Garmin has entered the action camera market with its VIRB Elite, which is capable of taking full HD video alongside GPS data.
Operating the VIRB is as simple as it comes. Even without hitting the unit’s power button, you can start filming just by sliding the main side-mounted button forward. The VIRB has a small LCD screen on top, which makes navigating the various menus super simple, although we’d like a little more feedback from the buttons – the outer rubberised skin is tough, but makes pressing the buttons stiff.
The quality of the LCD screen won’t ever match a TV or computer screen, but it’s good enough for setting up the shot you want and watching replays.
In addition to the LCD screen, the VIRB comes with ANT+ and WiFi connectivity. This means that you can control the camera remotely with the right app, or through your Garmin 810. Handily, many heart rate and cadence sensors use the ANT+ protocol, and the VIRB can collect and store this data too.
Garmin’s VIRB Edit software glues all your clips together, allowing you to crop, edit, add music and publish straight to YouTube. This is where the GPS and ANT+ data comes in, as you can also overlay this info onto the video – enabling you to show speed, elevation, route, cadence and a whole host of other facts and figures.
Comparisons are obviously going to be made with the market-leading GoPro HERO3+, and we think the VIRB wins out on usability – it’s simple to use, you can easily set up shots and there are loads of remote options available. Adding the GPS data makes everything even better.
On pure picture quality, the GoPro beats the VIRB though. The VIRB films 1,080-pixel Full HD footage at 30 frames per second compared to the GoPro’s 60fps, and its image stabilisation isn’t up there with the GoPro, leading to a slight wavy look to the picture on rougher ground.
Bar, helmet and shoulder mounts are available, as are GoPro adapters, but the rubberised torpedo shape makes chest mounts a slightly scary prospect.