There are a ton of dash cams available on the market. Looking for one on Amazon, for instance, will yield over 600 options. Does Cobra’s newest Drive HD Dash Cam have what it takes to stand out?
While some users may think that dash cams are used to capture cool things that you see during your commute to work, they’re actually made to record evidence if you ever get into a car accident. That can be extremely helpful, especially if there weren’t any witnesses around.
Dash cams are incredibly popular in Russia, since the legal system is rather flawed and many residents like to take advantage of that. Because of that, most drivers have a dash cam to prove their innocence during accidents.
Here in the US, it’s not as bad, but a dash cam is something that can always help out whenever you get into a car accident, whether it’s to prove your innocence or to provide further evidence for the police.
The $140 Cobra Drive HD CDR 825E dash cam is new for 2015, with a 2.7-inch display, which is the largest that Cobra offers
The new Drive HD dash cam has all the basics that you’d want out of a good dash cam, including:
- 1080p video at 30 frames per second
- 140-degree wide-angle lens
- MicroSD card slot
- Continuous loop recording
- Built-in battery
- Motion detection
The CDR 825E is a good dash cam and it works well, but here are a few headaches that you might come across, and why you may want to opt for a cheaper option anyway.
First off, the dash cam uses the older miniUSB connection standard for providing power, instead of a newer and more widely-used connection like microUSB. We’re not sure why this is, but the camera comes with a USB cable to connect to your computer, as well as a much longer power cable that you plug into your cigarette lighter in your car. If you lose one of these, it’s not the end of the world, but you likely don’t have an extra just lying around like you would microUSB cables, and that could be annoying for some users.
Furthermore, the dash cam comes with G-Sensor technology, which means that if it detects sudden movement (like hitting another car), the dash cam will automatically save and lock that piece of footage so that it doesn’t get written over if the microSD card ever gets full. On paper, it’s a really nice feature to have.
However, the problem with the G-sensor is that it’s extremely sensitive and even setting it to its lowest sensitivity still resulted in potholes being detected (and there’s no way to calibrate it), which meant that some pointless footage was now saved and locked. Eventually the storage would fill up and I would need to empty the microSD card before I could start recording again. Plus, the screen wakes up from being off whenever this sudden motion is detected, which can be blinding if you’re driving at night.
It turns out that sensitive G-sensors are fairly common in many dash cams, and I found that it was just better to turn the feature off. Crucial footage wouldn’t be locked in this case, but with a big-enough SD card, that isn’t a problem.
The dash cam comes with a suction cup and two adhesive pucks that you can stick to your windshield in order to clip in the dash cam. The suction cup is pretty much useless as it wouldn’t stick at all to the windshield, even after trying to lock it in place (I had another suction cap in my car and it worked fine). The adhesive pucks work well, however, but once you take them off the windshield, you’ll have to put new adhesive on them.
What’s really nice about the CDR 825E is the wide-angle lens and the ability to record in 1080p. This gives you way more detail when looking at footage, and the wide-angle lens captures almost everything in front of you and little off to the sides as well.
With the dash cam hooked up, it will automatically start recording whenever you start your car, which is a nice convenience to have. You don’t have to bother with it at all — just set it up and be done with it until you actually need it.
However, it doesn’t automatically stop recording when you shut off your car, thanks to an internal battery that can continue to record for about 30 minutes after the power gets cut. This is actually a nice feature, as it allows the camera to keep rolling after you get into an accident where the electrical system would get fried. Having a battery in a dash cam can be a safety issue during the hot summer months, though, as the heat can cause the battery to possibly explode. I wasn’t able to test that myself in the frigid tundra that is currently Indiana, but I wouldn’t be too worried about this. Dash cams are made to sit in hot cars every day. In fact, the CDR 825E can withstand temperatures all the way up to 140 degrees fahrenheit.
When it comes to video quality (seen above), it isn’t anything special like what you’d find on a dedicated video camera, but it doesn’t need to be. The CDR 825E records in a quality that’s just good enough to capture what’s going on in clear detail, and that’s how it should be. It doesn’t support night vision, but the video quality at night is rather clear despite the obvious image noise in the picture. If you did get into an accident at night, there’d be no problems with viewing the footage clearly, since your headlights would provide enough light.
One thing I would make sure to do regularly is clean your windshield, because a dirty windshield will severely impact the video quality and make it look blurry. In the winter, you’ll also want to make sure you take more time to scrape off windshield ice, as your dash cam will be pretty much useless if a sheet of ice is in the way.
Overall, the CDR 825E is a feature-packed dash cam that can get the job done, but at $140, it’s not the most affordable option out there. Most users really only need a basic dash cam, and you can easily find those for well under $100. This dash cam by Black Box is only $75 and it comes with many of the same features as Cobra’s newest offering at almost half the price.
Even then, you don’t really need all of the fancy features like GPS, motion detection, G-sensor, etc. If it’s a dash cam that records 1080p video and stays out of the way, then it’s a good dash cam. With that criteria in mind, the CDR 825E is a good dash cam, but there are certainly cheaper options available.