Reviewed by Louise Totton
I always think that Christmas presents should be about what you ‘want’, rather than what you ‘need’. That’s not to say that that I don’t like useful presents – I really do, and I think an upgrade to what you already have and love, or being able to go for a luxury version is a real treat. I think that an awful lot of us these days have dash cams – they are more and more seen as a motoring essential, but how many of us have a truly great one that we can rely on when we really need to? The cheaper ones (and various members of my family have had these) can suffer from poor recording quality, they have a delay of a few seconds after an impact, or they have poor build quality and just don’t last. Add this to a messy wiring system and the fact that they can drain your car battery if you forget to unplug them from the 12v, and you can easily end up with a somewhat infuriating experience.
So, how about a top-quality, high-end and fully featured dashcam as a Christmas present idea for that hard to buy for person in your life? Thinkware have dash cams to suit most budgets, from the wallet friendly F70 all the way up to the top of the range F800 Pro, and we were lucky enough to be able to try out one of their range. We were sent the F800 Pro to try out, which is priced from £249 for the 2-channel hardwire version. A 12v version is also available, should you want to be able to switch between vehicles or don’t want to interfere with the trim or electronics in your car.
Ours was the hardwire version, which means no trailing wires, the device is permanently powered from your car so there are no worries about taking up your car’s charging socket or knocking the plug out and finding yourself without dash cam coverage when you actually need it. The specifications of the F800 Pro are, to put it simply, impressive! Our F800 Pro is the 2-channel version, which means that it has both front and rear facing cameras and it comes with a 32GB SD card to store your videos and images on. Briefly, the specification of the camera is:
- 2-channel front and rear cameras
- Full HD recording (1920 x 1080)
- 30fps recording
- Super night vision 2.0
- Safety camera alerts
- GPS functionality
- G-Sensor incident detector
The first thing that struck me as a little different with this dash cam as compared to the other ones we’ve tried is that it doesn’t feature a screen. When you think about it, the screen shouldn’t really be needed as you certainly shouldn’t be looking at it when your driving! Instead, the F800 Pro is quietly understated and subtle, and it sits unobtrusively on the windscreen out of the way and without providing any kind of distraction. Because ours was the hardwire system, I can’t comment on how easy it was to install – we had the full installation service with our dash cam, which is part of the Thinkware service and is available through the website or partners such as the RAC. I was incredibly impressed with the installation, and the engineer took around two hours to carefully and properly install the dashcam as well as taking the time to talk me fully through the system and its functions. He even got my 12v charger working again after the fuse blew a few months ago when a coin was dropped into it!
As I said, the F800 Pro doesn’t have a screen, instead it has WiFi and cloud connectivity, so you use your mobile phone to change settings and view videos. It’s actually a far simpler and more intuitive way of working than trying to navigate menus on a tiny dashcam screen. Even though there is no screen, you still get the confirmation that the dashcam is recording as there are audible messages as the engine is started and you begin driving.
The viewing angle of the dashcam is a respectable 140 degrees, meaning you get a very clear and whole view of the road both in front of and behind you. The videos are recorded in 60 second chunks and are stored on the SD card, but can also be downloaded to your mobile device or even accessed via the WiFi connection straight to your phone. The quality of the recordings really are fantastic and the Night Vision 2.0 makes the videos crystal clear even late at night and with headlight and street light glare – number plates can be ready easily even from a distance and whilst moving and I was really impressed with it.
The F800 Pro has a built in G-Sensor which is able to detect any impacts and then mark this chunk of footage, as well as the sections immediately before and after as important and write protected. This works whether in parking mode (hard-wired version only) and whilst driving. The sensitivity of the G-Sensor can be changed in the app very easily – we had ours set to the most sensitive level initially and the incident detection would kick in driving over pot holes or when the car door was closed a little too hard, so we reduced the level until we found the one that worked for us.
As well as the ‘standard dash cam’ features of recording your journey, this one also boasts a range of driver aids. The most obvious to me was the safety camera warning system, which is very useful and very simple. The dash cam will audibly warn you if you are approaching a speed camera by telling you that you are approaching the camera in 100 yards and also what the speed limit is. It will also warn you if you are approaching a traffic light camera or an average speed check area. We found these to be around 95% accurate, so whilst you can’t 100% rely on it, I think it’s as accurate as it ever will be.
There is also a Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS) which warns you if you are drifting into another lane whilst driving at more than 50 KM/ph, as well as forward impact warning systems which can warn you if you are approaching the car in front too quickly and are in danger of an impact. There is even a really neat function that warns you if that car in front drives off from a stationary position – great if you lose concentration for that moment whilst you’re stuck in traffic or are at traffic lights.
The app is incredibly simple and intuitive to use, and I found controlling the dash cam far easier using the app than I ever have controlling a dash cam via an on-screen menu of a standard dash cam. I loved how adjustable the settings of the dash cam are, from the sensitivity of the G-Sensor to different functions that you might want switching on and off. The app will also allow you to ‘ringfence’ an area around your home and you will receive a notification to your phone when the car leaves that area – you can even track the location of your car via the GPS, although this is a function that we haven’t been able to try as I am the only driver in our household.
I couldn’t fault this product – the recording quality is outstanding, the features really are second to none and it feels like a real and serious upgrade compared to any dash cam we have tried out before. But what really stands out for me is the confidence that I have in the system, from the outstanding service fitting the dash cam professionally to the demo of the system that I was given and the clear and very obvious excellent build quality and unobtrusive installation. If you have the budget, the F800 Pro would make a fantastic Christmas gift for anyone who spends a significant amount of time in their car, and for anyone who gets the rage from messy, trailing wires or poor-quality recording. It’s simply a brilliant product and I love mine!
RRP: from £249