Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Thinkware FXD700 Car Camera Review

It's been a month since I've started using the Thinkware FXD700. Prior to that, I've been in search for the best car DVR a.k.a. automotive blackbox available. Yes, there are a lot of varieties available in shops out there but what I need is something that will work and something that is actually useful as evidence when I need it.

Here, I will show you here why you need an in-dash car camera and why the Thinkware FXD700 is a good investment.

How does the Thinkware FXD700 work?
You can use this device in 2 different ways. One is you can hook it up directly to your car battery with the provided wiring in the package and you'll enjoy all the features this car DVR has including the 'parking mode'. This records specific events even when the engine is off. Don't worry about your battery being drained because it has a safety feature that automatically shuts down this device when the car battery power goes down below 12.2 volts and thus, not draining your car battery. You trigger parking mode when,
- An impact occurs. It will automatically record a 20-second video of the scene 10 seconds before and after. This will be saved in a separate file which won't be overwritten.
- the motion sensor activates. It will also automatically record a 20-second clip of the scene 10 seconds before and after and saves the file in the same manner.

The power cable to connect directly to your battery. Cigarette lighter outlet sold separately.
Second is you can just simply plug it in your cigarette lighter outlet and it'll function as is with the 'parking mode' option disabled because once you shut your engine down, the power on the cigarette lighter outlet goes out as well.

Once you start the engine, you don't have to do anything. It'll start itself up automatically. You'll hear a voice prompt stating that recording has started and after a minute or less, you'll hear a follow-up voice prompt stating that GPS is now connected. Yes, you can backtrack your whereabouts because this car DVR comes with a software (Not compatible with MAC OS) for viewing the video plus a map on the side at the same time. No worries if you are using a Mac as you can easily play the recorded files using right about any video players out there that can play AVI files (but you won't be able to view the map).

The micro SD card slot
Thinkware FXD700 storage capacity
Another great thing about the Thinkware FXD700 is that the video recording loops. Simply put, once your storage runs out, it'll overwrite the files right from the beginning and fill its way up again. The best thing about this? Important files won't be overwritten. When shock is detected by the accelerometer, the video file will be saved in a separate folder (-10 and +10 seconds after the event).

This device uses an external, expandable microSD card and is said to be able to handle up to 32GB. Mine has 16GB and it usually lasts 2-3days before the files become overwritten. I think the time is ample enough for you to back it up. Whenever the video recording loops from the beginning again, I notice that the device restarts by itself and you'll have a 10 second or so window there that the device won't work because it is rebooting. Once you notice that it restarts often, you might need to check on your memory card already because it might be near full capacity.

Thinkware FXD700 video format and quality
The front camera records 140° and as per experience, this already covers your entire hood from left to right and a good distance up front when attached in an optimum position in your windshield. (See sample video below). Recording is in 1-minute intervals and saves it as H.264 compressed AVI files. The file quality can be adjusted depending on your preference. During day time, you would not have any problems at all -- very clear. During night time, the things that is lighted up by the street lights and your headlights (and other light sources) can be seen clearly as well. The rest might not be that clear because this camera has a night mode which doesn't use infrared (which turns everything into a greenish color). From day mode to night mode, the camera automatically adjusts to it so no need to manually set it.

Check out some of the sample video footages I recorded. (Switch it to HD if it's not in HD mode)
(Day time)

(Night mode with tinted windshield)

Video viewer software
By using this software, not only can you view the map alongside the video, you can also view both front and rear cameras at the same time. Unfortunately, what I got was just the front camera so I'm not sure if it's really worth getting the unit with 2 cameras. Bad news for Mac users as the software included is compatible only with Windows OS. But as mentioned earlier, you can still view your saved videos using right about any player that can play AVI files.

