Offering a simple, four-wire installation on most vehicles, the Audiovox ACA250 wireless backup camera can be installed by a person comfortable with simple hand tools in an afternoon. For your labors, the camera system greatly increases the low-speed safety of your vehicle by giving you a looking into the large rear blind spot directly behind many large trucks and SUVs. For smaller cars, the addition of a backup camera may not open up too much more visibility, but we've found that they can be tremendously helpful for pinpoint accuracy when, for example, parallel parking.
However, with the ACA250's simplicity come rough edges in the form of interference from other wireless sources, sometimes with surprising results.
Typically, we don't include installation when reviewing a product, but seeing how Audiovox has made the ease of installation a key selling point--going so far as to state that the ACA250 was designed for a DIY installation--we saw fit to make mention of our experiences while installing the device.
The ACA250 rearview camera system consists of two parts: the camera itself and the monitor. The camera mounts at the rear of the vehicle and features a 110-degree wide-angle lens. Flanking the lens are six infrared LEDs.
The camera installation varies in simplicity from vehicle to vehicle, but the steps are essentially the same. First remove two screws holding the vehicle license plate, line the camera's mounting holes up with those of the license plate, and attach the device to the vehicle with the two longer screws included with installation kit.
Next, route the camera's power wires to the reverse lights. How difficult this is depends on your vehicle's rear configuration. Vehicles with reverse lights near the license plate frame offer the easiest installation, while other vehicles--such as our test Chevrolet Aveo, which features a license plate frame on the liftgate and reverse lights on the vehicle body--will require the removal of many body panels and complicated routing of the wires.
Once the wires are routed near the reverse lights, we simply tap the reverse light's power wires and the installation is complete. However, the included wiretaps were unable to pierce the hardened insulating jacket of our reverse lights, so we ended up cutting, stripping, and splicing the wires. Once the wires are tapped, close everything back up and move on the monitor installation.
The monitor is a 2.5-inch color unit that features an adhesive mounting plate for easy installation anywhere there's a flat spot on the vehicle's dashboard. The unit can either be hardwired to any 12-volt source behind the dashboard, or simply plugged into a 12-volt round plug via the included adapter.
When the driver places the vehicle in reverse, power flows to the tapped reverse light, activating the rearview camera. The camera communicates with the monitor using a 2.5 GHz wireless signal, so there are no wires run through the vehicle's cabin. The image is clear, if tiny, and full color, making it easy to discern what or who is directly behind the vehicle.
At night or if the backup lights are blown or otherwise inadequate, the infrared LEDs illuminate in a spectrum that is visible to the camera, but invisible to the human eye. This infrared illumination allows the camera to effectively operate in low light situations, albeit at the expense of color.
The camera's field-of-view is broad, thanks to its 110-degree wide-angle lens, but is ultimately determined by placement. Drivers will want to experiment with whether the upper or lower license plate mounting bolts will yield the best results for their particular vehicle.
Because of the ACA250's extremely easy installation, just two screws and a wire, we were concerned that the easily accessible camera could be easily stolen by a determined thief with a screwdriver. We'd have liked to see the mounting bolts feature a unique key, or at least a hex socket and key, instead of the ubiquitous Phillips tipped screwdriver. This would add an extra complication to the already dead-simple installation and require that the owner not lose the key, but it would give us better peace of mind when parking at a shopping center or otherwise outside of a locked garage.
Usage of the ACA250 backup camera couldn't be easier. Simply select Reverse and it does its thing. The monitor is always on and always looking for a signal from the camera, which--as stated earlier--is only active when it gets power from a reverse light. The signal from the reverse camera is clear and, under most situations, devoid of interference. Of course, no reverse camera is meant to replace the vehicle's mirrors and common sense, so be sure that you look before backing up.
When not in use, however, the system's simplicity proves once again to be a gift and a curse, and its rough edges make themselves present. Because of the always-on nature of the system, when the camera is shut down, the monitor is still searching for signals. At best, this means you get a constants stream of flickers, flashes, and static on the tiny screen. This can be particularly distracting while driving at night, when the flickers stand out in an otherwise dark cabin. At worst, the monitor will pick up wireless transmissions from other sources, such as security cameras or, on rare occasions, 2.4 GHz wireless television transmitters.
While the rogue signals were slightly annoying when we were only picking up images of local businesses, we could see this becoming a downright awkward privacy issue if, for example, your neighbor's house is equipped with a widely available wireless security camera system.
Interference is more prevalent in heavily populated urban areas, so suburbanites and rural users will experience less static and flickers. Some drivers will be able to ignore the screen's activity and benefit from the added safety provided by the presence of a backup camera, but for more easily distracted drivers, the constant onscreen activity could represent a compromise of overall vehicle safety.
All things considered, for owners of large vehicles with poor rearward visibility the addition of a backup camera can greatly increase the safety for the driver and those around the vehicle. The Audiovox ACA250 wireless rearview camera system is an excellent and low cost way to add that extra safety with an afternoon of wrenching.
The Audiovox ACA250 wireless rearview camera system's simplicity makes installation and operation a breeze, resulting in high marks for design. Of course, the simplicity of the system could also be viewed as a weakness when considering things like theft deterrence, but we didn't count that against the design score. However, we do recommend that owners take the extra step of visiting a hardware store for more secure hex key screws.
The ease of use and the inclusion of infrared night vision also resulted in high scores for features and performance. We did, however, penalize the ACA250's performance score because of the distracting static and flickering of the monitor when the system is not in use. A better designed system would be less intrusive when not in operation and certainly wouldn't pick up signals from other devices.
However, your mileage may vary depending on the number of 2.4 GHz wireless devices in your area.