A couple of weeks ago I was commuting to work in the morning, driving at some 45 or 50 MPH in light traffic, when a tire blew out on a dumptruck about 100 or 150 yards ahead of me. I heard a “boom” and up ahead what I could see were slowing cars, the dumptruck, and a lot of dust or smoke. Glancing about I couldn’t see that there were any cars askew from a collision, and it was unclear to me quite what dramatic thing had happened.
I saw that the dumptruck was taking the next exit, which was also my exit, and as I approached the off-ramp I had to navigate around debris – shards of metal and rubber. The dumptruck had pulled over to the side and as I passed it I saw that the front left wheel well had been partially blown out and shredded. This tire hadn’t just blown, it had detonated.
It got me thinking that it might be time to get a dashcam. I’ve been sniffing around the market from time to time since the Russian dashcam clips started hitting Liveleak but they’ve always been a bit too pricey for me. What I found was this review and other corroborating reviews elsewhere which convinced me to make the splurge. The G1W is made by several different manufacturers using the same design and I just picked one (“Black Box”). This post isn’t really a review, either, so go click on those links to get an idea of what the unit can do, and if you’re unfamiliar with the feature sets of dashcams I would recommend starting with this.
The unit is quite small, which is a darn good thing because it’s got to be mounted to the windshield and you want minimize the amount of visibility that it obscures. I put mine so that it’s almost on the centerline of the car with the suction part of the mount occluded by the rearview mirror, and the G1W visible is positioned just below it to the left. The USB charging cord I looped up around the rearview mirror mount, across the to the right between the roof and the sunscreen flap, then down the side tucked into the gap between the dash and the door frame, then looping under the dash and around again to the center console where the cigarette lighter power port is located – with room to spare on the cord. Yes, that’s a lot of cord, and what that does is to give you the flexibility to route it out of the way, which was one of my concerns about getting a dashcam. I really didn’t want to have an ugly and annoying power cord dropping from high up on the windshield down to the center console, and the way I have it now the cord is practically invisible except where it drops down from the roof to the underdash.
The mount is, well, OK. Small enough, and it has a ball joint for good directional pointing, but the weak spot is the clip that holds it to the device. This thing is destined to break if used frequently, but really the dashcam should be mounted semi-permanently – you only want to remove it if you want to keep it from tempting thieves. That might be more of a problem if I lived in Manhattan where street scum will break your window to swipe a box of tissues, but where I live it’s actually pretty safe.
Interestingly (and in contrast to this review), my experience with the 720p @ 60 and 30 fps has been poor, with choppy framerate and visual artifacts, but the 1080p @ 30 fps is really excellent. Also, the audio, while leaving much to be desired, is quite serviceable.
Dashcams are a liability protection device, for the most part, so I didn’t anticipate how much I’d enjoy it. After the first trip I made with it – a commute from work to home – I used Microsoft Essentials Movie Maker to glom the video segments together, and then I just watched the whole thing, except for a couple of periods of heavy traffic. I started out just evaluating it for sound and image quality with the particular settings I was using but I found the experience of watching a video of my driving was somehow intriguing.
I had to make some ancillary purchases as well – a few 32GB Micro SD cards, a couple of USB Micro SD card readers, matte black nailpolish, and a power-adapter splitter. Um, yeah, about that nailpolish: I need to do something about the reflections off the top of my GPS onto the windshield because it’s visibly annoying in the video, and also to make the G1W a little more stealthy I’m going to black out the front “IR” LED light and the silver around the lens. That should leave plenty left over for me to do my nails proper and go clubbing all Goth’d up.