Cowon Auto Capsule AC1 review: Cowon Auto Capsule AC1

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Attempts to purposely trigger the AC1's recording by slamming on the brakes, launching hard, and swerving aggressively to simulate collisions were successful. While the purpose of the captured video isn't to entertain your friends on the next movie night, I did find the quality of the captured clips to be acceptably good. The image was a bit fuzzy and colors slightly oversaturated, but these are hardly offenses.

While the AC1 is a ridiculously simple to use device, I did find that its instruction manual doesn't really go into great detail about some of the device's functions. For example, the Button Operation section alludes to a function called "Parking Mode Recording," but nowhere in the documentation is this feature actually explained. Likewise, the manual makes mention of the ability to stop and start the recording of sound, but doesn't explain how to do this.

Earlier, I made mention of a video output located on the same end of the unit as its power cable. Using the included 3.5mm to RCA video cable, the AC1 can be connected to a video source to display a live feed of its current capture. However, the included cable is too short to actually reach anything, and I'd recommend that you don't use this function while driving anyway.

Card, reader, and slot
The AC1 ships with an 8GB microSD card and a USB microSD card reader. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

When you're done recording, the captured footage can be downloaded to your computer by removing the microSD card from the AC1 camera, placing it into the included microSD to USB adapter, and connecting to your PC or Mac. Files are organized into four folders for Event Recordings, Manual Recordings, Motion Recordings, and Realtime Recordings.

The Auto Capsule AC1 kit includes PC software (on one of those weird 80mm mini CDs) for organizing and viewing the AVI files that it captures, but there is no included software for Mac. I'm not sure the tiny CD would fit any Mac device currently available anyway. (Note that the AVI format doesn't appear to be supported by Mac's QuickTime, iPhoto, or iMovie software, so you'll need to download a compatible video player, such as VLC, to view the AC1's captures.)

Cowon AC1 with box
The Cowon Auto Capsule AC1's best asset is its simplicity. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

There's not much to the Cowon Auto Capsule AC1. It's a camera that records HD video of reasonable quality automatically while you drive. It's an electronic eye that's always watching your back. (Well, literally, it's watching your front, but I digress.) The only way that I could think to improve this camera is to include a GPS sensor and the ability to store location and speed metadata alongside the video. However, less can be more and the simple, yet effective AC1's no-thought, idiot-proof design turns out to be its greatest asset.

However, at $199, it is also a bit expensive. Those who take the time to shop around could easily find competing models for as much as half off the Cowon AC1's MSRP.