Garmin VIRB vs GoPro: Which Is the Best Action Camera?

black garmin virb vs gopro

GoPro's HERO and Fusion models and Garmin's VIRB are popular action cameras. GoPro has been designing cameras to withstand the demands of capturing sports since 2004. Garmin made a name for itself in GPS navigation technology long before adding action cameras to its product line in 2013. Although GoPro has released more models, Garmin VIRB brings specialized technology and features to the action camera market. This Garmin VIRB vs GoPro review compares current lineups from both manufacturers to determine which brand makes the best action camera.

This review covers several recent GoPro HERO models and the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 HD but mainly focuses on the most recent 360-degree or spherical video models from both brands. The Garmin VIRB vs GoPro (Garmin VIRB 360 and GoPro Fusion 360) VR Action Camera indicate the direction of future development in action capture technology and enable users to obtain video footage and stills that exceed the limitations of all preceding models.   

What Sets the Garmin VIRB Apart?

There are currently two models of Garmin VIRB for sale. The VIRB Ultra 30 has all the features of a conventional action camera along with some unique Garmin technology. The Ultra 30 captures 4K video at 30 frames-per-second, features built-in image stabilization and has a waterproof case that allows users to access the touchscreen display.

All VIRB models boast GPS and sensors to support G-Metrix features. These are optionally augmented reality gauges and graphs of action data that are displayed over footage, and they are unique to Garmin's action cameras. These attractive and cleanly presented statistics enable users to see and show statistics on the physical limits they have pushed during a recording session. The G-Metrix data available to display varies depending on the activity, but it may include temperature readings, distance, elevation, heart rate, speed or other performance measurements.

Features

Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 Action Camera
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Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 Action Camera
  • ULTRA HD VIDEO - Crystal clear 4K/30fps footage, 1080p/120fps, or slow motion capability at 720p/240fps
  • G-METRIX - Built-in GPS and external sensors with connectivity to Garmin devices to capture performance data like speed, elevation, heart rate and G-force
  • LCD COLOR TOUCHSCREEN - 1.75-inch display is easy to operate; fully functional in and out of waterproof case

If you record snow sports, you can display relevant facts, such as the number of rotations the subject of the video performs in the air or the wind chill. Water sports enthusiasts can keep track of boat drift, water depth or wind speed. Users involved in aerial sports may appreciate the ability to capture and display altitude or jump height statistics. For motorsports, G-Metrix allows users to show data including speed and even engine revolutions per minute. Users can also apply statistics to drone footage to make all of the videos they shoot with a Garmin VIRB camera more informative.

The video resolution and megapixel specifications of the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 are comparable to the GoPro HERO5 Black. Users interested in a classic action camera with updated features may prefer the GoPro HERO6 Black. The recent release of spherical or 360-degree cameras by both brands raises the question, which action camera brand is better, Garmin VIRB vs GoPro?

Resolutions

The VIRB 360 captures fully spherical video at resolutions of up to 4K at a rate of 30 frames-per-second. You do not need to render this capture mode prior to being streaming live or sharing. The VIRB 360 also records raw unstitched video at 5.7K and 30 frames-per-second, which you must render using editing software, such as Garmin's free VIRB Edit software.

Garmin's spherical camera also features three modes of 4K stabilization to make footage steadier. These features are an enhanced version of technology found in the Ultra 30 model. The VIRB 360 only features a 12-megapixel camera for taking stills, but it is capable of recording 360-degree audio. Both VIRB models have capabilities for voice commands. If you are considering alternatives to the VIRB 360, the GoPro Fusion is the only model with spherical capabilities.

What Sets GoPro Apart?

GoPro was the first major brand name in the action camera game. If you have used a GoPro camera in the past, you may prefer to upgrade to a newer model. The company also offers trade-in incentives to encourage customer loyalty. The brand is presently promoting four major models, the HERO, HERO5 Black, HERO6 Black and Fusion.

The GoPro HERO is a basic and relatively affordable action camera offering. This model records video in 1440p or high-definition 1080p and has a 10-megapixel camera with a 10 frames-per-second burst rate. All HERO models are waterproof up to 10 meters or 33 feet. The standard HERO model is the only model that cannot capture night photos and does not allow for looping.

Upgrades

GoPro HERO6 Black — Waterproof Digital Action Camera for Travel with Touch Screen 4K HD Video 12MP Photos
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GoPro HERO6 Black — Waterproof Digital Action Camera for Travel with Touch Screen 4K HD Video 12MP Photos
  • Hero6 black automatically sends your footage to your phone where the app turns it into a quikstory an awesome edited video
  • With 4k60 and 1080p240 video,Hero6 black delivers 2x the performance compared to Hero5 black with an all new GP1 chip optimized for GoPro capture, Hero6 black delivers vastly improved image quality
  • With our most advanced video stabilization yet, Hero6 black captures super smooth footage, whether it’s handheld or mounted to your gear Hero6 black is waterproof to 33ft (10m) without a housing

If you currently own a HERO or another older model and want to upgrade within this line, you should consider the HERO5 Black and HERO6 Black. The HERO5 Black can capture video in Ultra HD 4K resolution (3840x2160) and features a 12-megapixel camera with a 30 frames-per-second burst rate. This model also takes video in lower resolutions, including 2.7K and full HD 1080p. Users can also raise the frame rate to allow for slow-motion recording.

Action cameras are typically used to capture wide angles and may be prone to distortion. The HERO5 Black features several view modes including Linear Field of View, which corrects fish-eye distortion in 2.7K and 1080p recording modes. The HERO6 Black has a slightly different field of view options, including wide, super view and linear, but eliminates the narrow and medium fields of view in favor of a new digital zoom feature.

