BlackVue DR500GW-HD Car DVR Review

DSC07662The BlackVue DR500GW-HD, from Pittasoft, is the Korean company’s latest model in their very popular line of in-car digital video recorders. This model packs top-end features like smooth 1080p 30fps full HD video recording, GPS, Wi-Fi and voice guidance into a small svelte body that will let it do its work without obstructing your view of the road.

Why do you need a video recorder in your car? Insurance and accidents are expensive affairs in Singapore. In any accident, a video recording of the events is often your best defence to ensure that the true events are accurately and truthfully reported. You don’t want to be in a situation where it’s your word against someone else’s. An in-car video recorder is an extra bit of insurance.

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As the top-of-the-line model, the DR500GW-HD is packed nicely in a good quality box. This model was shipped directly from Korea, but it should otherwise be quite identical to what you get in Singapore, apart from the language of the included manual. (English software and soft-copy documentation was provided.)

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Inside the box, apart from the DR500GW-HD camera, you’ll find a power cable, printed manual, 5 pieces of wire hooks, an extra double-sided sticker in case you ruin the one already on the camera, and a USB adapter for the microSD card. A 16GB microSD card is already inside the camera.

The power cable should be more than long enough for most cars. One end goes into the camera, while the other plugs into your cigarette lighter. You may want to use some additional power supply accessories so that your camera can remain operational even when your car is not running. I’ll talk about that later.

This camera is ready to run out-of-the-box. Just add power, and it’ll get to work right away. There are three recording modes: normal, event, and parking.

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Normal mode is the regular recording mode when the device is running. When your car does not move for 10 minutes, parking mode is automatically engaged. The camera still works in parking mode, but it does not record the video. When the camera detects any sudden movement or impact while in normal or parking mode, it activates event mode. In event mode, the camera records one minute of video (5 seconds prior to the event, and 55 seconds after that) and saves that into a specially marked file, making it easier for you to find eventful videos. The one minute event recording length is configurable, but it will always be 5 seconds prior to the event. I would personally have preferred a longer pre-event time.

You can disable recording in normal mode, so that your microSD card doesn’t get filled up too quickly with uninteresting video.

The DR500GW-HD records audio. You can switch that on or off via a proximity sensor on the left side (photo below). It can be turned off by default through the camera configuration. There is also a Wi-Fi indicator LED there.

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On the right side, there’s the socket for the 12V power input, and the Wi-Fi- on/off switch. There’s also a cover plate there which, when removed, will reveal the microSD slot and a reset button.

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As was mentioned earlier, a 16GB microSD card is included, and already installed. The microSD card includes documentation in English, so no worries that the printed one is in Korean.

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It’s really nice that the DR500GW-HD has apps for both Windows and Mac OS X to view and configure the device. This entails removing the microSD card and connecting it to the computer. Yes, the camera’s settings are stored in a configuration file on the microSD card. Configuration changes require the camera to be rebooted. This is extremely inconvenient when you are experimenting with settings, like sensitivity level, where you need to try several times and observe the effect. Having to wait for a reboot each time is really cumbersome. Fortunately, this ought to be just a one time pain.

On top of the desktop apps, Pittasoft also provides mobile apps for both iOS and Android. The mobile apps connect to the DR500GW-HD via Wi-Fi. I’ve only tested the Android app, as I don’t regularly use iOS devices. The Android app can read the camera’s microSD card, but I imagine it would be rather troublesome to do that in practice. The mobile app also allows you to view the live images from the camera. You would at least need to use this to adjust the camera angle when you’re installing it.

Video quality from the DR500GW-HD is nothing short of excellent. In day time, the video is about as good as you’d expect from any regular HD video camera. There’s no trouble reading off licence plate numbers off passing vehicles. In night time, the video quality is still pretty impressive, and again, captures sufficient details so even licence plate numbers remain legible.

My initial impression about audio is that it wasn’t great. In fact, it was so noisy and loud. On second thought, however, I realised I’ve forgotten the purpose of this camera. We’re not going to record a movie. What we need with an in-car video camera is to record everything. It is better that there’s more sound in it than be missing anything.

Recordings from the DR500GW-HD includes GPS information and accelerometer readings. You will be able to know the position of the car, the speed (according to GPS), as well as various directional forces that the car was subjected to. Combined with video and audio, these data will provide excellent evidence about any incident.

The DR500GW-HD runs a little hot. I understand that it’s already an improvement over previous models that, apparently, could get seriously hot. The current DR500GW-HD has several rows of ventilation slots that encouraged better cooling.

I’ve been procrastinating about getting an in-car video recorder for the longest time. After much prior research, I’m pleased that the DR500GW-HD did not disappoint at all. There are many cameras that are lower in cost, some with dual cameras, or with built-in LCD display. But ultimately, the most important thing is that the camera needs to record great video that is usable when you need it.

Along with the BlackVue DR500GW-HD, I also bought the T-Power C External Battery. It’s a battery pack that rated for 10400mAh, with a charger that plugs into the cigarette lighter socket. You see, the camera needs power to run if you want to keep it operating while your engine is switched off, which it will be if you’ve parked and are away from your car. Pittasoft has some solutions of their own that, basically, continue to draw power from the car’s battery, and monitor the battery condition to shutdown the camera recorder when the battery voltage dips too low.

The T-Power C External Battery seems to be a safer and more self-contained solution. However, the battery doesn’t seem to hold its charge very long. The claimed 10 hrs turns out to be far less than even half. I’ll save this battery discussion for another blog post.

Conclusion

The BlackVue DR500GW-HD in-car digital video recorder isn’t the cheapest on the block, but its quality and feature set makes it a great investment and insurance for your driving.

Pros:

  • Superb video quality
  • Easy to use
  • Windows and Mac apps, iOS and Android mobile apps
  • Convenient Wi-Fi access for viewing and configuration
  • Svelte unobtrusive body

Cons:

  • Configuration changes require a reboot, inconvenient when you are experimenting or tweaking sensitivity settings
  • Runs pretty warm