Hey, it’s Andrew with Car Cam Central. Today, we’re looking at Blackvue DR650GW 2 Channel dash camera. We’re going to be seeing if it’s worth $350 of your hard-earned money Breaking it down, it’s a two channel system which means there’s a front camera and a rear camera.
We’re also reviewing the optional infrared camera which captures what’s happening inside your vehicle This camera was released in late 2014 but has been recently updated with Blackvue’s cloud software which allows your camera to connect to the internet and send things like videos GPS location to your smartphone.
We’ll talk about that later Before getting into the details if you’re in a rush you can go right into the summary. There’s also a written review which has raw videos and additional information. Links above and in the description.
Looking at the camera itself Blackvue has been using a cylindrical shaped camera since 2011. Fast forward to today the DR650GW is larger than earlier cameras as it needs additional space for WiFi and dual camera processing.
The materials have also been changed to be more discreet compared to previous versions the camera and mount is now molded in a black plastic. The previous chrome lens has also been painted a black while keeping a subtle blue stripe for style.
I like the fact that it looks nothing like a regular camera. Most people mistaken it for an air freshener. It also has a noLCD screen. To control your device you must either use a desktop computer or an Android iOS smartphone.
Moving to one side of the camera we’ll find the input ports including micro sd, power and the coaxial connection for the rearview camera. On the other side you find the proximity sensor which activate emergency recording on the camera.
It’s hidden behind an elegant sheet of plastic. To my knowledge Blackvue is the only company which has this feature. In the middle there’s a small cut out for the speaker. Beside it, there’s two LEDs which indicate recording status and GPS.
On the front is a larger security LED which is supposed to scare away potential vandals but nobody thinks it’s effective except in getting your items stolen. For the rear camera it’s much smaller than the main body.
It has an LED light facing inside your vehicle. It turns on when the camera is successfully recording. If you look at the IR version it adds infrared lights on both sides of the camera. There’s also a light sensor which turns on the infrared lights when it’s dark.
I would say all three cameras were well made. It also looks pretty cool. Blackvue is often installed on high-end vehicles because it fits in better with the decor compared to the pedestrian and brutalistic designs from other companies.
Moving to packaging Blackvue has had a fresh design for each version of their camera. With the 650GW it’s packaged in a double box. The outer shell adds country-specific information and serves as protection for the thicker and plainer inner box.
Once you lift the lid you expose the front and rear cameras. I enjoyed the presentation as it provides a striking first glimpse at the cameras They are also securely held during shipping Below you’ll find a box with the acessories.
Inside there’s a power cable which is especially long at 12 and a half feet which allows for installation in larger vehicles. There are also a few extra accessories which include clips to secure wiring, microSD reader and one set of mounting pads.
On the front camera Blackvue added a removable lens protector which is quite handy during installation or transportation to make sure it remains in good condition Once unpackaged you probably want to setup your camera.
Now it’ll work right out of the box, but there are a few settings we recommend you change. We wrote up a few suggestions on our written review As mentioned before you will have to use your PC or smartphone app to change the settings.
Starting with the desktop software you can install it directly from the SD card that’s included. You can use the card reader which comes with your camera. The DR650GW will also loads the software onto any card it formats by simply holding the wifi button for 10 seconds.
on that card Formatting the SD card. Please do not turn off the power. I was pleasantly impressed as most companies require you to find and download their software. Once installed the desktop software acts both as a video player and to modify settings on the camera.
I thought it was well designed. Moving into the settings area most aspects of the camera are customizable You can change the different alerts, LEDs wifi settings and more The smartphone app is more complicated but most people shouldn’t have a problem.
The wifi mode allows you to change settings, view and download videos once you connect to your cameras network. Once inside the starting screen shows your saved videos. Locked files display a thumbnail so you can easily find important videos where they were manually saved or triggered by the g-sensor.
You can watch videos using the built in player. As well you can download videos to your smartphone but it was rather slow taking around 25 seconds to transfer. What’s great is while viewing videos or downloading files, your camera will continue to record.
This is quite a technical achievement as many wifi cameras require recording to be disabled first. This could come in handy after an accident as you can keep your camera rolling while quietly reviewing what happened.
You can also change any of the camera settings. You have access to every option including resolution audible notifications and more. Let’s talk about the cloud which is the other feature found in the app.
It allows you to remotely connect to the camera over the internet. This gives you additional features such as live GPS tracking, live video view and video playback. We feel for most users it’s not very useful since it relies on internet access, if you don’t have wifi where you park you will need a mobile hotspot In North America this can get expensive.
In Europe and other locations with cheaper data plans this can be more reasonable. As well you need to hardwire to your camera and hotspot which means connecting directly to the camera’s battery, most likely through the fusebox.
There are some solutions such as the Power Magic Pro which prevents your battery from being drained. but will requires additional time and knowledge to install. Speaking to other users we know the difficulty of installing and setting up the cloud limits its appeal.
