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Reviewed: Roadhawk DC-1 In Car Drive Recorder GPS and Black Box System

 

Reviewed By

Darren Griffin
Review Date

13th September 2011

Manufacturer RoadHawk (DCS Systems Ltd)

RRP

£199.96 inc VAT

9

 

Roadhawk LogoIt's been two years since we first reviewed a drive recorder, Roadhawk's RH-1 Black Box GPS Drive Recorder (see here for the review). It set the standard for value and features and in the intervening time nothing has come to market that offered anything better at a similar price.

 

That it was one of the most read reviews on our site at the time reflects the interest that exists in black box recorder technology and, if anything, the case for these devices has only grown stronger over time. Massive hikes in the costs of insuring a vehicle, the rising numbers of uninsured and unlicensed drivers and the difficulty in apportioning blame when there are no independent witnesses to an accident mean that anything a motorist can do to protect themselves, their car and their driving record can only be a good thing.

 

For the uninitiated, a black box camera drive recorder such as Roadhawk's DC-1 is an in-car digital video/data recorder, camera and GPS that operates much like an aircraft's black box data recorder would. Mounted to the windscreen behind the rear-view mirror it records video, GPS, audio and other sensor data continuously in a loop whenever the vehicle ignition is on. The data is saved to a memory card inserted into the unit and there is sufficient storage on the supplied 4GB memory card for over 6 hours of driving.

 

The beauty of the system is this endless loop of data which ensures that it is always active and recording everything. A G-force sensor built into the device is designed to detect events such as harsh braking, rapid acceleration or any jolts an, when triggered saves file that contains that event whilst at the same time marking those files so that they are not overwritten.

 

Another feature is an Emergency Button mounted on the device. It allows you to quickly mark and save any video even if it would not have triggered the G-force sensor. Whetever the reason, a quick press of the button will save the file currently being recorded at that point and prevent it from being over written.

 

DC-1 Inside DC-1 Outside

Discrete when mounted, hidden behind rear-view mirror

 

As the DC-1 contains a GPS receiver, it doesn't only saves the video stream, it also attaches the GPS location data that has been captured which includes vehicle speed and direction whilst an integral microphone records audio (this can be disabled if desired). Software supplied with the DC-1 allows you to locate and review the video files recorded on the memory card and replay them alongside a Google map showing the vehicle location, speed anda data graph from the G-Force sensor.

 

The DC-1 has improved on the RH-1 that it supersedes with a better quality lens and higher resolution sensor that benefits from improved low light performance. An optional parking mode can also be configured (requires an optional permanent power feed with battery saver protection built-in) for monitoring of your vehicle when parked and unattended.

 

Installation

In the box you get the following:

  1. DC-1 Camera GPS Drive Recorder
  2. Windscreen mount
  3. 12v Cigar Charger power cable
  4. Adhesive cable clips
  5. 4GB SDHC Memory Card
  6. Software Install CD (Windows Only)

Installation a simple matter. Affix the supplied mount to the windscreen, wait for the adhesive to cure just to be safe and then attach the DC-1 unit to the fully adjustable mount. Power is supplied via the supplied cigarrette lighter power lead and, as it accepts a 12v/24v feed, you can hard wire into your vehicle if you prefer. For that you would need to use a suitable fused feed but it's a simple job that anyone competent in vehicle electrics could do cheaply and easily.

 

The most difficult part is routing the power cable to the DC-1. Becasue it has to be located high up on the windscreen that means the cable has to pass up the A-pillar and around the edge of the windscreen. The cable is small enough to be tucked under the door seal rubber though and, although it took some time, I was able to route mine such that it's hidden. Cable clips are supplied if you prefer to use them.

 

Initially I had an issue with the car radio picking up interference whenever the DC-1 was powered up. But it transpired that the near side A-pillar is where the roof mounted radio aerial is routed. After moving the DC-1 power cable down the drivers side the interference disappeared. You'd be advised to check for issues such as this before you tidy the cable away. Helpfully the cable is very long and there is more than enough supplied to allow for a run around the windscreen frame, down an A-pillar and under the dash to the centre console or fuse box.

 

In use

When the ignition is switched on, the DC-1 emits a gentle chime to confirm that it has powered on. Everything is automatic and no interaction is needed. When you switch off the ignition another chime confirms that the unit is powered down.

 

The lens has a wider 125º angle of view and a higher resolution 1.5 MP sensor recording at 30 fps in daylight and 20 fps at night. The SD card slot is located on the rear next to the 'Emergency' record button and the status LEDs. There is also a Video Out connector should you wish to connect the camera to an external monitor for live viewing.

 

DC-1 FrontDC-1 Rear

Roadhawk DC-1 Front & Rear

 

Software

The software is very similar to before. It's functional and does what is required of it. Unfortunately it's Windows only, so Apple Mac, Linux, Google Chrome and any other OS users cannot utilise the full functionality. You can still access the video files, stored on the memory card in .mp4 format but you won't have access to the Google Map, Speed and G-Force sensor data. It'd be nice to see this application offered either as a cross-platform Java app or as a web based service.

 

SoftwareRoadhawk Software

 

 

Conclusion

The DC-1 is yet another well made and well implemented black box camera recorder from the guys at Roadhawk. Simple to install and so simple to use that it can be forgotten about in day to day use, possibly the most important point. You don't want a system that requires you switch it on each time it is used. We all hope that systems such as these are never needed but if the worst happens, the video evidence from the camera may just save you from a big insurance bill or worse still, prosecution.

