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Depending on where you live, a dash cam can be a nice convenience or a downright necessity. In certain parts of the world, insurance fraud is a real problem, and a dash cam is pretty much required in order to make sure you don’t fall into these scams. For others, it’s nice to know that you’ll have video proof of what happened in the unfortunate event that you get in an accident.
Whatever the case, dash cams are useful addition for the careful driver, and today we’re looking at one called the Vantrue R1 Pro. It exists in an extremely competitive market filled with options. The Vantrue R1 Pro sits in the middle of the pack with a $120 price point – but for a limited time, you can use the code VANTRu20 for an additional $20 off!
The closest competitor to the Vantrue appears to be the Falcon Zero F170, which has a similar feature set but for $140. Another popular model is the KDLINKS X1 ($170) which includes a small SD card and enhanced night vision mode. The point is: you have options. There are a lot of dash cams out there for between $100 and $200, and even some above and below that price. So, is the Vantrue R1 Pro the one for you? That’s what we are going to figure out today.
At the end of this review, we have a Vantrue R1 Pro to give away to one lucky reader! That’s right, you can take this dash cam home for free!
What’s In the Box?
Inside the box you’ll also find a suction cup mount, DC adapter, and long USB cable. Almost everything you need to use the camera is in the box. Almost.
Sadly, there is no microSD card included, which is needed to actually store any substantial amount of video. This means that you do need to either have a card sitting around from another device, or go out and purchase one before you can actually record anything with your new camera. Most other cameras on the market at least include with a small card, so it seems like a pretty large oversight to not include one.
Before we get into actually using the dash cam to record your driving adventures, let’s talk about the hardware and the specs of the device.
Starting with the lens, you’ll find a Ambarella A7L50 + OV4689 ultra-wide angle lens installed. It features a 170-degree viewing angle, which is wider than average compared to some other cameras on the market. If you’re using this in your car, you want to make sure it sees as much as possible, and this will definitely capture everything.
The camera can record at a number of resolutions including 2560X1080@30fps, 2304X1296@30fps, 1080P@30fps, and 720P@30FPS. Whether you need higher quality or you want to record more footage on your memory card, this camera is flexible enough to handle it.
As you might expect, there’s a screen on the device that lets you adjust the settings and see what you’re recording. Because the camera is small, the screen is as well, coming in at 2.7-inches. There are also two LED lights. However, these LEDs are small, and they really don’t do much to actually light the shot. Your car has headlights, and that’s where most of the vision while driving at night will come from.
For battery, there’s a relatively small 250mAh one built-in. You won’t get much in the way of battery life, but it is enough to record for a bit or to have it record automatically when your parked car is jostled without power to the DC port.
Setup and First Use
Fortunately, the setup process for this camera is quite easy. It attaches to your car’s windshield with a suction cup that slides into the top of the camera itself.
Where the setup gets a little more complicated is with the cable. It comes with an 11.8 foot cable, and if you want, you can simply plug that into the DC outlet in your car and go. But the reason they give you such a long one is so you can run it through your car in a way that doesn’t look terrible. This will, of course, take a bit of time, but it’s worth it in the long run.
Now, where it gets confusing is in that it recommends affixing the camera to your dashboard up high near the rear-view mirror. In doing so, you end up with a long cable hanging down the middle of the window while the device is plugged in, which undoes all of the neat cable running you just spent a bunch of time doing.
To get around this problem, I simply mounted the camera lower. While this creates a picture where you see the hood of the car, it also keeps the wiring situation much neater, and makes the inside of your car look better.
In terms of recording flexibility, this camera has all kinds of options. You can tell it to record continuously until your memory card is full, which is useful if you just want to have footage of your whole drive. If you’re heading out to the country on the scenic route, this would be the option you’ll want to use. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that it doesn’t loop around and record over the older footage, so once it’s full, you either need to delete the video or stop recording.
If you’re using the camera to record accidents or anything that happens to your car on a daily basis, you’re going to want to use one of the loop recording options. You can set the camera to record in 1, 3, or 5 minute loops, where it deletes the oldest piece of footage when the card is full. If something happens, the motion sensor in the camera will lock the footage automatically if it detects an accident, or you can hit a button to lock it manually. This feature works as advertised, and while I (thankfully) didn’t have any accidents during testing, the lock button did indeed prevent footage from being deleted. Footage locked in this way are separated from the rest in a folder labeled “Events” on the SD card.
Aside from these main modes, there are plenty of other options that let you fine-tune the experience. There are motion sensors that start recording automatically while your car is parked if someone hits it. Since people rarely leave notes when something happens, you’ll have footage of the event’s aftermath, which can help you figure out if your car was hit and by whom.
When you get into the car, you don’t need to manually hit a button to start recording if it’s plugged in, as it will detect that the engine has turned on and start recording automatically. This is convenient, and it works as advertised.
There’s also an option that will have the recording start and stop when movement is detected, but I found that this option was better left off, as it would stop when sitting at a traffic light. If someone were to rear-end me while parked, it would turn on from the Accident Auto Detection Feature, but it would only catch the aftermath and not the initial hit.
There’s also the aforementioned resolution options, which will let you fine-tune the video quality. If you’re running the video on loop, you’re better off using the highest video quality, as it will give you more detail, which will make it easier to read things like street signs and license plates in your videos.
Video and Audio Quality
I’m honestly surprised by how good the videos look. Colors are vibrant, images are sharp, and it does a great job of handling the focus. I’ll admit I didn’t have the highest expectations, as a lot of the dash cam videos you see on the Internet tend to look like trash – but footage from the Vanture R1 is easily on par with more expensive action cams.
There’s actually a microphone that records at a decent level of quality. If you get in an accident and the other person admits fault, or threatens you, it will record the sound well enough for it to be used.
Other Things to Note
You can imprint the date, time, and driver ID on the video, which can be useful if you need to use the video for evidence of any kind. It also shows the speed, but that doesn’t currently work. The company has a GPS adapter in the works, in there’s a port on the device for plugging that in, but it’s not available as of testing.
While this camera is clearly built for video, you also have the option to take 16MP still images with it as well, and just like with video, they look quite good. This can be useful for taking pictures of specific things in an incident, or just capturing some beautiful scenery. Keep in mind that using the camera does require pushing a button, so you might want to have a passenger do it to avoid taking your eyes off the road.
One issue I noticed with the camera is that it gets quite hot while running, and it gets even hotter when it’s sunny. It never shut off due to overheating in my testing (and it was about 90F outside), but it felt like it was getting to the point where the heat would be bad for the long-term well-being of the device.
The Vantrue R1 Pro is a solid dash cam. It comes with a reasonable price point, a wide range of options, both in terms of how your record and the resolutions, and the video quality looks great. It gets a little hot while running, and the interface is a little on the clunky side – but it gets the job done, and once you get the settings the way you want them, you won’t need to mess with it much.
If you need a dash cam and want one that records in high quality, the Vantrue R1 Pro offers solid piece of mind for the careful driver. Use the code VANTRU20 for $20 off for a limited time.
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