A while ago, I started using a dashcam app on my iPhone called CarCorder. I used this for a while and whilst it did the job well enough, it was a bit of a pest having to put my phone in the windscreen mount every time I got in the car. Also, the app drained my phone’s battery pretty quickly if it wasn’t plugged in to power. As a consequence, I got out of the habit of using it.
I recently decided to splash out & buy a proper dashcam, so I drew up a list of “must have” requirements that went something like this:
- Good quality video, day and night, ideally HD
- Large capacity to store the footage
- Small & unobtrusive design
- Able to be left in the car and automatically record every journey without user intervention
- Built in GPS
I also had some “wants” that I didn’t consider quite so important, but would really like to have:
- A rear camera as well as front
- Wifi, to be able to get the footage off the device without removing the SD card
- Parking mode
I spent a while looking around at the various dashcams on the market and found a market flooded with cheap, but crappy devices. After digging a bit further, I managed to find a few devices from more reputable manufacturers that looked of acceptable quality, however most of them were of an absurd size. A lot of the devices I looked at had screens on the back of them. Personally, I can’t understand this. Why do I need to see on a screen what I can already see out of my window? This type of device would be no good, as I wanted something as small as possible that could sit discreetly in the car permanently. I did find a few cameras that seemed small & unobtrusive and were reviewed well and I decided that a Blackvue DR550DW-2CH met my requirements the best.
I deliberated over buying the DR550 for a while, whilst I read some reviews to see if it was as good as it seemed. During this time, Blackvue launched an updated version, the DR650GW-2CH. This was much the same as the 550, but with a couple of things that I appreciated; an all-black finish (without the silver ring of the 550) and compatability with 64GB micro SD cards (as opposed to 32GB on the 550).
Note that the “GW” in DR650GW-2CH means it has GPS and WiFi and the “2CH” means it’s two channel, so it has a rear camera.
The DR650GW-2CH seemed to meet all my requirements, so I took the plunge and bought one. I bought mine from here:
I paid £329 for the camera, with a free Smart Power kit. Of course, the day after mine arrived, they dropped the price to £310. Sigh.
The camera arrived last week and I took a few pics of the box:
I installed my kit last week and found the installation really easy. They say they recommend having the device fitted by a professional, but I really wouldn’t bother if you’re at all handy with this sort of thing. It took me around half an hour to install and I wasn’t in any real hurry. Firstly, I fitted the front camera in a spot behind my rear view mirror. I have a bunch of sensors for lights & windscreen wipers behind my mirror, so I had to put mine slightly to the side. I then connected the power lead and ran it around the windscreen, under the passenger dash and along the transmission tunnel to a cigar lighter socket in my center console. The kit comes with little sticky pads to help you clip your cable to your windscreen, but I didn’t use any of these. Instead, I just tucked the cable in gaps in the trim as it gives a neater install, with the cables all completely invisible. Also, I have a heated windscreen and I wasn’t sure how well the glue on the sticky pads would cope with that.
After fitting the power cable, the main device was ready to go! I still had to fit the rear camera though, so I ran the single cable from the front camera to the back of the car and installed the rear camera at the top of the rear window. I was a bit worried the cable wasn’t going to be long enough to reach to the rear camera whilst taking a slightly indirect route in order to hide the cable well. As it turned out, there was about 6″ spare cable in the end. Depending on the size of your car, this may or may not be an issue. My car is a Jaguar XF, so anything much bigger than that and you’ll probably struggle, but you should be ok with something around the same size, or smaller.
I’ve read reports of the older DR550GW’s rear camera cable interfering with DAB radio antennas. My car has a DAB radio antenna in the rear window and the camera’s cable runs pretty close to it. I’ve had no issues with either my DAB radio, or the rear camera since installing it, so I guess the issue doesn’t apply to the DR650GW-2CH.
I have my power connector plugged into a cigar lighter socket, which means that the camera starts automatically when I unlock the car and turns off automatically when I lock it. My kit came with a Smart Power adapter, which looks like it’s designed to connect directly to the car’s battery. This has a little black box that controls the power to its own cigar lighter socket which you then plug your camera into. The idea is that the camera then has permanent power, meaning parking mode can be used. The black box is supposed to monitor the battery’s power level and cut power to the camera when it goes below a certain voltage, in order to prevent your camera from draining your car’s battery. I haven’t installed this yet, but I intend to, as soon as I’ve figured out my car’s fuseboxes well enough to find a suitable spare fuse to attach the device to.
Once my camera was set up in the car, I enabled WiFi, by simply pressing the WiFi button on the side of the camera. The camera responds with a voice confirmation of “WiFi enabled”. Nice. I then connected my iPhone to the WiFi network provided by the camera and opened the BlackVue app. I could then select the WiFi connection and view a live feed from the camera in order to position the cameras optimally. I had a look through the settings via the app and decided that I didn’t want most of the voice confirmation messages that you get when the camera powers on, off, records an event etc, but I still wanted voice confirmations when I turned WiFi on/off or enabled/disabled sound recording.
After going for a short test drive, I connected to the camera via the app again and downloaded the footage from the front and rear cameras to my phone. I could then view the videos from within the app, including a map overlay showing the car’s position, as well as a small bar at the bottom showing the car’s speed.
I later on tried to copy the video from my phone onto my PC, but found that I couldn’t. When you save a video to “Internal Storage” in the Blackvue app, it doesn’t put it in your camera roll on iOS (not sure about on Android). Instead, it seems to keep the video within the app, meaning you can’t easily copy it off your phone. The options in the app let you upload it to YouTube, but that’s about the only way of getting video out of the app as far as I can tell. This seems like a bit of an oversight and hopefully a future software update will bring a way to get the footage off my phone. In the meantime, I’ve got a few ideas of how to get the videos into my phone’s camera roll and I’ll post an update if I have any luck. In the meantime, I can get the video onto my PC by simply removing the micro SD card from the camera and putting it into my PC. This is no worse than most of the other cameras on the market, so I’ve not lost a great deal here.
First impressions of the DR650GW-2CH are good. I’ll update this post as & when I play with it and discover more features.