First Click: TomTom’s Bandit camera beats GoPro with software

March 9th, 2016


I’ve just returned from a weeklong snow holiday in the Austrian Alps where I performed a casual survey of action cameras. It didn’t require much scientific rigor because the mountain was absolutely dominated by hundreds of boxy little GoPros. I only saw two outliers: a lone Contour and a single TomTom Bandit — the latter affixed to my helmet for testing.

It’s little wonder so many people gravitate towards GoPro. The brand is synonymous with action cameras and they're sold alongside snowboards, mountain bikes, and surf gear in sport shops around the world. But GoPro's popularity doesn’t necessarily make it the best choice — especially if, like me, you value the ability to quickly edit and share videos. I spent the last week filming my family's mountain expeditions with the Bandit and two GoPro cameras: my old HERO3 Silver and a recently purchased HERO4 Session. The videos all came out pretty great. But GoPro simply can’t compete with the better user experience TomTom has created through the Bandit's sensors and software.

The TomTom Bandit costs $399, putting it on par with GoPro’s top of the line HERO4 Black model. But for that price Banditos get something Heroes don’t: GPS and a bevy of built-in sensors that tag your captured footage with meaningful metadata. Both GoPro and TomTom let you manually highlight important moments in live and recorded video, but TomTom takes it a step further by automatically tagging moments of high G-force, acceleration, deceleration, rotation, vertical speed, and even heart rate data if you’re wearing an optional chest strap. Each highlight is identified with a colorful icon that's mapped onto the video timeline in the Bandit's apps.

tomtom bandit app

Scrubbing through my own videos for the deceleration and max G-force highlights, for example, allowed me to quickly identify and extract all my crashes from hours of video.

I cobbled together the compilation video above, for example, in just a few minutes using the Bandit app on my iPhone. I chose the g-force overlay for obvious reasons, but I could also show my location on the mountain trail, elevation, speed, and more. TomTom also makes an app for Android, and Bandit Studio apps for Macs and PCs. The images, video, and sensor data captured by the Bandit cam can even be exported to your favorite third-party editing tools.

Like GoPro, TomTom offers a variety of mounts for the Bandit. The video above was shot using both selfie-stick and board mounts, instead of the helmet mount used in the crash video. I was able to edit and share it before I reached the base of the mountain.

GoPro CEO Nick Woodman is well aware of his company’s need to shore up its software. "We recognize the need to develop software solutions that make it easier for our customers to offload, access and edit their GoPro content," Woodman said last month, after posting dismal earnings on relatively poor camera sales. And just last week, the company bought Replay and Splice, two mobile video editing apps it plans to integrate with its GoPro software.

As a long time GoPro user, I’m both surprised and impressed by what TomTom’s achieved with its first foray into action cameras. Bandit’s not only a fantastic camera, brimming with thoughtful hardware design choices from its mount to its neatly integrated USB connector, it’s also a superior solution for quickly finding and sharing all your epicness with friends and family. That’s good news for TomTom, a brand I once admired that’s eager to break into new markets after the decline of personal navigators.

Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks?

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