BlackVue is on a roll this year. The DR900S Series pushes dashcam video fidelity and storage efficiency to a whole new level by bringing new sensor technology as well as file compression technology to the market.
We start with the basics. The DR900S is available as a single (DR900S-1CH) and dual channel (DR900S-2CH) dashcam, with the latter featuring a Full HD rear camera. Along with 4K recording, the new models feature HEVC compression, dual-band 2.4-5GHz Wi-Fi and BlackVue Over the Cloud connectivity – in short, it is the best feature-rich dashcam money can buy. Period.
With the push for 4K ultra definition videos, the front camera gains a 8-megapixel CMOS sensor (as opposed to the 2.1-megapixel of the DR750S, which is a Full HD dashcam). This jump in sensor megapixel count is not a number race – 4K resolution may be twice of Full HD, but it requires four times more pixels to maintain the image quality. That is why the sensor has to quadruple in pixel count in order to keep up.
The model we tested, the DR900S-2CH still features a familiar rear camera equipped with the Full HD Sony Starvis sensor. That brings us to the next big jump, the video file size. With 4K having nearly four times more pixels, you would imagine that file sizes would be four times bigger…
Squeeze more technology
The BlackVue DR900S Series features High Efficiency Video Coding compression, HEVC in short, and most often called the H.265 in the broadcast industry. Compared to the older AVC/H.264 standards, which breaks down video into 16×16 pixels, HEVC can operate up to 64×64 pixels and decrease the size of the overall video file.
A dashcam is only as good as the memory media it records on, and Wow! Gadgets, the local distributor for BlackVue dashcams has kindly bundled their own high-quality dashcam specific MLC MicroSD memory card with the DR900S.
A dashcam-specific MLC card is designed to be constantly and continuously written to , the difference is inside the controller chip – which has to handle the constant rewriting of dashcams. Ever had a dashcam suddenly stop recording? That is highly likely due to the memory card going into write-lock upon detecting bad sectors.
Dashcam-specific MLC cards have better error correction, wear leveling and controller chips which increase performance and lifespan, and seeing such a card being bundled with the DR900S takes the guesswork out.
How fast is this?
Having experienced the speedy operation of the DR750S series, we are pleased with the speed that the DR900S series operates at. A full power-on boot time took approximately 26 seconds, and it powers down in about 16 seconds.
If you have wired the camera to receive power with the ignition off with a Power Magic or a Cellink B battery, the dashcam will switch to parking mode as soon as it detects that the car is no longer in motion. It took about 15 seconds to switch modes.
A new feature found in the DR900S series is the dual-band 2.4/5GHz Wi-Fi. You can configure it to connect up to three different network on either Wi-Fi band – this enables the Over the Cloud functionalities. Download speeds are noticeably quicker on the BlackVue app on a phone that supports the 5GHz 802.11ac standard, but note that 5GHz has a shorter range than the older 2.4GHz 802.11n standards.
Another new thing in the DR900S is the “Quick Play” setting which streams a lower resolution video to the phone for quicker playback and viewing. This considerably shortens the time needed to find and download that important file.
Ease of Use
With such emphasis on smartphones these days, the dashcam’s companion app has evolved significantly to keep up. With a fresh clean interface, the BlackVue App allows access to settings, video files and direct Live View. In the BlackVue Cloud menu, one can connect to the dashcam from anywhere and even see what is going on live.
With the Blacvue Cloud running, the dashcam will be actively sending notifications to the smartphone as it detects events. The DR900S is able to automatically upload event files to the BlackVue Cloud as well, so that events are safely captured and stored.
While the design hasn’t changed, with only one button to turn on Wi-Fi or format the memory card, there is a proximity sensor on the other end of the dashcam now, which only requires one to wave a finger nearby to toggle audio recording or manual recording.
Updating the DR900S firmware was a breeze with Wi-Fi, and we quickly got busy with the latest firmware released on 13 August. This allows the DR900S to operate in Time Lapse parking mode mode with buffered event recordings, along with a refined motion and impact detection with region-based motion detection, which is handy if you have too many unnecessary parking mode recordings triggered by moving objects or reflections off the bonnet.
But.. image is everything
Right from the very moment when we opened our DR900S files, is that 4K offers much better detail and quality. If you have a 4K TV or monitor, the difference between a 4K and a Full HD recording is very noticeable.
In fact, we took a while to realize that BlackVue has switched to a wider 162 degrees Field Of View (FOV) lens, coverage is excellent. However, such a wide lens tend to make objects appear to be further away than they actually are.
We noticed that the DR900S seems “darker”, but it was more of the contrast setting of the camera which brings out more details and colours in the image. This however did mean there were certain situations spots where certain detail was lost – With a slight tweaking of the camera’s orientation and settings we were able to get mostly good footage.
In the night, reflective license plates tend to “glow” once light hits them, making it difficult to get any clear view. The 900S with its higher resolution and contrast allows it to pull some positive readings but only at certain distances from the car. It can also be configured to record at Full HD at 60fps if that is more suitable for you.
The BlackVue DR900S image quality is overall better than a typical high-end Full HD dashcam. In the daytime, most videos turn out pleasantly well enough – plus, we are dealing with a wider FOV than the predecessor, hence a slight distortion comes into play as well. Perhaps the only sore thumb is the night performance. Events are clearly captured but the video is slightly fuzzy even on a brightly lit road.
However, with some amount of tweaking, the BlackVue DR900S is capable of producing better images and thus it is definitely recommended for the dashcam enthusiast!
The new DR900S series is now available at all authorized BlackVue dealers. Wow! Gadgets is the sole distributor for BlackVue products in Singapore and Malaysia. For the list of authorized BlackVue dealers, or more information, please visit www.blackvue.com.sg.