It was three years ago that I reviewed the original BlackVue DR600GW-HD in-car dash camera. It was an interesting time, because when I wrote that review dash cameras were really beginning to pick up in popularity.
The proof of concept for a dash camera is easily explained. In the United States, the person who has frontal car damage is almost always given the blame. Yet, the person with frontal car damage isn’t always at fault. There have been countless close calls in my driving life where people pull out in front of me, cut me off, or nearly accidently backup towards me. Plus, sometimes it isn’t a car that is about to hit me at all.
When I received the DR600GW-HD all those years ago, I called it the all-seeing eye, because it was my car’s all seeing eye. It didn’t lie and it watched over everything with a crisp and clear Sony camera sensor.
It was BlackVue’s entry into the United States market and ever since then, they’ve grown as a company and further narrowed their product selection. Compatible for cars, SUVs, off roaders, trucks, and everything else in between, each and every model of BlackVue is built right in South Korea to maintain the utmost quality.
From their budget model to the top of the line, I am quite familiar with BlackVue’s lineup and have praised them not only in each review, but to friends and family as well.
This time around, BlackVue has revamped and redesigned the DR750LW-2CH; a dash camera that contained a large touch LCD display for live, on the scene, video viewing. Known as the DR490L-2CH, this new touch LCD dash camera has a lighter frame, narrower body, and upgrades the camera to a newer Sony Exmor sensor.
Welcome to my review of the BlackVue DR490L-2CH.
As mentioned, this is a direct upgrade for the older DR750LW-2CH model. The new dash camera body shaves away some of its boxy frame found on the old model and has a protruding camera lens.
BlackVue’s revision changes are most welcoming as they offer a new aesthetically pleasing look. The body of the dash camera is still constructed out of plastic, but boasts a new front facing design.
On the front of the camera there is a diamond stitching pattern engraved into the plastic housing. Dead center of the front of the unit is the new Sony Starvis Exmor sensor which is now in a circular frame, unlike the square frame found on the DR750LW. Moreover, the front also contains a white security LED (which can be disabled), a loud speaker, a microphone, and a BlackVue badge.
Next, the top of the unit is now where all of the inputs are located. Traditionally with past BlackVue models, the inputs for power, GPS, and the secondary rear camera have always been located on the right side of the body. Now, they are on top and close to the mounting bracket. I personally would have liked to see them stay on the side rather than the top. It allowed for easier mounting and cable management.
Then, on the left side, there is a physical on/off slider which is new for this model. Right below that switch is the microSD card slot that supports up to 128GB; with a 16GB card included in the box. The right side and bottom have nothing more than some product information.
Of course, the claim to fame for the DR490L is the rear 3.5” touch LCD screen. This is slightly smaller than the older model, but welcoming as it makes for easier mounting as well as helping it to be concealed from those looking in from the outside. More on the screen below.
Those familiar with BlackVue’s naming scheme will know that the ‘2CH’ in the model number indicates that this dash camera comes with not one, but two cameras. 2CH stands for second channel which is used to cover the rear portion of the car.
While the camera itself will be discussed below, the build quality of the rear camera is nowhere near par. The rotating mechanism is choppy and the plastic body feels cheap. To make matters worse it’s significantly smaller than past models and it generally feels that a lot of costs have been cut from the rear camera.
Finally, included in the product box is a lot of new and exciting accessories. The plastic prying tool with cable management clips is included alongside a new type of plastic windshield mounting bracket. Also included is the 16GB microSD card with a full-size SD card adapter.
In terms of cabling, BlackVue gives you a lot of it. There is a cable that connects the rear camera to the front, there is more than any car will need, even SUVs. Then, for power, BlackVue now gives you the option for two different power connections. I like to connect my dash cameras directly to the fuse box, that way the camera turns off with the car. Before, I needed to cut the wires for a fuse tap. Now, BlackVue gives you a power lead designated for either a fuse tap or a cigarette lighter outlet.
The original DR750LW-2CH has been completely omitted from the BlackVue website in favor for the new DR490L-2CH. This is because, normally, when a manufacturer stops production of one product, another, better product is there to fill the void.
With a newer and refreshed design, the DR490L seems like a good replacement for the original DR750LW, but the functionality comparison of the two begins to show the some differences that some may seem unwanting.
