Garmin Mini2

SawMaster

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Garmin sent me their Mini2 cam for review free of charge, but you can be assured that I am unbiased in my reviews as always. With each thing mentioned I'll assign a rating such as this: (x/10) with (1/10) being worst and (10/10) being best when compared to all the other cams I have used and cams I know something of. I may change these ratings as my testing and use proceeds! As always you need to do your own research before purchasing a cam; all I can do here is relate to you what I find and what my opinions are.

(EDITED 9/5/21 parking mode and dislikes)

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The box is a pleasant gray multi-color print with the side view and one front pic of the cam in gloss. It opens from both ends revealing all the usual accessories and one VERY small cam cradled in a cardboard insert.. You get a dual-port but short ciggie-plug PS which seems to be top-grade and has a listed 2.4A output total. The ultra-short size may be a problem for some. I have not seen a smaller cam on person or in pics; I can almost cover it completely with my thumb. The packaging is environmentally friendly overall so it gets 8/10 from me. On inspecting the cam I noticed (again) that the lens projects past the cam case which leaves it vulnerable to damage. We should be careful with our cams but a tiny bit more thought and effort could have eliminated almost all chance of a problem. 4/10 for the lens surround. Once again the cables have a 90 degree plug at the cam and fit tightly, something I wish other cam manufacturers would copy. I also immediately noticed that the mount is at the front of the cam, meaning that anything other than mounting to the glass isn't going to be easy and you've got forward view only, no turning it to the side. They supply an extra mount but no extra 3M pads, so you can switch the cam between 2 cars but you'd better get it placed perfectly the first time round. The mount is as small as the cam with a ball end, and the cam detaches there. I was worried that this might cause loosening of the cam swivel but after dozens of attaching cycles it is as tight as new. 9/10 on the mount.

The 'owners manual' is a fold-out with line-drawings depicting an install- 0/10 for being utterly useless. Accompanying it is a many-page booklet of safety warnings and legalese. On the surface it looked like the booklet supplied with the 57 I have, but it lacks talk of Lithium batteries so it's specific to super-cap cams. It too is about useless but safety is important so it gets 1/10. This being my second Garmin cam, I'm seeing that they seem to think the whole world is always online and wants everything done through their phone. This might describe many people today but not all. Space and performance is limited on many phones and I have no desire to have to go online to access a user manual or to download it. Experienced cam users will find nothing useful or needed with Garmin's publications whether paper or digital, and newbies won't find any issues they may have easy to resolve by themselves. Garmin would do well to study how major cam manufacturers do things and emulate that. The "E manual" is no better in helping you, but does have a link to their help desk. Overall I'll be generous and give their manuals a 4/10 score.

APP

Let's begin with me having an older low-spec Android7 phone; not the 'latest and greatest' but certainly not outdated for those needing only a basic phone and it's an Android spec still in wide use today. Rather than just my opinion here, I've requested input from other folks regards the Garmin "Drive" app and the following will reflect that. First, to use the app you mush register an account with Garmin; it's free but totally unnecessary- most other cams don't require that. It's slow to load, and sometimes slow to connect. It's basic in nature offering only a small handful of options regards cam set-up and function. Slow file downloads happen with every phone and every cam, but there's a number of people whose connection dropped during a download and some complaints of corrupted/unreadable files. Cam function with the app is done through two Bluetooth channels running simultaneously- both must be paired and working to do anything useful with the cam. Older Garmin cams needed only one channel- I don't know why the change but it appears to be the root cause of my biggest problem with this cam and app: To get the app to work on my phone I have to turn the cam off and restart it (or turn it on from off), enable the wifi via button-press on the cam, turn my phone off and restart it- then it will work ONCE. Leave the app or turn wifi or cam off and you have to go through the whole procedure once again. So for me to use the app is about a 3 1/2 minute complex procedure. I have heard of some other Garmin owners having similar issues with many reporting good to excellent results connecting to and using the "Drive" app. Personally to me the "Drive" app is an abject failure throughout. Some others think it's OK. So taking in consideration what the average of all the user-experience seems to be regards this app I'll rate it 4/10; even if it works perfectly for you it's too slow and too basic to rate any better. IOS/Apple users seem to have similar experiences to Android here. Personally it gets 0/10 from me- I've used some crappy dashcam apps in the past and even with all their faults they are better than this. With the Garmin 57 it's more an inconvenience but with the Mini2 being screenless it's imperative that the app function well every time and it doesn't. It's a damn shame for an otherwise good cam like the Mini2 to be stuck with the current Garmin "Drive" app in light of the special niche this small cam has in the market, especially with so many people wanting a small cam.

G-SENSOR

There is a single setting for the G-sensor to cover driving and parking, so you're either going to have to accept numerous locked-file false-alarms in driving or not have sensitive impact detection when parked; you can't have both here. When set on high sensitivity mine can only be activated by a fairly hard slap on the windshield at the cam. It might suffice for a hard collision at speed, but otherwise I would not be surprised to see a severely mangled fender when parked and no recording of the event with this cam. Perhaps the biggest difference between the Mini2 and the original Mini is that the older cam used "Motion Detect" for parking mode, and the Mini2 uses "G-sensor" with no other options available. I've noticed with other cams that G-sensor sensitivity can vary between individual examples but I've noticed several other owners of the Mini2 experiencing what I have. For me 2/10, yours may do better but I doubt it will be anywhere near excellent, and again with just one setting it's not possible to have it always set right.

MOTION DETECT and GPS and ADAS

Not available on this cam, but if you have a GPS-enabled Garmin cam, the Mini2 will 'synch' with that and will embed/display the GPS data from the other cam.

