Best Budget Dashboard Camera in 2016 : Viofo A119 Review

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I think the Viofo A119 is the best value dash camera on the market right now. It has the features most drivers are looking for A good price And viofo has a good track record of delivering quality products So Let’s Get Into The Details. The Viofo A119 was launched in July 2016 and greatly improves upon their A118 camera which we previously reviewed and still recommend. Viofo has done something amazing and produced the first dash camera which combines great video quality and warning notifications with a stealthy, capacitor design for less than $100. We’ll explain what all of that means. Let’s delve into the camera starting with construction.

The A119 has a wedge shape similar to the A118, On the front is the f/1.8 glass lens which is a higher quality than many other budget cameras. The lens can now pivot from side to side as well as up and down which allows for increased adjustments after it is installed. Rotating it you’ll have the 2.0” LCD which is larger and sharper than the A118 and is a good brightness during the day.

On the back you have the mounting hole and four metallic stripes which interact with the optional $10 quick release GPS mount I think the A119 looks a lot nicer than the A118. Instead of a plain shell there’s an interesting tessellated pattern on the sides which also improve grip when removing the camera. On one side there’s a usb port and AV out. On the other is the microphone, microSD and reset ports When tapped the camera seems to be of an average thickness although the plastic does seem to be a nicer quality over the A118.

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Pressing on the camera it’s reassuringly, solid I think many people will appreciate its stealthier design. The wedge shape and black colour help disguise and hide that it’s a camera. However the new grey adhesive pad is quite noticeable. Looking at the packaging, it’s fairly standard for a budget camera, No real complaints except I wish they used a thicker cardboard for improved protection during shipping Inside, the camera has the usual cover and lens protector.

The accessories below were all neatly packaged, A pleasant addition to the usual mount extra adhesive pad and power adapter was the wire clips which help you secure your camera I want to give props to Viofo for producing a manual that’s readable and useful, if a bit short Moving onto installation it’s a fairly easy process. With the camera attached just peel the 3M tape and press it against your windshield It’s more secure than a suction mount but I didn’t like how the tape jiggles compared to the mount on the. Thinkware F50 I couldn’t see any vibration in the recorded video.

There is an optional GPS mount for $10 which transmits power and coordinates to your camera through the pins GPS in dash cameras is used to log your speed and position not give you directions on where to go It also helps in two other ways. First you don’t need to remove the USB cable before pulling off the camera. Second the cord inserts from the top which avoids having the cable awkwardly sticking out if you’re using the non-gps mount.

Viofo included an 11.5’ power cable which is longer than the standard 9’ length found in most dash cameras. This lets you route the cable around the windshield in larger vehicles As well, the power adapter is a separate two port adapter compared to a combined unit It’s rated up to 3.1 amps so you can power your camera and charge your phone at full power Moving onto setup the A119 is ready to go out of the box but you may wish to change a few settings like the time and date This is done through the camera’s menu there’s no desktop or smartphone app.

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Viofo has done a good job with the overall layout A minor gripe is that you have to turn off recording first Otherwise pressing the menu button will take a photo which is not useful As well I wish Viofo used the layout of the Garmin 20 where you have digital labels above the buttons to make it easier to understand what you’re pressing Getting into the menu most of the usual options are there so I’m only focusing on the few issues that exist Starting with GPS you can turn it on and off but you can’t control if your coordinates and speed are overlaid onto the video. When this review was made there was no option for Miles Per Hour, but it was scheduled for the next firmware update. The screensaver feature turns off the LCD after a set period of time which is useful, but the 1 second option makes it difficult to access the menu.

The A119 doesn’t approach the level of customization found in other cameras like Thinkware or the Mobius camera where you have finer controls but I think most users won’t notice Moving on we looked at how easy it is to use the camera on a typical day Like most cameras the A119 turns on and records automatically when it receives power Startup does take longer at 11 seconds but it shouldn’t delay you from leaving your parking spot. Warning notifications are one of the most important dash camera features as it lets you know when your camera has stopped recording Now, your camera is exposed to all sorts of environmental conditions.

Hot, cold, humid As well, your SD card wears out over time. The A119 has the best notifications of all the budget cameras I’ve seen It constantly beeps at you if the camera isn’t recording say from a missing or failed SD card or if you turned off recording yourself. It doesn’t stop until the problem is fixed unlike many budget cameras like the A118 which don’t have a warning sound.

I think Viofo could improve warning messages by making it more like the Yi The background should be more distinct and stay on until you fix the issue. The notification LED was done well solid red means it’s recording flashing rapidly means it’s not It’s positioned well so it’s not easily covered by the rear view mirror. Let’s look at the emergency record button when pressed it protects the current file from being overwritten. Most people use it to lock accident footage or to save an interesting scene for later I don’t like the button’s placement as it’s easy to mispress and trigger the wrong feature.

