Sunday, March 18, 2012

Is MSN Direct the best traffic service?


Is MSN Direct superior to TMC / TTN for live traffic info? Jack Yeazel of the well-respected site thinks it may be. He recently posted on the sci.geo.satellite-nav UseNet group:

"For a couple of months I’ve been comparing these two traffic sources in the Atlanta area with a nuvi 660 (TTN) and a 680 (MSN Direct)…

Well here, MSN Direct obviously uses more of the traffic monitoring stations than TTN, resulting in a more-detailed display of changing traffic conditions…  As for "reality", MSN Direct also seems superior…

(Not to mention that you also get Gasoline Prices, Weather  Forecasts, and Movie Schedules (not available with TTN) for $50 a year as compared to $60 for TTN)… And pardon for "beating this dead horse", you get one year trial subscription with MSN Direct as compared to three months with TTN."

I wish I could verify this, but I live in a rural area, and the only time I get to test traffic receivers is when I go to the city with a review unit. I will say that my experience with MSN Direct has been superior to TMC services, though I’ve only had the pleasure of trying out MSN Direct on a nuvi 680 for a grand total of a couple of days.

All of this comes with other caveats as well. While there are MSN Direct and TMC coverage maps, that doesn’t mean you’ll have coverage in the areas shown. Neither service works for me in Sonoma County, California, even though the southern part of county is shown on the maps. And the technology behind the various services continues to change.

Jack didn’t get many responses to his post (just mine so far). I’m curious, have any of our readers tried both systems? What has your experience been?

Note: MSN Direct is included with the nuvi 680 and StreetPilot c580, and is available as an add on for the nuvi 750, nuvi 760 and the soon to be released nuvi 770.

Related post:

About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.


  1. Thanks for the review! I’ve been real curious myself and having a Nuvi 360, have not had the opportunity to try either: but I definitely need something. In the Dallas/Ft Worth area, leaving the house for work 5 minutes either way can add 45 minutes to your trip. I’m also curious to see how the Dash Express stacks up but we’re not due for another “leaked” press release until January.
    Thanks again!

  2. Hi,
    I live in the Broward County area of South Floirda. Traffic has always been a major concern for me since I am in the service industry
    For about a month I had the tmc network on the 660. I’m very disapointed. It was all false alarms. Today I brought the 680. Well one alarm was false but the other was true.
    To be honest I don’t like either one of these networks But at least with msn you get the movies and gas prices so for the same price I paid for both units at least you get better value with the 680

  3. Greg,
    Sounds promising. I’d love to hear back from you after you’ve had some more experience with the 680 and MSN Direct. Traffic services have a long way to go before they are very good though, that’s for sure.
    Please keep us posted.

  4. Hi again,
    As requested today I drove with 2 units the Nuvi 680 and the 660. I’m disapointed in both to be very honest.
    I drove 195 miles today. I can’t remember everything but what I can say is there are just too many false alarms. I’ll try one by one. 11/21/07
    Broward County. The 680 said accident by 595 and us1 the 660 didn’t mention it. There was no accident. This was around 2pm
    Going down to Miami the 660 said first accident by hallendale beach blvd on 95 up to IVES Dary. The 680 did not say that until I was almost there. This was after the false alarm in broward which by the way was still being displayed. Long and behold there was a major accidnet Where the tie up ended the 660 was correct. the 680 was not traffic was already moving after it said we got through the slow down due to the accident.
    In Miami 95 turns into us1 if you go south enough near kendle. during Rush hour before 95 turned into us1 the 680 said slow traffic up to us1. the 660 said from us1 to route 990 About 5 miles into it. Well the traffic was bumper to bumper before 95 turned into us1 and from us1 for about 5 miles. The 680 did not have that 5 mile streach on us1. and the 660 did not have the slow traffic before 95 turned into us1
    comming back from Miami to broward on route 826 the 660 said there was traffic and there was. After that cleared the 680 went off and said there was traffic and there was not.
    Getting a little frustrated with this I decided to extend my trip now we are heading into night time the 680 said there was vehicale on fire on 826 and 75 there was no fire. the 660 didn’t mention it. Further down the road on 826 the 680 said there was an accident and slow traffic well thee was an accident but traffic was not slow.
    Making a u turn now we are getting into 9 at nite both units were going off here and there about traffic and they were all false alarms.
    Conclusion Both systems stink. The 680 mentions more constrution and makes a lot more false alarms, The 660 does not show as much activity but also have the fault of false alarms
    In a way I feel bad because I like the movie feature with msn but that system is awful. Not that tmc is great but it’s a little better. I have a delema Do I return the 680 and just keep the 660 and take the 100 loss with the restocking fee. Or Do I keep the 680 Buy another cable for TMC and I can still have my ms direct and sell the 660. Tuff one to think about.
    I believe these units work better during rush hour better But to be honest the 660 had less false alarms and was correct a little more than the 680
    Happy thanksgivng and holidays

  5. Greg,
    Thanks for the report. It’s really fascinating. I think you’re right — all these traffic services have a long way to go. And I’m beginning to wonder how much of the TMC vs. MSN question is dependent upon what city you’re in.

