A great front view dash camera can record in 4K resolution but still miss all the action behind you. After a rear end collision, I started a search for a camera to record the front and rear of my vehicle and happened upon the latest product from BlackVue. With the latest DR650GW-2CH you can cover more of your drive and we plugged in to see if this would become your next daily dash recorder or something to simply leave behind and never look back.
Setting the stage
The package comes with a sleek black cylindrical 2.4-megapixel Sony EXMOR CMOS Sensor front camera that is around 4.5 inches wide and a matching rear camera that is around 2.5 inches. Both lose any display screens to maintain a bit more of an incognito packaging in the window of your vehicle.
Along with the cameras, the box includes the necessary cables to plug the front camera into a 12-volt source and cable long enough to connect front and rear cameras in most vehicles. A nice bonus addition is the eight adhesive cord holders that can adhere to the car windows or vehicle surface when running cable the length of the interior and a micro SD to USB card reader. A 16GB Micro SD card is included in the lowest level package and 32, 64, and 128 cards are also available when purchasing from BlackVue.
The DR650GW-2CH uses adhesive mounts that stick well, but are rather difficult to remove and reapply if you need to adjust the position. BlackVue even includes a “Power Magic Pro” system to help wire the camera to your 12-volt system so it automatically shuts off to avoid killing your car battery while in parking mode.
The mobile application and cloud capabilities have huge potential but still seem to be rough around the edges.
Getting your BlackVue up and running is actually rather simple. With the DR650, the camera does without many of the complicated settings that most users won’t bother with and does most of the thinking for you. Out of the box, it simply begins to record at the highest quality setting once plugged in and gives vocal prompts to let you know whether it is recording in driving or parking mode. Each vehicle mode is determined by the vehicle speeds and the camera will detect when you are stopped and enable the motion detection recording for parking mode. There are also camera settings to adjust the sensor that triggers when the car is in an accident and stores an impact detected video.
The only button on the front camera itself is the button to turn on and off the Wi-Fi connection. A Wi-Fi notification LED on the end closest to the driver lets you know once the setting is enabled. The side has connection ports for the main 12-volt power source and a spot to connect the rear camera video cord. A Micro SD card is included and sides into a slot just under the power cords.
Finding the right shot
Due to the lack of a display screen, the camera relies on the BlackVue C mobile application for iOS and Android to view the recordings. A desktop application for Windows and Mac is also available to view and share video recordings. Your smart phone will detect the Wi-Fi signal from the device with a name that matches the model number like “DR650GW.” Once connected to the Wi-Fi, you will be able to check the view from the front and rear cameras in the mobile app and even continue to watch the screen while it is recording – after a legal prompt telling you not to do so while driving, of course. Each video stored on the camera’s micro SD card is listed in the application and can be downloaded locally to your device if you need quick access without offloading them.
When it comes to the specs, we find that the front camera shoots in 1920 x 1080 at 30fps and the rear camera 1280 x 720 at 30fps. The front camera has a rather low viewing angle of only 129 degrees. This number is well below other cameras we have reviewed such as the Cobra CDR 900 at 160 degrees and the Vantrue R1 Pro at 170 degrees. The video is clear enough to capture most of the action but certainly lacks some definition in low light and items like license plates and details outside the 129-degree view will be missed. The rear camera visibility can be heavily dependent on the angle of your rear window and weather your car has a tint. In my Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, the rear window is tinted and at a steep angle so it took some time to find the right mounting position for best visibility and low light situations suffered. At night, the rear camera is near useless as glare from headlights is about all you can see unless you are in an area with lighting.
With the base 16GB memory card, the system can store just over 6 hours of footage on the highest quality settings. With the larger 128GB card, you will get over 40 hours of stored footage. The system automatically removes the older videos once you reach the storage limit. The system also includes its own GPS system and will record location data to go along with each recording file.
Connecting through the cloud
BlackVue’s big feature is the ability to connect the camera to the “cloud” and allow users to remotely see where the vehicle is located, get alerts when a collision has occurred, and even view and store recordings online as a backup. This may all sound good, but in reality the execution is less than perfect. The instructions within the manual give no steps to connect to the cloud and the mobile app is not very intuitive. After scouring for instructions online, I read that you must connect the DR650GW-2CH to a mobile hotspot in order to have it connected. You can save a nearby hot spot name and password within the camera settings in the application for it to connect.
We attempted to connect the BlackVue to the Karma Go in my vehicle but the Karma requires a special account login screen that would not allow the camera to connect. The camera did vocally indicate each time the Karma was turned off by saying “Cloud connection lost,” but no data connection was ever established. A modern 4G system from an OEM like Audi or Chevrolet with a standard Wi-Fi password should have no issues allowing the BlackVue camera to connect to the cloud and access the files remotely.