There are a huge number of brands producing dash cams these days, some of whom are virtual unknowns and others who are major players in the world of technology.
Garmin is one of the latter. It produces everything from fitness trackers to nautical sonar devices, but it’s also well-known for its in-car sat nav systems and, more recently for its dash cams.
The creatively named Garmin Dash Cam 57, priced at £149.99, sits in the middle of the brand’s current line-up, above the lower spec and lower-resolution Mini 2 and 47 but below the 67 with its wider-angle lens and the twin-camera Tandem.
Design and installation
Despite differing features, most of Garmin’s dash cams have almost identical designs and the 57 is a very neat, simple unit that feels far more solid than some from lesser-known brands.
Unlike a lot of other units which are long lozenge shaped affairs, the Garmin is almost square but, at roughly half the size of a deck of cards, it’s still impressively compact, especially since it houses a two-inch screen. Fitting it out of sight behind a rearview mirror should prove easy, especially thanks to the incredibly compact magnetic swivel mount which takes up virtually no space but offers plenty of adjustment.
Like most modern dash cams, the Garmin 57 has an accompanying smartphone app that means you can view footage and adjust settings via your mobile rather than the on-board buttons and screen. The app is fairly easy to install and connect to the camera, although I experienced a few connectivity issues during my time testing.
You can also download footage from the camera’s microSD card (sold separately) to your phone and there is an option to store clips in the cloud via the Garmin Vault, from where you can share them with others.
An impact-activated parking mode is among the unit’s features, which can be upgraded to a constant live view with the optional Constant Power kit that plugs into your car’s OBD-II port. Also included are voice control, so you can lock a recording without taking your hands off the wheel, and driver assist systems including forward collision alert and lane departure warning but without very precise calibration these quickly become a burden rather than a help.
The Garmin 57’s camera sits in the dash cam middle ground, recording at 1440p resolution, up to 60 frames per second and using a 140-degree field of vision lens.
Footage captured in daylight is suitably sharp and certainly clear enough for use as evidence should you need to provide it to insurers or police. Even with an HDR mode it doesn’t handle high-contrast scenes quite as well as some - the Thinkware F200, for example - but important elements such as number plates are easily visible. At 1440p the camera records at 30 frames per second which provides smooth footage but for even smoother recording you can drop the resolution to 1080p and crank the frame rate up to 60fps.
Unlike some brands which tout special night modes, Garmin doesn’t make much of the 57’s low-light performance. That’s fair enough as it can’t match systems with dedicated low-light modes. Images are fairly grainy and details such as registration numbers harder to make out. For a dedicated night mode, you’ll need to step up to the more expensive 67.
There are a lot of dash cams on the market at the same £150 mark as the Garmin 57. Some, such as the MioFive, offer sharper 4K images at the expense of other features, while others sacrifice image quality in favour of extra functions or the ability to add more cameras. The Garmin 57 sits neatly in the middle ground with its smart design, solid construction and good daylight footage. It is let down, however, by its poor low-light performance and the inability to link a rear camera, even as an option.