The Garmin Virb Ultra 30 truly broke new ground when it was released. It pushed the boundaries of resolution and frame rate and was the first action camera to feature voice activation.
In a head to head battle with the GoPro Hero5 Black the battle lines were drawn and it was no longer a case of which camera was the best but more which camera integrates better with what you want to do.
Now with the imminent release of the GoPro Hero6 Black, will the Ultra 30 still be able to stand it’s ground or is it time for an all new Virb?
- GoPro Hero6 Black Review
- GoPro Hero6 Black vs Yi 4K+: which is the best action camera?
- GoPro Hero 6 Black vs GoPro Hero 5 Black
It’s all in the design
Despite both cameras being modeled along a box-like style of design, the actual layout and approach of the GoPro Hero6 vs Garmin Virb Ultra 30 is very different.
The GoPro goes for a no fuss approach. It’s very simplistic and sits inside an open cage that enables you to use the touch screen in all conditions, even water.
The Garmin sits inside a stylish waterproof housing with a mud catcher grill on the front. But what’s novel about it is that even when the case is on you can still use the touch screen.
Let’s take a look at the physical dimensions of the GoPro Hero6 Black vs the Garmin Virb Ultra 30. The GoPro measures in at 6.2 x 3.3 x 4.4cm and the Garmin 7.9 x 3.4 x 5.8 cm. Weight-wise, the GoPro tips the scales at 117g whereas the Garmin hits 155g. It may not sound like much, but it makes quite a difference in the action camera world.
The added bulk of the Garmin Virb Ultra 30 is due to its waterproof housing, which enables you to dive to 40m compared to 10m with the GoPro. But there is also a cage housing for the Garmin which takes the weight down to an impressive 106g. However, you then lose the waterproofing.
For my money – and because I live in the UK – I like to know that my camera has some water protection.
- Don’t be fooled by a sunny day; it’s almost inevitable that it will rain at some point in the UK. For this reason, when it comes to design the GoPro takes the win.
Big value resolutions
Moving on to the big resolutions and here’s where the Garmin Virb Ultra 30 really made it’s mark against the GoPro Hero 5 Black, offering 4K at 30fps and 1080p at 120fps. Now these high-end resolutions and frame rates are starting to feel slow and low res compared with what’s coming in the GoPro Hero6 Black, but then we’ll have to wait to see the image quality of the new camera before we draw a truly conclusive decision.
The other call here is that the increased resolutions and frame rates are going to eat away at your storage, so while they’re great features to have and make for great headlines… will you actually use them? It’s something that’s definitely worth considering.
We also know that the Garmin Virb Ultra 30’s processor and sensor are proven entities, whereas GoPro’s new GP1 processor is a complete unknown. But seeing as how the Hero5 and Garmin Virb Ultra 30 were pretty evenly matched when it came to quality, it’s highly unlikely that GoPro would take a step backward.
GPS and Motion sensors
Garmin makes GPS units so it makes sense that on this front the Virb Ultra 30 should streak ahead of the GoPro Hero6 Black. Checking through what we’ve seen about the GoPro Hero6 Black specs and it looks like the integration of GPS and motion will remain much the same on the Hero6 Black as with the Hero5 Black.
QuikStories does boost the usability of the motion and GPS date, meaning the gap between the Hero5 and Ultra 30 when editing and playing back footage has closed. I feel that at present the Garmin still just edges ahead.
You also have to consider that in the broadest terms the GoPro is a closed system. You have the GoPro as an action camera that captures your location and motion data. Whereas the Garmin does all that, but is still part of a far larger ecosystem of GPS and Fitness devices.
- When you take into consideration the ANT connection of the Garmin Virb Ultra 30 this suddenly elevates the camera into a different league for many users.
The world of interconnected things
Connectivity is something that action camera manufacturers have been very slow to pick up. WiFi and Bluetooth have featured for a while and have enabled the simple connection and control through a device.
Pushing things further than that seems to have been secondary to camera developments and as other technology embraces a world of interconnected everything, only the Virb range of cameras has truly harnessed a connected outlook with the ANT system.
The GoPro Hero6 Black starts to change this with the new auto cloud backup, and I’m sure that this will be joined by a host of other exciting features. However the Garmin seems to have come to an abrupt halt on this front.
It is ANT enabled, and that’s what you get: no auto cloud back-up and no live streaming capabilities.
At present, the Garmin has the edge, but unless the company does some serious development on the platform the Virb Ultra 30 could quickly get pushed aside in favour of the new Hero6 Black – and don’t forget the Yi 4K+.
What a lovely voice
Voice activation is the big, newish feature. Garmin, Yi and GoPro all feature this as a major part of their ongoing development, and in all cases the voice command and activation works incredibly well.
Is there one that works better than another? No not really. There are slight differences in what you need to say and the list of commands vary with each firmware update, but until we see the full voice command list for the GoPro we’ll assume it will remain the same as the Hero5 Black.
GoPro Hero 6 Black Vs Garmin Virb Ultra 30 verdict
There’s no denying that the Garmin Virb Ultra 30 is an incredible camera. It looks great and has a feature list that just goes on and on, but then this feature and spec list is matched and now bettered by the Hero6 Black in many respects.
When it comes to GPS and Motion sensors Garmin’s expertise in the field still gives the Virb the edge, but the gap between the two manufactures is closing rapidly.
The big difference is the ANT technology and for many people this will be the deciding factor over the big resolutions and fast processing power of the GP1.
GoPro is the brand leader. It’s a known entity and the Hero5 Black proved that the company was back on track in every way. The Hero6 Black should build on this quality, and the launch of its homemade GP1 processor will solidify its standing of the camera in the market.
When it comes to user base, the GoPro is for the extreme sports enthusiast, family and anyone who thinks they want an action camera.
The Garmin user I believe is very different. They know what they want in the Virb Ultra 30; it features that ANT tech and integrates with their other ANT enabled devices to give them a clear picture of the fitness regimes and adventures.