That’s probably why Garmin is taking a different tact with its updated action cam entries, the Garmin VIRB X and XE. Unlike some of the camera competition, the company is simply cloning aspects of GoPro – other than an aesthetic fashioned somewhat after the Hero (eschewing the predecessors’ radical design), Garmin’s headlining features are aimed at sports-minded users who want extra data. It packs a veritable array of sensors (what Garmin calls G Metrix), including an accelerometer, GPS, and gyroscope, for tracking performance across any number of activities. It’s also waterproof down to 164 feet (50 meters) without an underwater housing, and there’s a new microphone for that’s usable even underwater; the cameras also support external mics via Bluetooth. There’s a 1-inch display for adjusting settings, and Garmin says it’s easier to use than previous VIRBs.
Pairing with accoutrements has gotten easier, too. Garmin says ANT+ Bluetooth and Wi-Fi lets the new VIRB cameras sync with a massive range of accessories, from heart-rate monitors and microphones to onboard diagnostics (OBD) speedometers and more. A mobile companion app lets you overlay the data on video.
The VIRB X and XE are cameras first, though, and they’re luckily competent on that front. The higher-end VIRB XE can shoot up to 1080p/60 frames per second (fps) and 1440/30 fps – an undoubted improvement over last year’s 1080p/30 fps maximum, but short of the 4K capability of the GoPro Hero4 Black and Panasonic HX-A500. Built-in are image stabilization, super slow-motion mode, and digital zoom levels. The VIRB X, for its part, caps out at 1080p at 30 fps, super slow-mo and zoom. Both VIRB cameras take 12MP still images, while the pricier XE offers a “pro mode” with manual color, sharpness, and white-balance tuning – similar to GoPro’s ProTunes feature.
Given the specifications, the refreshed VIRB cameras clearly aren’t intended for spare-no-expense productions. But their more ruggedized bodies (the last VIRB models were a little unwieldy) and enhanced connectivity will no doubt appeal to the intended audience. Next time you’re enjoying some feat of human endurance on YouTube, you might be surpirsed to discover a Garmin captured the footage.
The VIRB X and XE are coming “this summer.” The VIRB X will cost $300, and the VIRB XE $400. Garmin includes its VIRB Edit desktop software for post-editing photos and videos.