There is a newer Sony STARVIS Exmor CMOS sensor that supports 130-degree wide angle support. At night, it continues to work well by using your cars headlights to help see other objects as well as an improved night vision mode. Both the front and rear cameras are recording in Full 1080p HD with 30 frames a second.
This newer and improved sensor is quite a big step up, supporting higher bit rate on both front and rear cameras (up to 11Mbps each) than on DR750LW-2CH’s front camera (which had a fixed 6Mbps front and 4Mbps rear).
The DR490L supports full three-way axis sensory to detect whether or not the car has been hit forward/backwards, left/right, and up/down. Depending on the sensor’s input data, this will categorize the video recording clip as a Normal, Event, or Parking video.
On the touch LCD screen, you get BlackVue’s onscreen operating system, which is more or less identical to the last generation. You can edit camera settings, see live and recorded video, view either the front or rear cameras, and edit all sorts of options on the go.
Using the touch screen is responsive and it is brightly lit for use even in daylight. I set my display to turn off after a set time so it doesn’t distract me while driving or add light to the inside cabin during night. I also opted to disable options like the security LEDs to prevent people from noticing that it’s there and recording.
For video playback, the camera has loop recording that writes over the oldest video in favor of the newest one. The 16GB included SD card is a generous inclusion, but a 32GB or 64GB would be preferable, with a dual dash camera setup.
Remember the fuse tap cable that BlackVue provides? Well there’s more to it than just that. Some cars still provide power to fuses when the car is turned off. Tap into one of those non-essential fuses to have the camera continue it’s recording for parking mode. Then, with the camera’s built-in auto voltage detection, when the camera detects a low current from your car’s battery it will shut down to preserve the car’s battery and not drain it to zero. Thats handy!
Parking mode only record when the cameras detect motion or impact through the sensors. A car sitting in the garage will not loop record over everything from the previous journey if nothing is ever detected while parked.
A brand-new feature to this BlackVue camera is their Advanced Driver Assistance Systems or ADAS. What’s neat about ADAS is the Lane Departure Warning System or LDWS. By looking for the lines in the road, the camera will emit a sound and voice that you are moving out of your lane. It’s fairly good at doing its job, but would sometimes detect this movement while I was actually leaving one lane for another, intentionally. The ADAS can be configured to only be turned on for a set speed, but that would require an external GPS antenna.
For the video quality, it’s just as impressive as any other BlackVue camera I have reviewed. The 1080p 3 minute clips are clear and have exceptional playback. You do get some compression artifacts when moving quickly, but the DR490L holds up and does well in all situations.
Both day and night, I was easily pleased with video playback and the video quality and information stamped onto the video (like time and speed) would be helpful if I ever needed to use the video in a court room.
Now for what the camera is lacking. It has been a staple for most of BlackVue’s cameras to come with built-in wireless. This wireless connection allows you to connect and use the BlackVue smartphone application. The DR490L lacks wireless as well as a built-in GPS antenna. This means the camera will not be able to record your speed. That’s a major part of dash cameras. Bummer!
The DR490L also only supports a 2.0M front facing camera which is slightly less than the 2.4M on the previous model.
Something else that is quite puzzling to me is the lack of BlackVue Cloud support. This was a big push by BlackVue a year ago where users could access their dash cameras anywhere in the world as long as the dash camera had a 4G LTE connection and continuous power. The DR490L lacks this too.
My Final Thoughts
Three years ago, the DR750LW-2CH cost $400 and had a lot going for it. With the cuts to the DR490L-2CH, it comes in at $220 which is a significant change in price. If you add the additional GPS external antenna option, then it’s $252.
In a comparison of the two, I’d be hard pressed to recommend the DR490L-2CH over the original DR750LW-2CH, because the original came with more and did more, but there is a large price gap and if you are looking for something similar and can do without GPS, then the DR490L is a great dash camera and gets the job done right.
The clear 1080p cameras, touch screen, smaller size, dual camera setup, and easily manageable operating system make the DR490L-2CH a fantastic camera that few will be upset about owning. Even I still continue to use this camera in one of my vehicles.
My recommendation, to you the reader, is to look at all of my BlackVue dash camera reviews and decide afterwards on which is right for you. If you choose to opt for this DR490L-2CH, then I would highly recommend also picking up the external GPS antenna, because it certainly is a must have and if you do get this model, you will enjoy it despite the cuts by BlackVue.
© 2017 Justin Vendette
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