Dash cams are the latest products to suffer the indignity of feature creep. Endemic to the tech landscape, it’s where a once-simple device is so packed with features and functionality, usually by the marketing department, that its primary purpose is diluted – and, often, buyers no longer get a good report. price quality.
Once upon a time, there was the humble dash cam attached to your car’s windshield that discreetly recorded a view of the road ahead. Then, when its g-sensor detects a collision, part of that video is recorded, ready to prove your innocence. Now, however, some models have speed camera alerts, Alexa voice control, their own 4G connections, emergency SOS call functions, optional rear-facing cameras, vehicle status check systems the car battery and much more.
Some handle all of these features quite well, and TechRadar gave five stars to the best dash cams like the Nextbase 622GW. These tech-packed models are often still impressive pieces of technology, and as reviewers, we’re happy to acknowledge that when done right.
But when the Vantrue N2 Pro landed on my desk, I started to wonder if the onboard cameras hadn’t gone too far. No, I hadn’t heard of the manufacturer either, and yes, it’s a lousy piece of kit. I can only assume that form indeed follows function, but hasn’t arrived yet.
Safe to say, it wasn’t the looks of the N2 Pro that caught my eye and made me rethink the approach of most other dash cam manufacturers. Instead, it was the lack of features – and, more specifically, a lack of connectivity.
There’s no Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and certainly no SIM card slot. This means no smartphone app, no tedious setup process and no sharing of personal data with a hitherto unknown company.
Instead, you just attach it to the windshield with a suction cup, turn it on, navigate the (admittedly clunky) menu system to adjust a few settings like video resolution and microphone use, and that’s all.
It’s the very definition of a set-it-and-forget-it device; one that starts working when you turn on the car and just continues its work. Not one that reports a loss of phone connectivity before it even reaches the end of the street.
Road to bloatware
But what about all those missing features? Many modern cars now have their own SOS call function which calls emergency services if a serious collision is detected and the driver does not respond.
The same goes for lane departure warnings, and a similar proportion of vehicles also have alerts for speed cameras and red lights – and if yours doesn’t, the navigation system you’re using already might well.
Likewise, Alexa, or whatever voice assistant you prefer, and car infotainment systems like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto already do what you ask. Truth be told, have you ever dreamed of being able to ask your dash cam to take a photo or record a timelapse while you’re driving? Voice assistants allow you to set a kitchen timer without staining food on your phone. Not that.
And then there are the smartphone apps. I challenge you to find a dash cam review where the app is listed as one of its best features. This is rarely the case. Instead, the app usually appears in the “cons” and “reasons to avoid” sections, placed there by a reviewer who is at least relieved that once everything is set up, the app can be avoided for a while. camera life.
Either way, I’m fairly certain that after the crash I’d reach for the camera in full, or maybe remove the microSD card, instead of tediously connecting via Wi-Fi to transfer critical images for insurance claims to my phone. .
keep it simple
The Vantrue N2 Pro isn’t perfect. For starters, it’s aimed at taxi and rideshare drivers, so it has a second camera facing the inside to record unruly passengers. It’s not for regular motorists, but its unconnected, simplicity-focused ethos most certainly is.
One key connectivity feature it admittedly lacks is GPS, which on other dash cams adds precise location and speed data to video recordings. It’s a really useful feature that the N2 Pro lacks to its detriment, but at least Vantrue sells an optional windshield mount with built-in GPS for those who want it.
Another dash cam that keeps things relatively simple is the Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2, which is incredibly compact thanks to its lack of a screen or driver assistance systems. Only two buttons occupy the exterior, and although there are voice commands and Wi-Fi connection for video transfer, their use is not mandatory. Of the many dash cams I’ve reviewed over the years, this is perhaps my favorite.
Tellingly, most dash cams will perform their basic function – recording video and saving it when a collision is detected – without any configuration. And yet too often the ownership experience is marred by manufacturers’ insistence on first installing a clunky smartphone app, updating the firmware, and handing over your personal information in order to create an account to receive Spam.
Some consumers might well benefit from all the features that high-end dash cams have to offer – someone, somewhere might even be thrilled with the inclusion of what3words support.
But for everyone else, I believe cost-effective simplicity reigns supreme. This way, you don’t feel like you have to pay more for a feature-packed dash cam you won’t use, the whole ownership experience is simplified, and manufacturers can focus on the basics instead of the basics. overwhelm shoppers with superfluous bells and whistles.