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MacFixer, the iPhone, iPod, and iPad specialists

 

Blackvue DR500 High Definition Drive Recorder with WiFi

 

Reviewed By

Darren Griffin Blackvue
Review Date

13th April 2013

Manufacturer BlackVue

RRP

£279.00 inc VAT

9

 

We've reviewed a number of in-car drive recorder/black box cameras now. By and large they can be split into two distinct types, those with GPS and those without. Each type can be further differentiated by the quality of the camera, the latest sport high definition camera sensors, making it much easier to discern vehicle registration numbers and other details. An obvious benefit when using one of these cameras.

 

South Korean company BlackVue specialise in the manufacture of drive recorders. Their latest model, the DR500, goes one further than all the rest with the inclusion of WiFi in addition to a HD camera sensor and GPS. The WiFi feature is accompanied by apps, available for Android and iPhone, which allow you to view live video from the camera as you drive or to review and download the individual camera files. Is this a novelty or a genuinely useful feature?

 

What's In the Box

In the box you get the following:

 

1 x BlackVue camera

1 x 12v Cigarette Lighter Power Cable

5 x Cable clips

1 x 16GB Micro SD Card*

1 x MicroUSB Card Reader

2 x Adhesive Mounts

1 x User Manual

 

*The desktop viewing software is pre-installed on the supplied SD card

 

Design

The DR500 is a cylindrical design which slots into its holder and can be rotated to adjust the angle and cater for the rake of different windscreens. The mount has a click lock system to secure it at the chosen angle and the same button which controls this allows the insertion and release of the camera unit.

 

The right hand edge contains the power in plug, a cover concealing the microSD card slot and a switch to enable/disable the WiFi facility. The opposite end conceals a proximity sensor which allows you to turn on/off the audio recording facility by waving your hand.

 

In common with other dashcam solutions, BlackVue's DR500 records video in an endless loop with files broken down into user-configurable files of between one and three minutes duration. The camera records continually whilst it is powered and, when the memory card reaches full, it continues recording by overwriting the oldest files. At highest definition setting, a 16GB card can accommodate a few days worth of driving so you have plenty of opportunity to save files that you wish to keep or review.

 

There are three distinct video file types, Normal recording, those files recorded during normal operation. Event recording, those files that are marked as an event due to triggering the G-Force sensor and Parking mode files. These are events recorded when the camera is operating in Parking mode. This requires an accessory device to allow the camera to remain operational when the ignition is off, more on this later.

 

 

DR500 Specifications

 

Dimensions 118.5mm x 36mm / 114g
Resolution/Frame Rate

Full HD (1920 x 1080) @30Fps or 15Fps

HD (1280 x 720) @30Fps or 15Fps

D1(720 x 480) @30Fps

Video Compression H.264
Audio Compression AAC
Viewing Angle

156 degrees Diagonal

123 degrees Horizontal

90 degrees Vertical

Input Voltage

12 - 24v DC

WiFi 802.11n

 

Installation

Installation is straightforward. Ensure the camera lens is located on the vehicle centreline or as near to it as possible, then attach the mount and run the power cable. I've never found it difficult to hide the lengthy cable behind the roof lining and door trims. Insert the camera into the mount and rotate it until the lens is parallel to the ground.

 

Blackvue

 

The WiFi Live View facility is immediately useful when it comes to verifying that you have your camera set-up and aimed correctly. Without it, the only way to be certain is to record some test footage for a few minutes and then remove the memory card and review the video. Connecting to the camera over WiFi is as simple as connecting to any other WiFi device. Again, the settings allow you to change the SSID of the camera and the default password.

 

Parking Mode

The DR500 support operation when parked but, in order for it to remain powered, you need an accessory device which BlackVue offer called the 'Power Magic Pro' (£44.99). It's a device which will automatically cut the power if battery voltage falls below a preset level, or if the set time has been reached.

 

Six dip-switches on the box allow you to configure it for 12 or 24v, set the cut-off voltage and the timer. This black box will supply power when the vehicle is off, but protects your battery from becoming too discharged to start the car. If the voltage falls below the set level, the unit disconnects power. You can also configure it to provide power for between 6 and 120hours or to allow it to run indefinitely.

 

Power Magic Pro

 

In Use

The camera powers on automatically with the ignition when plugged in. There are a number of voice and beep alerts for status which confirm power on, power off, recording start etc. At first this seemed like a nice touch but quickly became irritating. Thankfully they can be easily disabled in the settings.

 

One problem I did experience was with the exposure. Out of the box, video was a little on the dark side. This can be adjusted though and I've boosted brightness a bit and this resolved the issue.

 

 

 

Blackvue DR500 WiFiBlackvue DR500 SD Card Slot

 

 

 

OS X Software Blackvue

Software available for Windows and Mac OS X

 

The desktop viewing software is available for Windows and Mac operating systems. As with other dashcam products, the viewer is dominated by a large viewing window. To the right is the file list and above is a G-Meter display. Along the bottom is a calendar which allows you to limit the dates shown in the file list. You can also see 'N', 'E', and 'P' buttons at the top of the file list. This allows you to show or hide the three different file types.