Fortunately turning off recording will emit a constant beep but it shouldn’t be this hard to use Going to the camera itself from the way it’s mounted to your windshield it can’t turn to face the side windows like you can with other cameras which is useful in filming police interactions or other interesting scenes. Viofo is developing a circular polarizer which will help to reduce reflection and glare from your windshield Keep your eyes out for a late August release if you’re interested. Moving on let’s talk about the video quality. The A119 is amongst the best cameras on the market However in certain situations it falls behind.

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The A119 records at a maximum resolution of 2560x1440P As for the recording time you get 3 and a half hours on a 32GB microSD card It’s compatible with 128GB cards which give 14.5 hours of recording time Let’s first look at daytime video Overall it’s quite sharp and clear even with lots of foliage and changing details because of the higher 20mbps bitrate. You can also capture the license plates of rapidly moving vehicles with no problems. During the day it’s easier for cameras to produce sharp videos because there’s lots of light.

Even the two-year old A118 looks good For the most part quality is similar but when we focus on license plates you can see a clear difference As well it has a great field of view with a good balance between coverage and details If it’s too wide like the Yi you’ll find reading license plates is much more difficult. However, against better cameras like the OPIA2 it lags behind in two ways. The first is dynamic range which is how well it renders scenes with widely contrasting light You can see the area under the hotel is quite dark compared to the better exposed OPIA2 The second is during rapidly changing light, such as when we go under the bridge you can see it overexposes itself as the camera is slower to adapt If we move to a recording right before dusk the direct light can be a problem for some cameras The A119 correctly exposes the scene and is quite sharp.

Now, let’s move to nighttime video At night the A119 does a fantastic job under brighter city lighting but can fall a bit further behind in low-light situations I do expect video quality to increase as Viofo releases updates Even now, the night video quality is among the best cameras. When you look at the video it’s quite clear with less noise than many other cameras.

The A119 absolutely destroys older cameras like the A118 It’s sharper and clearer under all conditions In this example the license plate is far more legible and you can make out details along the side of the road Against the Yi the A119 does better in city lighting and has increased sharpness In this moving example the license plate is readable in the A119 but not the Yi Under lower light the A119 tends to use a long shutter speed which causes the videos to blur slightly.

You can see the license plate and the truck isn’t as sharp as the Yi Under ultra low light, it’s fine It can’t capture details outside of the headlight region but that’s quite common for a camera that doesn’t use a low-light optimized sensor like the Sony Exmor. We also tested the camera to see if the focus is affected under hot temperatures. We placed it in our hacked thermal oven at 60°C for 30 minutes.

There was a minor reduction in quality but it’s much better than the Yi we previously tested This means while driving on hot days your camera won’t go out of focus. The A119 also benefits from using capacitors not lithium ion batteries These are used to store energy to safely shut down the camera after losing power and capacitors are much better at handling heat Viofo rates the maximum temperature limit at 65°C which is a little higher than most budget cameras.

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Overall most users will be quite pleased with the A119’s video quality under most lighting and temperature conditions If you want to look at the original raw footage we have it available along with screenshots for easy comparisons on our website. Moving to other video features the A119 has a motion detection mode which is supposed to be used while parked to save space by only writing videos to the SD card when something happens I would not recommend the A119 for parked recording as you have to manually turn on this feature by going through the camera’s menu If you forget to turn it off your camera may miss footage as the detection algorithm is not perfect The A119 like most dash cameras has a microphone and we found the audio quality to be fairly average. This is a test of the A119’s microphone quality so we just also had someone who got nearly run over by a truck, luckily, no accident.

To playback videos you can use any modern video player like VLC but to see your speed and position you will have to download the third party Dash Cam Viewer Program It will show your route and speed on a map which is useful if you have teenagers or guests using your vehicle If you take out your SD card to watch videos on your computer or use a new card the next time it’s inserted into the A119 it will ask you to format the card before recording If you press cancel it will pop up again the next time you start the camera.

I’m a big fan of this feature An improperly formatted card is one common reason a dash camera has problems. While it could be annoying for experienced users. I think Viofo has made the right decision In general they have done a great job on improving the reliability and user friendliness of the A119 It helps that they had pre-production beta testing with the community at Dash Cam Talk and continually iterated on the design from the feedback they received. As you can tell I’m a big fan of Viofo’s A119 It’s going to be my new starting recommendation for most drivers. Make sure you pick the right SD card as some can wear out sooner than others.

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