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May 22, 2008

Garmin nuvi 880 Review

GPSmagazine Rating: 3.5 of 5
Buy this GPS from Amazon

Verdict: Speech Recognition That Actually Works

Garmin nuvi 880 Review

REVIEW UPDATE: This GPS model has been discontinued

Garmin's nuvi 880 can be controlled using speech recognition, includes MSN Direct for real-time traffic, gas prices, weather, and more, can navigate to geo-coded photos, supports multi-destination routing, and a whole lot more.

Sporting a new, dual-speaker design, the nuvi 880 is a significant update to Garmin's award winning nuvi GPS product line, and, all things considered, is probably the best GPS money can buy right now.

Note: Some sections of text in this review are taken directly from the Garmin nuvi 780 review, as in many respects the nuvi 780 and 880 units are functionally identical

Table of Contents

  1. Specifications
  2. Garmin's new nuvi 800 Series
  3. What's in the Box (Unboxing)
  4. Mounting the nuvi 880 in the Car
  5. Nuvi 880's Main Menu
  6. Map Screen
  7. Entering an Address
  8. Finding a Restaurant (Searching for POIs)
  9. Setting the Home Address
  10. Favorites
  11. MSN Direct
  12. Traffic
  13. Using Voice Recognition
  14. Creating and Using Routes
  15. Navigating to a Set of Coordinates
  16. Using the nuvi 880 in Pedestrian Mode
  17. Canceling A Route
  18. Saving Your Current Location
  19. GPS Sensitivity
  20. Routing Engine Performance
  21. Bluetooth and Hands Free Calling
  22. Using the FM Transmitter
  23. Media Player
  24. Garmin's New "Where Did I Park the Car?" Feature
  25. Games
  26. Pros
  27. Cons
  28. Conclusion

1. Specifications

The nuvi 880 uses the same high-quality screen found on the nuvi 700-series, weighs the same, and is only 0.1-inches wider and taller. The most noticeable physical difference is the nuvi 880 has two front-facing speakers, located on the right and left side of the display.

Also new to the nuvi 880 is the move from a non-serviceable internal battery to a user-removable, lithium-ion battery.

Physical & Performance:
Unit dimensions, WxHxD: 4.9"W x 3.1"H x .7"D (12.5 x 7.8 x 1.8 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: removable, rechargeable lithium-ion
Battery life: up to 4 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: microSD card (not included)
Waypoints/favorites/locations: 500
Routes: 10
Voice prompts (e.g. "Turn right in 500 ft."): yes (internal dual speakers)
Speaks street names (e.g. "Turn right ON ELM STREET in 500 ft.") : yes
Speech recognition (navigate with voice commands): yes
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 nuvi-800 Series

The nuvi 880 is Garmin's current top-of-the-line GPS, and introduces a new hardware design along with a slightly updated user interface.

Garmin nuvi Feature Matrix

Voice Recognition

Map Coverage

North America
North America
North America & EU
North America
North America
North America
North America



FM Transmitter


Live Traffic

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

MSN Direct








3. What's in the Box (Unboxing)

What's Included in the nuvi 880's Box
Figure 1: What's Included in the nuvi 880's Box

  • Garmin nüvi 880
  • Preloaded City Navigator® NT for North America
  • MSN Direct receiver with integrated vehicle power cable (3 months free MSN Direct service)
  • Speech recognition remote
  • Vehicle suction cup mount
  • Dashboard disc
  • USB cable
  • Quick start manual

Nuvi 880 & All Included Accessories
Figure 2: Nuvi 880 & All Included Accessories

Garmin nuvi 880, Front
Figure 3: Garmin nuvi 880, Front

The nuvi 880 has a bronze/gray border around the display, and an all-black plastic case. Except for the power switch on the top of the case, there are no visible controls on the nuvi 880. All operations are performed either via the 4.3" color touch screen or by voice commands.

Unlike previous Garmin nuvi models, which had a single speaker located on the rear of the device, the 800-series nuvis have two front-firing speakers, located on the left and right of the LCD display.

The nuvi 880 feels solid and well built.

Garmin nuvi 880, Rear
Figure 4: Garmin nuvi 880, Rear

The nuvi 880 has a user-replaceable, lithium-ion battery. The GPS antenna is located just behind the Garmin logo.

Garmin nuvi 880, Top
Figure 5: Garmin nuvi 880, Top

The power key is located on the top of the nuvi 880. Sliding the power switch to the left turns the unit on or off. Sliding the switch to the right locks the screen (so that no keys can be accidentally pressed).

Garmin nuvi 880, Left Side
Figure 6: Garmin nuvi 880, Left Side

The left side of the nuvi 880 is home to a headphone/audio out jack, micro SD card slot, and USB port for connecting the 880 to a PC/Mac. The USB port can also be used to charge the nuvi's battery outside the vehicle.

Note that all the maps and POI (Points of Interest) information is stored internally on the nuvi 880, so you'll only need a Micro SD card if you intent to load additional maps, or make use of the multi-media capabilities, such as the mp3 player or audio book player. Previous nuvi models used the more popular SD memory card (used by most digital cameras) rather than the smaller Micro SD card format.

Micro SD isn't as convenient as SD, since you're less likely to have an extra card laying around. As of this writing 2GB Micro SD cards are available online for under $20.

Garmin nuvi 880, Right Side
Figure 7: Garmin nuvi 880, Right Side

Garmin nuvi 880, Bottom
Figure 8: Garmin nuvi 880, Bottom

An external antenna connector is located on the bottom of the nuvi 880, as is the 34-pin docking connector. The external antenna connector is protected by a rubber cap, removed here in the photo for illustrative purposes.

Removing the Battery Cover
Figure 9: Removing the Battery Cover

Many customers will rejoice at Garmin's decision to switch from an internal battery to a user-replaceable, lithium-ion battery on the nuvi 880. In the event you continue to use the nuvi 880 beyond the life of the rechargeable battery, a battery replacement can be purchased for around $25.

Insert the Battery into the nuvi 880
Figure 10: Insert the Battery into the nuvi 880

The lithium-ion battery only fits into the nuvi 880 the correct way, thanks to plastic guides on the battery that prevent you from accidentally inserting the battery the wrong way around.

Once the battery is installed, slide the battery cover back on until it snaps into place.