nuvi 780. Most people won't need or use the external antenna connector, given the nuvi 780's use of SiRF's high performance indoor antenna, StarIII. Still, if you need to mount the GPS away from the dashboard or in an otherwise GPS-unfriendly location, you may want to use an external antenna.

Note that the nuvi 780, like other 700-series units and the 200-series models, has an internal GPS antenna instead of the fold-out style patch antenna used on the older 300 and 600-series nuvis. The built-in antenna means there's fewer moving parts to break, and also makes it easier/faster to dock and undock the nuvi 780 from the windshield mount.

Garmin nuvi 780, Bottom
Figure 4: Garmin nuvi 780, Bottom

The underside of the nuvi 780 is home to the mini-USB connector (used both for data transfer between a PC/Mac and the GPS as well as charging the battery outside of the windshield mount), and the multi-pin connector used when mounting the GPS in the car.

Garmin nuvi 780, Top
Figure 5: Garmin nuvi 780, Top

The nuvi 780 has an elegant 2-tone case, with a gray band in the center and gun-metal black on the rear and front. This gives the nuvi 780 an elegant look that makes the less expensive nuvi 750 look cheap by comparison (the nuvi 750 is solid gray, and doesn't have the nuvi 760/780's two-tone styling).

The power key is located on the top of the nuvi 780. Sliding the power switch to the left turns the unit on or off, while sliding the switch to the right locks the screen (so that no keys can be accidentally pressed).

Garmin nuvi 780, Left Side
Figure 6: Garmin nuvi 780, Left Side

An SD memory card slot is located on the left side of the nuvi 780 (SD memory cards can be used for storing photos, music, or additional maps), as is the headphone/audio out jack.

Garmin nuvi 780, Right Side
Figure 7: Garmin nuvi 780, Right Side

The nuvi 780 benefits from its clean, elegant design.