Dash cam teardown reveals feature set discrepancies

Article By : Brian Dipert

This dash cam teardown reveals some feature set discrepancies; were they the result of an honest mistake or creative marketing?

The exploding popularity of the dash cam product category is something that I admittedly didn’t see coming. Then again, though, given that I’ve worked from home versus commuting to an office each day for more than a quarter-century now, I’m not exactly the target demographic. The appeal, I gather from my research, is multifold:

  • If you get into an accident with someone else, there’s video evidence of what actually transpired to assist in resolving disputes.
  • Similarly, if your vehicle is hit, vandalized, or broken into (the latter assuming the thief isn’t smart enough to take the dash cam, too), an A/V record of the incident now exists.
  • And the same (sadly) goes for any undesirable interactions you might have with law enforcement officials while on the road.

hands on projectBack in July, with a teardown-to-come in mind, I’d picked up AUKEY’s DRA1 dash cam on sale for $29.88 plus tax from Amazon. It’s an entry-level model, absent enhancements found in higher-end (and higher-priced, of course) units such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity to a smartphone, along with GPS-delivered logs of vehicle location, speed, and other data over time. And it also leverages comparatively unknown-supplier building blocks, such as image sensors from GalaxyCore versus those sourced from Sony (found in AUKEY’s higher-end DR0x dash cam line, for example).

The DRA1 does offer accelerometer (I’m assuming)-sensed auto-recording, however, as well as an auto-lock of the video files created in such “emergency” situations (features which AUKEY calls G-Sensor and motion detection, user-configurable for sensitivity). Both capabilities operate under the assumption that such recordings were generated by an accident or other jarring cause and that the resultant video shouldn’t subsequently be auto-erased as part of the normal loop recording capability. And the DRA1 also leverages a supercapacitor (or so is claimed in at least some places) for backup power purposes when external power isn’t flowing into the unit from the 12V (i.e., “cigarette lighter”) adapter, instead of the more common lithium battery that may be more sensitive to the temperature extremes commonly found in car interiors. To wit, the DRA1’s documented operating temperature range is -30-75°C (-22°-167°F).

Before diving in, let’s first look at a set of stock photos sourced from Aukey’s website:

photo of the Aukey DRA1 dash cam

The display on the backside is a 2.7” diagonal LCD, with unspecified resolution:

photo of the Aukey DRA1 dash cam display showing traffic

The unit also has a claimed 170° field of view (FOV) as spec’d on Amazon, which is wider than many of its similar-priced peers. That said, the FOV spec on AUKEY’s product page is 140°, so who knows? Keep in mind, too, that wider FOVs can also distort (excessively lengthen vs reality, to be precise) the perceived distance between the camera and other objects, as well as result in images with notable “fisheye” effects, i.e., barrel and other forms of distortion:

illustration of a car accident showing a car's field of view

And last but not least, this image provides product dimensions (weight without mounting bracket, etc. is 6.9 ounces) and package contents (note in particular that both temporary suction and permanent adhesive pad mounting bracket options are included):

photo of the Aukey DRA1 dash cam package contents laid out

Time to dive in:

photo of the top of the Aukey dash cam box

photo of the bottom of the Aukey dash cam box

Crack open the box, and the bagged dash cam appears with a spurious sliver of protective black foam perched on top of it (???).

photo of the Aukey dash cam in the box

Before further focusing our attention on it, let’s see what else is inside. The debagged “extras” are more clearly revealed in the stock photo shown earlier. The black plastic “crowbar” is a trim removal tool, intended for use in routing the wiring behind dashboard and other interior pieces. Envisioning a spudger surrogate, I repurposed it to assist in disassembling the dash cam itself!

photo of the Aukey dash cam accessories laid out in their packages

Here’s a closeup of the power adapter specs:

photo of the Aukey dash cam power adapter for use in a cigarette lighter

And last but not least, there’s another baggie containing a multi-language user manual (also available as a PDF) and a couple of extra pieces of mounting bracket adhesive:

photo of the Aukey dash cam literature in package and extra mounting bracket adhesive

Back to the camera, as usual accompanied by a 0.75″ (19.1 mm) diameter U.S. penny for size comparison. The lens assembly is obvious on the right. Along the bottom are what the owner’s manual claims are the microphone sound-entry holes (stay tuned), and in the lower left corner is an outward-facing status LED (whose function can be disabled if you don’t want others to know you have the dash cam active):

photo of the Aukey dash cam front with a penny for scale

The 2.7” LCD dominates the backside landscape, and there’s a separate inward-facing status LED in the corner:

photo of the Aukey dash cam back and a penny for scale

On the top, you’ll find the bracket mount hole in the center, surrounded by an external GPS receiver input to one side and the combo of a passive airflow vent cluster (or at least that’s what I thought it was at the time … keep reading) and the (increasingly rare vs the micro-USB alternative) mini-USB power input on the other:

photo of the top of the Aukey dash cam with a penny for scale

Flip the camera over and you’ll find a series of control buttons which, among other things, enable the user to manually initiate an emergency recording (see the user manual for the per-button details):

photo of the bottom of the Aukey dash cam with a penny for scale

Along one side, flanked by a passive airflow vent cluster on either side, is the microSD memory card slot along with a recessed reset switch. There’s no embedded storage memory included with the dash cam; AUKEY recommends a class 10-rated card to keep up with the dash cam’s various recording frame rate/size options:

  • 1080p (30fps)
  • 720p (60fps)
  • 720p (30fps)
  • WVGA
  • VGA

Capacities up to 128 GBytes are supported:

photo of the Aukey dash cam's memory slot on the side of the camera with a penny for scale

The other side, comprised entirely of passive airflow vents, isn’t nearly as exciting:

photo of the Aukey dash cam's vents on the side of the camera with a penny for scale

[Continue reading on EDN US: Let’s look inside]

This article was originally published on EDN.

Brian Dipert is Editor-in-Chief of the Embedded Vision Alliance, and a Senior Analyst at BDTI and Editor-in-Chief of InsideDSP, the company’s online newsletter.

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