After a month of use we thought it was time to share some of our impressions on the BlackVue dashcam hardware and software. The short version is, if you are in the market for a dashcam, you should seriously consider getting one from BlackVue. We were surprised how much it added to the driving experience. Having a record of each drive will clearly be helpful in a dispute, but we think knowing there will be a record also made us drive with more care. We have no reservations recommending the BlackVue DR500GW.
When the RainyDayGarage folks installed the BlackVue DR500GW-HD dashcam in the project car a month ago, they opted to forego putting in the Power Magic Pro for regulating juice to the BlackVue. Instead, they powered the camera off the same cigarette plug which ran the Cheetah mirror. It took everyone a few trips to remember to switch on/off the camera when getting in/out of the car. While the extra step is now second nature, we may still install the Power Magic Pro just to eliminate the worry of accidentally leaving the camera on and draining the car battery dry.
The BlackVue iPhone app is helpful for setting preferences and checking the angle of the camera. There are other features inside the app, but most of them are easier to use on the computer than on the phone. Once set, the dashcam is pretty much a “hands-off until needed” kind of thing. For this FirstUse report, we thought we would show the setup, take a look at the quality of the videos, and walk through the basic features of the software.
In general, we were very impressed with the quality of the HD video captured by the BlackVue. We selected a few clips which we think represent the typical lighting conditions most users encounter on a daily basis. The clips have been posted to YouTube for faster download, but note that because of YouTube’s conversion, the videos’ quality are not as high as the originals:
Those who want to see the original raw footage should click on the appropriate image below. Just be aware that the entire file has to download before it will start playing, so don’t try it if you have a slow internet connection.
The BlackVue camera will work right out of the box, but some of the settings will likely need to be adjusted (time, speed, and the like). If the settings are not properly set, like not changing the time from the default BlackVue Korea time, the data stamped onto the clips may not properly reflect local information (date, time, etc,) which means that if you want to use a video to settle a dispute, you can’t (unless the incident actually happened in Korea, then you’re all set).
The best way to set the various parameters is with the BlackVue iPhone app. The first step is to establish a WiFi connection between the BlackVue camera and the iPhone. In order to make the connection, the BlackVue required a password. However, if one has not been set, then the software will take whatever is entered and set that as the password. Enter whatever you want, but make note of it. All the other parameters appeared reasonable so we left them alone.
With the connection between the devices established, clicking on the “Live” icon enabled us see what the camera was seeing. There was a slight delay, but more than sufficient for adjusting the angle of the lens.
There are BlackVue desktop viewers for both the Mac and PC. As with the iPhone app, each of the camera’s settings (sensitivity, WiFi settings, etc) can be adjusted via the desktop version. The only thing we found that was different between the versions was that the full list of timezones was not present on the Mac version. It is a minor bug, but did confuse us for a while. This is a minor issue as the timezone setting may be done easily with the iPhone app. Still, it would be nice if BlackVue fixes this in a future release.
The BlackVue records videos in 1-minute clips (1920×1080, 38MB). Each clip also has an accompanying GPS coordinate file (.gps) and an accelerometer file (.3gf). The recorded video files may be viewed using any player which can play MP4 files. However, the BlackVue desktop viewer must be used if you want to look at the clips and the other data files together. Another advantage with using the supplied BlackVue viewer is the software will automatically play all the clips sequentially.
The viewer allows the user to locate clips quickly by date and time or by “events.” Once the clip has been located, one can watch the video as well as track the car’s location via Google Map. Controls in the upper right of the window will let the user export or print a pic of the image.
To show how the videos and images may be used should it ever be necessary, we picked a clip of us going throught a rotary in Boston where we were almost cut off from the right, which was then followed by another car that did cut us off. IF either of those cars had clipped us, we would’ve had clear evidence of the sequence of events as well as all of the speed info needed to sort out a “He said, he said” situation.
NOTE: To those who don’t know the rules of navigating through a rotary: cars already IN the rotary have the right of way. Enter a rotary only when clear. Got it?
Above is a complete screen grab of BlackVue desktop application. The interface was pretty easy to figure out and very convenient to use. Note the timestamp, the speed in MPG, and the GPS coordinates in the uppper right. That info has also been embedded in the video clip.
The following are a few other miscellaneous observations regarding the BlackVue after the FirstUse:
- The voice notification for camera on/off is a nice touch;
- The internal capacitor allows for a graceful power-down;
- The camera gets pretty warm while in use. Not sure how that will affect longevity.
All in all, the BlackVue dashcam was easy to set up, worked reliably and as expected. The captured videos were crisp and clear. The included software was simple to use and provided all of the features we needed to quickly find what we needed. The ability to view the feed from a smartphone via WiFi is unique to the BlackVue. It was handy for confirming the camera’s setup. We will have more to say about using the WiFi feature for “remote viewing/monitoring” in the InTheWild report.
We were going to get another mount to point the camera out the back to get some clips from the rear. However, we learned that BlackVue will be releasing a 2-camera wireless system in the US in a few weeks. We decided to wait and take a look at that instead.
BTW, we think any car driven by a teenager should have a dashcam installed ASAP (Hmmm…we must be getting old. Hey kid, get off my lawn!).
UPDATE (August 5, 2013): BlackVue has release firmware V1.008E for the dashcam. They have also released new versions of the Viewer (Mac v1.01, Windows v2.035).