Garmin VIRB Elite Action Camera Review

The Garmin VIRB Elite has a built in GPS and ANT+ Sensors.

When you take video with the VIRB Elite, it not only records video, but it also records GPS and sensor information to a separate file. You can then use Garmin's VIRB Edit Software (which is a free download) to create a video with GPS and sensor information displayed on the video like shown in this video:

Or you can use any video editing software you want and not put any GPS or sensor information on the screen.

With VIRB Edit, you add gauges to display GPS data like your speed, altitude and even a pretty crappy line depicting a map of where you went. The VIRB Edit gauges getting better but not quite as cool as the Dashware overlays yet but the big advantages are:

  • VIRB Edit Works on a Mac (Dashware doesn't) and
  • you don't have to manually line up your GPS track with your video track like you do it Dashware.

It does that for you automatically. When you're making your video, VIRB Edit does show a really nice map on the screen, but unfortunately, you can't embed that in your video.

In addition to GPS information, you can also display information from various ANT+ devices such as:

  • Heart Rate Monitor
  • Cadence Sensor
  • Power Meter and
  • Temperature Sensor

I've owned several other action cameras and they all had something I didn't like:

  • Go Pro Hero 2 (no screen, hard to use menus, separate case). The new GoPro Hero4 Silver is fantastic if you don't care about the GPS data.
  • Drift HD 170 (audio was horrendous)
  • Air Ion Pro (no screen, couldn't set anything on my Mac, had to use PC)
  • Sony HDR-AS15 (horrible on/off switch, no idea if you're recording; muffled sound and fogging up issues in the case, 720/60fps no sound)

Garmin's VIRB addresses most of these problems. The only thing lacking really is the audio is very muffled. You can get an external microphone adapter and I did but it has quit working so I'm back to very poor audio.

What's Good About the Camera?

  1. It has a Simple Slide Switch for ON/OFF
    • Slide it Forward - it's on.
    • Slide it Back - it's off.
    • Simple, Perfect!
    • Just like my Air Ion Pro EXCEPT it takes way longer to start recording video but I'll get into that more later.
    • It has a Built in Screen. It's really easily to:
      • Change Settings
      • Review Clips
      • Delete video clips
      • There's a built in level if you can't eyeball things very well and most importantly
      • You can line up your shot and actually see what you're videoing.
    • It's Waterproof without a case! If I wanted to go kayaking or got caught in the rain no worries!
    • It has Good video quality. GoPro and Sony are better but this is more than acceptable. It does 1080p/30fps and 720p/60fps which is all I need.
    • Records GPS and ANT+ Sensor Info which I mentioned before.
    • Time Lapse Mode!

      Instead of creating a series of individual pictures you have to assemble into a video as most other cameras do, it actually creates a movie file!

      It has settings to take images at:
      • 1/2 second - perfect for people walking around or
      • 1 second and 2 seconds - which are more appropriate for the sky or weather changing.
    • Lens Correction Option - takes video that's not all fisheye looking.
    • Smart Phone App - lets you control this camera from your phone via Wifi.
    • Control the camera from a whole mess of other Garmin devices including:
      • Oregon's 450 and the 500 and 600 series Oregons
      • Montana 600 series
      • Dakota 20
      • eTrex 30
      • GPSMAP 62s and above
      • fenix, quatix, tactix:
      • Garmin Edge 510, Garmin Edge 810
      • zumo 390LM
      • Montera
      I have used my Garmin Edge 810 to control the camera and it's fantastic!

      The remote control ability can be used to control several VIRB's sumultaneously which is nice if you have multiple VIRB's capturing different angles and you want to get all your cameras to start and stop recording at the exact same time.

    • Auto-Stop/Start Recording functionality.
      • Record only when you're moving or
      • Record only when you're going down hill (for skiing or maybe downhill biking)
      You can also set it up to break your video up into 5 minute videos so you can record continuously but not have huge video files.