  6. 11/22/07
    Well I just got back from testing again This time I wrote it down.
    At 9am the Nuvi 680 stated there was an accident on the Flroida tpk N near the saw grass expressway There was no Accident
    5 miles up the road the 660 said there was an accident by rt 808 which is Glades Road in Boca off florda tpk No accident
    I tuned around and went down to 95 and the nuvi 680 said there was an object on hov lane in Miami near the 112 exit near the airport and traffic was slow. that was false
    On the way back the 660 said on 95 again there was slow traffic again by glades road in Boca by the time I was half way there it was off the screen.
    However the 660 said 5 miles up the road there was a hazzard and a serious car fire by exit 61 near delray that was true (however no fire but bumper to bumper traffic) I think it was contruction.
    The Nuvi 680 said on the same road 95 that there was an accident on exit 97 rt 98 there was traffic to route 704 that was false
    This was during thanksgiving day. To be honest both sytstems are not good. TMC or MSN Direct. It seems as through that MSN Direct reports more but chances are by the time it get’s reported to you there is no more accident. Or all the accidents are invalid.
    TMC does not report as much But twice out of so many times between this report and the last there was smothing. And when there was somthing MSN didn’t have it on the screen.
    I guess it’s not terrble that by the time you get to the reported site there is no more accident but if I push the reroute button It takes me out the way.
    I’d love to keep MSN because of the other stuff but I do have a business and need the traffic updates. I am not saying TMC is the way to go but it’s the only thing I have now. Garmin is making the 700 series default to TMC with the option to MSN if MSN was so good I would think they would default to MSN Plus TMC has been in the traffic business longer. They use the same provider Inrix (thats what I read) but then why are there alerts on one machine that are not on the other.
    This concept has a long way to go. I’m not happy at all
    get the NUVI 350 no aggrvation

  7. Hard to argue with that advice. Greg, thank you so much for going the extra mile (pun intended) to test these units. Having both, you’re in a unique position to help folks make the right decision. I’m sure your info will benefit many people.

  8. Thanks Rich for Acknoleging
    I for me inside I hate Corporate America or maybe the way it works. This is why I felt a need to do this.
    I fix computers for a living and I see so much crap in this IT industry. The biggest crime there is when something is made to make things better and it turns out worse. Like this MSN Direct. Look at Windows (Same Company) more than 85 updates for sp2 and over 150 since sp1 was started. All my clients that have XP are being forced by downloading to use IE7 I get nothing but complaints Look at vista a new and better operating system Bull Crap. most people that are buying new machines are putting xp on. I found out from a friend that sells in a retail store.
    Bottom line You can’t trust the sales people, you can’t call Tech Support because they don’t know, No body knows what the companies higher level engineers are doing they won’t talk to you. So the only thing I can do (which I do for everything) and my friends and family think I”m nut’s because of the amount of time) is put everything of high ticket value under a microsocpe. You have to.
    Every Garmin unit I had from the 350 up was differnet ways. Some had a louder volume, some had a better picture, The 350 was able to tell if you were off the road the 660 didn’t unless you turn it off and on or went in far enough. All of these Gps had a hard time seperating the service road and the highway. I mean if you are paying 600+ for somthing it should work properly. But apparently Corporate America doesn’t think so. And better yet will put you down saying I’m too picky because they are too lazy to honor there product.
    This is why I’m more than happy to do this
    Have a nice day I must go for the turkey now. Even though I rather blog or sleep. Take care I hope my info has helped others and if I have time I’ll test more later on.

