Owl Car Cam review: An expensive LTE-powered dashcam with quite a few flaws

99% of the dashcams on the market follow the same formula: a suction / clip holder on top, microSD storage and energy extracted from your car's cigarette lighter. The Owl Car Cam, however, completely breaks that trend; Mounts differently, stores clips differently and feeds differently. It has been out since the end of March, although Android compatibility was only added a couple of months ago.

The Car Cam is certainly a piece of well-made hardware, and it may be suitable for your needs. It does many things that other dashcam can not do, but given its price of $ 349, it would be embarrassing if it did not. However, it has a couple of flaws that prevent it from becoming my dashcam of choice.

As soon as you look at the surprisingly large box, it is clear that the presentation of the Owl values. It contains an almost daunting amount of pieces, although many of them will not be used. More assembly is needed than I expected; There are several "arms" and "tails" included that you can mix and match to achieve the ideal position and height of the camera in your car. Once this is done, a suction cup on the windshield keeps the camera in place. Then, you must run the camera's magnetic power cable into an OBD adapter, which is then inserted into the OBD port of your car. Owl includes a clamping tool and cable clamps in the box so you can hide the cable in the cracks of your car. Pairing is done by scanning a QR code on the camera's screen when it is connected for the first time.

The camera itself has a harmless design, albeit a bit soft. It almost looks like an old GPS system in the car, although almost half as big. The body is metal, with a small window for the main camera (and logo) on the back and a vent and a speaker on the side. On the front there is a 2.4 "and 320×240 LCD touch screen, a secondary camera facing the cabin, two microphones and two white LEDs.A green LED on top flashes when the camera is active and the car is parked, leaving Passers-by know that their car is "protected."

Owl promotes an octa-core 2.2GHz processor and 3GB of RAM, which is more power than he would have ever imagined he would need a dashcam. The dashcams do not use 4G LTE to upload videos to the cloud, the GPS is also inside, no storage figure is given, Owl simply says that he "stores the video in his camera for up to 14 days, depending on how much he drives. "There is also no microSD slot, so it can not even expand the likely limited amount of storage."

Note that an OBDII port is required for this camera to be powered. I'm not a fan of this for several reasons. First, it restricts the use of cars manufactured before 1996, as well as Tesla Model 3. I recognize that it is a small portion of rejected potential customers, but it is still worth mentioning. Next, the OBDII requirement also blocks other devices that need to use the port, such as code readers (some people leave them), insurance trackers, and access points like SyncUP DRIVE from T-Mobile. Finally, if you leave your car in the mechanic and want to check your dashcam to see how things are going, it is very likely that it will be unplugged to be able to use an OBD code reader, leaving it without any recording.

Owl says he chose the OBD port because it allows the camera to be powered when the car shuts down, but when the car is parked, the camera goes into "guard mode," which means it only records when motion is detected . What is the point of the camera feeding constantly if it is not being recorded continuously? What happens if the person who damaged your car just took off? In addition, the camera automatically shuts off after 24 hours of parking (or once a chip in the camera detects that your car's battery has been depleted by 5%, whichever comes first). I would prefer to have a dashcam that uses a cigarette lighter and a backup battery to start and record when impacts occur. Despite the chip in the camera, to my car, a BMW 750i 2013, came a warning message about the shutdown of the car's electrical accessories due to excessive drainage after leaving it parked for about three days.

Here's another ding to the Owl: as you probably have already noticed, it's mounted from the bottom of the windshield, not from the top. This means that it gets in the way of your vision while driving. I do not necessarily care that it is not big enough to block anything realistically, but the law in a lot of the United States does matter. I am not a lawyer and I can not analyze the unique statements of 50 states about this situation, but there are only two, yes, two states that do not have windshield restrictions. I doubt you'll be stopped if you're driving normally, but if you've already been stopped and the officer sees the car's camera in the middle of your windshield, you can easily get hung up by an obstruction of sight. Also check this page of Lifewire.com and this reddit thread for more information.

I got in touch with Owl PR about this, and here's the answer I received:

Owel Car Cam is compatible with its dashboard, and in many jurisdictions there are no restrictions on the placement shown in our videos. The Owl Car Cam can be mounted on the right or left side of the instrument panel, if desired. We advise people to verify their local regulations and how they apply in their local area.

