So I finally caved to a Kinja deal and decided to try out a Roav A1. I’ll hopefully post a more thorough review but I’m bored on a long layover at DFW now so here are some thoughts.
Roav is Anker’s line of dash cams. You may know of Anker for phone chargers, battery packs, and cables. I have an Anker PowerCore USB-C battery pack that I use to charge my Nintendo Switch while traveling. It has good build quality and I’ve been happy with it, so I decided to stick with Anker. The A1 is an entry-level model. It doesn’t have a lot of fancy features, but for $44 (regularly $60) it was hard to pass up. A couple days after I got scraped by an Altima driver during my morning commute I saw the Kinja deal and snapped it up. It doesn’t come with a card, so I added a 64GB Samsung microSD card for $20 and I bought an Aukey 2-port USB 12V outlet adapter so that I could run the dash cam and charge my phone from the same outlet. (Full disclosure: that was $7 with another Kinja deal and I bought two - one for each car.) I realize that the Kinja deals are sometimes not really deals, but buying from them helps keep the lights on here.
Anyway, getting the camera up and going was pretty easy. It mounts with a locking suction cup and the provided USB cable was plenty long to run around the windshield trim, down the A-pllar, and under the glovebox to the charger port in my center stack. Anker even included a little plastic crowbar to peeling back trim to stick the wire behind it. I did and OK job with my hands and I plan to go back and clean it up with the crowbar next weekend.
Features? It actually has quite a few for such an inexpensive cam. Video is 720p60 or 1080p30. (Or 720p30 to extend record time.) I’m using 1080p in hopes that if something happened it would have a better chance at getting a readable plate number. It also has WiFi (more on that in a minute) and “Parking Collision Detection” - it has a small battery and a shock sensor so that if your car is hit while parked it saves a short video (and also locks to save from deletion automatically). So far it seems to think every time I close my door is a collision, so I might be turning that off. I has a microphone (can be turned off) and a small crappy speaker for sound during playback. Build quality is more solid than expected for the price.
Operation is pretty simple. It has a small screen and four buttons for navigating a few menus and quick access while recording screen. During recording they provide quick access to turning the mic on/off for privacy, protecting the current recording if you see something cool or have an accident (otherwise old clips are deleted automatically when the card is full), going to playback, or the main menu. It starts recording automatically when the car is turned on and records in small chunks (I have it set to 5 minutes - I think 10 is the max). This is a little annoying on playback when videos abruptly end in the middle of the highway. I think it is done for managing storage by making a bunch of small clips that can be overwritten and so you don’t have to scrub through hours of video to find that 10 seconds of a dog in the bed of a truck to share on social media. I’ll get used to it I guess. The field of view is wide - to be expected from a dash cam - maybe even too wide to be honest.
Video quality is OK. Obviously it would be be better if 4K, but even for 1080p, it could be better. Tail lights are white instead of red and there are chromatic aberrations all over the place. It looks like the built-in ISP has sharpening cranked way up too. I wish it had a less aggressive unsharp mask and I could adjust it up in post if needed, but at this price point I think the quality is fine. I just installed a firmware update over WiFi from the Roav app that promises to improve image quality - I’ll try to remember to update this once I’ve compared some clips.
Speaking of WiFi, it... works I guess. The cam creates an ad-hoc network when you activate WiFi though the built-in menu. You connect though a Roav app on your iPhone or Android. If you’ve used a GoPro in the past few years this should be instantly familiar. Unfortunately, with the app connected, the cam doesn’t do anything else. Also, the WiFi data speed is very slow. Hypothetically, you can view video clips saved on the A1 on your phone, but I couldn’t get them to do more than stutter. I’m assuming it works better on higher-end Roav models. (I’m also assuming it isn’t my iPhone 8+ because that regular posts faster WiFi speeds than my MacBook.) You can save them from the cam to your phone - sending a 3 minute video took about 5 minutes for me. You’d be better off just taking out the card and sticking it in a card reader on a computer. But - the WiFi does work in a pinch to wireless pull a video off of the A1.
So far, for $44 (really more like $80 with a memory card, 2-port 12V-to-USB adapter, and sales tax) I am very happy with it. If you’re thinking of a dash cam, grabbing one of these on sale isn’t a bad idea. Even at the regular price of $60 it seems like a good value, but these are on sale so much I’d wait for a deal to come up. We will see how it holds up - especially in the summer heat. Even if it just lasts a year I think it will be worth the money.