So we’ll make a video in the future with more details. If you are interested there are some resources that we link to in the description below. Once setup we installed our camera. Compared to single dash cameras the DR650 was more difficult because of the rear camera.
While you don’t need tools, you need to hide your wiring if you don’t want passengers to trip or damage your cables. Each car’s a little different but for most you can slip it into the headliner and snake it around to your trunk.
This added an extra twenty minutes for me but it wasn’t too complicated. The benefits of Blackvue’s dual camera system compared to buying two individual cameras is the longer twenty-foot coaxial cable which increases compatibility in trucks and vans.
As well the rear camera is smaller than most dash camera so it doesn’t obstruct you vision. I had a hatchback which makes it a bit more difficult as you have to account for the moving door. I ended up with an exposed loop of wire because I didn’t want to tear apart my trunk to hide everything.
Aside from cabling everything else was simple. The front, rear and IR camera mounts are fixed in place using 3m tape Just peel and press. The mounts quick release system requires just a push of a button to remove and a simple press to replace.
The IR camera was installed beneath the rear view mirror but you can put it anywhere that has a clear view of the passenger cabin. BlackboxMyCar has an optional 2 foot cable which makes installation easier.
Everything was quickly cleaned up leaving your car looking tidy. Otherwise you have to use the twenty foot cable and hide everything in your headliner. Once finished we adjusted all the cameras. With the twist the camera is easily turned and is held securely by either fiction on the smaller cameras or the tongue and groove system on the front camera.
In general I feel most users shouldn’t have any difficulties installing a camera. It just takes a little more time and preparation. Next we looked at how easy it is to use the DR650GW on a day-to-day basis.
Like most dash cameras when it receives power it will automatically turn on and start recording. When it loses power it’ll save and turn off. Unfortunately the startup time was extremely long at 35 seconds While the DR650 is a complicated device it takes three to four times as long as other cameras.
We’re often well on our way before the camera turned on. The start-up and failure notifications are much better and will help you keep your camera running. For example when the camera starts recording it will give you a rather long message.
Blackvue for your safe driving…starting normal recording. This length can be reduced or completely removed in the settings if you find it irritating. For myself and other drivers we find this message comforting.
You subconsciously know that your camera is working. When there is a problem, for example the sdcard has failed, it will continue to pester you with a message until you stop and fix the issue. Please check the SDcard.
So contrast this experience with most cameras on the market First there’s no spoken messages. It just beeps and chimes. When your camera starts up you’ll hear a friendly jingle even if there is a problem.
When there is an issue very few cameras have an alarm. Instead you’ll get a warning message. On most cameras this quickly disappears. Most likely you’ll carry on driving and not notice there’s a problem.
If you get into an accident or capture something interesting only then will you realize your camera stopped working but it’s too late. We feel audible notifications are one of the most important features on a dash cam and Blackvue has been doing a great job with the DR650 and all the model since 2012 when we first reviewed the DR400-G.
However if you don’t like notifications this camera may not be for you. The main LEDs are rather small and don’t use a traditional colour code. As well, many users like that the camera can be hidden behind your rearview mirror, which will also hide the LED lights.
You would either have to crank your head under the mirror or install it so the cameras is visible. There is one more LED light found on the rear camera. It glows white when recording and is a good brightness day and night.
There’s no setting to turn this off, you’ll have to put tape on it if you don’t like it Moving on let’s talk about the emergency record button. Most people use it to lock accident footage or to save an interesting scene for later.
On most cameras this is a button. Blackvue uses a proximity sensor similar to your smartphone. Putting your hand close to the sensor will save the prior five seconds and the following 55 seconds of video from being overwritten.
Originally this button controlled the microphone but by popular demand it was switched over to the emergency record . This isn’t mentioned in your manual or online as it’s a recent change. Looking at video quality the Blackvue DR650 was tested side by side against a few cameras.
One was the A118-C. It’s our recommendation for a budget all-around camera. Another was the Dome D201 which has some of the best video quality on the market for only $100. Looking at the video specs the front camera records at 1080p at 30 frames a second.
Moving to the rear camera it records at a lower 720p at 30 frames a second. I was fairly disappointed with the quality. At $350 I was hoping for better sharpness and dynamic range but sadly this wasn’t the case.
During the day, image quality is good. You will miss out on some finer details such as road markings. I did find that legibility on license plates was reduced on fast-moving objects. Here you can see it’s much more difficult to read this plate.
This is because the bit rate is much lower than most cameras. The cloud edition is 6 megabits per second for the front camera which is much less than 15 to 20 on most single lens dash cameras. This can result in severe pixelation when the scene changes rapidly.
At night there’s a much bigger reduction in quality. The DR650GW missed capturing license plates where cheaper cameras had no problems. In this case, passing under a tunnel it’s unreadable compared to the $80 A118-C.
As well the reduced bit rate can warp the letters. In this video you can see the D becoming a B which could cause trouble if you need to identify a vehicle. On the plus side this camera uses a Sony Exmor sensor which is known for light sensitivity.