 

Blackvue Desktop Viewer - Mac

Mac and Windows desktop software

To playback a video, locate it in the file list and select 'Play'. You can then switch the File List to a Google Map which shows your location, on a map overlay, in real-time. Video files are recorded in .mp4 form at and can be viewed in other video apps but you do not get access to the GPS and G-Sensor data unless you use the dedicated viewer.

 

Finder

You can view the .MP4 video directly in Finder

 

The video window can be played full screen and the on-screen display is user-selectable and overlays time, date, speed and other status information onto the video. A potentially useful feature is an on-screen loupe magnifier. Right-clicking in the video window brings up a live magnification window, intended, I suspect, for reading registration numbers? Sadly it doesn't work in full screen mode where the full resolution of the video is available so its use is of limited benefit.

 

Another feature of the software is the 'MyWay Viewer' which shows your track-logs. Blue map pins indicate the start of each file, the red pin shows the currently played file and the car icon indicates your location.

 

MyWay Viewer

 

The DR500's settings are configured via the viewer with changes saved to a config file on the microSD card. The camera reads these settings at start-up.

 

The first page controls time zone settings, camera image quality, audio recording and file sizes. One issue I noted here was a bug in the Mac version that did not allow me to select Europe/London as my local time-zone. The Mac software only shows the first 8 entries in the list whereas the Windows version shows many more. This might explain a quirk I had observed with the map overlay being inaccurate for some files. Once I used the windows app to save the configuration the issue went away.

 

The second page allows you to fine tune the sensitivity settings that trigger an event recording in normal mode and a recording in parking mode. Too sensitive a setting and every pothole triggers an event. Too insensitive and a real bump may not trigger it. Advanced configuration allows you to review and event file that triggered the sensor and adjust the thresholds accordingly.

 

Finally, the third page allows you to set the WiFi SSID and password, enable or disable the recording and security LEDs and choose which, if any, of the various voice and beep type alerts you want to hear.

 

Settings Page - Basic Settings Page - Sensitivity Settings Page - WiFi

Settings pages

 

In full screen mode, videos were clear and contained lots of detail.

 

Video Screenshot

 

WiFi Apps

For testing I used the iPhone version of the app but it is also available for Android smartphones. Although a little basic, it does allow you to view files on the camera memory card, save them to your device and view live video streamed from the camera. I'm not sure why watching live video would be a benefit, unless perhaps you had it installed to provide a rear-view, but it is useful for framing your video and for reviewing files when away from a computer.

 

iOS App StartiOS File ListiOS File ManagementiOS File Copy

iOS BlackVue App Screenshots

 

When you launch the app (having connected to it's WiFi), you can choose to view files stored on your phone or on the DR500. In the file list, tapping an entry will load the video and play it. Tap'n'hold and you get a sub-menu allowing you to copy the file to your smartphone's internal memory.

 

iOS Video Viewer

Live View

 

Being able to provide video evidence to your insurer is an invaluable tool. All too often accidents are dealt with by apportioning 50:50 blame because of the absence of independent witnesses. If a video is able to prove you were not at fault it could save your no-claims bonus, and that could add up to a considerable sum alone.

 

Conclusion

There's a lot to like here. The camera is low profile and easy to install, the desktop software has all the features you need and the WiFi facility is a genuine benefit. If you want to have full protection then the Power Magic Pro is an essential accessory, enabling full protection even when your vehicle is unattended.

 

The DR500 is hard to beat as it stands. I'd like to see BlackVue work on the smartphone apps a little, and they need to resolve the few minor bugs I found in the Mac software but otherwise this is an excellent package.

 

Sample video from the DR500 captured at 1920x1080/30fps

Please note that YouTUBE's video compression does not allow full quality of video to be demonstrated.

 


References

Manufacturers Web site www.BlackVue.com
Pocket GPS Contributor

Darren Griffin

   
Forum Comments:

 

Comments
Posted by TuppyTrucker on Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:08 pm Reply with quote

It does look very good, but at that price it needs to be. I've been playing with a cheap dashcam, only VGA resolution, but for 25 you can't have everything.

The wifi remote view on your camera could be extremely useful for RHD vehicles on continental roads. If you position the camera to the far left of the windscreen you could use an iThing to view the road ahead for oncoming in front of the truck you're trying to pass without having to expose too much of the car across the centre line . Very useful between Limoges and Poitiers. I often wish the screen on my TomTom could be interfaced to a LHD dashcam for that very reason.

I tried this on my cheapo, but it's built in screen is too small to see anything useful.

It could also be useful on a mast pointing backwards when transporting high loads under low bridges.


TT GO 720 navcore 8.30
iThing 4S CamerAlert
King Wazer
Based in Normandy, France.

 
Posted by houghw on Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:08 pm Reply with quote

I could do with one of these at the back of my car...

Every morning I travel down the A428 and M11 and have to endure drivers continually following too closely. I thought about fitting up my small (25) helmet cam for the job but on its mico SD card I can only get around an hour's worth of video before the card is full.

