PCWorld (USA)

Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2: Tiny camera with good image quality

This dash cam’s diminutive stature is its outstandin­g feature, but good day and night captures and cloud storage are strengths as well.

- BY JON L. JACOBI

If you like your dash cams small and unobtrusiv­e, easy to use, with good day and night captures, then Garmin’s tiny, $130 Dash Cam Mini 2 is what you want. It’s so minuscule, it was completely hidden behind my MX-5 Miata’s dwarfish rearview mirror. That’s small.

DESIGN AND FEATURES

When we say small, we mean small: The Dash Cam Mini 2 measures a mere 1.23 inches wide by 2.1 inches tall by 1.5 inches deep, including the lens body, and weighs in at around an ounce. Garmin calls it car key size, but it’s walnut size in my book. Seriously, without a mini-usb cable attached, it’s easy to

lose track of this tiny bit of tech in your backpack. I did—twice. Then I started leaving the cable attached.

Said USB cable marries to the right side of the camera, while the left is home to the micro SD card slot and the audio mute button. Pressing the latter will also format a blank memory card (8GB or greater). Another button on the back saves a snapshot and video, and with a long press it will pair the Mini 2 to your phone for access by the Garmin Drive app.

The camera is capable of 1080p at 30 frames per second. It sports a wide 140-degree field of view. The only thing it doesn’t fit into its tiny frame is GPS, which is disappoint­ing, though understand­able given its size.

The Dash Cam Mini 2 opts for a supercapac­itor, likely because there isn’t enough room for the lithium-ion battery found in Garmin’s larger dash cams. However, the supercapac­itor is hefty enough to keep the Mini 2 running for a good two to three seconds after you pull the plug. Indeed, while testing (and before reading the specs) I was under the impression that there was a battery.

Voice control allows you to save a video, take a picture, and turn audio recording on and off. Other notable features include temporary cloud storage (up to 30 days) through Garmin’s Vault portal, Live View with the aforementi­oned Drive app, and Parking Guard. The latter two features require a constant power source. I recommend an OBD-II cable.

Installing any dash cam ( go.pcworld.com/inda) involves largely the same steps, though with different mounts and positionin­g. I was a little disappoint­ed that the Mini 2 doesn’t use the same magnetic disk and mount that Garmin’s other dash cams employ. Instead, it uses a semiperman­ent adhesive disk of the same size. I actually stuck it to the mounting disk from the recently reviewed Dash Cam 57 ( go.pcworld.com/gd57).

You can pop the Mini 2 off the mounting arm at the ball-joint coupling (on the camera), but it doesn’t part ways as easily as the magnetic alternativ­e and is likely to break from stress sooner. Because the Mini 2 is so small and hard to spot, you may be able to leave it in the car with less risk of theft.

PERFORMANC­E

After reviewing Garmin’s Dash Cam 57, I must admit that I grew used to the 1440p captures. The Dash Cam Mini 2 is limited to 1080p, so there is a drop in detail. The video is still very good, and it’s perfectly usable for legal purposes, but if you’re looking for excellent images, get the Dash Cam 57.

As you can see below, the 140-degree lens captures a rather large swath of road, but it also catches a lot of windshield glare on a sunny day. Color is top-notch and accurate. Details are nicely processed and readily visible.

Night captures are quite good—actually a bit better than what you’ll see below. It was impossible to keep moisture off my windshield the night I took the captures. That’s what happens with the marine layer here in San Francisco. The areas surroundin­g the vehicle to the sides show as much detail as the view forward in the night capture above. Headlight flare was minimal.

BOTTOM LINE

The Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2 takes good video both day and night, and is by far the smallest, most unobtrusiv­e dash cam available. It doesn’t have GPS, but the set-itand-forget-it’s-there Mini 2 is still one of my favorites. It’s a great dash cam at an affordable price point.

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 ??  ?? Garmin’s Dash Cam Mini 2 from the front, showing its wide 40-degreeFOV lens.
Garmin’s Dash Cam Mini 2 from the front, showing its wide 40-degreeFOV lens.
 ??  ?? Garmin’s Dash Cam Mini 2 with its mini-usb port. The included cable orients upward when plugged in.
Garmin’s Dash Cam Mini 2 with its mini-usb port. The included cable orients upward when plugged in.
 ??  ?? The wide-angle captures will show action well to the side of your vehicle’s nose, but they also pick up quite a bit of windshield glare and distortion.
The wide-angle captures will show action well to the side of your vehicle’s nose, but they also pick up quite a bit of windshield glare and distortion.
 ??  ?? This was basically taken inside a cloud at night in San Francisco, so some of what you see is distortion from water droplets. Regardless, there’s easily enough detail for legal purposes.
This was basically taken inside a cloud at night in San Francisco, so some of what you see is distortion from water droplets. Regardless, there’s easily enough detail for legal purposes.

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