Driving should be fun and not stressful as you have to make many calculations and decisions whilst there are pedestrians and other vehicles that cross your path.
But accidents do occur, even if you are extremely careful. Driving around in a crowded city is usually a pain — ask anyone who lives in India and they will assure you that it isn’t as easy as one thinks. With almost no rules being obeyed by pedestrians or other vehicles on the street, accidents are bound to happen, no matter how good a driver you could be. And if you happen to touch someone, you as a driver are the first to take the beating, even with no fault of your own.
While eyewitnesses could come to your aid, usually no one bothers to help just to avoid legal harassment. Hence, we review one of the best eyewitnesses one can have, 24x7 - the dash camera. It is a simple DVR or digital video recorder that continuously keeps a watch on the road while you drive around. And when you get pulled up by a cop for jumping a signal or accidentally bumping into someone on the street, your dash camera could help you with proof.
We reviewed one such dash camera that recently went on sale in the Indian market. Yi Technologies, a Chinese tech brand, introduced the YI Smart Dash Camera here and we found it one of the best and a must-have accessory for every car owner, and that too on a decent budget.
YI Smart Dash Camera Specifications
Priced at ₹5899, the YI Smart Dash Camera is a simple, sturdy and compact dash camera with a single point of view. There are other dash cameras also available that can record views from multiple angles such as rear, sides, and even inside the cabin. The YI Smart Dash Camera is a front viewing dash camera that can be installed and attached to your windscreen within 15 minutes.
Sized slightly larger than a matchbox, the device is equipped with a 2.7-inch LCD display on the rear with a few control buttons alongside and a single camera on the front that can capture images with a 165-degree wide lens and an f/1.8 aperture. The top features a mounting fixture that attaches to the windscreen mount, while the sides sport a micro USB port for power and a microSD card slot that can take in up to 32GB storage cards.
YI Smart Dash Camera Installation
Installation is simple and straightforward — simply attach the camera to the mount on your windscreen, run the bundled cable around the dashboard from the roof to the bundled cigarette lighter USB power converter and you are ready to drive. Once installed, there is nothing you need to do, unless you need to fine-tune the settings to get the maximum from the camera to record your journey. This includes video resolution (between 720p, 1080p and 1296p @30fps and @60fps modes, audio recording, G-sensor (for crashes - low/med/high), display timer (shows clock when in timeout), ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistant System) to alert you of nearby vehicles departing a lane and basic storage formatting and reset options.
Usually, the default options work well, but if you tune them according to your preference, you have to choose between storage time and quality. A 32GB microSD card can store an average of 5 hours (with 1080p@60fps and around 10 hours+ with 720p@30fps) of footage depending on the resolution you choose, and all saves in H.264 formats for space-saving. We advise sticking to the highest resolution to get the best footage (1080p@60fps). However, though the camera has a feature of loop recording (automatically deletes the oldest videos to save newer ones) the camera does not support manual video time limits or lengths and automatically stores the footage, but intelligently of around 3 minutes each.
The camera also has a Wi-Fi connectivity option that allows you to set up, view the live feed and save the recordings to your phone. Sadly, there is no option that allows you to upload the videos to the cloud directly using a portable internet hub or though the phone’s hotspot. The YI Smart Dash Camera has a very tiny battery inside which is just enough to save and shut down the device when you finish driving. However, it also holds sufficient charge in order to allow you to view some footage stored on the microSD card, for a few minutes. The dash camera is powered by Yi’s own 40nm A12 chip that features a dual-core CPU and a DSP processor for better images and longer videos.
YI Smart Dash Camera Operations
The YI Smart Dash Camera automatically turns on and starts recording when you turn on your car. It boots up within 2 seconds and starts recording immediately. Two LEDs (orange and red) notify you about the camera’s status whether it is recording or simply on standby. You have the option to start, stop or pause the recordings manually by pressing the record button on the control panel or from your phone. The camera can also help you take stills or shoot pictures when you think you need a photo of a particular incident in front of your camera.
Lastly, you can also view your recordings on the camera itself or save them for later use on your smartphone or by connecting the SD card to your PC/laptop. A tiny onboard speaker also helps with the audio. When you turn off your engine, the display highlights crucial stats about your current driving with the number of hours driven, number of hard brakes and hard accelerations, for a few seconds before powering off. If you want to urgently record a 10-second video of something important, you can simply hit the record button once and a 10-second footage is safely stored for later access. Alternatively, if your vehicle experiences a crash, the camera also goes into emergency recording mode and records a 10-second video of the crash.
YI Smart Dash Camera Performance
We put the camera to test by driving it around the city while commuting daily to the office and back. The footage during the day is pretty clear with good details of the road and people around. Brightly lit areas like the sky (during bright sunny days) does look a little washed out. Thanks to the e-HDR Generation 2 technology that Yi uses which enables better dynamic videos (up to 25% better than average WDR ones). This enables the camera to focus quickly and get better visibility in low light areas such as tunnels and alike.
The 165-degree wide angle helps a lot — though it has a bit of fish-eye look, it helps to cover the entire front view, allowing you to grab footage from all three lanes up ahead. Turning on ADAS will need your smartphone to be connected as the camera does not have GPS for speed tracking and it will use your smartphone for the required data.
Footage during the night is pretty good too, but since the camera doesn’t have any IR LEDs for night vision, darker areas are not as visible. We also noticed that headlights from oncoming traffic also overexposes the videos rendering it useless most often. However, you cannot do much about it as any camera would fail in such circumstances. However, the video is definitely very good during low light and night time where objects are clearer in the footage.
YI Smart Dash Camera app
The app allows you to also fine-tune the camera’s settings without touching the camera itself. With the app, you can name each camera (if you have multiple cameras in multiple cars), change the Wi-Fi settings, allow timestamps and watermarks on the videos, enable power on/off tones, and a lot more. But we did notice that when you are accessing the stored videos in the camera, the recording stops automatically as the storage is in use by the app. You can download the videos you wish to save to your smartphone and the app also gives you the option to trim important parts of the video to download rather than downloading the entire footage. Downloading is pretty slow though and hope Yi releases an update to speed up the wireless data transfer process.
YI Smart Dash Camera Verdict
Having a third eye keep watch on your driving is as important as insurance when problems arrive. With a dash camera on your windscreen, any untoward incidents that could land you into trouble could be kept at bay. With the ADAS feature, wide-angle lens, Wi-Fi connectivity and easy to use interface, the YI Smart Dash Camera seems to be a smart and must-have accessory for your car. We recommend you opt for a dash camera, no matter how safe a driver you may be and the Yi dashcam seems to be an ideal choice within a decent budget of ₹5899.