Garmin 55 Review
Pros: Great video quality, very slim visual profile
Cons: Expensive, user interface can be a bit confusing
Our Analysis and Test Results
While the Garmin 55 is quite a nice dash cam, it asks a field-leading price without offering correspondingly field-leading performance.
The Garmin 55 did quite well in pretty much all of our tests, resulting in a relatively high overall score. However, it wasn't a particular standout in any of those metrics either.
The Garmin 55 was one of the top performers in our video quality testing, losing out only to the titular dual cameras of the Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual.
Sporting 1440p resolution and bright vivid colors, the Garmin 55's daytime footage looks spectacular. In fact, its daytime footage is some of the best we captured during our testing. We never ran into any instances where we couldn't read another car's license plates, and pretty much every shot looked ready for Instagram right out of the camera (if you're into that sort of thing).
So why didn't the Garmin 55 come out on top after our video quality tests? It does have a couple significant flaws. First off, its field of view is only 106˚, as compared to the 160˚+ offered by most cameras. While this does make distant objects look a bit clearer and the image look more natural, it's not to an extent that you can identify license plates from much farther away. That narrower field of view does create nicer-looking shots for sharing with your friends, as wide-angle lenses can look a bit unnaturally wide. However, for documenting traffic accidents that extra peripheral vision can be crucial and definitely gives you a better chance of capturing meaningful footage.
The other major flaw of the Garmi 55's camera is its night time footage. While that footage generally still looks clear and crisp, even a bit of light from a street lamp tends to washout license plates, making them unreadable. Bottom line, the Garmin 55's video is excellent if your major goal is to document a road trip in an aesthetically pleasing manner, but isn't the most effective for capturing meaningful footage from a driving incident.
The Garmin 55's video capture lacks some of the adjustability of other models, but does sport some nice extra features, resulting in an overall mediocre score.
First, the Garmin 55's video capture passed the same minimum bar for entry into our review that all of the other cameras cleared. This includes automatically starting a recording when the car is started, and a number of user reviews vouching for the ability of its G-sensor to detect a crash.
Now the bad. The Garmin 55 offers only one loop recording option of a single minute. That means the camera protects the current 1-minute of video from being overwritten when the G-sensor detects an event. This definitely saves space on the memory card, as you don't have lots of long protected clips from every time you stop short taking up space. However, if an actual accident happens towards the end of a recording minute there is a chance the camera won't protect the footage you really need. Most cameras, like the AUKEY DR02 and the Vanture N2, at least offer longer clip lengths for those that don't mind getting a bigger memory card or spending a bit more time managing footage in return for a better chance the cameras will protect the footage they really need from a driving event.
Despite that lack of adjustability, the Garmin 55 does have some nice extra features. For example, you can use the camera to make a timelapse. This is great for documenting road trip vacations, just remember that it turns off the normal recording functions. Also, it has built-in WiFi, meaning you can wirelessly transfer video from the camera directly to a mobile device, which is great for those that like to quickly share clips onto social media. Most cameras do have this feature, but the otherwise stellar AUKEY DR02 is one that does not.
We've used a lot of Garmin products, and while most are exceptional, some do tend to have relatively clunky interfaces. The company is certainly making positives strides in that arena, but we don't think those strides have transferred to their dash cams yet.
That's not to say we hate the Garmin 55 interface, it just isn't our favorite to use. The menus aren't particularly intuitive, but we were generally able to find what we were looking for, after some trial and error, without consulting the manual. The 2-inch screen does feel a bit cramped, but it's still larger than the 1.5" screen on the AUKEY DR02. Certainly the most annoying thing about the Garmin 55's interface is the fact that a safety warning pops up every time the camera turns on, and you must press a button to acknowledge it. This isn't a huge deal, but really just feels like a needless annoyance.
This is one area where the Garmin 55 excels. Its largest dimension is only 2.2-inches, and it tends to almost disappear under a rearview mirror or in the corner of the dash. It also uses a very small adhesive mount that further reduces its visual impact. This camera's visual footprint is going to please everyone, even those that really don't like being able to see things on the dash in their peripheral vision.
The Garmin 55 is a great camera, but the $200 list price is much higher than other cameras of similar quality and function. Unless you need a second cab facing camera, we don't see much of any reason to spend this much on a dash cam, as the $70 AUKEY DR02 offers similar performance.
The Garmin 55 is a good, but relatively overpriced camera. While we doubt anyone will be disappointed in its performance, you can get the same or better for much less money.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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