You pick up more of the surroundings especially in less lit environments compared to cheaper cameras. In this comparison against the A118-C you can clearly see the pedestrian crossing the street. If you turn to the A118-C you won’t see them until the very last minute.
If you end up in an accident you can capture what happened in the moments before. Maybe they intentionally threw themselves onto your vehicle. If you can’t see what happened you can’t prove your side of the story.
Let’s move on to the rear camera. We compared it against the Transcend 200 which is our budget heat resistant camera recommendation. While we consider the video quality to be fair even bad at night it still does much better than the DR650’s rear camera.
During the day the rear camera is rather grainy and not very sharp. Even while it’s bright outside you’ll have difficulty picking up license plates while moving. In comparison, the Transcend has much better clarity and sharpness.
You can easily read passing vehicle license plates. At night quality is even worse. Looking around the dynamic ranges is low which washes out part of the scene such as the gas station. Still this poor video quality isn’t a problem the main camera handles liability.
The rear camera adds context. Someone who was aggressively tailgating or swerving or any other actions before an accident you’ll have additional evidence that their actions affected your driving. The infrared camera is similar to the rear view camera except the IR filter has been removed which allows it to pick up invisible infrared light projected by the camera.
During the day this produces a rather unflattering pink tinted image and night you get an eerie glow but you can clearly see everyone inside. So this would be a good feature for taxi, uber, and lyft drivers who may need footage of their passengers for assaults, fair disputes, and other complaints.
Be sure to follow your local laws on privacy. However the camera may be too expensive for most drivers as it adds another $100-150 onto an already expensive camera. We’ll look at the budget options at a future date.
In general, video quality could be better but considering its processing two video feeds and has to leave processing power to simultaneously send live videos onto the cloud or WiFi, I think Blackvue has done a good job in getting everything to work at a reasonable price.
If you’re interested in more you can download screenshots and raw videos from our website OK, so moving on I want to talk about parked recording. This is a special setting which keeps the camera running but only writes the video to the memory card when movement is detected or a shock is felt by the g-sensor.
In cheaper cameras you have to manually enable this feature through the menu. It’s a pain in the butt and if you forgot to turn it off, you can lose footage while driving. It’s much easier on the DR650GW as it can detect if you haven’t moved using the GPS and g-sensor and automatically enable parked recording.
Blackvue did a good job it would consistently activate when major objects such as people or vehicles came into view. As well, keeping the g-sensor on the most sensitive setting it would detect even a slight bump.
My only concern is the lower 60°C 140°F operational limit. More heat resisting cameras are rated at a higher 70°C, 158°F. If you live somewhere very hot, it’s not recommended you use this camera while parked.
Even though it uses capacitors which increase reliability under hotter weather. Since we covered a lot of different issues, here’s a summary of the pros and cons on the Blackvue DR650GW-2CH. Here’s what good: The body is compact, discreet and robust.
The style fits in with many high-end vehicles. It has excellent spoken notifications which alert you to problems and keep your camera working. Please check the SD card. It’s a great choice for parked recording as motion detection is automatically activated by detecting movement using the GPS and g-sensor When formatting, the camera automatically loads the PC playback and settings program onto your SD card.
The desktop and smartphone apps are well designed and easy to use You can download, view saved videos, and see a live feed while continuing to record on the camera. It has premium packaging. It looks good and securely holds your cameras.
It’s easy to activate emergency recording by waving your hand at the proximity sensor The long power and coaxial cables increase installation compatibility in larger vehicles and a quick release mount makes removing and installing the camera easy Now for a couple items which may cause problems.
It has generally good reliability but the lower 60°C 140°F operating temperature limit may be a problem for parked recording in hotter environments The optional IR module is useful for taxi drivers but the final cost may be too expensive and it also requires a smartphone or computer to change settings and view videos So now for the bad The video quality is relatively poor for the price.
Day quality is good but moving objects decrease legibility. At night sharpness is lower, license plates are harder to read but overall light sensitivity is quite good The cloud features such as viewing videos over the internet and live video feed don’t provide enough benefits to most consumers relative to the cost and difficulty of installation.
It has a long start-up time at 37 seconds nearly four times longer than other cameras You also can rotate the camera to face the side windows which is helpful when recording police encounters. Installation time and difficulty is increased to connect the rearview camera.
If you’re looking for a premium camera the DR650GW two channel edition will be one of our recommendations. We would like the video quality to be better but for the price and features we think Blackvue has done a great job.
For other recommendations see our website. As part of our ethical disclosures we purchased these cameras from BlackboxMyCar at a discount. I rarely recommend retailers but if you live in Canada or United States I would recommend you buy from BlackboxMyCar.
I’ve spoken to the owner, Alex since 2013 and I think he’s done a great job. He’s been in the game for a while he has his own YouTube video channel that produces some really good content. Now with that, that’s the end of this review if you liked it please give it a thumbs up if you have questions or suggestions feel free to leave it in the comments below Thank you and see ya!