Vantrue N1 Pro: A lit­tle gem of a ba­sic dash cam

This com­pact dash cam (with the op­tional GPS) cov­ers all the bases and takes up lit­tle space.

PCWorld (USA) - - Reviews Razer Nari Ultimate - BY JON L. JA­COBI

Okay, the Vantrue N1 Pro by its lone­some is only an $80 dash cam. A very nice dash cam. But as we rec­om­mend GPS for le­gal and travel log rea­sons, I’m go­ing to talk about it as if the $22 op­tional GPS mount were part of the deal. If you’re smart, it will be. That brings us to $102.

Ei­ther way, this tiny unit is our new fa­vorite low-cost dash cam. Great ba­sics, com­pact in­stal­la­tion, a real bat­tery, and ex­cel­lent video cap­tures will do that for you.

DE­SIGN AND FEA­TURES

The N1 Pro is even smaller than Garmin’s 45/55/65W series dash cams. The dis­play is a rel­a­tively tiny 1.5 inches, but it’s color and it’s sharp. I’m pretty sen­si­tive about read­abil­ity, and I have no is­sues with it. Okay, you may have to re­move the suc­tion mount, or de­tach

the cam­era from the mount for the ini­tial set­tings, but it’s not a big deal. And be­ing small, the N1 Pro can nearly dis­ap­pear be­hind a rear view mir­ror should you so de­sire.

The N1 Pro’s in­ter­face is clean and sim­ple, and is con­trolled by the very com­mon four­but­ton panel di­rectly to the side of the dis­play. On the right side of the cam­era are the SD card slot and mi­cro USB port (for power and data con­nec­tion) that is used if you don’t have the GPS mount. On top you’ll find the happy-snap (take photo)/emer­gency save/park­ing mode but­ton. On the bot­tom are a re­set but­ton and HDMI out­put for view­ing videos di­rectly on a dis­play.

The cam­era uses a Sony EXMOR IMX323 sen­sor, of­fers a wide 160-de­gree field of view, and cap­tures 1080p video at 30 frames per sec­ond. 1080p/30fps is gen­er­ally what we rec­om­mend as the best com­pro­mise be­tween de­tail and file size. We have seen some newer cam­eras that have the op­tics to take ad­van­tage of greater video res­o­lu­tions, but noth­ing any­where near the $100 price point we’re talk­ing about here.

We tested the GPS mount, which is of the suc­tion va­ri­ety. When you use this mount, the mini-usb power ca­ble is con­nected to it, not the cam­era, and power is passed through the mount. To in­crease the suc­tion, you twist, or spin the por­tion of the mount that the ca­ble at­taches to. It’s slightly awk­ward, but pretty clever. “Lock­ing” suc­tion cups are now the thing with dash cams, and they work quite a bit bet­ter than those from only a year or two ago.

Note that you have to specif­i­cally en­able the GPS on the cam­era; it isn’t au­to­mat­i­cally en­abled.

Vantrue war­ranties the N1 Pro for 18 months, and rates the cam­era for op­er­a­tion from mi­nus 4 Fahren­heit to 158 de­grees Fahren­heit. We sin­cerely hope it never gets that hot in­side your car.

The N1 Pro doesn’t have bad driver tech. If that’s what you’re look­ing for, look else­where--and con­sider tak­ing mass tran­sit for all our sakes.

PER­FOR­MANCE

The N1 Pro’s video cap­tures are more than ad­e­quate for le­gal pur­poses, and look nice

enough that you won’t mind post­ing them as part of your trav­el­ogs in lieu of your cell phone. To that end, you can re­move the SD card, or con­nect di­rectly to a USB port.

There’s some mild fish-eye, but that’s just par for the course with a wide-an­gle lens. For the most part day and night driv­ing cap­tures are some of the best that we’ve seen, and low-light is also quite good.

As you can see in the image above, color is very, very good, and there is some fish-eye ef­fect due to the wide-an­gle 160 de­gree op­tics. In the low-light cap­ture shown be­low, a great deal of the sur­round­ings are vis­i­ble, so the N1 Pro is a good cam­era for night sur­veil­lance. The night time head­light video (not shown) is a de­tailed as the day­time where the head­lights are in play, though the cam­era is a tiny bit prone to head­light flare. That’s par for the course.

Over­all, for a $102 setup, the N1 Pro takes very good video. All of it us­able. The de­fault run time for the 130mah bat­tery is long enough that you’ll be able to cap­ture events for at least ten sec­onds af­ter the ini­tial in­ci­dent, should your 12-volt be dam­aged.

Too many cam­eras, even ones cost­ing con­sid­er­ably more, are us­ing “su­per­ca­pac­i­tors” to ex­tend the dash cam’s power when it loses its con­nec­tion. That sounds sexy, and can be great, given ad­e­quate ca­pac­ity. But most last just long enough to

save a file and won’t power video cap­ture af­ter a 12-volt fail­ure. If a truck just smashed your front end and took out your bat­tery, you may never get the li­cense plate with a weak su­per-capacitor cam­era.

NAILED IT

The N1 Pro is com­pact, light, rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive, takes good video un­der all con­di­tions, and has a real bat­tery to keep run­ning if the 12-volt fails. It’s got all the ba­sic func­tion­al­ity a dash cam should have. I’d pre­fer if the up/down but­tons were next to each other rather than sep­a­rated by the okay but­ton, but if that’s all I’m com­plain­ing about, you know it’s a good prod­uct.

The Vantrue op­tional GPS mount re­duces clutter by in­te­grat­ing the re­ceiver (the rec­tan­gle on top) into the turn-to-lock vac­uum mech­a­nism.

The N1 Pros day­time video is ab­so­lutely top-notch, sta­bi­liza­tion in­cluded. There’s some fish-eye, but that’s to be ex­pected with a 160 de­gree lens.

While not as nice as the day­time video, the N1 Pro’s low-light cap­tures show a great deal of de­tail in the sur­round­ings, though the de­tail on the signs wasn’t as sharp as we’d like to see.

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