Before setting out to create a dash camera, VAVA asked consumers what they would like in the perfect camera. The result of that feedback comes in the form of the VAVA Dash, which was launched as a Kickstarter campaign in January 2017. VAVA director Jeh Lin said that the company utilized the Kickstarter platform because it “loves the instant community feedback and suggestions on new features.” The campaign currently has over $200K in backing; we got an early example of the Dash to see what makes this camera so special.
Unboxing and components
Unlike many Kickstarter campaigns, the team at VAVA is an established business with popular products like the VAVA Voom Bluetooth speaker. This maturity shows in the slick product packaging and overall quality of the VAVA Dash components. Within the attractive packaging, you will find the puck-shaped camera body, a 32GB MicroSD card, 14-inch USB cable with inline GPS module, magnetic swivel mount, 12v car charger with built-in 2,300mAh power bank, and the Snapshot button.
The camera body is lightweight black plastic, 2.5 inches in diameter and 1 inch in height. The camera itself records at a resolution of 1,920 × 1,080 (1080P) at 60fps. The 140-degree field of vision is one of the lower we have seen but seems to work well for in-car footage. An important design element of the VAVA Dash was the ability to swivel the camera 360 degrees to capture the inside of the car when necessary. Therefore, the windshield suction mount attaches to the camera through a magnet and can be rotated to face the outside or inside of the car by hand. According to VAVA, the idea to face the camera inside the car came from the popularity of videos like James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke.
On the road
You can power the camera through a regular USB charger or using the included VAVA charger and power bank. The power bank is one of the more innovative items we have seen and allows the camera to work in standby mode for up to 30 days.
The idea to face the camera inwards came from the popularity James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke.
This is a big improvement, as many dash cameras need to be hardwired into your car’s electronics to get a parking mode, or standby mode, to work with the car off. When in standby mode, the VAVA Dash will only record once the G-sensor is triggered by an accident or intruder. In our testing with the power bank charger, the VAVA Dash was always recording regardless of whether the vehicle was powered.
Once the car is on and moving, the Dash enables its regular driving mode to capture your trip. The VAVA Dash will continue to capture each segment of your drive in 3-minute increments and overwrite older data when the card is full. In testing, the VAVA Dash mount had some issues with vibrations and would occasionally come loose during journeys over rough roads. The problems weren’t as bad as we saw in the Waylens Horizon, but it does take a moment to get it secure. According to VAVA, the loose mount is a “known issue in this early mold and VAVA will be updated long before the final units are shipped to backers.”
Video quality when driving at night and day are on par with what we have seen from competing 1080P cameras, with only slightly less detail for things like license plates. However, the video angle and clarity are perfect for recording the interior of the car.
Snapshot clips of video or photos can be saved using a Snapshot button that can be mounted inside the car. The Snapshot videos are only 20 seconds, but allow you to grab a specific instance of your drive for reference later. The system will also sense accidents through the G-sensor and make sure to automatically save those clips as an emergency recording. This will ensure important footage is not over-written without the driver having to act.
Vava mobile app
An important component to using the VAVA Dash is the VAVA mobile application for iOS and Android. The Dash unit has a Wi-Fi connection that allows the mobile app to quickly transfer and display video and data from the camera.
The application can show what the camera is recording and also allows you to save Snapshot photos and videos. A main focus of the VAVA team was to make sure it was easy to see your media and share it out to your social channels. Using the mobile app, you can edit and then download video clips to your phone then share them on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram in seconds. This feature should come in handy for those that want to share their own “Carpool Karaoke” with the world. The built-in GPS helps to create trips in the “Travel Log” section of the app. You can then give names to the trip in the “Driving Journal” and give a cover photo. This is a nice feature for those who want to keep track of their adventures or simply log their driving miles.Our Take
Early backers purchased the VAVA Dash for only $100 and the backer price now sits at only $120. At that price, it’s still one of the most affordable dash cameras on the market. The VAVA Dash may also be the new camera to beat when it comes to balancing innovation and affordability.
Is there a better alternative?
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Budget dash cameras from a company like Vantrue will have much better video quality, but they lack the user friendliness and features of the VAVA Dash and VAVA mobile app. And other cameras offer alternative features you might appreciate; consider, for example, the Thinkware X500D, which features a speed camera alert, forward collision warning system, and lane departure notifications to mimic built-in systems on today’s most advanced vehicles. It’s also more expensive, and may be more camera than you need.
How long will it last?
The video quality meets minimum standards to compete with any of the latest cameras on the market. Also, VAVA seems to value customer suggestions and the VAVA mobile app should have frequent updates. You should expect it to last for several years — at which point dash cams will likely have improved, and you’ll want something new anyway.
Should you buy it?
Yes. We’re bearish on Kickstarter projects, which too often seem to end in failure, lost money, and angry consumers wondering what happened. But VAVA is a big company, and we’re willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. Assuming the final project fixes the few quirks we found, and delivers all of the innovative features we liked, this dashcam is will be worthy of joining you on the daily commute.