Sunday 17 November 2013

Garmin Virb Elite Part 1 - First Impressions

The very nice people at Garmin UK have let me borrow one of their new Virb Elite HD Action Cameras. When I received it in the post and opened it I was excited to say the least! There are two versions of the Virb. This one - the Elite has GPS, Wi-Fi, accelerometer and barometric altimeter.

Cameras like this have become essential kit for many cyclists. Some people - me included- like to occasionally record their adventures. Increasingly and unfortunately many record their daily commute as evidence against dangerous road users - such is life on London streets.

I should perhaps say, Garmin aren't giving me this camera (more's the pity) and have left it to me to review it as I see fit. I will provide an honest appraisal once I have tested it thoroughly.

The Virb Elite

The Virb marks Garmin entering into the crowded action camera market. I have a GoPro Hero 2 which I have enjoyed greatly doing all manner of recording but upon seeing the Virb in the flesh my GoPro is a mere toy. The Virb feels solid, well made and ready for action.

The Virb is very simple to operate. There is a power button, an okay/select button and two up and down buttons that allow you to go through the menus. On the other side of the camera is a large up / down switch that acts as a record button. Navigating the menus and the all important press record are a great deal easier that on my GoPro and if you have owned one, a great deal less  frustrating to use.

When I saw pictures of the Virb I was initially worried about the lens covering and whether it would be prone to scratches. Again having it in the flesh has allayed these initial fears as it looks to be very substantial and like the rest of the Virb extremely tough.

Large slider for quick and easy recording

A rubber flap on top of the Virb covers a standard USB port and mini HDMI port. It is from the USB port that you can either charge or download your pictures and video clips to your Mac or PC. The Virb Elite also has a few more tricks up its sleeve in this regard but more of that later.

Connectivity - USB / HDMI
The battery door (a very weak point on my GoPro Hero 2) is again very substantial. There is a full locking mechanism and the door itself has a rubber seal. The unit itself is waterproof. The battery is a 2000 mAh Li-ion and has a stated life of 3 hours. I will certainly put that to the test in the coming weeks.

Under the battery is a slot for a mini SD card. This isn't just a push in job but has its own little locking in and out slot. It can take an SD card up to 64GB. I only have a 2GB card allowing about 10 minutes of recording so I haven't been able to do as much as I would have liked. I have ordered a 32GB card and hope that it arrives soon so that I can really put this Virb through its paces.

The screen is a 1.4 inch chroma display. It was dark by the time I powered up the Virb and at first I thought that the screen was a little low powered. Taking it out the next day in daylight showed me what it really could do. The display is very clear and easy to read and I imagine that even in bright sunlight it would be easily viewable.

The 1.4 inch screen is very easy to read and navigate from

The Virb comes with a cradle that clips on to it. This is extremely secure and I could not detect the slightest of movements once it was locked in place. It a simple and practical design and allows for a much more stable platform.

The cradle is a very clever, providing a very stable platform

The stability of the cradle transfers to the mounts. They are not only more secure and easier to use than my GoPro ones, they are better! If however you have lots of GoPro mounts you can actually use them via an adapter that is included in the box.

With the Virb Elite connectivity is a high priority. A recent update for my Edge 810 now allows me to partially control the Virb. From my Edge 810 I can take stills pictures (up to 16 megapixels) or start / stop recording video. It does this via ANT+.

There is also going to be a smartphone app released shortly that will allow this a perhaps more using Wi-Fi. Because the Virb Elite is so new this isn't available as I write this but I will download it as soon as it becomes available.

Having Wi-Fi means that you can download your clips wirelessly which I am intrigued to see in action. Another feature of the Virb Elite is that it has high sensitivity GPS and there is even the possibility of overlying your speed for example on your video. I'm looking forward to seeing that.

ANT+ connection via my Garmin Edge 810

The Virb can record in a variety of HD formats and of course true 1080p. I have recorded some video already and will post this as soon as I am able. Ideally as soon as the 32GB SD card arrives I will be able to record a great deal more. Initial impressions tell me that the quality of video files produced are better than my GoPro. I will reserve judgement for the moment until I am in a position to record like for like footage.

I cannot wait to really see what the Virb can do! I was going to wait until I had recorded some more footage but being excited by what I have seen so far, I couldn't. It is early days of course but I suspect even at this early stage that Garmin in on to a winner.


  1. Looks like a nice upgrade from the GoPro. Thank you for the very detailed and informational blog, hoping you'll upload your new Virb videos to Youtube? - Jack

    1. Many thanks Jack. Will hopefully have a few videos on soon.


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