Can the Garmin Virb Ultra 30 Compete with the GoPro Hero 5?

We take it to the track to find it

garmin virb ultra 30 product
Garmin Virb Ultra 30 action camCourtesy of Garmin

Whether blazing a wooded trail, carving canyon roads, or ripping around a trackday circuit, quality POV video puts the viewer in the saddle. Now imagine wowing viewers with captured data such as speed, G-force, a GPS-generated track map, lap times, and more, all easily overlaid onto the video image.

The Garmin Virb Ultra 30 action cam and Virb Edit desktop software or mobile app makes this a reality. Featuring built-in GPS receiver and sensors that detect G-force, speed, altitude, and orientation, the camera syncs video and "G-Metrix" data while recording. The cam also offers wireless connectivity to multiple ANT+ sensors (such as heart rate) and Bluetooth devices such as an OBD-II sensor.

Roughly the same physical shape and size of the GoPro Hero 5, similarities between the rival camera models go well beyond their identical price. Both offer touchscreen displays with intuitive menu navigation access to near-identical core audio/video features. In our view, what sets the Virb Ultra 30 ahead is supe­rior datalogging and exclu­sive lap-timing capability.

Virb Edit desktop software screenshot
Virb Edit desktop softwareCycle World

The gamut of HD resolutions include 720P at 240 fps to 4K at 30 fps, slow-mo up to 1080P at 120 fps with wide, zoom (1.5x), and ultra-zoom (2x) field-of-view options. There’s a “lens correction” feature that can be enabled to eliminate fish-eye distortion and electronic image stabilization, which does wonders quelling the vibration and jolts typical of a motor­cycle camera mount. Two adhesive bases—one flat and another curved for helmet mount use—are included. The attach­ment tab on the waterproof, durable plastic camera case is compatible with a multitude of GoPro mounts on the market. Good call, Garmin.

Voice command allowing hands-free operation to start/stop recording, take a photo, or time stamp a favorite moment is a useful feature with one exception. While the built-in microphones picks up spoken commands from a good 50 feet away when stationary, wind noise at even moderate road speed renders the function useless. Connecting a Bluetooth in-helmet microphone is a simple fix.

My only gripe pertains to the Virb Edit software. A comprehensive user manual to assist video-editing neophytes doesn't exist, and its circuit detection feature necessary for lap-time computation didn’t always work.

Just as GoPro changed the landscape of action sports videography, Garmin has raised the bar with G-Metrix innovation.

UPS

  • Excellent video/audio quality
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • G-Metrix overlay with lap timing

DOWNS

  • Not waterproof outside included case
  • Luxury features reduce battery life