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Thursday, 25 May 2017

TOGUARD 'Stealth' Dash Cam - Tech Review

TOGUARD dash cam cardboard packaging
I never used to see the point in owning a dash cam for my car because I never really came across any 'drama' while out on the roads. Sadly, that has now changed. I don't mean I got into an accident or someone tried to blame me for something I didn't do, but, over the past year or so I slowly became aware that I was using my horn a lot more than I used to and was generally more... moody and tense while out driving. All that comes down to one thing: there are far more cars on the road today than ever before and since I've just started a new job which has me on the road more than ever, I decided now was the right time to make the purchase.

I guess it isn't so much that there are more cars on the road but the fact that people are becoming more openly aggressive over (what is usually) very little. To me if someone can go from calm and quiet to having that 'I'm gonna kill you' look instantly and over nothing, that scares me because they're clearly unstable or suffering from extreme anger issues. Just the other day I was driving towards a roundabout when a lady didn't give way when she should have. It was a very close call so I honked at her thinking she didn't see me and would wave an apology. Instead I got told to f*ck off as she drove past me and flipped me off. Had we had a collision, she would have been out of her car, kicking and screaming at my window despite it clearly being her fault. You see where I'm going with this 'needing a dash cam' now?

front and back of dash cam packaging showing specifications
Front & Back 
I took my search to Amazon and after a while I came across a cam called TOGUARD. They advertised it as being a 'Stealth' dash cam which suited me as I didn't want to keep having to remove it every time I left the car. It offers the fairly standard Full HD 1080p 30fps, wide angle lens, IPS LCD monitor, loop recording, parking monitor, motion detection and it can sense abnormal G-force (such as a collision or emergency breaking) and can 'lock' the relevant clip to the memory card to prevent it being deleted in the future. It time stamps each video which is always useful and it can be linked via wifi to your phone for easy viewing of your recordings, provided you download the relevant app. The one thing it doesn't have which may be important to some people is GPS speed tracking. I sort of wanted to get one without that as I have a tendency to be somewhat spirited with my driving but I can see how it could be useful. So far, so good then.

box contents - camera, long USB cord, cable clips, cigarette lighter socket USB charger, spare 3M sticky tape
Box Contents
You get a generous amount of kit for the price, which was £66 at the time of purchase here in the UK. You get the dash cam itself, obviously. As well as that, you get a 3 meter USB cord which if like me, you mounted the camera next to the rear view mirror, will reach all the way to the center arm rest, at least in my car. You also get a shorter USB cable which I guess could act as an extension or to plug it into your PC to transfer footage. That said, it's extremely easy to add and remove the memory card (which is NOT included but can support up to 32GBs) so I'm not sure why you'd ever want to use the second cable for that purpose. To go with the long cable, you get 4 plastic cable clips which have a sticky pad on the rear. This lets you stick the cable to the underside of the glove compartment, or wherever, without having the cable hanging loosely. They provide a spare '3M' tape to stick the cam to your window but be warned, once its stuck in place it can be difficult to remove.

top and bottom view of dash cam
Top & Bottom
The camera has a built in battery but this is mostly used to lock relevant clips to the card in an emergency. The cam needs constant power supplied to it which is where the USB comes in. The company kindly provides a USB Hub stick thing that plugs into your cigarette lighter socket which is very useful if like my car, your car doesn't have a standalone USB port. As you can see in the image below, there is a separate plastic part that sticks to the window and the cam then slides onto that which makes the cam itself very easy to remove. As mentioned earlier, the sticky tape itself, once stuck, is very difficult to remove so think carefully where you'd like it mounted.

The lens can be angled up or down to get more of the road ahead in view, depending how steep your front window is. In the image below, you can see the highest and lowest angles it can go. It may not look like the lens has moved much but this is a very wide angle lens so it makes more difference than you think.

the highest and lowest points the lens can be angled to
Lens Angle
I mentioned before this camera is advertised as being a stealth dash cam. I think this is 99% true as most of the camera is matte black and pretty small. The only thing I can think of that makes it less stealth is the chrome plating around the lens which can reflect sunlight and catch someones eye. That said, its a very minor complaint that shouldn't put you off this great camera. 

inside and outside view of the dash cam showing how discrete it is
Inside & Outside View
Lastly I'm going to mention image and sound quality. Firstly, this camera has a built in microphone but it is awful. It barely picks up any sound despite being right next to my rear view mirror. You can disable sound recording in the settings menu. Secondly,  as is true of any camera no matter the intended use, the more light the lens can get, the better the image quality. In daylight the camera is flawless. Its sharp enough to read plates at a distance and keeps up with any driving speed well. When driving at this it does lose some quality and the image becomes more noisy and grainy. This is to be expected for a camera with such a small lens. The footage is still very usable. 

SAMPLE FOOTAGE.     **Please forgive the dirty window and reflections from the dash board. I'll make a DIY polarized lens which will help remove reflections and improve image quality**

Overall I am very pleased with this purchase and would highly recommend it.

I give it a 4.5 out of 5 slice rating.



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