      If you don't use a method that breaks up your video clips, it will just continuously record video for 27 1/2 minutes, then automatically create a new clip without any break in the action when you piece them back together.
    • Image Stabilization. I really don't notice a difference with this on or off, but it is there.
    • Battery life is excellent... I recorded the entire Black Fly Challenge Bike Race, which took me 2 hours 40 minutes without the battery going dead. That's incredible. Here's the video from that ride. I sped up the original footage by 8x.

    • You can mount camera upside down.
    • It is compatible with go pro mounts.
    • Nice bright light to indicate if it's recording, but only on one side so can't tell if mounted upside down. Light can be shut off for stealthy recording.
    • VIRB Edit
      • Easy and fast to work on clips
      • Trim Left
      • Split Clip
      • Trim Right
      • Fast Forward
      • Slow Motion
      • Add Title
      • Add Music
      • Add Transitions

What's Bad?

  1. Audio Quality is poor. GoPro has this perfected. Using an external microphone on the VIRB helps a little, but unfortunately you buy Garmin's special cable and you have to leave the flap open and microphone dangling off to use it. Or use velcro to hold it down like I have here.
  2. Cradle Rattle can be heard a little bit.
  3. Start Up Time is Quite Slow if you have the camera off and slide the switch forward to begin recording, upwards of 10 seconds. If the camera is on and you slide the switch forward, this is not a problem and battery life is good enough this has become my normal mode of operation.

    It only records your track/GPS info while you are recording video. If you have the camera on but start/stop it multiple times, the track you see on the map will be a dashed line. Would be nice if it recorded GPS info even when you weren't recording so it could show your full track.
  4. No 1/4 20 Tripod Hole but you can buy an adapter.
  5. Screen is hard to see in low light. It's fine in bright sunlight. Pretty lousy at dusk and on a heavily shaded mountain bike trail.
  6. Memory Card Placement - possible for memory card to fall out when changing battery. If you take the battery out, don't tip your camera upside down, memory card could fall out and you'll never find it.
  7. Pairing Devices

    I have 4 different bikes, 3 have speed and cadence sensors. When I switch bikes, which I do all the time, I have to "Forget" all my paired devices and re-pair the VIRB with my HRM and Speed and Cadence Sensor. Tedious and easy to forget to do.

    My Garmin 910XT lets me have 4 different bike profiles.

    My Garmin Edge 810 also lets me have multiple different bike profiles.
  8. Tempe is NOT tempo. On several occassions, I have tried to pair TEMPE with my speed and cadence sensor thinking it was TEMPO. They should have just named it TEMP!

  9. Helmet Mount is okay, but some issues I have with it are:
    • Inability to precisely tilt camera on helmet due to indents
    • Camera + Cradle + Helmet Mount = Heavy
  10. Takes a long time to recharge. Maybe twice as long as run time. Might charge faster if plugged into a wall instead of your USB port.
  11. Not a good shape for chest mounting. It is possible to use with GO PRO chest mount, but seems like it would really hurt to land on the camera. They do have a shoulder mount, but I don't like that location.
  12. VIRB EDIT has gotten a lot better but:
    • File management is missing a few things:
      • No select all -> Include
      • No select all -> Delete
      • If you accidentally delete video file and re-import it, you lose the GPS/ANT+ info and have a clip with no data.
    • Video Editing has issues:
      • Need to record an entire ride to get the a continuous track on the screen. You can't turn it on and just record bits and pieces and still get a continuous track.
      • Fast forward retains pitch in the preview window which is awesome, but there is no audio on output video.
  13. Exposure can be dark if too much sky is included in video. Wish you could change the exposure to do spot metering, on the center lower 3rd of the screen.
  14. Doesn't have 720p/120fps like newer Sony and GoPro.

Bottom Line

All in all, this camera is super! This is my favorite action camera so far. The top 3 improvements I'd like to see in future models of this camera would be:

  • Needs much Better Audio without an external microphone
  • 1/4-20" Tripod screw hole like
  • 720p/120fps