In other words, Owl recognizes that this may be a problem in certain areas and says it can be mounted on the right or left ends of the dashboard in those situations. However, those kind of defeats have the purpose of a dashcam, since you could not see everything that is happening on the road.

It's not unusual for more high-end dashcam to have two cameras these days, so I'm not surprised to see a couple here. The main one is a 4MP sensor with an aperture of f / 2.14 and a FoV of 120 degrees, while a 1MP sensor is used for recording in the cabin. The external camera shoots 1440p video at 30 fps, while the inner camera shoots 720p at 30fps. No resolution / frame rate is adjustable.

I found that the quality of the video is sharp for the most part, and the wide-angle lens can cram enough lanes into the frame. Basically, any dashcam can capture an accident and show the circumstances surrounding it, but in reality you need 1440p videos to be able to display the plates reliably. There were complaints about the video in low light, although it seems that they have been addressed by what I can see.

Take a look at the video samples to see more closely. Unfortunately, because the Owl application did not allow me to download the videos at a resolution of 1440p for any reason, these are screen recordings of the images on my phone. I'll go more in this next.

As for the front camera … well, it works. The 720p video will not impress anyone, but it's not really necessary. The camera in the cabin can be easily enabled or disabled by a vertical slide on the touch screen, although it will automatically turn on (with LEDs) if the vehicle's camera detects an accident or a theft of some kind. Speaking of accident detection, a friend knocked several times in a window while the car was parked and images from both cameras were sent to my phone, so it's good to know that it is activated when necessary.

One of my favorite features of the Car Cam is the ability to simply say "OK Presto" and have the camera record a clip of ~ 20 seconds of the events that occurred before your voice command. You can even name the clip by saying the title after the "OK Presto" command, which is then placed on your phone through voice to text as long as the background is not too loud. This is quite useful while driving, since you do not have to take your eyes off the road or click on a button. There is an option to touch the screen to start recording, but I do not see any reason why you need it, unless the explosion of the music or a group of people have a shouting match.

"James May" was the only thing I could think about when I was asked for a degree. Also, I'm not sure why the thumbnails of two of the clips are so bright.

However, I have to complain about the download / sharing functionality in the Owl application. For some reason, more copies of the same video are still being added to the Favorites column of the Clips section every time I see something I have saved. The application does not allow me to download any of my clips in 1440p complete or share them through the three-point menu; instead, I have the 360p uploads to Google Photos or YouTube. On top of that, email uploads do not work; they simply include the title of the clip and nothing else.

The features were not something that I specifically had to mention in the review of VAVA Dash Cam 2K, but since the Owl Car Cam cost around four times more, there were better ones to know some extravagant extras to back the price.

Granulate on LTE.

The first one I would like to mention is the LTE, which comes out of the AT & T towers. The resolution of the video transmitted is incredibly low, but I guess that does not really matter, since you can download the video in full resolution if necessary. Owl made the decision not to include any expandable storage, in which most other dashcams are based only. Instead, we get an unspecified amount of storage, which contains clips that are automatically loaded into the cloud through the LTE connection.

The first 12 months of service are included for free in the price of $ 349, but it will cost $ 10 / month afterwards. It is not necessary to have the data connection afterwards, since the clips can be downloaded through Wi-Fi Direct like any other dashcam. At that point, however, the Owl Car camera would effectively be inferior to the much cheaper options, since it has limited storage and does not support microSD. Basically, you'll be stuck paying those $ 10 / month later.

However, that is not the only rate you should pay. You can watch 60 minutes of footage or "credits" per month, but more than that and you'll have to pay $ 5 for another 60 credits. Owl says you're unlikely to see many minutes of clips in a month, but there are definitely circumstances in which someone could review that. For what it's worth, I only had 30/60 credits left after a few days of testing.

There are several things for which the LTE is good, and the live transmission of the video transmissions to your phone is one of them. You can access the views both front and from the cabin, and you can turn on the LEDs so that the view in the car can see better what may be happening. A microphone button lets you talk to whoever or whatever is in the car, although I doubt anyone is engaging in a conversation with a thief. Unfortunately, it will not work if your car has been sitting for more than 24 hours, but it is better than nothing. Owl has stated that it is working in a 72-hour mode, but we have not seen anything on that front yet. And who knows how much more exhausting it will be for your car's battery?

LEDs can be useful in the dark.

