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Garmin Virb Elite review

Richard Easton
18 Oct 2014
Garmin Virb Elite front angle
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
220
inc VAT

The Virb Elite is an attractive action camera with built-in GPS, but its battery life is disappointing

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Specifications

Sensor: 1/2.3in CMOS, Sensor pixels: 16000000, Max recording resolution: 1080p (30fps), AV connections: Micro HDMI, Size (HxWxD): 21x53x111mm, Weight: 177g, Warranty: One-year RTB

The Garmin Virb Elite looks very similar to Drift Innovation's action cameras, such as the Ghost-S or HD Ghost. It’s slightly longer than the Drift models, and the front is dominated by a large lens that gives it a Cyclops-like design. Its body is encased in a rubberised material that is easy to grip, and all its controls are nicely weather-sealed. The camera is water-resistant up to 1m down. 

Controlling the camera is simple, thanks to the large slide control on its side. If the camera is turned off this will turn it on automatically and begin recording. Similarly, this slider will also stop recording and turn the camera off. There’s also a dedicated power button for when you want to turn on the camera without starting it recording, in case you want to access the menus or play back footage on the 1.4in screen. 

This top-mounted screen is useful for framing your shots and for accessing the menus, but it’s not great for playing back your videos. The screen is designed to remain on during recording without negatively impacting battery life, but it doesn’t reproduce colour very well and is almost monochrome. Thankfully, we found the screen bright enough to be easy to view outdoors. Micro HDMI and Mini USB connections are hidden away at the rear of the camera behind a weatherproof flap. You can buy a separate Mini USB to 3.5mm adaptor (part code 010-11921-18, £12.99, www.garmin.com) to connect an external microphone. 

The camera can also be controlled with its Android or iOS apps. These are simple to use and allow you to remotely control the camera for both stills and video. The apps have a live view with very little lag when not recording, but disappointingly some delay is introduced when you begin capturing video. It’s also not possible to play back video on your smartphone through the app.

The Virb Elite comes with a custom cradle to hold the camera securely. This then attaches to a two-way tilting mount that can be paired with either the included flat or curved adhesive mounts. There are a number of other accessories available separately from Garmin, including a Head Strap Mount (010-11921-09, £17.99), Vented Helmet Mount (010-11921-08, £12.99) and a Bike Mount (010-11921-07, £21.99) all available direct from Garmin.               

                                                                 

Garmin is best known for its GPS products, and the Virb Elite has a GPS sensor for data-stamping videos as well as to use in some of its recording profiles such as ‘Skiing Mode’, which automatically stops recording your downhill run when you reach the bottom. The camera also connects to Garmin’s other ANT+ sensors, such as a heart rate sensor or bike speed/cadence sensor, to overlay relevant information over your video.

The Virb Elite is able to shoot at up to 1080p/30fps. If you reduce the resolution to 960p or 720p you have the option of smoother 60fps video, and there’s also a high-frame-rate option of 120fps if you drop the resolution to a paltry 848x480.

^The mount was secure but the camera suffered from softness in the corners - best viewed full-screen and at 1080p

To test the Virb Elite we mounted it to an HPI Racing Bullet MT radio-controlled car to go for a spin across some tricky terrain. The mount felt secure, as did the two pivot joints when tightened. In our static video tests, detail was slightly lacking, and there was noticeable softness towards the corners of the frame. The camera's digital image stabilisation did a respectable job of reducing shake, but the resulting footage wasn’t the smoothest we’ve seen.

The Garmin Virb Elite produced respectable video and the option to pair it with an array of other sensors could be useful. Its continuous-recording battery life at 1hr 28m was a little disappointing, however. It’s a decent-enough action camera, but we think the Drift Innovation Ghost-S is worth the extra cash for its superior image quality and wider range of shooting options.

Hardware
Sensor1/2.3in CMOS
Sensor pixels16,000,000
LCD screen size1.4in
Video recording formatH.264 MP4
Video recording resolutions1080p (30fps), 960p (60/48/30fps), 720p (60/30fps), 848x480 (120fps)
Max recording resolution1080p (30fps)
Video recording mediaMicroSD
Sound44kHz mono
Maximum still image resolution4,664x3,496
Memory slot (card supplied)MicroSD
Data connectionsMini USB
AV connectionsMicro HDMI
Battery typeLi-ion
Battery life1hr 28m
Battery charging positionCamcorder
Size (HxWxD)21x53x111mm
Weight177g
Buying information
WarrantyOne-year RTB
Price including VAT£225
Supplierwww.handtec.co.uk
Detailswww.garmin.co.uk
Part code010-01088-11

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