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Vantrue OnDash R2 review

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Vantrue OnDash R2
  • Vantrue OnDash R2
  • Vantrue OnDash R2
  • Vantrue OnDash R2

Summary

Our Score:

7

Pros

  • Reasonable price
  • Sturdy screen mount with built-in power connection
  • Decent image quality

Cons

  • No GPS tracking built in
  • Secondary USB port won’t power a satnav
  • Limited advanced dashcam features

Key Features

  • MP4 recording at up to 2,560 x 1,080 and 30fps at 18Mbits/sec
  • Manual settings including exposure, contrast, and sharpness
  • G-sensor to detect accidents
  • Parking mode motion detection
  • 32GB microSD card included
  • Manufacturer: Vantrue
  • Review Price: £119.99

What is the Vantrue OnDash R2?

The OnDash R2 is a fairly standard dashboard camera from little-known company Vantrue. With so many manufacturers now vying for a piece of the dashcam pie, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for any of them to differentiate their products. So is Vantrue able to offer anything to make the OnDash R2 stand out from the crowd?

There isn't anything particularly novel about the OnDash R2’s appearance. Its design is finished in a reasonably satisfying combination of chrome effect, black plastic and brushed metal.

At one sits a mini-HDMI connection, and there's a microSD card slot on the other; USB and analog video output are located on the top. The rear of the device is dominated by a decent-sized 2.7in LCD screen, with menu control buttons on either side, allowing you to at least view settings and video previews clearly.

Related: Best dashcams to buy in 2016

Vantrue OnDash R2 – Shooting Specification

Amazon’s listing on the OnDash R2 is a little misleading, however. The site’s specifications say that this dashcam shoots Ultra HD (in other words, 4K) – but it doesn't.

What Vantrue means is what other manufacturers refer to as Super HD, which is more like 2.5K. Beyond Full HD resolution, the options include 2,560 x 1,080, which is 21:9 aspect, and 2,304 x 1,296, which is like Full HD with a few more pixels in either direction. There's a high dynamic range (HDR) option for Full HD as well as regular Full HD, and 720p at 30 or 60 frames per second.

These features are provided by the increasingly familiar Ambarella processor, in this case the A7L50, partnered with an OV4689 CMOS sensor. This configuration is similar to that of the JooVuu X and, like that dashcam, there’s no mention of the size of the sensor either. But the chips are designed specifically for dashboard cameras, so include features for this purpose.

Vantrue OnDash R2

The Ambarella chip affords some extra controls over video quality. There are soft, hard and standard contrast settings, and the same range for sharpness. Two indoor and two outdoor presets are available for white balance, as well as auto mode. Exposure can be varied between -2 and +2 EV, with 13 steps. There’s a wide dynamic range available for all resolutions, in addition to the HDR Full HD option.

Yet apart from parking mode, where the camera will detect motion ahead when stationary and record a clip, few of the natty extra features that can be taken from an Ambarella processor – such as collision detection and lane departure warnings – are available. With only a 320mAh battery on board, the OnDash R2 will require an external power source to make the parking mode really useful.

There is a menu section for a GPS, so that location can be stored alongside the video, but this requires an optional extra receiver to actually work – about which I couldn’t find any information or anywhere selling it.

A G-sensor is built in, however. The OnDash R2 has the usual dashcam ability to loop recordings once the storage is full, overwriting the oldest clips. But any time the G-sensor detects an incident, it will take the most recent recording so that it won’t be deleted, in case you want to use it for evidence.

Related: Best cameras to buy in 2016

The G-sensor proved quite sensitive in Medium mode, detecting a lot of car moves as incidents. As a result, I’d recommend using the lower setting.

Vantrue OnDash R2 – Mounting Options

The OnDash R2 takes the usual mounting strategy for a dashcam. It's designed to hang down from the top of the windscreen, possibly even behind your rear view mirror. The USB power connection is integrated into the mount, so you only need to slide the camera into the mount to hook up power as well.

