Cameras are everywhere. On the streets, in our homes and on our phones. I’ve noticed an increasing number of cyclists even, wearing helmet mounted cameras as they work their way through rush hour traffic. In Russia and Asia dash-mounted cameras are growing increasingly popular with regular motorists who hope they’ll help indicate who might have done what, after a coming together in traffic.
I tried one such device from ASUS, a premium version of their dash-cam that also doubles as a portable action camera, the Reco Smart Car Cam. It arrives in stylish packaging looking more like a tech product than a car accessory. Unpacking the Reco Smart reveals the small, round camera that feels well built. Also in the box is a camera car-holder, a dual-car charger and long USB cable for connecting the camera to the charger.
The camera itself is small and unobtrusive at around 6 centimetres across. It’s slimness allows it to be mounted on the dash or out of the way on the car window so that it doesn’t interfere with your view of the road. There’s a Micro SD slot for a memory card, and my camera arrived with an ample 16GB card, although the device supports a card up to 32GB which should let you record almost seven hours of continuous driving footage. There are a couple of ports on the camera, as well as some simple LED indicators for record and battery status. The Micro-USB port facilitates charging and there’s a GPS port, where you can plug in a GPS attachment that stamps the footage with the GPS co-ordinates.
Thankfully, on a small gadget like this, there are few buttons. The power button turns the camera on and activates the WiFi function and there’s a record button and an Emergency Button. This is a smart camera though, so to get the best out of it, I downloaded the Reco app from the iOS App Store. However, if I had been using an Android phone with NFC, a simple tap with the phone on the camera starts the set-up process by downloading the app instantly.
After powering up the camera I launched the app and connected my phone to the camera using WiFi. The app is one of the best hardware integration apps I’ve seen with an exhaustive list of extra features and settings. Instantly by tapping the apps Preview button I was able to see the live streaming video from the camera on my phone’s screen. It’s a simple matter to switch camera modes or manage recordings from the app.
I set the camera to Car Mode and to Auto Record using the app, meaning it would start to record as soon as the car moves. It’s also possible to record audio from the car interior which I disabled with a simple swipe. The camera’s mounting bracket holds the camera very firmly in place and as I moved off, it began to record video from the car during a trip to and from the supermarket.
Reviewing the captured footage on the app revealed the quality of the camera. The Reco has a Sony CMOS sensor and shoots really crisp HD video. The camera recorded footage from a multi-story carpark, and performed really well in low light. It also has Wide Dynamic Range, meaning that the footage it films at night-time in a city or town isn’t distorted or blurred by bright city lights. The camera also has a wide-angle mode, giving you a view of 150°, meaning that footpaths or cycle lanes should all be included in the footage, and not just the road ahead.
If you find yourself parking in an isolated spot in the evening there’s a useful Parking Monitor Mode. The camera sleeps, but if it detects movement outside your car, it starts to record and will continue to do so until the movement outside the car has been stopped for a minute. Other sensors in the camera can be set to trigger an SMS to a loved one if the car is involved in an accident.
The battery should last a couple of hours, but the in-car charger, which can also be used for charging other USB powered devices, ensures you don’t run out of power and therefore footage, on a long journey. The camera doubles as an action cam if you detach it from the car. It has a few camera modes like burst and time-lapse mode and other camera accessories will fit it making it a decent camera to use on days out. The performance of the camera as an action cam is decent but not as impressive as similarly priced dedicated action cams.
The Reco Smart’s forte is as a dash-cam, and it carries this off brilliantly. The availability of Asus cloud storage for recorded videos and the ability to securely preserve emergency recordings show how Asus have evolved the standard dash-cam concept. It really is like having an extra set of eyes on the road.