Dash Cam A118/B40 Review - Gadget Victims

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Dash Cam A118/B40 Review

The A118 (or B40 or AE-CC30 or even SG9665GM) could well be the final answer to the popular DashCamTalk question "Where did you mount the camera?"

It is built on the Novatek NTK96650 chipset and 3.5MP Aptina AR0330 sensor like the G50 reviewed earlier but introduces a new compact design that could make all the difference.

I suppose it is natural to prefer a non-permanent solution when trying a car camera for the first time and a suction mounted camera seems a good choice. But later I became convinced that a car camera was good and useful enough to deserve a permanent mounting solution.

Another trigger for this decision was the discovery of a problem with the suction pad: The best/most discrete location for me was on the dotted area of the windscreen and the camera didn't drop once in month, but one day I removed it and could never fix it back firmly anymore!

I discovered that, over time, the suction pad took the imprint of the dots, making it impossible to stick to anything!

The A118 is found at the price of 65€ (bundle with external GPS, 55€ without GPS)
The GPS module costs between 15~20€ if purchased separately .

My unit was received in November 2014 and came with what appears to be the latest available firmware at time of writing: B40.20140917.001.

The installation is simple and should not exceed 20 minutes, most of that time being used conceal the cabling. The rest is only a matter of sticking the flat plastic base on which the camera will then snap firmly. There's a piece of string provided in order to saw the sticker off the windscreen if ever needed. I just hope it won't take the black dots away with it and I'll wait for someone else to try it first.

Sliding the camera out of its base is easy and the battery give enough freedom to use it for taking plenty of additional snapshots and videos outside the vehicle.

The GPS takes under a minute to kick in from a cold start. Location and speed were accurate during my tests. In my case the GPS unit was mounted on the top left corner against the windscreen and this upside-down position is not recommended by the manufacturer ( should be placed face up on the dashboard ideally). So, test before. 
Video playback was perfectly gap-less with Registrator Viewer using the default 3 minutes length for Loop RecordingA recent version (at least 5.90) is necessary to correctly read the GPS data embedded in the MOV file

As seen before with the NTK96650, the 1920x1080@30fps is the only reasonable resolution for such chipset. The lower 720P offers a faster 60fps rate but the quality drop and excessive aliasing make the final result look terrible. The camera will give its best in FHD and at day time. A rainy Irish evening is quite a challenge for it (but I feel the same about it sometimes!).
FHD@30fps, click for full view
720p@60fps, click for full view

With the same 6G 170° lens and sensor as the G50 reviewed this summer the A118 does a slightly better job: the picture has less artefacts at night time, and HDR doesn't help much on that regard.

The A118 has been the first camera to adopt this strange design that turns out to be ideal. It's basically a G50 in a better box and with the GPS option. While it's no match for the Dome G90(1), it remains a very affordable and good quality product, and also a better alternative to the mini 0803 in my opinion.
I read  that some A118 had focus issue after exposure to high heat and I won't be able to confirm this because the heat waves we face here during the Irish summer hardly ever exceed 25 degrees.

(1) CDV300X is a higher spec (and budget) model based on the same concept but with components found in the G90 (Ambarella A7).  

- Good video quality in FHD
- Wide 170° view angle
- Good sound recording quality
- Gap-less recording
- Fast and accurate GPS 
- The battery provide a comfortable reserve of power for reviewing records or taking snapshots when unplugged (around 30 minutes). 
- Complete and intuitive video playback controls
- Small size 72x52x43mm

Not so good:
- Tends to struggle with brightness changes (typical NTK96650)
- REC/Power/MIC LED indicator are too bright
- Durability? (time will tell)

See also:
Techmoan review
DashCamTalk forum

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