Date: April 7, 2014
Author(s): Tom Roeder
A dashcam might be a simple device, but it’s one that could prove invaluable in the event of an accident – nothing tells the truth quite like video. And as far as dashcams go, Papago! makes some attractive ones, including the P2 Pro we’re taking a look at here. So, let’s take it for a drive and see if it’s worthy of sticking to your windshield.
Dashcams are still a fairly new idea here in the US, and not that many people have them. However, GPS devices have found their way, in one form or another, into most cars on the road. A significant number of drivers have smartphones with video recording capabilities with them at all times, but anyone who has been in an accident or any other event that would be worth capturing on video knows that time is not on your side when the unexpected happens. You need to take into account the time needed to find the phone, wake it up, access the video recorder, and then record the event – all while you are endeavoring to operate a motor vehicle. These are less-than-ideal conditions in which to reliably capture a sudden event on video.
Enter the ever recording dashcam.
Papago! contacted us last month, making clear its intentions to break into the US market. To do that, it helps if US media takes a look at its products, so when offered up the chance to take a look at the company’s P2 Pro model, we couldn’t resist, given its great feature-set. So, without further ado, let’s take it for a drive.
The packaging is simple, clean, and easy to open. Once inside the package, you’ll find the device itself, the suction cup mount, car charger (which is not a charger; I’ll get to that later), quick-start guide, and a warranty card.
The device itself has a nice appearance to it, very modern and sleek-looking, and it should provide nice ornamentation to any vehicle interior. The P2 Pro unit does have impressive specs, especially for a device this size, and one in this price range.
On one side of the camera you will find the SD card slot. The maximum size SD card this camera accepts is 32GB, and I have found that this is plenty of storage. You could use something smaller if you wanted – but with as cheap as SD cards have gotten, I went for the 32GB. This unit will record 5 minute intervals of video clips, automatically recording over the oldest clips as the card fills up. The clips are recorded as MPEG-2 TS video codec, which is a very popular format that your PC will easily read.
On the other side you will find the USB and HDMI ports. I personally find the addition of the HDMI port unnecessary, but some may find it useful. For me, it is a lot easier to pop the SD card out and bring it inside to my computer, versus detaching the suction cup from my windshield to bring the unit inside, powering the device, plugging it into my already inconveniently-placed HDMI ports on my TV, with a purchased separately cable.
You might ask, “Why would you need to power the unit in your house to view video; doesn’t it have a battery?” No, it does not. One thing that has kept this unit as lightweight as it is, is the lack of a battery. There are onboard capacitors that provide you with a few seconds of power once you unplug it, but that is it. At first, the lack of a battery was very concerning to me, but once I used the device I saw that a battery really isn’t necessary like I thought it was. It’s best to think of the camera as a more or less permanent fixture in your car. After all, if you don’t have it with you when you’re driving, what’s the point of having it? Don’t worry about your preferences and settings, though, as those are non-volatile memory and will remain saved regardless of the power supplied.
The LCD display screen is plenty adequate, providing a resolution of 320×240.
The P2 Pro has a good number of features, with a big one being built-in GPS. If you have the feature enabled (I can’t think of why you wouldn’t) the video being recorded has your exact GPS coordinates with real-time updating as you move, including information like vehicle speed and time.
The P2 Pro also features a “G” sensor, which is able to detect if you are in a collision; it will backup your video so it can’t be accidentally recorded over in the event of a collision. Otherwise, the unit will keep recording until you shut it off, and will automatically record over the oldest video. No, you don’t have to bring the SD card in all the time and delete old video.
Other features the P2 Pro boasts includes Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS), which includes stop and go alerts, LDWS (Lane Departure Warning System) and FCWS (Front Collision Warning System). The unit also has a driver fatigue alarm that you can set to go off after a certain number of hours of driving.
Personally, I don’t care for any of these features, which by default are on. They can easily be turned off, however, which is what I did. After every traffic light I stopped at, the device would beep at me as soon as the cars in front began to move. I noticed that these features did seem to work fairly well; maybe if you have a teenager driving on their own and you want to keep them safe, these features may appeal to you, but I found them gratuitous and annoying for my daily driving.
Recording video in very low light is always a problem. Papago! employs a technology called WDS, or Wide Dynamic Range, which enhances night-time video recording. While it isn’t quite worthy of shooting Hollywood quality night-time footage, it is certainly adequate for this application.
Driving with this P2 Pro quickly becomes second nature. As when I got my first cell phone, I quickly realized how beneficial it was to have it. The unit is small enough to not take up a lot of real estate on your windshield. I would personally recommend having this unit professionally installed, though, as this unit features an auto on/off feature when your car is turned on or off, when it is wired to a switched power source. Although, some may prefer to leave the camera running while you’re in the store or wherever else, in case something happens to your car, like the famous parking lot hit and run scenario. For that reason, you may want to simply run the unit off your continuously-powered power point or cigar lighter so that you can manually switch it on or off.
You don’t have to worry about that running your vehicle battery down, as the unit draws very little power. If you are going to be in a store for a few hours, just let it record. I would recommend turning the display off though, which you can easily do by pressing the “mode” button on the far right. This way, a passerby won’t notice you have a dashcam recording. One press of the “mode” button will switch the display to your current speed; another press shows the time, and a third press will turn the display off. If desired, the unit can also be configured to turn the display off after a certain amount of time.
The Papago! P2 Pro also has a still camera shot feature as well. I found this to be a great feature, as it takes brilliantly clear photos, as well as a three shot burst with one push of a button. These images are saved in a separate folder on the SD card, and are in the universal JPEG format.
After the time I’ve spent with the P2 Pro so far, I’ve come to really enjoy it. Driving with it on a daily basis has made me realize just how beneficial something like this could be if an unfortunate accident were to happen and I had to prove my case. Some auto insurance companies offer discounts if you have a dashcam in your vehicle, which is also worth bearing in mind. That right there could be enough to pay for the dashcam after a short while.
There are a lot of bad drivers out there, and these days they are distracted more than ever. Whether it is the mom with three kids in the back, or a teenager texting while driving, let’s face it: The roads can be a very dangerous place. With the ambulance chasing, quick-to-sue society we live in, having a digital witness on your side could prove to be an invaluable asset.
For anyone debating on whether they should have a dashcam or not, I would advise you check out YouTube videos on driving in Russia. Yikes, is all I have to say.
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