Along with the millions of cat related videos found on YouTube, sooner or later you’ll stumble upon a car dash cam recording. Whether the recording is of bad drivers, accidents, objects falling from the sky in Russia, it’s the car’s all seeing eye that captured the moment.
Accidents happen every minute of every day and we can never predict these unpredictable events. Some accidents are as small as a hit from the rear, while others can be as severe as requiring immediate medical attention.
When accidents do happen and the local police arrive at the scene of the accident, the officers take notes and listen closely to whom is at fault and when the stories begin to conflict the person with frontal car damage is usually seen to be at fault.
Car insurance is expensive and having an accident on your record can increase the costs even more. Having a watchful eye behind your car’s windshield protects you against the dangers of the road and can prove your innocence when the time calls. It also happens to catch the occasional bad driver.
The United States requires that drivers be insured before driving a motor vehicle and while most of us follow the law, others attempt to slide by and, unfortunately, cause hit and run accidents. When seconds matter, you need to grab a photo of their car, license plate, and other important details; details that are only captured by an always powered dash cam.
Nearly a year ago, I decided that it was time to try out these car dash cams to protect myself and my car while on the road. BlackVue is a Korean electronics manufacturer that has been in the dash cam market for some time now and just recently entered the US market.
After reviewing their first US model, the DR600GW-HD, I fell in love with the protection and functionality it had to offer so much that I later purchased a second unit. With the company putting the DR600GW-HD out of commission in favor of their new DR650GW model, can BlackVue’s new model meet the same expectations as the last?
Welcome to my review of the BlackVue DR650GW-2CH with a Power Magic Pro. Throughout this review, I will discuss the following topics: the design, functionality, and my overall thoughts. A special thank you to BlackVue for providing this dash cam.
Those with a high level of observation may have quickly noticed the 2CH label on the end of the product name for the DR650GW. This 2CH label stands for dual channel recording that allows the camera to record the front and rear of the car, offering full protection to the front and rear.
Starting with the front camera, those who already own a DR600GW or read my review of the unit in the past will quickly notice the similar looks and style. The front unit sports a matte black finish with subtle white text around the unit for branding and information.
Located on the front of the camera is the 1080p Sony CMOS sensor camera that sits off center of the cylindrical tubed body. Also located on the front is the white, toggleable, security LED. To hold the camera in place, BlackVue provides a 3M sticky pad that is extremely strong. Take a look on the back of the unit to discover the built-in speaker and microphone for voice recording and playback. Alongside that are red recording and blue GPS location LEDs.
Along the sides of the cylinder shaped unit are the Wi-Fi indicator LED, a toggle voice recording proximity switch and on the right is the Wi-Fi on/off button, SD card slot and power/rear camera plugs.
Jump over to the rear of the car to find the rear facing 720p Sony CMOS sensor camera. When unboxing the unit, you’ll immediately notice the smaller size of the rear camera. It sports the same 3M sticky pad and matte black paint to remain stealthy.
The rear camera uses a dim white security LED to symbolize power and has a power-in slot. Other than that, it sits quietly and records what it sees, then transfers that data to the front camera’s SD card.
When testing the DR600GW-HD, I connected it to a BMW cigarette lighter, as it’s the only connector found on the end of the dash cam. The second unit that I personally bought was installed into an Audi fuse box by cutting off the end connector and connecting the wires to a nonessential fuse.
Both of these situations were perfect locations as both the BMW and Audi cut power to the camera when the car was turned off. This is essential as if the camera is left running for a week without the car being turned on, it will drain your battery. If the power is still on to the camera when the car is turned off, then find an alternative connection point that is not live when the car is turned off, or, if this is not possible, fit an inline switch so that you can manually switch the camera off, or use the Power Magic Pro described below.
The DR650GW-2CH was installed into another BMW for testing and this car lacked a suitable cigarette lighter for the camera and required it to be connected into the fuse box. I quickly discovered that the BMW in use kept the fuse box live, even with the car off and while this allowed the camera to record 24/7, it was constantly pulling power and filling the SD card.
BlackVue provides a 16GB SD card that is automatically overwritten when it begins to fill up. With the camera running continuously, the SD card would only record hours instead of days’ worth of film. To save events, you can lock them to ensure that they do not get overwritten, but a better solution is to install BlackVue’s Power Magic Pro. This small unit addresses both problems that I mentioned above, by connecting the dash cam through a 12V connector and then hard wiring the unit into a nonessential fuse. To prevent draining the battery, the Power Magic Pro uses a programmable timer as well as an auto kill switch if the battery drops below a certain voltage. A perfect investment for most cars as it allows it to record a few hours after you turn off the vehicle. This would be very useful if you parked somewhere where your car could be damaged while you were away from it, shopping for example.
Once you’ve decided on how you plan on powering your dash cam, installation is easy by mounting the cameras in their desired locations, running cables through the head liner for a clean look and power up the unit.
Right from the first boot up, it begins recording and saving data, you practically never need to touch it, although altering settings is a good idea. The DR650GW uses the same iOS or Android application found in my DR600GW review.
Your smartphone connects to the unit through its built-in Wi-Fi connection and within the application you can turn off LEDs, adjust time, change settings, watch recordings, and much more.
One fault I did quickly notice was that my phone remembered the wireless network created by the camera, which at first I didn’t think was an issue. The camera’s Wi-Fi automatically turns on with the camera regardless of whether or not you turned it off last session and this causes your phone to automatically reconnect if the network is remembered.
Unfortunately, your smartphone doesn’t know the difference between a home network and the camera’s network and attempts to use “Wi-Fi” for things like Google Maps and since the network is only local, applications fail to function. The only fix I found was to forget the network of the camera or turn off the camera’s Wi-Fi each and every time.
When it came to the recordings of the unit, both the front and rear cameras captured perfect pictures, during the day and night. You can see license plates, the road, other drivers, and everything that would be vital to present to the police in the event of an accident.
My Final Thoughts
BlackVue offers the DR650GW in two configurations, 2CH, which was discussed in this review, and 1CH which lacks the rear camera. It’s a hefty cost to keep your car safe and sound when driving, with the DR650GW-2CH and Power Magic Pro being sold for $359 on Amazon, but in my opinion, it’s worth every dime with the protection it has to offer. We never know when an accident will happen, so giving your car vision will give you the advantage and it’s an advantage that is going to make me pickup another unit.
© 2015 Justin Vendette
Tagged Black, BlackVue, cam, camera, dash, DR650GW, DR650GW-1CH, DR650GW-2CH, Driving, Insurance, review, safe, US, vue.