GPS specialist Garmin has followed the release of its Virb Elite HD a couple of years ago, the company’s first foray into the video camera market, with the new Virb X and Virb XE action cameras. The new cameras have a completely revamped form factor and offer numerous improvements, including higher quality video recording, more sensors and connectivity options and a wider range of mounting options. It's also now waterproof up to 50 metres without an additional case.
The difference between the two cameras is mainly in the video quality each offers. They both shoot HD video, but the more expensive Virb XE offers 1440p/30fps and 1080p/60fps with super slow-mo, image stabilisation and different zoom levels, while the Virb X provides 1080p/30fps and 720p/60fps with slow-mo and zoom options. Both cameras can shoot still photos with photo bursts up to 12MP image quality. The more expensive Virb XE also provides a plethora of manual controls like ISO and exposure bias if you want to get a bit more creative.
The two Virb cameras have a brand new design. They look nothing like the previous Virb. The newly designed case, designed to be more rugged, is more compact and also offers more mounting options, with loads of bike, body and helmet mounts to choose from. The camera still has an integrated video screen, this one has a high-contrast 1in display for changing the various settings.
The cameras use built-in sensors for recording data like speed and with ANT+ and WiFi can be hooked up to various compatible devices like cadence sensors or power meters. WiFi allows both cameras to be controlled from the Virb smartphone and tablet app, with live stream aiding camera setup, and to make it easy to upload and share recorded videos.
Something called G-Metrix takes data from the on-board or external sensors and overlays it over your recorded video. This data overlay is a big USP of the Virb camera over rivals like the GoPro. It’s not always easy to get a sense of how fast you’re going when you watch the video back, so being able to overlay speed, power, heart rate or cadence over your video will give viewers a greater sense of how punishing the ride was. For riding in the mountains you could display climbing speed or total altitude for example.
The microphone has also been redesigned and it’s compatible with Bluetooth microphones if you wanted to record more audio or ride commentary. Video cameras usually need a specific waterproof case of filming underwater, but the new Virb can work up to 50 metres underwater without an external case. The flat glass lens has a hydrophobic coating, useful for underwater filming or also for cycling in in the rain, as rain drops will bead right off the surface.
Garmin is claiming a 2 hour battery life when filming at 1080p and the battery is removable meaning you could purchase additional batteries if you want to film for longer than that. The Virb records to microSD memory cards.
Garmin hasn’t announced UK prices for the two cameras that will be available this summer, but in the US the Virb XE costs $400 and the Virb X is $300. More at http://virb.garmin.com/en-US/virb-xe
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.