PARKING MODE

The Mini2 is supposed to switch to parking mode after a time value selected in the menu. It's been suggested that it detects the lack of movement through the G-sensor to know when you park, but I am not sure if it's that or sensing of the voltage drop when the car engine cuts off. Whatever it's supposed to do it doesn't do reliably. In my testing of at least 50 uses this cam has entered parking mode a handful of times, which is indicated by the red LED being on solid, not flashing. I've verified this by checking the vid files. Garmin says this cam will function with the parking mode cable which the older Mini needed to do parking mode and I suggest that you buy it if you want parking protection with this cam. Then parking mode switching will happen in conjunction with your ignition switch reliably. I'm still working with this, but as it is now parking mode rates 0/10 due to unreliability and I do not expect that to change.

(Continued below)
 
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VIDEO

This cam records 1080p30fps tops. There's a 720P setting available. Nowadays 1080p30 is somewhat outdated, but not too long ago was considered excellent. You won't get great plate capture or small details with a 1080p cam but for most people it can still be enough- it will clearly show car positions and movement and lighting like turn-signals and signs etc. In almost all situations this is all you'll need to show who did what and that you did no wrong. 4K resolution can be had now, but not in a cam this small. Being that the Mini2's biggest selling point is it's size i think 1080P is totally acceptable here and the Mini2 does that well. Color and clarity are very good; 8/10 for a 1080p cam- this in nearly as good as 1080p gets in any dashcam.

AUDIO

The mic and audio work great, sensitivity is perfect and audio is clear. 10/10 for audio

SPECS

Garmin hasn't made the hardware specs of this cam known, and I haven't yet found them. If I do I'll add them then. AFAIK nobody has done a tear-down to see what's inside. SEE POST BELOW and thanks to @lacibaci All I can say is that it all seems OK at this point.

LIKES

For size this can't be beat, and I do love small cams. It's definitely reliable too. For 1080p vids it does very well, and the audio recording is great. Top build quality. Great mount for 98+% of the people. Excellent cabling, connectors, and PS. Solid mount and you get two of them. I tested this cam in regular recording at 71C temperature for 20 minutes and found no problems.

DISLIKES

The app is limited in menu choices and lousy for speed, connectivity, reliability, and utility for a lot of people- including me. The mounting scheme is limiting. The LED indicator light is brighter than I care for. The tight mount makes really small adjustments tough; it tends to 'jump' past exactly where you want it but goes there if you keep trying. Parking mode is very unreliable.

CARDS

Works with Samsung EVO Select 32GB/64GB/128GB sizes. Also SanDisk Extreme A2 64GB size. Also Transcend HC-I Class 10

CONCLUSION

If you want a tiny cam this is it. It's definitely quality and is reliable for driving protection. You're getting a good value at it's price point considering what it is, though equal money can buy a better cam which will be huge in comparison. Even if you can't make the app work the default settings are OK so it's still usable. But the "Drive" app totally lets this and other Garmin cams down; slow and few options at best and almost worth swapping for hemorrhoids at worst. Very good cam, very questionable app. I can normally quickly tell you whether i recommend a cam or not; the job is tougher here because if the app works well for you then you're going to love this little jewel of a cam. If the app gives you the level of trouble I have had you'll probably want to return it. So it is with great hesitancy that I recommend the Mini2 but only if you truly must have the smallest reliable dashcam on the market- otherwise there are better cams at this price with apps which work well for everyone.
 
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P7310019.JPG
P7310024.JPG
Probably the smallest good Dashcam there is
P7310016.JPG
L to R: B2K, Garmin Mini2, B4K, A139,Garmin 57
P8230031.JPG
L to R: Garmin 57, A139, Garmin Mini2, B4K
 
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Full Sun at Noon
Raw File

Near Dark (It's actually a lot darker than the video appears!)
Raw File
 
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Mini 2 internal photos from Garmin.
 

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Skylar132

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how do the error notifications work? audible? and does it sstill have the original minis overheating issue
 
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how do the error notifications work? audible? and does it sstill have the original minis overheating issue
Still need to do a measured heat test session, hopefully within the next day. It seems that error notifications are visual, with alternate flashes from each LED. If you can see the cam at all you'd notice it as the LED's are bright. I'll check that too.

Phil
 
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@Skylar132
I have a partial answer for you. I just got done testing the Mini2 at air temps of 71C (160F) during normal recording for 20 minutes without recording failure. But there was a failure- the cam did not go into parking mode whereas it had done that a short time before prior to my heat-test session. I had a similar failure with the Garmin57. I've seen comments elsewhere and here too regarding the unreliability of the Mini2 switching into parking mode. I'll investigate more when I can but at this time I can't recommend the Mini2 for parking use.

Phil
 
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@Skylar132
I have a partial answer for you. I just got done testing the Mini2 at air temps of 71C (160F) during normal recording for 20 minutes without recording failure. But there was a failure- the cam did not go into parking mode whereas it had done that a short time before prior to my heat-test session. I had a similar failure with the Garmin57. I've seen comments elsewhere and here too regarding the unreliability of the Mini2 switching into parking mode. I'll investigate more when I can but at this time I can't recommend the Mini2 for parking use.

Phil
did the garmin 56 have this parking mode issue as well?
 
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I don't have a 56, and the 57 I do have works better but not perfectly. The older Garmins used motion detect, not G-sensor for parking protection and IIRC those required the parking cable. I'd recommend using the parking cable with the Mini2 for reliability in switching to parking mode, but even if the cam doesn't switch you still have regular recording happening so you're still protected, only using miore card space.

Phil
 
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