Vantrue OnDash R2

The mount connects to the screen quite securely. As a potential bonus, the car power adapter – which is at the end of a very long cable designed to fit round the edge of your windscreen – also integrates a secondary USB power connection. So if your satnav uses a USB-based adapter, or you need to charge your phone, you can still plug it into power, or invest in an alternative cable.

In theory, anyway. I attempted this setup with a TomTom satnav and it didn’t receive any power.

Vantrue OnDash R2 – Image Quality and Performance

In terms of the quality of footage, the OnDash R2 sits somewhere in the middle of the range of dashcams I've tested. Contrast is handled reasonably well, but I've seen slightly more detail in the best units I've tested. A bright sky tends to make shaded areas rather dark, which the HDR option improves upon only slightly improves.

A sample of the Vantrue OnDash R2's video quality can be found here.

You also need to be fairly close to vehicles to read their number plates, which is one of the most important functions of a camera of this type.

The f/2.0 lens has a wide 170-degree field of view, so picks up a good portion of what's happening up ahead. There are three quality options, which work independently of the resolution. At the top two resolutions, the data rate is a healthy 18Mbits/sec for the highest quality. This means the included 32GB memory card will be enough for nearly 4 hours of footage.

Footage is recorded in MOV format. However, no player software is included in the box, and there’s nothing available via download from the web. So even if the GPS was included, you'd need to find a third-party application to view video alongside location.

In fact, a website for Vantrue is conspicuous by its absence, which is a worry for technical support, although an email address is available to contact the manufacturer.

Should I buy the Vantrue OnDash R2?

At its recommended price of £199.99, the Vantrue OnDash R2 is expensive. However, the real street price of £119.99 is much more reasonable for the features and video quality on offer. That price includes a 32GB microSD memory card, so you won’t need to invest in any storage either.

Overall, though, while the physical design and video quality are decent, the lack of built-in GPS and advanced features makes the OnDash R2 an also-ran in the dashcam race.

Verdict

The Vantrue OnDash R2 may offer Super HD video resolution but it lacks a built-in GPS, meaning that it isn't as good value as it initially appears.

Overall Score

7

Scores In Detail

  • Design 7
  • Features 5
  • Image Quality 7
  • Perfomance 7
  • Value 7

J.R.

