Hands-on with the Garmin Speak Plus at CES 2018

Garmin just announced an updated version of their Garmin Speak called the Garmin Speak Plus. The new premium model adds a dash cam along with several safety features to a very small device that provides access to Alexa in your car. I got a chance to play with a unit at CES and learn a bit more about its new features.

I didn’t have much time with the new Garmin Speak Plus and the one I looked at was on a demo loop, so I can’t say how well its features work, but I did get a close look at the hardware and a better understanding of how the built-in dash camera functions. All of the Alexa and navigation features of the original Garmin Speak are present in the updated version. What’s new is the camera on the back that is used to monitor and record the road.

The Garmin Speak Plus is no bigger than the original. Considering there are many devices on the market that are only dash cameras which are bigger than the Speak Plus, it’s impressive that Garmin has been able to put so much into such a tiny device. Centered on the back of the device is the new camera which is always recording while the device is on. Recordings are flagged and saved automatically when an incident is detected. Otherwise, the oldest unflagged recordings are discarded to make room for new recordings.

The camera records at a maximum of 1080p resolution and 30 frames per second, but also has a 720p mode to allow for more footage. It has an 82° field of view which should be wide enough to capture everything ahead of the vehicle, but not so wide that it causes the video to have a fish-eye effect. Incidents are detected through “G-Sensors” in the Speak Plus.

Recordings are stored on a micro SD card inserted into the bottom of the Speak Plus. The VIRB mobile app can be used to view and transfer recordings off of the device. The Speak Plus includes a micro SD card in the box, but the Garmin reps didn’t know the size of the card. You’ll probably want to get something like a 64 GB High Endurance card, which is the maximum size the Speak Plus can take. With a 64 GB card, the Speak Plus will record 14 hours at 1080p and 26 hours at 720p.

In addition to recording videos, the dash cam is used to monitor the road in order to provide safety alerts. It detects the lane markings in the road and alerts you if it detects that you’ve veered out of your lane. It’s smart enough to know the difference between dotted lines between lanes in a multi-lane highway, which it will not alert you about since you’re probably just changing lanes, and lane markings that divide traffic directions, like a 2-lane highway, which it will alert you for if you cross over. It also monitors vehicles ahead to alert you if your momentum will result in an accident and it lets you know if traffic has moved forward without you noticing.

The Garmin Speak Plus seems to be one of the better products to add some smarts to older vehicles that don’t have the advanced infotainment and safety features of newer cars. If you want a lot of functionality in a single small package, it’s worth taking a look. It will retail for $229.99 when it’s released on February 10th, but it’s available to pre-order now for $199.99.

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8 comments
  1. Travis says:

    If you can, please get some time with the Roav VIVA. Need to understand the limitations they keep adding to the detail page such as how hands free doesn’t work if you use bluetooth. I don’t understand that at all. Can you get some in depth coverage?

  2. AR says:

    “It’s smart enough to know the difference between dotted lines between lanes in a multi-lane highway, which it will not alert you about since you’re probably just changing lanes”

    that is pretty smart , but it would be even smarter if it could listen for the clicking of your directional and not warn you crossing over dotted lines when it hears the clicking but warn you if does not detect the clicking

  3. AR says:

    what is that little dot on the bottom ? does it have a front facing camera to record inside the vehicle too?

  4. Rgram says:

    Can I tell Alexa to read me and respond to text messages? What are it’s capabilities in that regard?

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