Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

Garmin Navigates Its Way Into the Action-Camera Market With the Virb

It hasn’t been all rainbows and butterflies in recent years for Garmin, which has seen its portable navigation device business shrink due to the rise of the GPS-enabled smartphone.

But the company is still plugging away in the outdoor and fitness market, and today it adds a new product to the line: An action camera.

Called the Virb, this GoPro-competitor records video in 1080p HD and can capture 16-megapixel still images while it is recording video. It’s described as rugged but approachable — Garmin’s targeting families and normals in addition to adrenaline junkies — and is also waterproof up to 30 meters.

Its high-resolution, 1.4-inch ambient-lit display is supposed to conserve more battery than a backlit display, with Garmin claiming up to three hours of video recording on one charge. And of course, it will mount to a wide variety of adventure gear — a helmet, a handlebar, a surfboard or paddleboard, Larry Ellison’s AC72 boat, Elon Musk’s Grasshopper rocket, you get the picture.

There are actually two versions of the camera: The “regular” Virb for $300 and the Virb Elite for $400. The more expensive model has more sensors, including GPS, an altimeter and an accelerometer, for tracking distance covered when capturing your action vids. The Elite also works in conjunction with a mobile app, for remote control and preview/playback on a mobile device.

So how does this compare to the GoPro, Ion or Contour action cameras? It’s tough to say without getting some hands-on time with the Virb (for a good review of some competitors out there, check out my colleague Bonnie Cha’s column from last year), but the three-hour battery life and the fact that you don’t need to buy an accessory case — since it’s already fully waterproof — are a couple factors that set it apart. The Ion Air Pro WiFi and the GoPro HD Hero2 only promise about 2.5 hours of battery life.

Both versions of the Virb camera begin shipping to specialty stores today and will be more widely available in September.

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