The Garmin Dash Cam Mini is much cheaper than many other options, but offers quite a lot compared to other dash cams in the same price range.
In particular, the ability to install as many as 4 cameras in the same vehicle and run them all from the same smartphone may make this your best choice if no other dash cam quite fits the bill.
As another example of less being more, the camera itself is very discreet and won’t ruin your car’s interior styling.
However, this model does have a couple of limitations. Depending on how you plan to use it, these may not matter at all. On the other hand, they may also induce you to choose something a little cheaper, or perhaps a lot more expensive. If you wish to add rear and interior views, for instance, the Vantrue N4 works out slightly cheaper.
At the Mercy of Your Phone
Let’s start with one thing that may be a dealbreaker for some: several users have found that the app is a little wonky. This is by no means a universal experience, and your mileage may vary depending on the which type of phone you have. Just know that, since there’s no built-in display, it’s difficult to view footage and configure your device unless you can get it to play along with your mobile device.
At worst, you’ll have to connect camera the to a computer via a short USB cable. This, as well as installing the Garmin Express software package, is required to update your dash cam’s firmware.
On the other hand, this camera is pretty easy to operate once you have it set up: it has only one button to turn audio recording on or off and another to save a photograph or video clip. When viewing videos (live or recorded) through the app, recording and impact alarms are unfortunately disabled. As a nice touch, you’re allowed to synchronize multiple viewpoints up to the maximum of 4 and can view them as a picture-in-picture display.
The footage itself is of decent quality: this camera doesn’t have the greatest resolution, but it’s perfectly adequate in most situations. Though the sensor has no real night vision or wide dynamic range capability, all should be well as long as the scene is illuminated by streetlights or headlamps. The audio it records is quite clear.
The Garmin app also makes it easy to edit and share video clips. If enabled, this footage shows the date and time and also, if you like, a camera name (e.g., “MyBraveLittleHonda”). It can also interface with cameras from Garmin that do have GPS installed and show your location and route, but it’s probably best to buy a camera specifically designed for this functionality if that’s something you really need.
You’ll need a separate cable kit to keep this camera powered up during parking mode, as this dash cam has no internal battery to speak of. Though the ability to position these small cameras anywhere in a car is a definite plus, powering them may turn out to be a hassle if mounting it somewhere other than on the front windshield.
Once they’re up and running, however, you can expect them to securely save the current clip, the previous one, and one to catch the incident’s aftermath whenever it detects an impact. This gives you three minutes of footage to work with, tremendously increasing your chances of spotting the license plate or face of an offender or witness.
Like most dash cams we looked at for this website, the Garmin Mini uses short video clips for more efficient storage and searching, as well as preventing an error on the SD card from corrupting too much footage. Unlike most dash cams, this 1-minute interval cannot be changed by the user. Fortunately, there’s no noticeable gap between the end of one segment and the beginning of the next.
In case you’re planning to use this to catch amateur bumper-car enthusiasts at the mall, there is something you should know: it will only work between -4° and 140°F. As this bite-sized camera generates a fair amount of heat, especially when recording at its full 1080p resolution, you may find that it turns off by itself on a hot day without air conditioning.
Garmin Dash Cam Mini demo:
- Flexible due to camera networking
- Wi-fi for viewing and downloading footage
- Very small and discreet
- No screen
- More expensive than some stand-alone, non-wi-fi dash cams
- Does poorly at high temperatures