Garmin GDR33 dash cam review

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Dash cams can be pretty useful, or even capture some interesting footage, but consumers are faced with a motley assortment of brands you’ve probably never heard of before.  Garmin is a name synonymous with quality GPS units, so this time I get to check out the Garmin GDR33 Dash Cam.  Does the Garmin name live up to expectations?

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Basic specifications:

  • 2.3 inch TFT screen display
  • Micro SD card for external storage, up to 32GB capacity (not included)
  • G-sensor
  • 110 degree wide angle
  • PC TOOL image file management software (Software not installed in the product)
  • Built-in speaker and microphone
  • Built-in 930mAh rechargeable battery, car charger with mini USB port
  • Video and still photo recording

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I knew Garmin made a series of dash cams, but I hadn’t heard of the GDR33.  It appears that the GDR33 is sold in Asia, from what I can tell.  In North America, this most closely resembles the Garmin Dash Cam 10.

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In the box you’ll get the GDR33, 12V power cord with miniUSB, ball mount and spare adhesive pad.

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The GDR33’s manual is printed entirely in Chinese.

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The GDR33 fits in the palm of your hand and measures just over 2-1/2″ wide.  (It’s officially listed at 8.19 x 6.57 x 3.58 cm / 3.22 x 2.58 x 1.41 inches).  garmin GDR33-10

On one side you’ll find the power button and microSD card slot.  You’ll have to provide your own microSD card slot.  The GDR33 accepts up to 32GB cards.
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The micro USB port is on the other side.

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I found the 12V car power plug to be very well built.  Notice the micro USB plug is actually angled.


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Why angled?  This way the wire goes up towards the top of the car, minimizing obstructions.  Other dash cam makers, take note!

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The ball and socket mount is dead simple.  Just pop it in- no special tools or controls.  I like the 360-degree infinite adjustments you can make.

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I found the GDR33 menu and interface to be typical Garmin:  Simple and effective.  Under Recording Mode, you can choose between 1080p, 720P or WVGA.  You can’t choose your frames per second.  There is a built-in G Sensor that will flag the recording in case of impact.

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The Beep alert sounds a short tone once the G Sensor threshold is reached.    You can also turn the microphone off with Voice Record.

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The screen is amazingly good.  In fact, I never saw the need to go over 50% brightness.  The uneven pattern you see in the photos are artifacts between the display and my camera.


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You’ll have to set the time and date yourself.  There’s no GPS in this model.

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There’s also a volume level setting, because you can play back videos on the screen itself.  No need to run back to a computer.

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The GDR33 may fit in the palm of your hand, but it’s not the stealthiest installation.  Due to the long swivel adhesive mount, it’ll tend to hang down low, and the squarish shape is a bit of a giveaway.  I do give Garmin full props for creating an all black matte finish, however.  No chrome bits or gigantic logos.

So how does it look?  Let’s take another ride through San Francisco.  This was recorded without audio (for your sanity) and at 1080p.  Check your browser/playback settings in YouTube to make sure you’re viewing this at the right resolution.

Here are some still photos from the same video.

(Click for a full 1080P size)

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Here the sun is at a favorable angle.  The sky is blue and just sharp enough at the center.  Things get a little fuzzier around the sides (See the Starr King street sign on the lamp post at the left, and O’Farrell in white on the right).  I’d say it’s passable.

(Click for a full 1080P size)

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A few moments later, things take a turn for the worse once I turned westbound past Japantown.  Now the sun is facing more towards my eyes, and the image is underexposed.  Colors appear a bit sepia-toned as well.

At least the video files are pretty miserly.  The dash cam saved each file in 3 minute, 50 second intervals when I recorded at 1080p.  Without audio, the file size averaged about 270MB.  That works out to about 4.2 GB per hour.

I really wanted to love the Garmin GDR33.  Sure, it’s not the most stealthy form factor.  It has the Garmin pedigree and probably the best build quality I’ve seen in any dash camera:  The plastics are truly A-grade, the user interface is clean, and the power cord even has a nice 90-degree bend to it.  The video quality is the biggest letdown.  It’s just barely sharp enough and the exposure and color changes are just a no-go.

Source: The sample for this review was provided by Gearbest.com. Please visit http://www.gearbest.com for more info.

 

Product Information

Price:$129.99
Manufacturer:Garmin
Retailer:Gearbest
Requirements:
  • 12 Volts DC, micro SD card (not included)
Pros:
  • Nice build quality
  • Bright, clear LCD screen with a clean user interface
  • Turns on and starts recording automatically when power is applied
  • Overwrites oldest recording in a loop
Cons:
  • Video quality is only average
  • No GPS
  • Seems to be intended for Asian markets since the included manual and packaging is in Chinese
Posted in: Car Gear, Reviews
{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Luke Kwan September 15, 2015, 4:28 pm

    What is the best dashcam you have found when it comes to image quaility?

    I have tried and returned many top tier versions that were highly rated by dashcamreviews.com. My reference video is shot by a iphone 5s using iSymDvr. It records in 30 fps and at 15mb or 18mb/sec.

    Since these dashcam offer a very wide field of view, there is alot of smearing to the videos. Only the center portion of video is clear.

    Another issue, i have with the models i have tested, is no camera has the ability to capture a moving license plate unless it is directly in front of the driver! If i’m not mistaken even my iphone didn’t work. Yes you can see a plate. you can see numbers/letters. But you can’t tell what they are…

  • Andy Chen September 15, 2015, 5:00 pm

    I love dashcamreviews.com. Good resource. I haven’t come across anything that I like THAT much although the Mobius comes darn close, if it wasn’t for the occasional glitch or hiccup.

  • Luke Kwan September 15, 2015, 5:25 pm

    I have been tempted with the mobius but i want something with a screen so i can at anytime check the view angle.

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