We are doing a quick overview and review of the Garmin Speak Plus with Amazon Alexa. This is essentially an Alexa enabled speaker that you install in your car or truck and with your smartphone data; you can access Alexa skills, stream music or utilize Garmin navigation.
I’ll be installing the Garmin Speak in a Ford F150. The box comes with the camera and USB to 12v cable which is long enough to go from the windshield and thread under the seat into the center console. You will three apps installed before you want to plug it in.
The setup wizard is very smooth and a lot of actions happen by themselves. You just need to be patient.
- 1. Garmin Speak
- 2. Garmin Virb
- 3. Amazon Alexa
Garmin Speak – is your gateway to the device. Not only can you ask Alexa to perform some skills, you can stream music through it. If you have Prime, then Amazon music is available but not Spotify as of August 2018.
Garmin Virb – This app allows you to connect via Wifi to the Garmin Speak to view download any video or photos taken with the included 4gb SD micro card.
Amazon Alexa – Finally you want to use this app to ass some Alexa skills such as populating your flash briefing – which in my case was Amazon weather and the hourly CBC news casts.
Garmin Speak Features I Like
Now that you can say “Alexa…..” just like at home, some features I do like using while in the car with the Garmin Speak.
Amazon Music – One of the neat features that you have access in your car is the ability to tell Alexa to play a song or track. At time of purchase (things may change) you can ask Alexa to play genre stations via Amazon Music (great if you are a prime member) and you have access to your spotify library. However! Garmin Speak doesn’t yet support Spotify, so we’ll have to wait until they start bringing in support.
Flash Briefing – Add several news podcast skills and simply ask Alexa what’s in the news. I find this feature great when I get into the car first thing in the morning. My list is composed of: Weather, CBC Halifax, CTV Headlines, CNN Headlines and CBC Radio Hourly news.
Of course the big feature is being able to ask via Alexa for Garmin to navigate a route for me to an address. The turn by turn navigation is then displayed on the Garmin Speak screen via simply icons and alerts. Overall I found this to work great when you are doing city driving. However, you still get the problem of old Point of Interest data (like finding a gas station). While Garmin Speak does tell you the distance to the location, you lack an on screen visualisation to confirm that is the address or see the proposed route. Even when manually entering an address into the Speak smartphone app, you don’t get the type of feedback you are accustomed to in other Garmin mapping products or Google maps.
That being said, the navigation is spot on with the alerts. I found they come in at the right time and the little cues given by the device via LED light patterns is actually a great feature. I’ve come to really appreciate the lane and collision alerts that pop up – especially the “traffic is moving” alert when you are stopped at a light.
How Is The Dash Cam?
The Garmin Speak comes with a 4gig micro SD card, so it will constantly record 3 min clips until the card is full then overwrite the oldest file. Only when you say “Alexa, ask Garmin to save a video/photo” that the file is saved to the card.
The wide angle of the lens provide a pretty good wide view once you have the device centered, it provides a great field of view when reviewing clips. The overlay data fields like speed, timestamp and gps coords at the bottom provided everything you need within this context.
I found the quality to be pretty good, I don’t have much to compare it to. You are able to make out detail and the image quality is good.
I do find the process to connect to the cam via Garmin Vibe to be a bit a hassle and video seems to take a lot longer to transfer over to your smartphone when transferring videos via iOS Air Drop for example.
The Garmin Speak Plus is an interesting device for Garmin, who are exploring new areas to bring some of their tech as traditional dash GPS devices are in decline. I find that a handful of Alexa skills work well in the car and the navigation cues are a nice touch instead of staring at your phone when driving.
The install was a breeze and the app integration was flawless so everything worked out of the box. As long as you have the three app already downloaded, you won’t have to really read any instructions to get it setup as the device will tell you the starting point.