Transcend’s Drivepro 200 is one of the most popular dashcams out there. Is it popular because it’s fantastic? No… But we’ll get into that.
What’s in the Box
For AU$160, you get the car video recording unit, a suction cup, 16GB MLC micro SD card, car charger with integrated 4-meter long cable terminating in a right-angled (yay) mini USB 2.0 port and a video out cable adaptor. An adhesive mount is AU$40 extra.
If you want to permanently leave the camera in the one car, I’d recommend the adhesive mount. Compared to the adhesive mount, the standard car suction cup mount vibrates, reducing image quality. Additionally, it makes the unit significantly larger and has a tendency to fall off.
The camera makes use of a capacitor instead of a battery, which holds an electrical charge, rather than permanently storing it. A capacitor can hold far less power than a battery when sizes are equal, but capacitors are far more resistant towards heat, making it ideal for dashcams. In use, the only difference you’ll notice is the camera will turn off almost immediately after the power is cut when you turn the ignition off.
Due to the capacitor design, the camera boasts a two-year warranty. Something I took advantage off within a week when one of two of my Drivepro200 dashcams constantly started writing corrupted files to the SD card. The microphone also started picked up nothing but static once every few seconds, even when the car was parked in a deserted car park. Of my two units, my other unit is still going strong, but it was a shame that my second unit went wrong so quickly. Bad luck.
One disadvantage of capacitors in dashcams is that if you leave this particular camera without power for 3 days, you’ll need to set the clock again.
Honestly up until this point, I was really quite impressed. However, the video quality really left a lot to be desired.
Sharpness and dynamic range leave much to be desired. At night, the camera looses focus at times. The lens distortion is almost fish-eye, which makes poles look ridiculous. The microphone is terrible. Analogous to the camera being underwater. The volume is low, and can’t pick up the sound of my indicators, despite other dashcams being able to. Don’t buy this camera expecting it to exonerate you if you are alleged to be at fault for not indicating.
Due to the 160 degree field of view, the camera tends to expose to the sky, leaving the road completely dark. In future, I hope Transcend implements a 2560×1080 option (21×9), allowing for the camera to meter exposure off the road. Another fix would be to allow the user to set a zone where the camera should meter from, so the exposure is set off the lower half of the frame (presumably the road) only.
I’s say the wide-angle is a bit excessive. 160 degrees can be good in certain cases, but the edges are even softer than the centre of the image, making license plates unreadable. Even cars that I tailgate in the right lane of the motorway look like they are on the horizon. This further exacerbates the issue of reading registration plates.
The G sensor even on its lowest sensitivity constantly triggers when I drive through bumpy Australian cross-sections. Hence, my SD card is filled with unremarkable videos of after the G sensor is triggered. Happily, these clips are eventually overwritten when more emergency files are added. It’s just annoying for the camera’s screen to flash with an emergency recording warning. I suppose if you live in a country that has roads that aren’t in a dire state of emergency, you may be fine.
User Interface Features
The user interface is great. Best in class. The Wi-Fi, although unusually slow adds functionality like changing the Wi-Fi network SSID and passphrase. You can also browse the SD card on your mobile device. On my Android phone, it downscaled to the resolution of a potato, making this feature completely useless. Download to your computer at home instead.
For the price, I can’t recommend this camera unless the capacitor is a must-have for you. The video quality is as bad as you can really find and the Wi-Fi isn’t implemented as well as it could be. The G sensor is perhaps too reliable, and the suction cup isn’t the mounting solution I’d recommend for most. On the upside, the camera has a great user interface, good hot weather performance comes with a decent sized SD card and comes from a reputable manufacturer.