Sunday, March 18, 2012

Garmin Dash Cam 20 review

Garmin Dash Cam 20

The Garmin Dash Cam 20 is a compact windshield driving recorder, the company’s first in the US market.  I’ve been testing it for the past week, and have a full review for you. 

What it does

Mounted on your windshield, the Dash Cam 20 will auto-power on when the included vehicle power adapter is connected to a switched outlet. When on it will record up to 48 minutes of 1080p video (according to the specs) on the included 4GB class 10 microSD card). The videos are stored in individual files approximately four minutes long. A gravity sensor (G-sensor) automatically detects “incidents” such as collisions, and protects the three video files recorded during, before and after the collision. You can also use the device to take a still photo of damage after a crash.

Dash Cam 10 vs 20

The only difference between the Dash Cam 10 and 20, is that the 20 has an onboard GPS receiver and geotags and time-stamps all videos and photos.

Garmin Dash Cam 20 with mount

Garmin Dash Cam 20 with windshield suction cup mount


As you can see in the images, there are four buttons on the side of the device facing the interior of the vehicle. Upon powering on the device, the buttons function as follows: Save (manually protect the current recording), Settings, Playback and Snapshot.

Hitting the road with the Garmin Dash Cam 20

Upon mounting the device, you must reset the G-Sensor. Unfortunately, unless you leave the device in place, this must be done every time you mount it. From start to finish the process involves eight clicks of the buttons. I’d love to see Garmin come up with a “press and hold to reset” solution.

Speaking of the G-sensor, you can change the sensitivity if necessary. I did have it record an incident once while using it. I can be a bit of a lead foot, and late one night (there wasn’t much traffic on the road), heading home from a meeting, I took a turn a bit fast, which was apparently enough to trigger it.

Also of note, the screen dims after 60 seconds, so that it does not become a distraction. If you look close enough you’ll be able to tell that it is recording but it definitely won’t draw your attention.

I mounted the Dash Cam between the rear view mirror and windshield. I could still see the screen and access the controls if needed, but I found this position to be unobtrusive. Having said that, having to drape a power cord right down the center of the windshield is another thing entirely. I am SO ready for wireless charging!

The videos

The resulting videos are in the .avi format and would not play on my Mac (v 10 .8.5); it said I was missing a codec. No problem on Windows 7 though. I was told by Garmin that the free VLC player would work for playing them on my Mac.

The video below includes a sample day and night clip:



I haven’t tested other driving recorders and don’t have a whole lot of need for one, but as far as I can tell, the Dash Cam 20 is a nice device. If you get one, please chime in below and let us know what you think.

More Garmin Dash Cam 20 reviews

  • Consumer-authored reviews have been posted at Amazon

I’ll be posting more hands on GPS reviews as they appear, but in the meantime, here are some…

Other Garmin Dash Cam 20 resources

Compare prices on the Garmin Dash Cam 20 at these merchants:


About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.


  1. First review I have seen. Good job. Looking forward to trying one out.

  2. I have only had the garmin dash cam 10/20 for one day and now when I turn it on I get a warning saying “this device needs to cool down before you can use it.” There is noting hot about this unit and this warning makes no sense. I don’t see any trouble shooting in the owners manual and have no idea how to fix this problem. Very disappointed and frustrated so far. Don’t think I would recommend this product to anyone else.

  3. The Dash Cam 20 is a very good buy but, the Garmin dash cam player is useless unless you are running Windows 7 and above. I did get the dash cam player to work once on windows vista and then it went south.
    Garmin support is of no use when to comes to the player. Garmin support told me to search the web for viewers/editors that would play the avi’s. If you download anything from the net/web, you may run into trojans/viruses/etc. and I do not recommend it.
    Garmin needs to step up and take care of this problem as not all of us have windows 7 and/or above.
    Other than that, the dash cam 20 is a really nice camera and I really don’t want to give it up but…….

  4. JIm Harris says:

    So my dash cam 20 works fine. The problem is the software. If you have an earlier version windows operating than 7, you’re just out of luck. And the map doesn’t work on the viewer. I’d really rather have a narrower field of view than 170 degrees. It is just not useful in my view, and it has a negative effect on picture quality.

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