Then again, what is the point? The police around here aren't really interested in prosecuting drivers who drive inconsiderately anyway!


 
Posted by rkm_hm on Tue Apr 16, 2013 4:33 pm Reply with quote

In the review, you say "At highest definition setting, a 16GB card can accommodate a few days worth of driving"

Are you sure about that? What assumptions are you making about a typical day's driving?

I have the earlier model (DR400G-HD) and at full HD at 30fps the 16GB card holds only 4hrs 37mins worth (or 6hrs 54mins at 15fps)

Unless the new model uses some very fancy form of compression, I wouldn't have thought that it would run for longer than these times.


Roger

TTG Classic
Version 7.903 (9183/081205) OS:2344
UK and ROI Map version 920.5267

Satmap Active 10+ v1.50 with full UK 1:50k map and 1:25k/1:10k County maps of Hampshire & Warwickshire

 
Posted by Darren on Tue Apr 16, 2013 4:45 pm Reply with quote

I haven't added up the total driving time involved but my card filled with three days of use which involved two journeys to East Grinstead. That's a 2hr round trip from me and another two hour trip to Thorpe Park plus local journeys so a minimum of 6hrs of driving.

However I did have compression set to High as that was the default as it came out of the box and I have audio turned off.


Darren Griffin - Editor

 
Posted by rkm_hm on Tue Apr 16, 2013 5:40 pm Reply with quote

Darren Wrote:
I haven't added up the total driving time involved but my card filled with three days of use which involved two journeys to East Grinstead. That's a 2hr round trip from me and another two hour trip to Thorpe Park plus local journeys so a minimum of 6hrs of driving.

However I did have compression set to High as that was the default as it came out of the box and I have audio turned off.


Ah, I don't think that compression is configurable on mine - so that presumably gets you some more time, as does turning off sound.

Even so, you could still fill it in a single day quite easily if doing a long journey, such as London to Aberdeen.


Roger

TTG Classic
Version 7.903 (9183/081205) OS:2344
UK and ROI Map version 920.5267

Satmap Active 10+ v1.50 with full UK 1:50k map and 1:25k/1:10k County maps of Hampshire & Warwickshire

 
Posted by Darren on Tue Apr 16, 2013 5:44 pm Reply with quote

Of course, but then, if you're someone who spends 8hrs a day behind the wheel I'm sure you'd consider a larger memory card. Or look at reducing the quality or frame rate.

And, should you need to save an event you can do so using the app easily enough.


Darren Griffin - Editor

 
Posted by rkm_hm on Tue Apr 16, 2013 6:00 pm Reply with quote

Darren Wrote:
Of course, but then, if you're someone who spends 8hrs a day behind the wheel I'm sure you'd consider a larger memory card. Or look at reducing the quality or frame rate.


Yes, indeed, but that wasn't clear from the review.

Darren Wrote:

And, should you need to save an event you can do so using the app easily enough.


Yes, that's a useful feature which mine doesn't have. If I had a suitable smartphone I could transfer the micro-SD card to it to view the footage, but even then I'm not sure I could copy it.

With the WiFi feature and a suitable Ap, you'd probably rarely need to remove the micro-SD card - although, with mine, BlackVue do recommend that you re-format it quite often.


Roger

TTG Classic
Version 7.903 (9183/081205) OS:2344
UK and ROI Map version 920.5267

Satmap Active 10+ v1.50 with full UK 1:50k map and 1:25k/1:10k County maps of Hampshire & Warwickshire

 
Posted by adchesney on Fri Apr 19, 2013 8:20 am Reply with quote

Just a thought...as most people have "smart phones" that have built in GPS, G-Sensor, Compass, wifi, cloud storage, etc. Oh and front and rear facing cameras - surely our "Smart Phones" could also be used as a car DVR?

I've not looked BUT, I bet there's an App that does everything this dedicated Car DVR does?

ADC


 
Posted by neil_r_cooper on Fri Apr 19, 2013 8:37 am Reply with quote

Darren what is quality at night? I purchased a neat little unit with wired rear facing camera (took a while to run the cable) but strangely the rear facing camera is much better at night than the front facing. Obviously the IR LEDs are completely useless as they only have a range of 5ft but a good LUX sensitivity front camera would be very useful.


 
Posted by Darren on Fri Apr 19, 2013 8:39 am Reply with quote

There are apps, but they're far less convenient. You need lots of memory to capture HD video, and you need the camera to be high up on the windscreen for the best view.

Yes, at a push, an app will do much of this, but the dedicated device, that's always on, and requires no user interaction, is still the best solution.


Darren Griffin - Editor

 
Posted by Darren on Fri Apr 19, 2013 8:40 am Reply with quote

neil_r_cooper Wrote:
Darren what is quality at night? I purchased a neat little unit with wired rear facing camera (took a while to run the cable) but strangely the rear facing camera is much better at night than the front facing. Obviously the IR LEDs are completely useless as they only have a range of 5ft but a good LUX sensitivity front camera would be very useful.

I don't have any footage to hand but I did review night video files and it was pretty good.

I'll try and save a file next time I drive at night to show you.


Darren Griffin - Editor

 
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