June 21, 2016, 9:32 am

Hi. Thanks for the review. I bought this camera. Had it for about a month now. If you find any player software for the Vantrue R2 that will work on Apple products, that can show the GPS as well, please let me know. I have some software and have yet to get the GPS to show up on playback in the viewer. Still fiddling with it though.
If you want to read it, here is my little review based on what I have discovered about this camera, not going over every detail you mentioned though, just adding what I have found and why I like it and what I wish it had, or what I wish any camera had. Read this if you want. Thanks.
Normal pricing that I found shows the camera running around $142 USD with a 32GB micro SD card on EBay as of May 2016. That's where I bought my camera. But I bought the GPS mount from Amazon. The camera came in 3 or 4 days, I cannot remember, but it was fast for EBay. Pricing for the camera on Amazon was a tad more, but they won out hands-down on the GPS mount. I bought my GPS mount for around $22.00 USD. I found one on EBay but they wanted some $55 USD. I chose to buy from Amazon and wait the two weeks shipping for the GPS mount as it was not a Prime item with the two day shipping, came from China in less than two weeks. I'll wait a couple of weeks for more than half the price of an item. And I waited 2 extra days for getting the camera for $10 USD less too.
But the GPS mount came in yesterday. Both mounts are very stable. I did have to tighten the two little phillips screws on the ball joint just a tad on the original non-GPS mount. I don't know if that is the purpose of the screws or not, but it did help some. Just do not crank on them as this is plastic. It gets hot with this Southern heat, but it works very well and I drive a 4x4 truck. It wasn't really loose, but you could tell it was looser in the heat than on cooler days. When the truck cools down from running the AC, it did get better. Too soon to know with the new GPS mount. But it will be hot tomorrow, so I'll know more then.
I like this dash cam. It takes very nice videos and you are correct that you have to be close to read license plates, and it is worse at night with the normal reflective paint on most license plates in the USA. I've not had a major problem reading them on day videos. But If you are in an accident, chances are, you're close enough! Right?!?
I do not use the infra red light (IR light) mode as it makes the glare even worse on license plates especially at night. While driving, I just leave it off. I think the IR light was designed for still photos, like if you take the camera out and get a still photo of damage or anything else you want to capture. The lithium-ion battery comes in handy here over a capacitor, but most people have cell phones with cameras. But for me, I like having all my footage and photos on one file. Makes it really easy during editing. But anyway, back to IR, just note that no visible light emits from the camera when this feature is on. I played with it while in line at a burger joint one night and you can tell the IR light feature works. It lights up the night while driving some, but if you are in a lighted area, the glare is too much and license plates are nothing but a big, bright light! Again, best used for still photos with no flash or lighting available.
Capacitor cameras, which this is not, work best if you leave the camera on all the time, while not in the car, and have it recording in parking monitor mode. But I don't use that feature so I am ok with a battery, even in hot areas. Mine stays in the truck, during the day, already with outside temps above 90, with no problem. I hope that having it off will reduce the chances of battery problems. If I were to want to use the parking monitor functions, I'd get a capacitor type camera. But note that I had a GoPro in my truck window for over a year and never had any battery problems. It wasn't recording during the heat, but it was in there. t wonder if the main problems with these lithium-ion batteries is when the cameras are being left on in the heat? Need more research on that.
Emergency video recording is an awesome feature found on virtually every dash cam. If you want to capture an emergency video, you press the bottom button on the right and a little triangle shows up indicating that it is making a video that will not be recorded over. Now note that you will need to press that button twice if the monitor screen is off. It seems you can only make an emergency video if the monitor screen is on. I did not know this before buying. Of course the G-sensor takes emergency videos, but if you want to take one, be ware that the monitor screen must be on. I've tried this numerous times, glitch in my camera? Who knows. But on my camera, it will not make an emergency recording unless the monitor screen is viewable, or on. The button on the lower right side of the monitor is the same button used for both features, 1. to turn the monitor screen off or on, and 2. to make the emergency video. It's an easy one-press button on the camera. If you leave the monitor on all the time, no problem, just press the button once and you will see the little triangle come on. But if you keep the monitor off while driving, like I do, just press it twice, quickly. This little glitch I found out the hard way as no one mentioned this in any reviews I read before buying. But I can work around this and it hasn't been a problem for me. But you can practice that and see how fast you need to press the button to work for you. You won't need this feature in an accident as the G-sensor will capture that.
But in case you don't know how this feature works, if you are not a tech-savy pro, and I'm not either, the emergency video feature works like this. If you see something cool, or scary, or a bad driver, or an accident that you are not involved in, and you want to make a video of this that will not be written over, press that button. An emergency video recording in this camera records, or pulls up, 10 seconds of footage that was stored on the SD card before you pressed that button, and 20 seconds after you pressed it. Other cameras use 5 seconds before and 15, 20 or 25 seconds after, but with 5 seconds before, that doesn't give you much time to think about what you just saw and make a decision as to whether or not you want to record it. You will miss things with a 5 second pre pull-up camera. A 10 second pull up is better in my opinion. I would prefer 20 seconds before. Gives me time to go decide if I want to take that video or not, and gives me time to actually hit the button!
