Vava Dash Cam Review: An Affordable One-Camera System
This relatively inexpensive dash cam packs most of the features of its pricier competition, with a few minor quirks.
Dash cams are becoming more and more popular, enabling drivers to capture amazing sights or stupid incidents on video as they drive without having to distract themselves with a phone or camera in their hands. We already reviewed one, the BlackVue DR750S-2CH. Here's a similar but much less expensive choice to consider: The Vava Dash Cam.
The Vava Dash Cam is fairly new to the market and brings a lot of technology to the table for $149.99, a fraction of the price of the $399.99 BlackVue. Like the BlackVue it records in 1080p at 60 frames per second, which is more than adequate for capturing traffic shenanigans or random meteors. The Vava features a 155-degree wide angle view to capture not only what's directly ahead of you but two lanes to either side. Mounted in the center of my Subaru WRX, it captures everything between the pillars and more when pointed forward. That distinction is necessary because the mount allows you to rotate the camera through a full 360 degrees of movement. You can record yourself and your friends jamming out to your favorite song instead of traffic if you prefer.
Like the BlackVue, it features built-in G-force detection in all directions. It can be set to record a short video clip after detecting motion or a shock even when the car is turned off. It also uses GPS to synchronize its clock and measure your speed and uses Wi-Fi to connect to your mobile device. But unlike the BlackVue, it only has one camera, so you'll need to spin it around to record other angles.
What You Get in the Box
- Vava dash cam
- Car mount
- Snapshot button
- Car charger
- Micro USB cable with GPS module
- 5 Cable clips
- Button battery cell
- SD Card ejector
Note that unlike the BlackVue, no microSD card is included with this camera. One is required to even configure it, let alone record with it. Be sure to factor that into your purchase. The Vava dash cam supports Class 10 or above SD cards up to 128 GB. I borrowed the 64 GB card from my GoPro, and after reformatting the card, it works fine.
With no screen built into the camera itself, the only way to access it is through the Vava Dash app for iOS and Android. Unlike the BlackVue, no desktop app is available, though you can always remove the microSD card and read the standard MP4 files on your computer.
The Vava app gives you a wide variety of information about the camera, including your latest snapshot, a map of your last journey, and an installation guide. Once you connect to the camera by Wi-Fi you gain access to all photo and video files on the camera, as well as its configuration settings. You can save files to your phone or tablet for future reference and even post them directly to social media.
The app is generally well designed and easy to use. The only trouble I had was figuring out how to change the speed readout from kilometers to miles per hour. This setting was unintuitively hidden several menus away from the obvious switch for turning the embedded speed display on and off. It's also a setting you're not likely to change very often, even if you do travel between the U.S. and Canada or Mexico regularly. Overall, the app is good enough that a built-in screen or physical controls on the camera itself aren't necessary.
My Thoughts on the Camera
The routine operation is truly seamless. I start my car, drive wherever, and the camera quietly does its thing in the background, with a small blinking LED the only indication that it's doing its job. It records one-minute video clips of about 127 MB, which means that the files aren't too large or time-consuming to copy to your phone or computer.
A night it doesn't take very much light for the Vava to do its job. This picture is a bit more grainy than the daytime photos, but it's certainly high enough quality to catch the perpetrator of an accident or crime clearly. I was even able to make out the details of my garage in a photo I snapped with only my parking lights illuminating the scene.
You can also snap photos and videos manually at any time by pressing the Vava button. This is literally just a button that I stuck to the previously unused bottom spoke of my Subaru WRX's steering wheel. Press it briefly to take a snapshot, or press and hold to shoot a 20-second video, separate from the video the camera continually records regardless of other selections.
The third way the Vava dash cam will record video is on an "emergency" basis, such as when it detects a significant change in G-forces under hard braking or swerving—at least, in theory. In practice, my WRX's firm but stock suspension plus the bad roads of Massachusetts lead to "emergency" videos being recorded frequently just from going over bumps. The sensitivity of this feature can be changed through the app, but I never found a setting that worked as Vava intended. Fortunately, the camera always records whenever it is powered regardless of snapshot or emergency mode. so if anything wacky happens, it will be recorded.
But overall, I'm quite impressed with the Vava dash cam, particularly after my bad experience with a less expensive camera. It does its job so well that its startup and shutdown sounds are the only sign that it's even there. It records good quality video in all lighting conditions, which is always there when you need it. If the BlackVue DR750S-2CH is the Valentine One of dash cams, as The Drive's Danny Korecki wrote, the Vava dash cam must be the Escort Max 360 of them.
Normally available for $149.99, you can use coupon code CARDVR08 on Amazon to buy the Vava dash cam for $109.99 until May 2, 2018.