Posted onAuthorWilliam M. GingrichComments Off on Vantrue OnDash N4 review: Versatile 3-channel dash cam captures with 4K
In one look
4K forward captures in two-channel mode
Indoor and rear 1080p captures
Easy to use
Only 1440p when using three channels
Infrared disabled by default
Vantrue’s N4 is the most affordable three-channel dash cam we’ve come across. It captures at 1440p in three-channel mode and 4K when you switch to two.
Price when reviewing
Best Prices Today: Vantrue OnDash N4 Dash Cam
If you like the idea of full coverage (or near full coverage anyway) inside and out of your vehicle, you won’t find a cheaper way to scratch that itch than the OnDash N4 from Bouncer. This three-channel front/rear/indoor unit has the rather attractive price of $260, although a GPS mount costs $22 more.
Note that the dash cam I tested is the one found when you click on the Dash Cam tab, then N4 on the Vantrue website. Browsing the Vantrue site, I came across another N4 product page with different specs. The difference is that the model I reviewed – probably the most current model – supports 4K. Even still, this specification is a bit misleading when expressed as “3 4K channels”. While the N4 can indeed capture 4K UHD front-end video, it can only do so when capturing front/inside or front/rear, i.e. in two-channel mode, not three-channel.
Also note that the industry generally only refers to the front camera when solving advertising. The interior and rear cameras invariably have a lower resolution when 4K is touted.
This review is part of our roundup of the best dash cams. Go there for more reviews and shopping tips.
Vantrue OnDash N4: design and features
At just over 4 inches long and 1.5 inches deep and wide, the flattened cylindrical N4 is a bit over the big size. It should be suitable for both front and interior cameras, as well as a sharp 2.45-inch IPS color screen. It’s not a monster by any means, but it’s not svelte like Garmin’s Dash Cam Tandem.
On the top of the device are five buttons (menu, OK/save, left, right, power) for navigating the on-screen menus. These menus are logically organized and easy to navigate. On the left side of the main body you will find: a USB Type-C port for the rear camera or to connect the device to a computer to offload video; a micro-HDMI video port for output to a TV, etc. ; an SD card slot; and a small reset button.
There is nothing on the right side, but at the top is the connection for the included suction cup mount, which is fully adjustable horizontally and vertically. The entire offering is powered via another USB Type-C port on the stand. The knot of this port also serves as a handle to rotate the mechanism to secure the suction cup to the windshield.
The front camera is 2160p/30fps max (when recorded alone) with a 155 degree field of view, but as mentioned drops to 1440p when the inner and rear cameras are also in use. It will remain at 2160p when used with the interior or rear cameras, but drop from 30 fps to 25 fps.
The inner camera is 1080p with a 165 degree FOV and the rear camera is 1080p with a 160 degree FOV. Why the slight shifts between the FOV of three cameras I can’t say, but together they cover a lot of real estate. All are equipped with Sony STARVIS sensors for good color and night performance.
There are four infrared lights surrounding the vertically rotating interior camera to augment nighttime captures in the cabin. Alas, Vantrue doesn’t turn them on by default, so my first nighttime captures were darker than they should have been. Vantrue should put more effort into making the N4 usable in all conditions right out of the box.
The power cable is auxiliary (cigarette lighter) to Type-C and a 20ft cable is provided to connect the rear camera. It’s so long because you’ll probably slide it around/under the seats, up and inside the interior moldings, or both. As with most dash cams, a molding spudger/crevice tool is provided.
The rear camera is prominently displayed, which I really appreciate. I have installed less clearly labeled units upside down by accident. Tip: If you have a rear camera whose orientation is not apparent, attach it to the main camera, turn it on and note what is displayed on the screen before gluing it in place. (Almost all use sticky pads.)
There is no SD card included with the N4. Speaking of which, you’ll be using a lot of storage with three channels running all the time, or just capturing 2160p. Buy as big as possible.
The N4 offers three parking modes: motion detection (using the camera), impact detection (using the G-sensor) and a low-resolution continuous capture mode (720p at 15 fps). There is also a time-lapse image capture feature to save storage space.
On board is a super capacitor rather than a battery for more charge cycles and a wider operating temperature range (14 to 158 degrees Fahrenheit). Unusually, it keeps the display going for about a second after powering on, which means it has a decent capacity. Many only last for the milliseconds it takes to close the current video.
Vantrue OnDash N4: performance
I first tested the N4 as a three-channel camera, resulting in 1440p front-end captures. Overall 1440p/1080p quality is acceptable if in no way competitive with the more expensive but excellent Cobra SC 400D. I then switched the camera to front/rear only and captured 2160p footage from the front.
Color is spot on either way, but I found detail in all captures a little blurry for the resolutions involved, especially the interior and rear cameras. Vantrue seems to go for smoothness over sharpness in handling captures. Either that or it’s in the optics or the sensors. I’ve noticed recently that cameras with Sony sensors tend to suppress aliasing.
Right-click on the images and select “Open in new tab”, then switch to the new tab to see them in full resolution.
The interior camera’s wide field of view (shown below) ensures you’ll capture the entire cabin, no matter the size of the vehicle. I left the power cord dangling to save you another look at my mug.
There’s quite a bit of fisheye from all the cameras. Wide fields of view (FOV) ensure that you’ll capture more events, but it leads to this kind of artifact. Interior and rear camera details are rather blurry for 1080p captures. The rear camera shot below also lacks a bit of detail overall. He’s one of the security guards in our building checking that Giants fans from the stadium just down the street aren’t using our parking lot.
Night shots are more or less the same. There is good if not fantastic detail on the front shots, but the interior and rear shots are slightly muddy. In addition, the stray light from the headlights is more intense than with some cameras. Note that some of the distortion is due to nighttime conditions here in foggy San Francisco.
As with daytime captures, there is some blurring in nighttime captures from the rear camera. You will need to be very close to enter details such as license plate numbers.
As mentioned, for some reason, Vantrue does not set infrared lighting to automatic or on by default. Hence the dark capture pictured below. Expecting the infrared to work automatically, I had to go another evening to capture with the infrared on.
Here is the result of my second foray. I left because I’m tired of seeing myself in these photos. Note that you can now say there are seats in my MX-5.
A small issue with the N4 is that it doesn’t automatically start recording when you exit the settings menus like most cameras will. You must press the OK/Save button. I missed a lot of catches initially because of this. Refinements.
As long as you understand the N4 is 1440p when using all three channels it’s a good deal, although it would be better with GPS already on board Captures aren’t the best we’ve seen, but they’re colorful and feature a useful amount of detail. A competent if not spectacular camera system for a good price.
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