Thursday, April 2, 2015

Navman MiVue 530 Dashcam Review

Welcome to the dashcam, where your view, your voice and your location are being recorded!

Roll back to 2007 and the demand for a TomTom GPS satnav had the motor vehicle industry buzzing with in-car tech gadgets.
Google image search: Dashcam photo
Roll onto 2015 and standalone gadgets are almost a thing of the past with the majority of new vehicles (except for the Land Rover Defender) integrating the radio, satnav, phone and vehicle ECU information into a single console.  In fact, some vehicles allow you to start your car with your mobile phone!

Yet, one gadget remains... the dashcam.  Better known for those strange YouTube vehicle accidents where a driver narrowly misses a bus or a motorcyclist almost collides with a cow! Police and Insurance companies are still getting to understand the personal media and how it impacts evidence.

My need for a dashcam was purely to capture those interesting driving moments, and to potentially upload to YouTube. Dashcam footage on YouTube is becoming one of the most popular watched genres due to the ridiculous near-miss accidents that occur worldwide.

Navman MiVue Dashcam

Navman was established in 1986 in Australia and was eventually sold to MiTAC (MIC).  It is a sister company to Magellan and is a worldwide leader in consumer GPS products.

The Navman MiVue dashcam has three options available in the latest 500-series. The entry level, the MiVue 530 has 1080p recording, integrated GPS, Photo mode, Emergency mode and parking mode. The MiVue 560 and MiVue 580 include touch screen functionality, and night vision mode (580 only).


The unit I opted for was the MiVue 530 and my decision was based on price. As the saying goes "you get what you pay for". I am impressed with the feature rich, entry level dashcam from Navman and have found that it has met my requirements and given me thought about features and functionality that I would like in the future.  Here's my review:

The UnBoxing:

The packaging was neat with the dashcam screen and lens protected by a plastic film. The windscreen suction cup had a similiar film. The only item missing was the mini SD media, which as stated on the box, was not included in the buy price.  It might be rather frustrating getting home with the unit only to find it includes no media!

Firmware update:

The unit shipped with a factory firmware level which was out of date compared to the website. The firmware update process was as easy as copying the updated firmware to the mini SD card and turning on the device. It took a few minutes to complete.

MiVue 530 - LCD Screen with cover


Features:
Full HD 1080p video
Integrated GPS
G-Sensor
Photo Mode
Emergency Mode (Event recording. Limited to 1min only)
Parking Mode
Audio recording

Installation:

The manual states that the best location is behind the rear-view mirror however the Toyota Prado has limited space which meant that I had to offset the mounting point slightly. The adapter is flexible enough to allow horizontal and vertical adjustments and took a few minutes to correctly position and capture the best angle.
The camera requires a 5v 1Amp power supply and comes with a power adapter and USB mini-B plug i.e. not the micro USB that you find on mobile phones, rather the larger mini-B plug found on most digital cameras.

My Toyota Land Cruiser Prado has a roof console fitted which houses a GME UHF Radio connected directly to 12v power and integrated into the key on/off switch. I tapped a cigarette power socket into the 12v feed and used the large Navman adapter to transform the power.

The manual has a wiring guide recommendation:
Navman MiVue wiring guide
Quick Access Buttons:
The unit has four buttons located on the bottom of the screen (as per the image from the manual)

The response time is good however, if the screen is turned off (via the timeout feature), you will need to press a button to turn the screen on before taking a photo.  i.e. press photo button once if screen is on to take a photo or press twice if screen is off.


Video & Photo Quality:
Here are a few sample photos I took whilst driving in early morning, midday and overcast weather:
Photo at 06:24am

Photo at 06:26am (quick sunrise)

Photo at 0:817am
Photo at 12:31pm
The photo resolution is not good enough to identify the number plates on the vehicles when zoomed in however, vehicles parked directly in front are identifiable.
Photo at 2:03pm

Photo at 7:02pm
As mentioned, a memory card is not included in the purchase price. I opted for a 32Gb mini SD card which tends to fill up a lot quicker than I had calculated. A five minute video clip averages 500meg in size. The memory card has reserved folders for parking, photo and emergency modes. Two files are created for every clip: the video (.mov) file and the metadata file (.nmea)



PC Software MiVue Manager:

Navman provides free software (download only) to view, export (photo and print feature) and upload. The software uses the metadata generated from the unit (GPS location, Speed & G-Sensor) to syncronise Google Maps with the video whilst displaying the G-Sensor information.

Navman MiVue Manager (website screen shot)
The software offers no editing features and I found that the audio quality from the MiVue Manager application was poor, with lots of static noise in comparison to playing the video file in VLC Media Player.
Navman MiVue Manager software
Navman MiVue - Photo export from video clip
The YouTube upload feature would not authenticate, which is not a major issue, as the video clip can be uploaded to YouTube manually and includes GPS timestamp on the video clip.

The video codec is H264 - MPEG4 - AVC



I am yet to test the unit on gravel bumpy roads to determine how it handles image stabilisation.

Summary

Overall, this is a neat unit with good features at a reasonable price point. I like the photo feature and emergency recording mode, the latter being more useful for interesting drive-by scenes.  This is not a GoPro replacement, rather a vehicle accessory which will record those serendipity moments.

Postscript
Interestingly, and slightly disappointing, is the fact that the same unit is branded as a Mio MiVue vehicle recorder and is available on Amazon.co.uk.  I had thought that this design was unique to Navman.  I guess not!