Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Garmin Virb Elite Camera

I ordered a Garmin Virb Elite action camera from last week.  They were on sale for $299.  It arrived the following Monday.  I was very excited.  Along with the camera I ordered the Garmin dive case, large handlebar mount, vented helmet mount, and tripod mount.  I also ordered a 64MB microSD memory card.  The camera came with a short USB cable, a large lithium ion battery, 2 mounts and related swivels and tightening screws, and an anemic quick user guide manual.  I had already downloaded the real users manual from the Garmin support site.

I laid it all out on my desk at home and opened the camera box first.  I had already read DCRainmaker's in-depth review of the camera so that was a plus.  I then removed the memory card from its little plastic box and put it securely inside the camera.  The battery installs over the memory card inside a latched compartment on the bottom of the unit.

With the memory card and battery installed I connected the USB cable to my laptop computer.  I was surprised to find that the computer did not recognize the camera.  It didn't know it was there.  The battery didn't charge and the icons on the camera's small LCD display didn't indicate as I had expected and as the manual showed.

I spent the better part of an entire evening resetting the camera, swapping cables, reseating the memory card and battery, and looking for a solution online at Garmin support.  I ended the day frustrated.

The next day was more of the same.  I installed the Virb Edit software on my PC, read the manual some more, and took a test video of my dog.  The camera recorded nice video however, I had to remove the memory card and insert it into my PC to import the file.  This is not an ideal workaround because the card is very small and the bracket that secures it in the camera is equally as small.  

The video below is that of my first Garmin Virb Elite test recording.  Starting and stopping the recording was very easy.  The slide bar switch works as designed.  The GPS seemed to acquire the satellites in short order.  It took about the same length of time as my Garmin 910XT watch.  The unit felt a little heavy in the hand as compared to the GoPro Much of that weight must come from the battery which is significantly larger than the GoPro battery.  Overall, I prefer the design of the Virb compared to the GoPro.  The small and hard to see LCD display on the Virb is better than none at all which is the standard for the GoPro.

Even though the camera itself worked, I was disappointed.  The fact that the unit would not connect to my computer was a real buzz-kill.  I e-mailed Garmin support but their website didn't even have an option for Virb specific inquiries although, all the other Garmin devices were listed.  With that questionable support issue and the 3-day expected e-mail response time, I returned the camera to Amazon for an exchange.  That was after only having the camera about 28 hours in hand.  A new Virb should arrive in about a week.  I'm hoping  the second unit will perform better.

On a side note, Garmin could take a few cues from Dropcam.  My Dropcam Pro installation and overall user experience has been awesome.  It's no wonder that the company was purchased by NEST.

Thanks for reading.

Update 6/30/14:  Garmin support finally replied to my e-mail.  They said I need to install the USB drivers on my computer.  We'll see if that;s the case when the replacement camera arrives in a few days.

Update 7/9/14:  My new Virb arrived this week and I'm much happier with it.  You can read about that experience here.