The Garmin Virb captures crisp bright colors and boasts a commendable 3-hour recording time on one battery charge. But it also has some physical limitations. The Virb lens does not rotate, which limits possible mounting angles, and the camera is merely water-resistant rather than waterproof. Unlike most other cameras in the test, the Virb does offer the ability to capture still images while recording video.
Bright and Clear Video, With a Tradeoff Video was crisp and colors were bright during sunny longboarding tests, but at 1080p at 30fps, the images started to blur when I picked up speed. The blurring problem was solved when I dropped the resolution to 720p and bumped up to 60fps, but the video lost some detail with the lower resolution. When recording video with lots of action and fast motion, I found I had to keep the setting at 720p at 60fps. The still camera can be set to 16mp, 12mp, or 8mp, depending on the photo burst setting. The bursts can be set to run at 3 per second at 16mp, 5 per second at 12mp, or 10 per second at 8mp, and the time lapse set to 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30, 60 second intervals, and like the Ion Air Pro, you can take still images while recording video.
User Experience One of my favorite trends in pov cameras is the one-button on/record function. The Virb has a large slider button on the side that turns the camera on and starts recording immediately. The 1.4-inch display lets you view what you just recorded and adjust the settings via four buttons on the side. The screen isn’t backlit, however–it’s clear enough in bright situations, but impossible to read in the dark. Bonus points: ANT+ capability let me use my Garmin Tactix watch as a remote control. It felt very Dick Tracy.
Versatile mounting options Virb’s oblong shape makes it sleeker than the boxy GoPro and the sheer volume of mounting options gives it a similar versatility to its cube-shaped competition. Besides the standard bike and helmet variety, Garmin also offers a proprietary suction cup mount, as well as a shoulder mount and even a wrist-mount. I’m not sure just how useful the wrist mount would be, but you could probably get some unique angles while rock climbing. Downside? Unlike Drift Innovation’s and the recently deceased Contour’s oblong cameras, the Virb’s lens doesn’t rotate, so you have to mount it upright to get the right angle.
Drawbacks Besides the speed blurring at 30fps, our main issues with the Virb are physical. The inability to rotate the lens limits your mounting angles, and it’s water-resistant, not waterproof–you need to spend $40 on the dive case if you want to take it deep. Also, the lack of Bluetooth connectivity means you need another Garmin device if you want a remote control.