First Look

The Swann DriveEye Ultra dash cam: Great gadget but where's my meteor?

Dash cams are a good idea and this is a techie product that will have way more appeal to geeks than n00bs.

russianmeteor

The Chelyabinsk meteor, February, 2013

Credit: Sciteclibrary

Do you remember when the Chelyabinsk meteor entered the atmosphere over Russia in February, 2013? It wasn’t a big meteor (estimated at around 20 meters in diameter and weighing about the same as the Eiffel Tower) but traveling at that speed (40,000 to 42,900 mph) it was a spectacular event. But have you ever wondered why there were so many videos of an event no one knew was going to happen? The answer, my friends, is dash cams.

Yep, in Russia two of the more popular national pastimes (other than annexing adjoining countries and drinking vodka) are driving badly ...

... and running insurance scams and there’s no better way to prove that, for example, the guy in front of you reversed into your car (instead of, as he claims, you drove into him), than to have video footage.

As a result of this kind of behavior, dash cams —video cameras on car dashboards that record everything as you drive — have become “de rigueur” or, as they say in Russia: “требуемый этикетом, требуемый обычаями (франц.)”. It’s estimated that more than one million Russian cars are now dash cam equipped.

When you think about it, dash cams are actually a very good idea no matter where you live but here in the US dash cam sales have been weak for reasons that are unclear. Maybe it’s the economy and people don’t want to spend $100 or more on a gadget that they don’t see as crucial. Whatever the reasons are now, this will eventually change and it will be products such as Swann’s DriveEye Ultra, a 3 megapixel HD dash cam, that make it happen … at least for techies who will find this a product they will lust after.

swann driveeye cam

At 1.98” x 2.48” x 0.77”, the DriveEye Ultra is tiny and weighs in at just a few ounces. The actual camera resolution is 2,304 by 1,296 pixels with a 160 degree lens and records at 1080p. The camera has a 2.0” LCD display for both a live view (useful for getting the best picture alignment) and playback (you can also show your video on a TV via the micro HDMI port. It also comes with a windscreen suction mount as well as a tripod adapter.

The DriveEye Ultra has a rechargeable Li-ion battery that provides about four hours of operation in “action cam” mode but the camera can also be externally powered and comes with a car adapter and a 10 foot power cable. Wiring the camera into your car’s power is a good idea because the camera will automatically start recoding when the engine starts and the power socket goes live.


swann driveeye cam features

Video and, optionally, audio are recorded in 3 minute segments on an SD card (cards up to 64 GB are supported which gives roughly 11 hours of recording). If the card gets full, a ring buffer scheme is used and the oldest segment gets overwritten.

The camera also has an inertial sensor so if a sudden deceleration is detected and you’ve enabled the feature, a clip of 30 seconds before and after the impact are saved to a protected directory on the SD card. You can also record video to be protected by pressing the “Emergency” button.

swann driveeye 1

So far, what you’ve got sounds like a very nice dash-action cam but here’s where the geek appeal comes in: The DriveEye Ultra also has embedded WiFi. You can set up the camera via WiFi, monitor and record its video stream on your smartphone with the free iOS and Android apps, and download saved video. You can also set up the camera to connect to a WIFi network so you can watch its video stream from anywhere on your local network or via the cloud. 

The only issues with the DriveEye Ultra are that the video download to a smartphone via WiFi is painfully slow, there’s no support for GPS geotagging, and, at $179, it’s a little expensive. On the other hand, what you get for your money is a very cool product with a lot of geek appeal. Those issues aside, the Swann DriveEye Ultra is an excellent product and gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5.

My biggest complaint about the DriveEye Ultra is that I’ve had one in my car for three weeks and I’ve yet to capture a meteor streaking across the California skies. I feel kinda short-changed ...

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