Reviewed by Louise Totton
A dash cam is a purchase I had been considering for a while now. Quite a number of my friends use them, and they nearly all say that whilst they haven’t actually been involved in an accident and needed to use footage as evidence, they do offer them real peace of mind.
For those who aren’t exactly sure what a dash cam is, they are small devices that sucker onto your windscreen next to the rearview mirror. They are connected to the car’s power supply via the 12v charger and they automatically begin recording as soon as the ignition is switched on. Having looked online, it seems you can pay anything from around £50 for a generic, unbranded and basic camera, to well over £200 for a fully featured, WiFi and touchscreen device. The product I was sent and asked to review was a Mio MiVue 618 dash cam, which has an RRP of £99.99, making it a mid-range device.
The device comes packaged in a box with a car charger and a set of instructions. The device is a single unit which encompasses the mount and sucker as well, so no assembly required. The model I was sent does not have any onboard memory, so in order to use it, a Micro SD card is required. The unit is slightly smaller than I had expected (this is a good thing as it is sitting on the windscreen and minimises any obstruction). It feels substantial and well-constructed – not a hint of cheapness about it.
Despite my very positive initial feelings, the supplied instructions let it down quite a bit. I love gadgets, I have all manner of gadgets and gizmos dotted around the house and it is very rarely that I get frustrated with trying to work out how something works, but this did take a bit of figuring out.
I went out the car to try to set it up, using the helpful diagram of how to route the cabling. I was more than a little disappointed to realise that whilst the diagram was good and the cable plenty long enough, the manufacturer hadn’t actually provided any fittings to allow me to follow the diagram. I like my car tidy and wires hidden, so it is more than a little bit of an eyesore to have to have little strips of insulating tape stuck to my car windscreen to route the wires. I have curtain airbags in the front pillars of my car, so tucking the wires behind the interior trim wasn’t an option.
That aside, it was pretty simple to set up, and once I had played with the controls for a while, it is actually quite easy to work. In its most simple incarnation, you need do precisely nothing. As long as it is plugged in, when the ignition is started, it beeps and starts recording. The screen shows the recording image for a few seconds before reverting to a black screen which shows your speed. This is great as it means there is no distraction or temptation to look at the images whilst you are driving.
As well as the automatic mode, the MiVue 618 also features an event mode, where it will start recording everything if it senses a shock (possibly a collision or accident) and parking mode, where as long as it is connected to a continuous power source, it will record whilst the engine is off.
It is also GPS enabled, which means that your exact location is always tagged / embedded within the recording. It also means that the dash cam always knows where you are as you are moving. This allows the camera to display your speed on the display your speed in a digital format whilst you are on the move. I compared the speed displayed to the speed on the digital speedometer on my car and it was very accurate. The unit comes with KMPH selected as default, but it was pretty simple to change to MPH.
The GPS signal also allows one of the other great functions of this device – safety camera warnings. As you are driving, the device will beep as you approach safety cameras, be they speed or traffic signal cameras. The unit clearly displays the type of camera as well as the speed limit and your current speed. Free database updates for the life of the device are included, and are obtained by plugging the SD card into your computer and downloading the file to the card. It’s not quite as simple as connecting via a cable but it works and once you’ve done it a couple of times is pretty simple.
When it comes to reviewing your footage, you have two options. For simple viewing, you can access the files through the menu on the MiVue and watch on the device itself. But the free, downloadable, software really is very good. It is simple to install, although I did need to also install a codec update to allow my laptop to handle the file types.
Once installed, it is a simple case of inserting the SD card into the card reader and opening the recordings from within the software. The recordings are all time/date stamped and they have the GPS coordinates attached. After clicking on the video you want to view, you are able to watch the recording along with your exact speed, your direction of travel, longitude, latitude and altitude. You can create a freeze-frame image from within the video, and the quality of the recordings is actually very good (records video in high quality Super HD 2304 x 1296p at 30 frames per second). The camera handles daylight conditions better than it does night time ones; number plates are readable in the daytime but it suffers with glare and reflections in dark conditions. Having said that, the quality of the recordings are great in both conditions.
I am absolutely delighted with this device. The quality of it is great, the recording is very good and the software for the PC is intuitive, fully featured and works very well. The only gripes I have are related to setting it up. The instructions could have been better and the lack of fixings the attach the wires to the to the car was irritating. But for £99.99, I think it’s great value and great peace of mind.
Available to buy from Mio here.