Voice commands in portable navigation systems: We had a feeling we'd be seeing more of this trend at CES 2008, and Garmin proved us right with the launch of the Garmin Nuvi 800 series. The series includes two models--the Garmin Nuvi 880 and the Garmin Nuvi 850--and both have speech-recognition technology so you can perform certain navigation functions with the sound of your voice. For example, you can look for local businesses with phrases such as "find nearest Chinese restaurant," and unlike the Magellan Maestro 4250--which we reviewed earlier and also had voice command functionality--you can enter addresses on the new Nuvis by voice. Now, the whole voice command concept is great in theory; it's an excellent safety feature since you can operate your portable navigation system without taking your hands off the wheel or taking your eyes off the road for too long. However, as I experienced with Maestro 4250, which also had the voice command functionality, you have to create a pretty quiet environment in the car (that is, no radio, windows up) to get the best results. We'll see if this is the case with Garmin's units when we get review models.
Of course, there's more to these two in-car GPS than voice commands. The Garmin Nuvi 880 ($1,071.41) has access to MSN Direct so you can get real-time traffic information, weather reports, current gas prices, and more. A three-month complimentary subscription to the service is included with the purchase of the device; afterwards, you'll have to pay $49.95 per year or a one-time $129.95 fee. The Nuvi 880 also has integrated Bluetooth, a 4.3-inch touch screen, and multimedia capabilities. The Garmin Nuvi 850 ($857.13) is much like the 880 except it lacks both Bluetooth and MSN Direct integration. Both systems are expected to ship in Q2 2008.
Update: The Nuvi 800 series does have text-to-speech functionality unlike what was reported earlier. We apologize for the error.