Dash cameras have been around for a long time. Obviously the police use them in their squad cars, but about five years ago, the amount of videos on YouTube featuring auto accidents and other weird stuff skyrocketed. Initially, these videos featured Russians making poor decisions while driving or doing stupid things after drinking inordinate quantities of Vodka. Today, these cameras are mounted to the windshields of American cars as well, and this review will focus on my largely positive interactions with the C1 Pro.
Initially, I wasn’t even looking at purchasing a dash cam from Anker. But little did I know that Amazon’s flash sales only allow you to purchase one discounted item. Fearing I would miss out on the cheaper prices offered on Cyber Monday, my decision to opt for two cameras resulted in my purchase of this Vantrue X1 and the Anker unit.
The Vantrue was a Christmas gift for dad, which means I don’t regularly fiddle around with it. I also have not viewed any of the videos its recorded thus far, so I can’t vouch for the quality of what it captures. But based on my interactions with the camera so far, I made the right decision to put the Anker in my car. The menu is easier to navigate, and the overall quality feels superior to the X1.
Anker wisely decided to include a 32GB microSD and a two port USB car charger in the box, which is everything you need to get started. Vantrue did not include either item with their camera, which means a separate order for a memory card was necessary. And because the Vantrue 12V adapter plugs directly in to the outlet, that particular power outlet cannot be used by anything else when its plugged in.
And here is the two port charger as it sits in my car. Fortunately, that little blue indicator light does not glow bright enough to distract me while I’m driving, which concerned me when I first plugged it in. As an added benefit, the charger definitely feels like a quality item. For those of you who regularly charge your phone in the car, Anker’s two port unit can detect exactly what type of device is plugged into the unit, allowing it to send as much power to the phone or tablet as possible, therefore reducing charging times.
The camera itself is very easy to use and is packed with a ton of useful features. Most importantly, it comes with WiFi, which a lot of dash cams don’t have at this price. Why is that important? If you’re involved in a collision and want to share your video with the police, WiFi enables you to connect your phone to the camera and download your recording directly to the phone’s memory. That means the officer can view the video on a bigger screen compared to the one on the camera. If you have a dash cam without WiFi, you would have to present the video to law enforcement after the fact, which adds additional frustration to an already stressful event.
WiFi is useful even if you don’t have an immediate need to show someone a video. Without this capability, you’d be forced to either carry the entire camera into your house to transfer any footage, or remove the MicroSD card to complete the same task. Neither sound very fun, and the idea of fiddling with a tiny, potentially fragile memory card doesn’t fill me with excitement.
Any camera with WiFi capability needs a functional app to assist with video downloads, and I could easily see a mediocre app ruining the entire experience, even if the camera itself is good. Fortunately, the Roav app is fast and easy to use. It also allows you to change the camera settings directly from the app, which is a huge plus, because contorting your body and squinting up at the tiny screen to adjust video resolution or manage the data on the memory card is not ideal. Anker also made it very easy to find the videos on your phone when its hooked up to a computer by putting all the recordings in a folder simply labeled “Roav.”
Since a dash cam review would be pretty useless without footage of the camera in question, here is a nice dual turn lane fail by some troglodyte Elantra driver. Quick side note: If this review motivates you to seriously consider this camera, make sure your YouTube settings are allowing you to watch the video at the highest resolution. You may need to visit the site to do it. It’s also looking like you’ll have to view the video in full screen mode to see how the video actually looks, because the smaller video player is butchering the footage. Another thing to keep in mind is that the wide angle lens tends to distort the final image, so in reality that Hyundai came much closer than it appears.
This recording is at the C1’s highest resolution, which is 1440P (or 2K in marketing speak). While I think it looks decent, I’m a little let down by how flummoxed the camera seems to get around power lines and groups of trees.
In addition to recording 1440P at 30 frames per second, the C1 can also capture 1080P at 60 frames per second. There is ongoing debate within the dash cam community as to which setting is better at capturing license plates. Since I’ve come to dislike how this particular camera records at the highest setting, the Anker is now set to this resolution, and I don’t think the quality is any worse.
