By virtually any standard, the BlackVue DR900S-2CH is one pricey beast. There are several other dash cams you can have for the price of a few tanks of gas, so what makes this BlackVue product so much better than, for instance, the Vava VA-VD002?
One part of the answer is that the front camera records at true 4K @ 30 frames per second (or 1080p @ 60 fps).
The more important factor, however, is that this is the only true “smart” system of all our dash cam reviews.
Unlike the vast majority of car cams, it doesn’t just house a Bluetooth or wi-fi transmitter that allows it to act as an extension of your phone.
Instead, it can direct to the cloud directly, giving you access to a whole slew of additional features.
A Stitch in Time
An argument that’s often made in favor of getting a dash cam is that it pays for itself as soon as you get into or, more specifically, get dragged into an accident. With most products, the trouble with this is twofold: your only way to make use of the footage is retroactively, and if the dash cam gets stolen (perhaps along with the rest of the car), your footage is gone too.
So, an ordinary dash cam, whether it has wi-fi or not, is helpful when you get into an accident through no fault of your own, and may capture a license plate if your car gets dinged in a parking lot. This BlackVue, on the other hand, will notify you on your phone as soon as an event occurs, automatically upload flagged footage to a safe location, allow you to see your car’s geographical location and surroundings remotely, and it even lets you livestream your dash cam (overprotective parents, take note).
This, of course, assumes that your dash cam can connect to an access point. In other words, it’s great if you already have, or you’re planning to install wi-fi in your car. Few city-wide networks have the capacity to reliably upload 4K video, so this will probably mean getting your own GSM router and paying whatever your cell service provider decides to charge. There is also a monthly charge for the premium versions of BlackVue’s cloud service, but ordinary users needn’t bother with this.
Decent Performance, Even Offline
Of course, this dash cam is not entirely useless when not connected. If no internet is available, you can still view videos using the app from nearby and record on the camera’s memory card, backing up this footage to the cloud when connectivity is available. The included MicroSD card gives you a little over half an hour of recording time – using the maximum 128 GB capacity and full-HD instead of 4K recording pushes this up to more than 16 hours.
You don’t have to pay extra for a hardwire kit to keep the camera running when the ignition switch is turned off. This camera’s parking mode is a step ahead of the competition: it’s entered automatically after the car has remained stationary for 5 minutes instead of having to be set manually.
In addition, you can choose either 1 frame-per-second time lapse recording or let it be triggered either by physical shocks or motion in 16 defined zones in each camera’s field of view. It also, unlike most, has a storage buffer, meaning that it records a few seconds leading up to the event rather than just the aftermath.
Something you might miss, at least until you get used to the app, is a screen on the device itself. There is none to add to the price of what is already a pretty expensive piece of hardware.
A Little Too Close to the Future?
As impressive as some of the Blackvue’s features are, there’s a lot to be said for older technology. All cutting-edge electronics has a few bugs and gremlins – the more complicated it is, the more things can go wrong, and it always takes some time to iron out these wrinkles.
For one thing, it’s only capable of working between -4 °F and 158 °F (-20 °C to 70 °C), which is a problem. The advanced electronics used to generate, process, and store full 4K video create a lot of heat, too, so the manufacturer actually recommends using time-lapse mode when your car is parked in the hot sun.
It’s also greedy when it comes to power consumption and places a noticeable strain on your car battery. If you leave your car parked and the dash cam running for longer than overnight, a battery pack like the BlackVue B-124 may be a better option than the included hardwiring kit.
For people with high demands, though, the capabilities of the Blackvue far outweigh these little drawbacks – just have a look at this day and night road test video (it’s in Polish, but who cares):
- Stores trigger event videos online
- Sends push notifications to phone
- High-quality video front and rear
- Very costly
- Requires internet access for full functionality
- Not great in hot climates