So again, when you press that button, the camera starts making that emergency video that will not be over-written, it stores this in a separate file and it also automatically pulls up 10 seconds of footage that was recorded BEFORE you pressed the button. So you have a 30 second video that shows 10 seconds before, and 20 seconds after you pressed that button. This feature is on most all dash cams and I love it. So if you see something cool, or crazy, hit that button and make a recording. If you hit that button before 10 seconds has passed, you'll catch what you wanted. Pretty cool. That's why I think 10 seconds is better as it gives you time to mentally decide if you want to record it or not. With a 5 second pull-up, you don't have much time to react to what you saw and press the button. Other cameras, uh-hum, very popular and expensive cameras, only have 5 second pull-ups and you miss a lot, unless you pull out the card and find that footage in the normal loop recordings and save it on your computer. If it's a long trip and you can't immediately download the normal files, they may get written over. That's why the emergency video feature was designed in the first place!
I am impressed by the audio. It is very nice and really clear with windows rolled up and even with the radio on. My truck has blue tooth for my cell phone and you could clearly hear me and the other person on the phone. Very clear. So now, I keep mine muted. And note this, other cameras, if you mute them, then turn off the vehicle, when the camera powers off, they default back to original settings, so you have to do things over and over every time you start back up, like turning the camera back to mute. Not this one. When I mute the audio with one touch of a button, it stays muted when powering back up. It really is a set it an forget it device. But if I have a police officer occurrence, I can just un-mute it with one press of the bottom left button and easily swivel the camera around to capture my driver's side window to video it all.
And this is what I wanted in a camera. Oh sure, it would be nice if it had 60fps recording in all modes instead of just the 720 mode, which by the way, works great for reading license plates, but this camera does what I need. I wish it had dual camera mode with a rear camera, but it takes great videos, even at night, in my opinion. Shows good lighting at night compared to other cameras I've used. Way better. And I can mute or un-mute it with one button touch, make emergency videos with one or two touches of a button, and I have 10 seconds to decide if I want to do that. I can easily swivel it around to view me and an officer talking, and it has a very good suction cup mount, at least mine does. I can even remove the camera from the mount so I don't have to mess with re-attaching the cup or messing with the wires.
Glitches, faults, cons, eh, they are minimal and not worth a gripe to me, but what other cameras don't have them? Pricey? So-so. I got everything for less than $175 USD, camera, GPS mount, hard-wire kit, nothing took over two weeks to get here, and that was good for me for the quality of video I get that I like. For anything better, you will probably pay more. It's not a $400 camera but the videos are better than some of those. It's not perfect but I haven't seen one yet that is, so I like it. I'm sure there are other cameras out there that take just as good video quality as this for less, but they have other cons that, for me, I just didn't want to mess with.
I'm still running test videos to see what mode works best for me. I really like this camera and I paid for it myself so my review is not biased by getting anything free.
I'll be running the hardwire kit I bought off Amazon in tomorrow because I hate having cigarette plugs cluttering up my dash. I paid less than $10 USD and got 2 day shipping with Prime. Not bad at all. I have some add-a-fuse devices already so I think installation of the hard wire kit will take less than 30 minutes. There are plenty of videos on how to do this all over YouTube.
Every one keeps talking about budget dash cams under $100 or under $70. Those are fine if you just want video footage. But most of those have weak mounts, shaky mounts, bad lenses that warp under normal usage from heat. And I've had them and never been satisfied with the video quality. Others say they had good stuff from them, just not me. Some say this mount is weak and put tape on it. Not so for me, but it's only been a month, but the entire month has been hot in this Texas heat. So maybe I got a good one, lol, but I mentioned that above.
But anyway, I shelled out a little more cash, and I'm happy with it so far compared to others that I will not name. I do wish this company had a webpage or a dedicated viewer of their own. One that will work on Apple products. I've never needed the GPS function, but it is 'nice to have.' So I got it. It's not everything I wanted, no one makes a camera that has everything I want. I made a video on YouTube about all that. Still waiting on the perfect camera. It's not out there yet, for me, but this one, for what it has, I like, and that's what mattered to me.
I do recommend this camera, but not if you will leave it on all the time for parking lot monitoring in the heat. I'd recommend a capacitor type camera for that, hard-wired in of course, or it would't work. If the temps in your area never get above 85 degrees F, then I'd recommend this camera for anyone, even if it would be used for parking lot monitoring all day. But you be the judge for that one.
Hope this helps anyone in their decision.
Thanks,
J.R.

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