Thinkware FXD700 
Camera CPU: 2 Channel with Cortex A8 Core Processor (High-Performance DaVinci Digital Media Processors)
Dimensions: 105.2mm x 61.5mm x 41mm
Weight: 5 ounces
Operating Temperature: -20°C~70°C
Front Camera: Full HD (1920 x 1080) 2.4 M Pixels / Sony CMOS image sensor and wide angle (140°).
Rear Camera: VGA (640x480) 0.3M Pixels.
Video codec: H.264 (30fps/MP4)
Audio codec: ADPCM
Input power: DC 12/24V [MAX36V] w/ Built-in super-capacitor
Ports:  HDMI, PND port, AV In port 1EA (3.5Ø), AV out port 1 EA (2.Ø), USB Port 1EA

-High definition & high frame rate video quality
-High Temperature Alarm
-Equipped with 2 channel functionality. The front camera records at 1920 x 1080p Full HD while the rear camera records at a 640x480 VGA. (Rear camera VGA 640 x 480 sold separately)
-Built in GPS records driving speed
-Various Recording Modes including continuous, event, manual, photo, voice (option to turn on/off), parking mode. (Records data due to collision, sudden acceleration and brake by the built-in impact sensor.)

Photos of the actual unit:

Why you need a car DVR?
This is one of the things that you'll need right after the moment you need it. So better get it while you still don't need one because the moment you need it might be already too late. It's a pretty good investment as it will make you feel more secure because everything you see  upfront will be recorded and believe me, this is very useful in the Philippines! It might or might not prevent things from happening but at the very least, you get a video recording of it for whatever purposes.

The build quality looks like plastic-y but it still feels premium. I love the color of it and even though the size is not that small, it might be a theft deterrent aspect in one way or another as they might easily see it in your car and give them second thoughts. While in use, there is this white light that can be seen in front of the unit moving from left to right which indicates that the unit is being used. During hot days, I've so far seen no problems with the unit not being able to withstand the heat as I usually leave my vehicle under the sun.

As seen in the photos above, you have the option to disable audio recording. Without disabling it, your entire conversation inside the cabin would be heard but for me, I just left it as is. In terms of the built-in sensor for event recordings, I think the bumpy roads somewhat has a bit of a disadvantage to us. Korea might have smoother roads so when you drive around Metro Manila, the sensor activates from time to time saving every bump you encounter on the road in a different folder (maybe you can compile them and send them to DPWH and have them take action). As per experience, it triggers a lot when I am along EDSA. When I'm on the smaller streets, it will not trigger much if you drive carefully. If you pass by every bump and hump on the road, you'll trigger it a lot.

One disadvantage for me is not having enough device 'holder' in the package. To attach it to your windshield, the holder uses a double adhesive tape. Advantage is that it would be more stable and less shaky than those window suction attachments. Disadvantage is that it will be harder to use this device from one car to another. Hence, I think that the package should include at least 2 holders and an easy option to purchase additional holders.

You know what the cool things is? I can upload the actual footage of scenes I want to blog about! If you notice in my sample video above, the night mode sample was my car, driven by a valet parking attendant in a known 5-star hotel in Makati. Now you know how they treat your car while it's in their hands. I knew you can never trust them to take care of your car. I will be uploading these videos constantly in my Youtube channel.  

This device might have the same function with the ones being sold in "a-shop-where-they-have-a-branch-in-every-corner" of Metro Manila. Yes, they might be cheaper and it will do if you are already happy with the low video quality it provides. Of course, it might work the same way but things like the video clarity, sound clarity and video recording the time you actually need it are some of the things that might matter in the end, when you actually need it. Those are some of the major things why the Thinkware FXD700 is worth the investment.

What's included in the package?
Tip: Get the package that includes the 2 cameras. The price difference is minimal. If I knew there was a package with both 2 cameras included, I would have gotten that.

Here is a sample video of what the dual-camera might look like. (The footage below is not mine. Got it from Youtube and the owner uses a FXD900)

If you want to know more about the Thinkware FXD700, contact the local distributor here in the Philippines:

Facebook page:

Here are their accredited partners:

You can also purchase it online via Lazada:

Just FYI, they have an ongoing promo:

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