This last clip features night driving, which really is the ultimate way to judge a dash cam. How does the Anker perform? It’s good in well lit areas and it struggles when that light fades, as the clip demonstrates. I can’t condemn the camera for doing this because night vision is not explicitly listed as a feature for the C1 Pro. The competition definitely boasts about the video quality of their cams and some even came up with their own corporate speak touting their night vision, so if you do a lot of driving in the dark you may want to consider buying a different camera. Personally, I don’t think the C1 Pro’s night vision is a deal breaker, as the quality seems good enough to capture any mishap that occurs after the sun goes down.
You may have picked up on the wonky sound while listening to the video. If you didn’t, I recommend you go back and pay attention to the sounds that occur when the GPS isn’t talking. You’ll notice a background noise similar to that swooshing sound you receive when you’re swimming underwater. Clearly something isn’t right with the microphone. While I don’t think the camera is possessed by a demon, something happened to it during the first two weeks of ownership to mess it up. Poor quality? I don’t think so. The first time I noticed the strange audio was when I reviewed a clip from mid-December, when the temperature dropped to about 5 degrees. The C1 Pro’s operating temperature is 19F-149F, so my assumption is that the cold did something to the microphone. If the audio completely cut out I definitely would have opted for a replacement camera, but it still picks up sounds just fine.
What’s it like to live with the C1 Pro? Completely unobtrusive. The adhesive mount allowed me to partially mount the camera to the tinted section of the windshield, which is an area where suction cup mounts cannot work (lesson learned the hard way with dad’s setup). My view from the drivers seat is not obstructed by the hanging wire. Of course you could permanently wire the camera into your car if desired. I literally don’t see a need to do that. Although if you are concerned about people noticing the camera from outside, that type of setup could almost completely hide the camera from people looking inside your car. From experience, I can safely say that most people aren’t going to see the hanging wire unless they’re intensely checking out your interior cabin.
If you are thinking about picking a dash cam up at some point, you’re going to want to research how the 12V power outlets in your car operate. The Focus automatically shuts off both outlets fifteen minutes after the car door is opened following an engine shutoff. That means I don’t have to touch my camera at all; it just turns on with the car and shuts down without my input. A lot of vehicles continuously supply power to one or more outlets under any circumstance, so if you left a camera plugged in, it would almost certainly drain you battery given enough time.
One of the central questions regarding dash cameras concerns their price. How much should you spend on one? Low end dash cams can be purchased for around $30 while the high end easily surpasses $200. Since video evidence of an accident could clear you from having to pay a large deductible or a speeding ticket, spending over a hundred dollars on a camera could be viewed as a wise investment. Personally, I think it is sensible to avoid the ultra cheap cameras and spend around $70-$100 on a unit. These things spend time in an environment that is subject to extreme temperature swings. And while the cold could potentially break a camera, its the heat that generally kills them. A $100 dollar loss on something like a dash cam is much more palatable than a more expensive number.
I definitely recommend the C1 Pro if you’re looking for a mid-range dash camera. While the camera isn’t perfect, it is very easy to use, comes equipped with a lot of useful features, and includes everything you need to immediately get started. It’s also priced reasonably, although I think the camera is a better value at $80, which is the price I paid during the sales bonanza that is Cyber Monday.
My endorsement of the C1 Pro is also a general endorsement of the Anker brand. The company seems pretty savvy; they frequently offer sales on all their products and their entire lineup comes with a twelve month replacement guarantee. Their products offer quality that is on par with items from more established competitors, but at a fraction of the price. The SoundCore bluetooth speaker, which is pictured above, easily matches some of the $90 Sony units I’ve interacted with in the past, and the Anker only set me back $30. I’ve also heard their customer service is extremely good. If my experience with the C1 Pro is any indication, I won’t be speaking to them at all, which is certainly not a bad thing for them, or for me.