  9. Wow! Thanks for all the info. Hopefully, providers will improve their service over time.
    I already didn’t like hearing that you have to search out a FM channel to use & then another as the signal weakens.
    My question is….
    I’ve been itching to buy the 680 for a few weeks now but have held off due to price, technology and while it would be handy from time to time I really don’t need it until next September.
    Staples is offering the 680 this weekend for $499. Would you recommend getting it? I have not used a GPS before so I don’t want to go cold (out of the box) next Sept.
    There will probably be new models by then but they will most likely be $800 again.
    I really need a reliable, easy to use device for getting to totally unfamiliar destinations. The POI database is also something I might use.
    What do you think?
    Thanks again/Mike K

  10. Mike, that’s a tough call. I think you’ll love having a GPS and would be very happy with the 680. If traffic services are very important, you might want to wait though. Ten months is a long time in this technology. Dash Navigation (see my category list in the left sidebar) will have some disruptive technology out re: traffic in Q1 2008. Might be worth the wait.

  11. Thanks Rich. I think I’ll wait.

  12. The 680 GPS was a great unit execpt for the traffic. It’s the same exact unit as the 660 execpt that the 660 uses tmc and 680 uses msn direct.
    One thing you might want to consider. msn direct has a year free subcription and might have updates later on down the line. tmc has a 3 month free subcription then it’s 60 per year.
    So if you want gas prices weather (not complete for the whole nation alabama was on there but not NYC) and maybe they will improove the traffic go for it. However if you just want a GPS and want the same size screen go with the 660 if you can live without the larger screen go with the nuvi 350 I’ve had all of them and now I rid of my 680 and using my 660 ( my 350 got stollen)

  13. I am shopping for my first car GPS. After reading a lot of reviews, I like the Garman Nuvi series, particularly the widescreen models. I do not need preloaded maps of anywhere other than North America, but I want turn by street name, Bluetooth, FM transmitter and some sort of traffic warning system. I am deciding between the Nuvi 660, 680, and 760 all of which have my features so it comes down to price and type of traffic receiver. (Routes and auto sort multiple destinations on the 760 would be okay but I am not ready to spend much more money for those features). As far as I can tell:
    • the 660 comes with the TMC Traffic receiver and is not MSN Direct compatible;
    • the 680 comes with MSN direct receiver and is TMC traffic receiver compatible with the purchase of a TMC traffic receiver;
    • the 760 comes with TMC traffic receiver and is MSN Direct compatible with the purchase of the optional MSN Direct receiver.
    Two questions.
    (1) Not being a professional driver or traveler, is routes and auto sort multiple destinations really that important?
    (2) Although I have seen a lot on forums about TMC Traffic vs. MSN Direct as far as coverage, I have not seen the following issue. If I understand this correctly, after the introductory period, TMC Traffic is $60 per year and MSN Direct has an option to purchase $130 lifetime. Would it be better to even pay a little more for the GPS that has MSN Direct so as to take the lifetime option instead of paying $60 per year?

  14. dap,
    I think you’ve got a pretty good handle on it. To answer your questions:
    (1) Multiple destination routing is nice, but isn’t that important. With the 660 or 680 you can find your destinations ahead of time and add them to favorites or look under recent. It’s easy to do.
    (2) If you really like having a GPS, you may want a new one with better features in 2-3 years. So the “lifetime” may not be that long. Consider this also. The introductory period for TMC is 3 months. For MSN Direct it’s one year.

  15. No-thing in this world is accurate. I think we are expecting too much from these machines because behind them are humans and they make mistakes. The traffic reports are not going to be any more accurate than the traffic reports on the radio or tv. All that said I have a 660 with MSN live traffic and I am very happy with it. It has saved me on numerous occasions around Philly.

  16. The MSN direct service coverage maps are totally inaccurate. I purhcased a reciver with 12 months of the service for about $100, tried it for about 5 weeks, and concluded that I almost never get coverage even in “green” areas of their coverage map. I called and aksed that they simply deactivate the 12 month subscription so that I could sell the device to someone who may have better luck – they refused to do this. They also will do nothing to get the service working in the areas where it shows coverage – what a scam. I would steer clear for now. There are other similar posts related to poor coverage and customer service problems like mine.

  17. Steve,
    Thanks for adding that. I noticed it in Sonoma County, CA too. Maybe it’s a widespread issue. What’s that saying about better to under-promise and over-deliver?

  18. Neal Pressley says:

    I am trying to understand if the MSN Traffic coverage is useful in Garmin 780. I saw many reviews of false alarms but most of these posting are of 2007. Can any body who is using Garmin 780 with MSN direct, can tell if its useful? I want to know how many percentage of alarms raised were false and how many times, the rerouting done based on traffic alert was useful and saved your time?
    Neal Pressley

  19. Neal,
    I think this is very much dependent upon which metro area you are in. The best way to ascertain this is by asking others in your area with MSN. You can try here (, but I’m not sure you’ll get a response.

  20. I like гeading an article that will make people think.

    Also, thank уou forг allowing me to comment!

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