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If you're looking for a 4K dashcam on a budget, this is one of the most affordable options, but you'll miss out on some features found in more premium models.
Considering how affordable they’ve become, there’s no good reason not to have a dashcam in your car. Even if you live in the United States where few if any insurers offer discounts for using a dashcam, they’re good to have in the case of hit and runs or other accidents.
The Viofo A129 Pro Duo offers front and rear cameras, 4K resolution, and some unique features. It’s also one of the most affordable 4K options you’ll find. Is this an instant buy, or is it too good to be true?
What’s In the Box?
The Viofo A129 Pro Duo comes in a relatively small box, which may lead you to think there isn’t much inside. That’s far from the truth. Open it up and you’ll find the front and rear camera nestled in form-fitting foam on top. Underneath you’ll find one short mini USB cable and one longer mini USB cable along with a dual-port USB car charger. There is also one long mini USB cable meant for connecting the rear camera to the front camera.
That’s not all, however, as Viofo has included some nice accessories. You get five cable clips for neatly mounting cables, extra adhesive pads for both the front and rear camera, a Micro SD card reader, and a pry tool for hiding cables underneath your car’s interior trim. Alongside these you’ll also find the warranty card and user manual.
There’s some optional hardware that wasn’t included in the kit we were sent for review. You can opt for an internal infrared camera instead of a rear camera, for example. There ‘s also a GPS module and Bluetooth remote, and a kit for hard-wiring the dashcam to your car directly.
While the “duo” in the Viofo A129 Pro Duo’s name comes from the two cameras, they’re not identical. Only the front camera is 4K, for example, using a Sony Exmor R sensor with a 130 degree viewing angle. The rear camera, presumably because the rearview often isn’t as important, has a max 1080P resolution, using a Sony Starvis sensor with a 140 degree viewing angle. This is enough to pick up if someone rear-ends you (or if you back into someone else), but isn’t as detailed as the front camera.
Of course, there’s more to video than simply the resolution. The bit rate matters every bit as much and in many cases more than the resolution. The rear camera has a single bit rate of 15 Mbps, but with the front camera, you have options ranging from 15 Mbps minimum to 50 Mbps maximum. This dashcam supports up to 256GB Micro SD cards, which will record more than seven hours at the highest bit rate setting.
The manual mentions wide dynamic range (WDR), which enables the camera to show as many important details as possible in different situations. You can toggle this on or off in the settings menu.
The Viofo A19 Pro Duo uses loop recording. This records constant videos in small chunks (the default is one minute), deleting the oldest ones when you run out of space on your Micro SD card. This means you never have to worry about making space on your card manually. In case of an accident or another event you want to capture, there is an option to lock videos to keep them from being deleted.
When you get the video files off of the SD card, you’ll see video from both cameras, assuming both are mounted and plugged in. This is handy after the fact, but you also need a way to see them in the car. For this, the dashcam has a picture-in-picture video, overlaying the rear camera over the top left of the screen showing your front camera. You can also opt for the rear camera to take more of the screen or to simply show one camera or the other.
While you can pop out the Micro SD card and insert it into your computer, this can be overly cumbersome. Instead, you can use the dashcam’s built-in Wi-Fi to pair with your smartphone using the Viofo app. This not only lets you play video recordings from the camera, but also control all the functions of the camera from your phone.
Parking is where most minor accidents happen, which is why the A129 Pro Duo has three parking modes. These work best if you’ve bought the optional kit to hard-wire the Pro Duo to your battery instead of working through your car’s power outlet. These aren’t as seamless as the parking mode on the Z-Edge Z3D that we looked at earlier this year, but they’re still full-featured.
Installing the Viofo A129 Pro Duo
While you can use the optional hard-wire kit to more permanently install the Viofo A129 Pro Duo in your car, that was not the approach I used. I simply used the included car charger. This still automatically powers the camera on and off when you start and turn off your car, so don’t worry about having to remember to press record.
The first step is to figure out where to mount it. This can be trickier than it sounds, as you want it not to obstruct your video while driving, but still in an area of your windshield that it can get a good view of the road. Ideally, it will also be somewhere that your windshield wipers can reach so your view isn’t blocked by rain or snow.
The weather was in full-on winter mode where I live, so mounting this was a little more involved than usual. First, I needed to run the defroster for a while, then dry all the moisture off the inside of the windshield in order to mount the dashcam. Once I’d prepared the windshield, the camera stuck easily.
Once the dashcam is mounted, you need to route the power cable. In some cases, you’ll have a big enough gap in your vehicle’s trim to tuck the cable away, though in some areas you’ll need to use the included trim tool to pry it away and tuck in the cable. It was nice to see the trim tool included as it was essential at some points during the installation.
Installing the Rear Camera
The rear camera is optional, but once you’ve installed the front camera, adding this one isn’t much different. One thing to be mindful of is where the port is while you’re affixing it to your rear windshield. Other than that, you’re simply dealing with running a longer cable.
Viofo recommends using the straight end of the cable for the rear camera and the angled end for connecting to the front camera. This didn’t work for me, and I had to use the cable the reverse way. This worked well, and at first I wondered if the labels on the cable had been reversed. After looking into it, I found that Viofo recommended the same order in the manual as well, which I found strange.
In my case, the combination of the defroster built into the rear window and the snow outside made keeping the rear camera attached a chore. I think this was down to when I installed it. If you install the rear camera on a warm, dry day, you shouldn’t have any issues.
Using the Viofo A129 Pro Duo
The great thing about most modern dashcams is that you don’t need to think about them. They just quietly sit there until you need them. The Viofo A129 Pro Duo absolutely works this way, so once you have it set up, it will just run in the background until you need it.
Out of the box, the Pro Duo comes set to record at the second-highest bit rate. This will work well for most people, but you’ll want to adjust it based on the size of your Micro SD card. In my case, I bumped the quality up to maximum just to see what it could do. In your case, you want to go for the highest possible bitrate that won’t have the loop recording deleting old footage too quickly.
Depending on how and where you drive, there are some features you may want to turn on or off. Motion detection will automatically record if the camera sees movement. This may be handy to use while parked, but only if the camera is hard-wired. You can also use the time-lapse recording in order to save space on your card if need be.
Daytime video quality is fairly good on both the front and rear cameras. Obviously the 4K resolution on the front camera gives it a slight edge, but details like license plate numbers are easy to make out on footage from either camera. Nighttime footage is better than some other dashcams, but not the best we’ve seen.
On the front camera, bit rate makes a big difference, with lower bit rates saving space but making details hard to make out. As mentioned above, you’ll want to set this as high as you can to make sure you don’t miss anything.
Should You Buy the Viofo A129 Pro Duo?
There are better dashcams available, there’s no doubt about that. It’s a matter of considering which features you need, which features you want, and what you’re willing to pay. If you’ve got a higher budget, we’ve covered dashcams with a nicer feature set before, and you may want one of those.
That said, the Viofo A129 Pro Duo offers a decent feature set for the price. Even a single 4K front camera with these features would be nice for the price. Throw in the 1080p rear camera and it’s a solid deal.
No matter which dashcam you end up buying, there are a few things that you’ll learn only after using it for a while. Fortunately for you, we’ve spent quite a bit of time using dashcams and have picked up some useful information along the way. Whether you’re new to dashcams or have been using them for a while, make sure to check out our tips for using your dashcam to its fullest potential.