11 January, 2015

Thinkware X300

Alright, I'm starting this post before fully testing out this recorder, because the beginning is when I have the most to say. Ok preliminary stuff. Thinkware is also known as Inavi. There are very few reviews of this by end-users. Keyword stuffing: dash cam cams dashcam dashboard camera cameras recorder video recorders driving black box boxes blackbox blackboxes (this isn't for search engines, it's for me to find this post)

How does this compare with what I was looking for?
  • Wide-angle. Check.
  • Low-light. No particular mentioning of this, some say its low-light performance is not very good.
  • Front and back. Check.
  • Crash protection. Check. It actually does this very well. It has internal memory, which you can order it to copy to the card. It even has a supercapacitor (like a battery, but not) to record for a while after power is interrupted!
  • Heat-resistant. Check. Said to be the most heat-resistant brand, more than Blackvue. Has a temperature sensor.
  • Motion-detection. Check. Can be wired directly to the battery and can be set to turn off when battery voltage drops to a certain voltage.
  • Inconspicuous. Not really, but at least the white LED around the lens can be turned off. The 2 small LEDs on the LCD side can't be turned off.
  • No LCD screen. I actually changed my mind on this and wanted an LCD screen. 1. Check camera angle, especially since camera is removable. 2. Change settings. So this was what I wanted.
  • Removable. Check, but only the front camera.
  • Sound recording can be disabled. Check.
  • Uninstallable. Check, or so I heard.
  • Time and date stamp. Check. Can't be turned off.
  • Does not interfere with sensors. Check, so far.
  • Able to format memory cards. Check. Not only check, they say this is something you need to do regularly.

Note: the X300's rear camera is the BCH-500. The F550's is the BCH-350. F550 is similar in specs but has GPS and no LCD screen. Got front and rear installed for S$700.

Installation was pretty simple, as in the cameras can only angle up and down, so you have to install the lens in the centre of the vehicle. You don't have much choice over where to install it. I still got professional installation because of the vehicle power connection.

Usage: it's pretty easy to use, and I think most people can figure it out without the manual. There are basic settings like resolution, frame rate, sensitivity. Automatic recording is divided into 4 types:
  • While driving: continuous and impact
  • While parked: motion detection and impact
There's also manual recording and photos.

Casual comments:
  • It seems to be fixed-focus, not autofocus.
  • Videos are automatically divided into 1 minute files. Makes watching more difficult, but keeping only important files easy. I haven't checked if there's any gap in time between files.

Some things I don't like so far:
  • it takes really long to start up and change modes
  • the oddest thing is you have to partition the memory card into specific sections, and you can only choose from 3 partition schemes:
If you're planning to record parking, you'll pretty much have to use scheme C, which has the most for parking motion. The thing is, once a category is used up, it'll overwrite older files in that category, even if the rest of the card is empty. Example: you park and put in a 32 GB card. Once it records 15% of 32 GB of motion, it'll record over previous parking files, even though the card is 85% empty.

I did some measurements for a 32 GB card:
  • Parking motion detection. HD front and back, 15 FPS, it recorded 4.23 GB or about 52 minutes.
  • Parking motion. HD front and D1 back, 15 FPS (basically lowest quality). 4.22 GB or about 1 hour 4 minutes.
  • Continuous (driving) recording, full HD front and HD back, it recorded 11.1 GB or 1 hour 45 minutes (may not be full).
Maybe I park in really busy areas, but for motion detection I was able to cover about 8 hours, i.e. there was 1 hour of motion in 8 hours.

I specifically got the camera wired to my battery and it can only record max about 1 hour 10 minutes of motion :\ 32 GB is the max card size it supports. There should be a way to manually partition it, or better still, put continuous and motion detection in one category and impacts in another category.

It displays your battery voltage on the screen! I still can't figure out how it detects when your car is on, because it can tell when I turn on electrical power without starting the engine. Maybe:
  • If voltage drops from 14 - 12 V, switch to parking mode after 1+ minute
  • If voltage dips slightly from 12 V, switch to driving mode
  • If voltage rises from 12 - 14 V, switch to driving mode
Oh, you can't switch between these 2 modes yourself. I'm just wondering, for a car that has start-stop, could it switch to parking mode when your car is stopped? There's a delay of 1+ minute before it switches modes, and presumably if you stop for longer than that it'll think you're parked.

Settings are stored on the card. Latest conclusion: there's a small program on the card that lets you change the camera's settings on any computer, without installing anything. Necessary for camera models without screens, but still useful for this. The screenshot above is from that program.

Before this, I was thinking of getting a GoPro, which are about $300-400 and should have similar video quality. In the end I didn't because:
  • They're about the same price (although you can use the GoPro for other things)
  • You need to remove the GoPro when you park
  • If you remove the GoPro, how are you going to adjust the angle when you put it back? It doesn't have a screen, although you can buy one.
  • Am I going to charge the GoPro every day?
  • If you charge it every day, the battery won't last very long
  • The main reason was, reviews on Amazon say the GoPros have very buggy software. They restart or only record for a few minutes or flat out don't work.

This is what the interface looks like. 3 shortcuts on the left to: sound recording, manual recording and picture taking. About Device tells you the memory status and some basic explanations.


Problems are listed here, so I don't have to keep checking I didn't change anything else when I edit this post.

No comments:

Post a Comment