Garmin has announced two new action cameras which it hopes can de-throne GoPro with the addition of more action data. The new Virb X and Virb XE models boast a new more GoPro-like form-factor, and come in standard and high-end versions like the Hero4 Silver and Black cameras. However, the new cameras are waterproof without the need for an external case, and are packed with sensors which allow users to display data overlays on their action videos.
While the two new cameras look identical, it's striking how different their design is from previous Garmin cameras like the Virb and Virb Elite. Gone is the chunky bullet shape in favor of a more GoPro-like rectangle. Garmin says this allows more mounting options for the new cameras and that both are now also waterproof to 50 m (164 ft) without the need for external housing.
Measuring 77 x 40.6 x 36.8 mm (3.0 x 1.6 x 1.4 in) and weighing 152 g (5.4 oz) the new Virbs are primarily operated via one-touch controls and a high-contrast one-inch display on the top of the cameras. Built-in Wi-Fi also allows users to watch live video and control the cameras via a smartphone app. However, they can also be wirelessly controlled via Garmin wearables including the likes of the Vivosmart and fēnix 3.
Inside, both the X and XE feature a 1/2.3-inch 12.4-megapixel CMOS sensor which is paired with a wide-angle lens. The hydrophobic, flat, glass lens is said to produce clear shots underwater, and ensure transitions in and out of the water stay unobstructed by droplets. Because the action cameras do not need external waterproof housing, the exposed microphone is said to capture better quality audio.
The key difference between the X and XE models is the resolutions and frame-rates they are capable of. The Virb X maxes out with Full HD 1080p at 30 frames per second (fps) and can record HD 720p video at 60 fps, with a 480p slow motion option at 120 fps. It can deliver a burst of 12-megapixel still images at 10 fps.
Meanwhile, the higher-end Virb XE can deliver 1440p footage at 30 fps, Full HD 1080p at 60 fps, and HD 720p footage at 120 fps for slow motion videos. By dropping the resolution to 480p, 240 fps recording is possible, and it can shoot 12-megapixel stills in 30 fps bursts. Other benefits of the XE are improved gyro-enhanced image stabilization and a Pro Mode for more control over settings like white balance, color profile control, and ISO limits.
However, what's sure to distinguish the Virb X and XE from the multitude of other action cameras that are vying for a place on your mountain-bike, snowboard, or dog is their ability to incorporate action and activity data into the resulting videos via built-in and wireless sensors. This G-Metrix feature gives users the ability to display graphics and animations to show just how fast they were hurtling down that mountain, or what their heart-rate was doing as they jumped out of a plane, at the same time as showing the POV footage.
G-Metrix utilizes internal sensors like the GPS, accelerometer and gyroscope in both the Virb X and XE to track movements in real time and capture performance data, which can then be added to the resulting video footage via the Virb Edit desktop software or the Virb Mobile app. Bluetooth, ANT+, and Wi-Fi also means the action cameras can receive additional data from cycling computers, sports watches and heart-rate monitors. There's also the ability to overlay true vehicle data like speed, RPM and throttle position from Bluetooth-enabled OBD tools.
Other features of the new Virb cameras worth noting include the addition of Bluetooth-enabled HD Audio which connects directly to wireless Bluetooth headsets or microphones to capture audio. A Virb Tracking feature also lets you use a compatible Garmin device or smartphone to know the last known position of your camera so that you can return and retrieve it. As you would expect, there are a variety of mounting options for the new cameras whether you plan on attaching them to your handlebar, seatpost, helmet, chest or dash.
The new Garmin action cameras are due to be available from June, with the Virb X selling for US$300, while the higher-end Virb XE will be $400.
You can check out a promo video for the new Garmin Virb cameras, and see examples of the action data overlays, below.