The other main reason why I would like LTE to be in the case of a break-in. While a thief could cope with your camera and lose all your images with a normal dashcam equipped with microSD, the Owl Car Cam should be able to wake up, turn on the LEDs to see better inside. and upload the footage to the cloud before unplugging it. In addition, Owl will replace your stolen car camera if you can test it with police documents. I must bear in mind that if you have not paired your phone with the camera via Bluetooth, or if you have paired your phone but Bluetooth is off, this theft feature will be activated each time you enter your car and turn on the front LEDs. your eyes. Hell, even after I had paired my phone, the lights went on from time to time for some reason when I got in the car. This can be especially annoying at night.

GPS is not so rare to find in a dashcam, but it's still worth noting. It probably will not be very helpful if your car is stolen and you are trying to track it (it's likely that a thief is the first thing a thief unplugs), but it can be useful if you forget where you parked. The application uses Google Maps to show where the car is and where it is, which is quite convenient. Some other cameras can synchronize the GPS location with the saved clips, but unfortunately the car's camera can not do that.

24/7 support sounds good on paper, but really, I'm not sure how useful it is. You can choose between a live chat or a phone call, and the application says that you will normally connect to a representative in less than ten minutes. I had to use it twice; First, I had a problem with a new phone that could not connect to the camera, and the representative at the other end helped me resolve things in about 15 minutes by registering the camera in my account.

Mi The second time, however, was much less successful. I told the representative that I could not download the locally saved clips in full resolution, but could not provide any real help, instead of blaming my Pixel 2 XL for being the problem. Since the Pixel 2 (XL) is one of the three Android devices with which Owl tries, I'm not so sure about that. It also had response times of more than 10 minutes, and since the Owl application does not send notifications when a representative answers your query if you're not in the application, it ended up being a long conversation that leads to nothing.

The rest of the application has some interesting things. There is a "News" tab that contains memorable moments captured by others in Owl Car Cams. Owl pays $ 1,000 every day for one of those times, so I guess that's part of your $ 349 budget. You can also see the instruction manual here, which could be useful.

No. At the end of the day, the choice is yours, but I would not buy an Owl Car Cam for me. It does some things right, but at $ 349, I would expect everything to be top-notch. Owl's logic behind the use of the always-powered OBD port makes sense in theory, but if the camera will shut down after 24 hours (or shut down with your car's electrical system, like mine), the port does not really work. Do any good In addition, it will not work with cars prior to 1996, and it will occupy a valuable space occupied by other OBD devices that you may be using. I'm also not sure what the attractiveness of constant power is by OBD if the camera does not record constantly when the car is parked; it will continue to produce the same delayed signal of movement if the car is damaged while you are not there, since the dashcams are much cheaper.

$ 349 is a big part of the change for a dashcam, and after a year, you'll have to start paying $ 10 / month for LTE after a year, which could quickly accumulate or get to an agreement with Wi-Fi Direct, which is not funny since there is no microSD slot. I like how you can glimpse the face of a potential thief before the car's camera is disconnected and stolen thanks to the LTE, but in reality, we can not be 100% sure if the alerts will be activated. time to charge before the power is cut off. Also, that will not be much help if it's been 24 hours since you parked or the camera is off. The same goes for GPS; it will cease to be useful without power. In my opinion, a backup of the battery should really have been implemented for these scenarios. That would also have meant that a standard cigarette lighter could be used for power and not for the OBDII port.

The quality of the camera is good, but it is good on any 1440p dashcam, and there is no shortage of the ones on the market. It is good to have the voice command "OK Presto", but it is not so special that I could not live without it. My last complaint is with the way the car camera mount is inherently designed, which is definitely more likely to lead to obstruction of viewing tickets than other dashcams. Personally, I prefer that my dashcams save me from the tickets, do not cause them.

I like the idea of ​​a dashcam with a mobile data connection, but after using one, I'm not sure how plausible it is with data costs and battery concerns. It seems to me that it causes more problems (and a lot more money to spend) than convenience is worth.

Buy it:

  • If you drive frequently and want to be able to monitor your car remotely.
  • If you do not mind paying $ 349 + $ 10 / month after one year.
  • If you value the quality of the camera and also want a camera in the cabin.

Do not buy it:

  • Yes
  • If you are looking for a constant recording, even when it is parked.
  • If you are concerned about receiving tickets for vision obstruction.

Think that the owl would be a good fit for you? You can buy one at the official Owl site for $ 349.

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