Car accidents happen unexpectedly, and reconstructing what happened from vehicle damage and witness reports won't necessarily be a truthful account. Dash cams, specially designed cameras mounted in cars that record accidents, can offer more complete video and telemetry details of an incident.
Vantrue's OnDash R1 Pro dashcam is one such product, recording HD video on an SD card as you drive, and saving the relevant moments around an accident.
With a 2.7-inch LCD on the back and wide-angle camera lens on front, the R1 Pro resembles a typical point-and-shoot camera, although it comes in a bit smaller. Its metal case gives it a solid feel, while black and silver coloring and rounded ends makes for an attractive look.
Buttons to either side of the LCD seemed arranged a little haphazardly at first, but the interface made sense to me after digging into the device's menus. Left and right arrow keys, used to scroll through onscreen menus, sit at opposite ends of the R1 Pro. But holding the dashcam in both hands, those buttons proved conveniently arranged, as I could hit each with my left or right thumb.
The bottom includes a power button, Mini-USB port and an SD card slot. Of the latter, you will have to provide your own card, as the R1 Pro doesn't come with one and has no internal video storage. The top includes a bracket mounting point and a port for an optional GPS input, which counts as one of the R1 Pro's biggest failings. I'll come to that in a bit.
A suction-cup mount with a short, hinged arm attached easily to the top of the R1 Pro, and will fit easily to a variety of windshield shapes.
The R1 Pro emphasizes video quality, recording HD quality footage onto a micro-SD card. The 170 degree wide angle lens should capture everything in front of your car, including traffic in lanes to either side. In its menu settings, you can choose different video resolutions, from 2,560x1,080 pixels to 1,280x720, with a variety of different frame rates. Those options are a bit overkill for a dashcam, and will prove confusing to the average user, who will likely leave it on the default setting.
Other video settings include image quality, with Super Fine, Fine and Normal, and white balance, this latter also an interesting attribute but not that useful for the average user.
To enable true dashcam features, the R1 Pro has a built-in shock sensor. When something triggers that sensor, such as a collision, it automatically saves video immediately before and after, which may come in handy for insurance and legal purposes. The R1 Pro also makes use of that sensor to enable a parking monitor. Leaving it on standby in your car, the parking monitor will record video if someone hits your car, vandalizes it or tries to break in.
A built-in motion detection sensor can automatically record suspicious activity around your car, as well.
What's missing here is built-in GPS or much in the way of telemetry data. The R1 Pro can time-stamp its video, but there is no information as to your vehicle's speed or location, which would also be useful in the case of an incident.