Garmin Guns for GoPro. Again.

The leader in navigation is taking a second shot at action cams

Improvements in technology, functionality, and design make Garmin's Virb X and Virb XE a threat to disrupt the action cam market. (Courtesy of Garmin)
Photo: Courtesy of Garmin garmin

Last week, Garmin debuted an updated Virb action camera that’s far more capable than its predecessor. The new device will be available later this summer in two models, the Virb X ($300) and the higher-end Virb XE ($400). 

Here are six reasons why these new cameras may disrupt the action cam market. 

#1 They Actually Look Like Cameras    

The new Virb X and XE look like baby cameras—just like a GoPro does. This traditional shape goes a long way toward inviting users to try out the new product: after all, GoPro credits the friendly, cute, intuitive camera design more than any tech specs with its early success.       

Previously, Sony, Garmin, and even Contour made tube-shaped cameras that looked more like camcorders than a point-and-shoot. With the two new products, Garmin finally recognizes that if its want to compete with GoPro at its own game, it’ll have to play just like the reigning champ. 

Unlike the original Virb model, the Virb X and Virb XE actually look like little cameras. (Courtesy of Garmin)

#2 Onboard Sensors Enrich Video

While Garmin didn’t release the official number, both the Virb X and XE come with “several” built-in sensors. The company’s calling the entire collection data “G-Metrix.” 

You can connect additional sensors via ANT+ (as you could with the old Virb), or via Bluetooth or WiFi. This lets you overlay metrics—be it wattage or heart rate or GPS positioning—onto your footage if you connect the camera to a device (like a smartphone) with an accelerometer and gyro. 

#3 The App Is Great

Like the original Virb, the new cameras will have built-in color screens to let users view footage. Unlike the original Virb, the cameras will also pair with a cool new app, called Virb Mobile, that lets users see what they’re shooting, control multiple cameras, and adjust settings on the fly. 

The app will also display G-Metrix data and overlay the data on the footage. Quick edits—like cutting out a short clip and sharing it on social—are also possible on Virb Mobile. And so long as the GPS is enabled on the camera, the app lets you find your VIRB X or XE if you lose it. 

#4 Video and Sound Quality Are High

The old Virb maxed out at shooting 1080p at 30 frames per second. The new Virb XE shoots 1440p at 30fps and 1080p at 60fps, with onboard stabilization—which puts is right inline with the GoPro Hero4 Silver. The lower-end Virb X is a slight step down, shooting 1080p at 30fps. Virb XE gets tighter control over white balance, sharpness, color pre-sets, exposure, and ISO than the X version. 

The XE doesn’t shoot 4K video like the GoPro Hero4 Black or Sony 4K action cam do, but it also costs $100 less than either of those competitors. And face it: most people don’t need such a high resolution.    

The upgraded cameras come with a clever new sound feature—Bluetooth audio connectivity. Pair a Bluetooth headset with the device, and your voice-over will come through much more clearly than if you were relying on on-board mics.

#5 No External Case Required

While the old Virb was waterproof up to about three feet without a case, the updated version is fully waterproof up to 164 feet. 

#6 Auto Edit Mode

Garmin now offers auto-edit functionality for its desktop software: it scans your footage for the best shots and then creates a short edit. Manual editing is also possible. 

Note: if you use multiple cameras, the software can analyze GPS waypoints from multiple angles and automatically sequence the footage in the order it happened.  

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