Forbes Thinkware F800 PRO Dashcam Review
2019년 4월 23일 업데이트됨
If there’s one thing that millions of YouTube videos teach us, it’s that equipping your vehicle with a dashcam is a good idea. You might just catch a meteor streaking past or capture footage of cars spinning out in a winter ice ballet.
Thinkware F800 PRO Dashcam Review
If there’s one thing that millions of YouTube videos teach us, it’s that equipping your vehicle with a dashcam is a good idea. You might just catch a meteor streaking past or capture footage of cars spinning out in a winter ice ballet. But dashcam footage can also be invaluable if your vehicle is involved in a crash — the footage and the data captured by the dashcam carries a lot more weight than the personal testimony of drivers involved in the accident.
Thinkware has been at the cutting edge of the dashcam industry and the company gave me the opportunity to test out its current flagship model: the Thinkware F800 PRO.
Thinkware includes everything you need for easy DIY installation.
To tell the truth, I was a little worried about the prospect of installing a dashcam. I was concerned the device would be large, distracting and difficult to get properly positioned. I was also not looking forward to the prospect of wires hanging everywhere — Thinkware had provided a hardwiring kit for professional installation, but I was going the do-it-yourself route in my wife’s minivan.
When I opened up the Thinkware F800 PRO box, I was pleasantly surprised by how compact it is. The company provides everything needed in the box, including a 16GB microSD card (with both SD card and USB stick readers), adhesive pads, the camera itself and detailed instructions.
Surprisingly Easy Installation
Thinkware has done a good job of simplifying the installation process, including tutorial videos that walk you through the basics.
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The job involved positioning the dashcam behind the rearview mirror, using an adhesive mounting plate (a spare pad is included in case you get the positioning wrong). I then connected the power cable and plugged that into a 12V outlet in the car and powered it up. The unit can be removed from the locking plate bracket if you need to access the memory card.
You'll do most of the setup and configuration using your smartphone.
SCREEN CAPTURE BY BRAD MOON
The F800 PRO creates its own Wi-Fi network that you are prompted to log into. Using the company’s app on my iPhone, I adjusted the camera angle until it was perfect. At this point I was left with the cable dangling down from the mirror, but a quick Google located another video that showed how to tuck it along the headliner around the windshield, then down and under the dashboard. There were adhesive cable clips in the box, and I was able to tuck the cable neatly beneath the dash to the 12V outlet. When I was done, the only hint that the dashcam was there was the camera itself (which is only really visible from outside) and the power adapter in the outlet. Hardwire the camera and you won’t even see that...
From there, you use the app to run through various configuration options.
When I had the car in for service, my mechanic was impressed, saying that was the most unobtrusive dashcam he had ever seen.
Positioned behind the rear view mirror, the F800 PRO is compact, out of the way and looks almost like OEM equipment.
Forget It and Go Operation, Safety Extras
When you hop in the car and start it up, the dashcam plays a voice message suggesting you connect your smartphone to its Wi-Fi hotspot. Doing so gets you access to advanced features via Thinkware’s cloud service such as notifications if you exceed the area’s speed limit and warning if approaching a known speed camera.
The F800 PRO also offers a suite of safety features that can upgrade the driving experience for a vehicle that lacks modern technology. This includes lane departure warning and forward collision warning. The sensitivity of these features is set using the app.
I found they worked reasonably well, but with low speed local driving and testing that took place mostly in winter (when lane markings were often obscured by snow or sand), I ended up turning them off. With the integrated safety systems found in modern cars, there are multiple sensors including radar, so it’s asking a bit much for a single windshield-mounted camera to offer the same degree of accuracy. Still, they are a great option to have as a supplemental driving safety feature.
There is also collision detection warning that fired whenever we hit a speed bump a little too fast. With teenagers in the house, this is a welcome capability. If the car ever seems out of sorts, it will be pretty easy to go back and check for warnings (Thinkware lets you browse and view data and video via the mobile app or a PC/Mac desktop app), then use the time and GPS location data to narrow it down to who was driving and what they did...
Camera Recording Quality
Of course the tentpole feature of a dashcam is the camera.
There are competing dashcams that have moved to 4K recording, but the Thinkware F800 PRO is 1080p resolution. However it uses a high quality Sony Exmor R STAVIS image sensor that captures high quality images and is especially effective in video recorded at night.
While daylight video looks great, the Sony Exmor R STAVIS image sensor is particularly impressive in low light and high contrast situations where other cameras are murky or blown out with light flare.
IMAGE CAPTURE BY BRAD MOON
Continuous recording is activated when the vehicle starts, saved in one-minute files. These are eventually overwritten when the memory card runs out of space. If a collision is detected, the video covering that period is saved in a separate folder. You can also manually record (that video is also saved in a special folder), but the button can be a little hard to find with the camera located out of sight behind the mirror. If you want to use it, it pays to practice a few times.
I was impressed with the video captured by the camera in all conditions. It's smooth, with plenty of detail and should be more than good enough for identifying key information like licence plate numbers if needed. There’s also some real YouTube potential here, should you capture something unusual and feel the need to post.
If you choose to hardwire the dashcam, it gains additional functionality when you park and leave your car. Namely, it can record video if motion is detected nearby, or if an impact is detected. If you’ve ever come back to a parking lot to find a dent in your bumper from someone who backed into it and took off leaving you to deal with the damage, you’ll appreciate having this option.
You can also use a geofence feature that will send push notifications if the vehicle leaves or enters specific defined geographic areas — however, the camera needs to be connected via the mobile app in order for this to work.
There are settings in the app to manage power use so the device doesn’t drain your vehicle’s battery, including a setting specific to winter use.
Thinkware offers an optional rear camera to go along with the Thinkware F800 PRO. This would be a really useful addition, especially if you drive in a lot of stop and go traffic. However, I didn’t install it. There is an additional wire running to the back to physically connect the cameras. The test vehicle is a rear hatch model, so there is the whole issue of having enough play in the wire to accommodate the hatch opening and closing that I didn't want to deal with. We also use that vehicle to transport our dogs, and having a module attached to the rear window was inviting them to start messing with it.
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