Garmin Dash Cam 66W Review

Garmin Dash Cam 66W Review

Garmin Dash Cam 66W’s predecessor was named the best of 2022, awarded five stars, and won the prestigious T3 Platinum Award. I would say it was rather good – and we have high expectations for its successor.

The new Dash Cam 66W takes everything we loved about the Dash Cam 55 – a compact design, good video quality, and intuitive driver assistance features – and bumps it up a notch.

As a result, it’s not a day-and-night upgrade but improves on the best of 2022.

Are you wondering how much better 66W is than 55? Find out here…

GARMIN DASH CAM 66W REVIEW: DESIGN

Garmin Dash Cam 66W Review

Take a look at the Dash Cam 66W and you’ll immediately see the similarities to last year’s 55. The two cameras are almost identical in size and appearance, save for the smaller lens on the newer model, as well as deeper grooves on the body, which likely act as heat sinks to keep the interior cool.

The Dash Cam 66W is around the size of a matchbox and can be hidden behind the central rearview mirror of most vehicles. Garmin has removed the bronze ring from the Lens of the Dash Cam 55, meaning the all-black 66W is less obvious when left in a parked car, which could make it less appealing to thieves.

In addition to the four buttons for navigating the menu system on one side, the 66W has a 2-inch display with a resolution of 320 x 240 on the back, a micro USB port for power on the other side, and a microSD card slot underneath.

Garmin’s universal windscreen mount has a ball-and-socket connection along the top edge. A dash cam mounts this simple, yet extremely effective, takes up very little space, allows for adjustments in any direction, can be easily removed and attached to the camera, and secures to the windscreen with a magnet.

Peel off the back of a sticky pad the size of a coin, and stick it high up and in the middle of your windscreen. It is secured in place by a magnet attached to the stick pad. Thus, removing the camera leaves only the coin-sized magnet on the windscreen.

The Dash Cam 66W has a pair of MicroUSB cables (1.4m and 4m) and an adapter that plugs into your car’s 12V lighter socket and provides two USB ports – one for the camera, one for another device like your smartphone.

GARMIN DASH CAM 66W REVIEW: FEATURES

This part of the 66W’s review may sound familiar to anyone who has read our review of the Dash Cam 55 from 2018. The new Garmin model comes with the same set of features as its predecessors.

As a result, video is continuously recorded and split into files every 60 seconds. The oldest videos will be replaced with new footage once your microSD card is full.

In the lower-left corner of every video is the date, time, GPS coordinates, and speed, and these can all be turned off from the settings menu, along with the audio recording.

When the camera’s G-sensor detects a collision, that portion of the video is saved and cannot be overwritten by subsequent recordings.

In addition to these dash cam essentials, the Garmin 66W offers forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and alerts if the vehicle in front begins to move and you don’t.

Depending on whether you can see the Garmin display while driving, you may find these useful. Unless we memorized what each bleep meant, we weren’t able to use the camera’s alerts, as the display was obscured by the rearview mirror.

Nevertheless, we found the ‘go’ alert useful on two occasions when we were adjusting the radio or navigation system, and had not noticed the traffic had started moving.

Additionally, the Dash Cam 66W can alert you to nearby speed cameras and red light cameras at junctions, although again, you can only use these features if you can glance up and see the display.

By speaking to the dash cam, you can save pictures or one-minute video clips. When you use a smart speaker at home, you say ‘Okay Garmin’, then issue an instruction. Additionally, you can start or stop a Timelapse video – or ‘Travellapse’ video – as well as start or stop a recording.

Despite how well the voice system works, we found that it would mistake other words for ‘Okay Garmin’ too often. Sometimes, the camera will respond and act on the command it thinks it heard when it is chatting with a passenger. The beeps and alerts can be confusing unless you can clearly see the display each time.

Dash cams work best when they are non-intrusive and left to do their job of capturing footage that could become crucial evidence. As a rule, we turn off the extra features and don’t look at the camera. In contrast, if you can position the camera differently and want to use the driver assistance features, it works just fine – albeit less well when chatting with your passenger.

Lastly, the parking mode records when the car is parked and switched off. Despite the camera’s software for turning it on, it requires a £30 hard-wiring kit to provide continuous power from your car’s battery.

There is a small battery in the camera, but the company claims it only lasts up to 30 minutes. We think this is a little optimistic, given how hot the camera runs.

GARMIN DASH CAM 66W REVIEW: VIDEO QUALITY

dash cam

Dash Cam 66W video quality options are similar to those of Dash Cam 55. The default option is 1080p Full HD at 60 fps, but other options include 1440p with HDR at 30 fps, 1080p with HDR at 30 fps, and 720p with HDR at 30 fps.

While it’s frustrating that you can’t combine these to create 1440p with HDR at 60 fps, you have to pick the one you think will produce the best video for your needs. In situations such as reading the number plate of a vehicle that caused a collision, the smoother video produced by a higher frame rate should help improve the clarity of individual frames. In light conditions that vary, HDR enhances image quality by bringing out details in shadowed areas without overexposing lighter areas.

We suggest you pick a video option with HDR enabled, since most roads have changing lighting conditions – the sun dappling through trees, for instance. As the camera’s highest resolution is 1440p, we prefer to use HDR in this case, even though the frame rate drops from 60 to 30 per second.

The Dash Cam 66W has a 180-degree wide-angle lens, compared to 122 degrees with the Dash Cam 55. As a result, your video includes a much wider view of the front of your vehicle. It’s wide enough to see a little to the side of our car, which should help capture video of someone t-boning us at a junction, or someone drifting into our lane causing a collision.

We found that the video taken by the Dash Cam 66W was grainier than the 1440p resolution would indicate, but we suspect that Garmin is hoping that a slightly overexposed and noisier video will provide more detail than a bit darker video.

During the night, there was some graininess, but the detail was still excellent, especially for a dashcam costing (just) under £200.

SOFTWARE

The software on the Dash Cam 66W is very similar to that on the older Dash Cam 55. Four buttons are located on the side of the camera (the display is not touch-sensitive), and it is fairly intuitive but not the best. Once you figure out which button selects an option and which takes you back to the previous menu, the system becomes intuitive.

Similar to most dash cams, once you set up the Garmin the way you want, you won’t have to touch it again. The beauty of these products is that they are true “set-it-and-forget-it”.

Video and photos can also be viewed via a gallery arranged in reverse chronological order in the software.

In addition, you can connect to the camera using the free Garmin Drive app for iOS or Android, and then transfer video directly to your smartphone or tablet using a direct Wi-Fi connection. While this is fine, we find it just as easy – and perhaps even faster – to put a microSD card in our computer to keep a copy of any important recordings we make.

Pros Cons
Easy to mount and review Runs quite hot
Good video quality Voice controls are often unnecessary
Subtle, compact design

VERDICT

With good video quality, voice control, and convenient driver assistant features, the Garmin 66W is an excellent dash cam that is more compact than most. Because of its small size and discreet design, we would feel comfortable leaving it permanently installed in our vehicle without fear of it being stolen, and for drivers who want no distractions, it can be hidden behind the rearview mirror.

As a similar note, the driver assistance and voice control systems can be turned off if you wish, leaving the camera to function silently. The assistance features work fine and provide clear and useful advice via the camera’s speaker and display – like a gentle nudge to begin moving when traffic ahead has started.

As always, the windscreen mounting system is simple and secure, and the video quality is excellent both during the day and at night. With a much wider lens, this Dash Cam is a welcome upgrade over the Dash Cam 55. If you’re looking for the best Garmin dash cam, this is it. You don’t really need to upgrade from 55 to 66W.