Stabilization Feature

The HERO6 Black captures video in 4K60 as opposed to 4K30 with the HERO5 Black. The HERO6 Black also captures 12-megapixel stills with a 30 frames-per-second burst rate. This model and the spherical GoPro Fusion 360 VR Action Camera both also have advanced video stabilization features. The Fusion records video at resolutions up to 5.2K at 30 frames-per-second or 3K at 60 frames-per-second.

The Fusion camera does not automatically stitch videos, which means that all footage must be rendered. GoPro provides free Fusion Studio software to make it easy for users to create immersive content. There are also several unique modes to this spherical camera, such as OverCapture. This mode allows users to capture content from every angle and manipulate footage in post-production to reframe and capture perfect shots taken in 5.2K resolution as full 1080p images.

Capture Capabilities

The major advantage to the spherical capture capabilities, high resolution and unique features of the GoPro Fusion are that users can completely capture moments without worrying about the precise location of a camera. The company's founder and CEO compare OverCapture to filming action with up to six standard GoPro cameras. Fusion Studio interfaces directly with Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects to enable users to create polished and professional-looking active content.

The GoPro Fusion is considerably heavier than the HERO models. If you want a simple and comparatively light active camera, you might be more satisfied with the HERO6 Black or HERO5 Black.

Garmin VIRB vs GoPro Prices

When it comes to basic action cameras, your choices from these brands include the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 and earlier discontinued models or the GoPro HERO models. These options are more affordable than the more recent spherical or 360-degree options from both of these brands.

If you want a basic action camera, you may get a better value with a GoPro. If you are interested in the features and specifications of the VIRB cameras, these may be worth the additional cost.

Product Inclusions

If you are looking for an action camera that can capture spherical footage, your options from these brands include the VIRB 360 and GoPro Fusion. The VIRB ships with the camera, a lithium-ion battery, charging and data cable, a ¼"-20 tripod cradle, action cradle, and tripod/handgrip. Additional batteries are available, as is a dual battery charger designed for the VIRB 360.

The GoPro Fusion ships with one rechargeable battery and the Fusion Grip, which is a mini tripod and selfie stick, as well as two adhesive mounts. Another knob mount and soft case cover also come with the camera. Additional Fusion batteries are also available, which are priced less than a backup VIRB 360 battery.

Garmin VIRB vs GoPro Fusion Features

The new spherical offerings from both of these brands merit a closer comparison. The VIRB 360 is capable of capturing higher-resolution raw spherical video at 5.7K than the Fusion at 5.2K, and it features a stitched-in 4K capture mode for instant streaming or sharing. The VIRB 360 also captures 15-megapixel 360-degree stills, which are lower quality than the 18-megapixel resolution of the GoPro Fusion. Both camera models feature proprietary stabilization technology, voice-control features and are waterproof.

The VIRB 360 is safe for up to 10 meters, or 33 feet, underwater, whereas the Fusion can only go down to 5 meters, or 16 feet, below the surface. The HERO Black models go deeper, being waterproof down to 10 meters, or 33 feet, without a Super Suit, and down to 60 meters, or 196 feet, with this waterproof case. The VIRB Ultra 30 is only approved for use down to 40 meters, or 131 feet, below the surface in a waterproof housing.

Weight

In addition, the VIRB Ultra 30 weighs 88g with battery and measures 43.1 x 57.5 x 20.4 mm. The VIRB 360 weighs almost twice as much at 160 grams with battery. Garmin's spherical camera measures  39.0 x 59.3 x 69.8 mm. The GoPro Fusion is considerably larger, measuring 74 x 75 x 40 mm and weighing in at 220 grams. The HERO5 Black and HERO6 Black measure 44.6 x 62 x 32.7 mm and weigh in at 117g.

When it comes to the features of these brand's standard action cameras, there are some significant differences between the Garmin VIRB vs GoPro models. The HERO5 Black and HERO6 Black boost image quality with backside illuminated sensors and support for slow-motion and time-lapse recording. One of the major distinctions between these GoPro models is that the HERO5 Black does not have a touchscreen. The Garmin VIRB 30 Ultra features a touchscreen display, but the 360 does not.

Sound Capture

When it comes to sound capture, the VIRB Ultra 30 does not feature a stereo microphone, though this model does feature a microphone port. The 360 features four integrated microphones but no additional port, though the camera may be compatible with some Bluetooth microphones. The HERO5 Black and HERO6 Black both include built-in stereo microphones and do not have additional inputs.

Garmin VIRB vs GoPro: What We Think

All Garmin VIRB models cost at least more than comparable GoPro action cameras. At the same time, the features in these cameras, ranging from image capture to additional data, may justify the higher cost. The VIRB 360 records raw video in a slightly higher resolution than the GoPro Fusion and captures stitched-in 4K video.

The GoPro Fusion has a longer battery life and may be preferable to users who are already accustomed to this brand's cameras.  Both brands also provide proprietary software for editing footage and adding post-production effects. Some extreme sports fanatics or users of Garmin wearables may be interested in the G-Metrix features. Ultimately, the Garmin VIRB vs GoPro decision comes down to the brand you prefer and how much you are willing to pay for an action camera.

Garmin VIRB vs GoPro: Coupons and Deals

Owners of earlier GoPro HERO models may also appreciate the fact that the lower cost of the Fusion, as compared to the VIRB 360, is also offset by GoPro's TradeUp program. This incentive allows GoPro owners to trade in any GoPro or digital camera in any condition. Trading in a GoPro or camera can save customers on a HERO6 Black or shave off of the Fusion price. If you already own a GoPro, this may make the Garmin VIRB vs GoPro decision easier.