 

A recent example showed a head on collision recorded by a Roadhwak camera from the cab of a HGV. Without the video evidence it would have been difficult to believe that the other party had driven the wrong way down a dual carriageway slip road but the video evidence showed that the HGV driver had been wholly without blame and could not have avoided the collision. I'm sure many of us have had cases of road-rage where a video may have been all the evidence police needed in order to prosecute. Or perhaps you're loaning your car to your newly qualified children to drive? What better way to ensure they drive carefully than the knowledge that the camera is in place and recording their driving behaviour?

 

At less than £200 this is an investment that could pay for itself many times over. Highly recommended.

 

Sample video from the DC-1

 


References

Product Web site www.roadhawk.co.uk
Pocket GPS Contributor

Darren Griffin

   
Forum Comments:

 

Comments
Posted by MaFt on Tue Sep 13, 2011 5:23 pm Reply with quote

does it constantly record and save, say, the most recent 30 seconds so if you did press the 'emergency' button slightly too late it would still have up to 30 seconds footage from before you pressed it?

MaFt


 
Posted by Darren on Tue Sep 13, 2011 5:28 pm Reply with quote

Yes, it's constantly recording. So long as you copy the files off the device before it loops round (6hrs worth od driving for the supplied card) then there is no need to do anything.

The benefit of the button is it marks that file 'Do Not Overwrite'. Think of it like a car equivalent of a PVR.

The files are written in minute long segments.


Darren Griffin - Editor

 
Posted by boblister on Tue Sep 13, 2011 9:35 pm Reply with quote

I am wondering if this device could also be useful for contributing to the safety camera database. Press the button after passing a location and review the file later with the supplied software which I presume would allow an accurate submission.


 
Posted by Darren on Tue Sep 13, 2011 9:42 pm Reply with quote

Indeed it would and you could use the Emergency button to save the files that had speed camera passes.


Darren Griffin - Editor

 
Posted by petrolhead276 on Tue Sep 13, 2011 11:14 pm Reply with quote

I Could have done with this on my wife's car today if it will detect idiots driving into car whilst parked in a car park unattended who then just drive away. Mr manufacturer if you are reading this then here's a simple product enhancement for you, albeit you might need to include fish eye lens for front & back to get an all around viewpoint.

parked at 07:15 back at car at 15:45 thus 8.5 hours had lapsed.

With a 6hr video spool, it could have missed the incident, although it looks like it occured in the afternoon from what people moving around the car park have stated.


 
Posted by Darren on Wed Sep 14, 2011 6:17 am Reply with quote

As I touched upon in the review, the DC-1 has a 'parking mode' option but t will still only cover the front.

However they do have another unit that has cameras that face forwards and back which may have a wide enough angle of view to cope.


Darren Griffin - Editor

 
Posted by MaFt on Wed Sep 14, 2011 8:19 am Reply with quote

ah, 'parking mode' i presumed meant you could put it in your back window, feed it through to a video monitor and help you park... i DID think that was a bit of messing around to help you park...

re speed cameras - we have a taxi driver(?) member who has a similar device who, when he sees a new mobile van, will send us a screenshot of the van in use along with the coords and map etc. it's very helpful Smile

MaFt


 
Posted by TieJustice on Wed Sep 14, 2011 12:49 pm Reply with quote

WORKS the same as the RH1 same bad picture so its no good at license plates or face's of bad drivers you will have a hard time proving it in a hit and run.

was hoping after 2 years that the quality of the picture would at lest be able to read a license plat that is 1 car length away but still no, so don't count on it in a hit and run.

it's is good at showing who is to blame if the others party stays around but remember this also has your info on it to, so say you are a bit of a led foot it will show this up, very cool if you are like me a driving instructor keeping to the speed limits at all times and very good for the bumper hungers as i have 2 units front and back.

i would go for a 16 gig min memory card of high quality to start as the 4 gig is just a wast.


 
Posted by Darren on Wed Sep 14, 2011 12:58 pm Reply with quote

TieJustice Wrote:
WORKS the same as the RH1 same bad picture so its no good at license plates or face's of bad drivers you will have a hard time proving it in a hit and run.

was hoping after 2 years that the quality of the picture would at lest be able to read a license plat that is 1 car length away but still no, so don't count on it in a hit and run.

I'd argue that point. Whilst a Hit'n'Run is a very unique example, the evidence from the camera is still useful and I have example video where the number plates are readable at a car length or more.

For higher quality you're looking at HD which will consume memory card space at a rate of knots and would prove impractical for most purposes.

But even if the whole plate isn't, a partial will assist the Police trace when they have make, model and colour.
Quote:
i would go for a 16 gig min memory card of high quality to start as the 4 gig is just a wast.

That depends. You would surely know when you had captured an event that you wished to save? In that case you could copy it off. Otherwise, for most people, six hours of video is more than enough.


Darren Griffin - Editor

 
Posted by petrolhead276 on Wed Sep 14, 2011 1:04 pm Reply with quote

See update to my original post. time vehicle was left unattened in car park was 8.5 Hours.

I might just drop the manufacturer a mail suggesting they are missing an opportunity here.


 
Posted by Darren on Wed Sep 14, 2011 1:06 pm Reply with quote

petrolhead276 Wrote:
See update to my original post. time vehicle was left unattened in car park was 8.5 Hours.

I might just drop the manufacturer a mail suggesting they are missing an opportunity here.

No, it can cover that. You can set it to continuous record or to trigger on G-force sensor only.

So you could either install a larger memory card and set it to record continuously or you could have it set to trigger on a bump only. In which case the supplied card is plenty.


Darren Griffin - Editor

 
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