Garmin GDR 35, `17,000
Garmin GDR 35, `17,000

Another eye on the road

A small video camera in your car can help you prove you were not at fault in an accident

You are approaching an intersection and the signal is green. But someone jumps their red signal. The inevitable happens: a loud crash. How do you prove that it was the other person who broke the law? With ever increasing cases of road rage and breaking of traffic rules, it is prudent to invest in a dashboard-mounted camera, which can provide critical proof if you are involved in an accident for no fault of yours.

The Garmin GDR 35 and the Transcend DrivePro 220 are two good dash-cam options. They can be mounted on the windscreen, just above the dashboard, using inverted mounts with the suction-cup method. The long power cable is useful for a clean installation. The DrivePro 220’s integrated battery lasts 30 minutes, and the GDR 35’s lasts 60 minutes.

The GDR 35 has a f/2.0 lens with a wide-angle 110-degree view. The lens captures clear 720 pixels and 1,080 pixels recordings, in bright sunlight and at night. One thing that really surprised us was how well the lens handled headlights of on-coming cars and even the reflection from registration plates—these momentary elements were subdued and didn’t spoil the recording quality or clarity.

The DrivePro 220 uses an f/1.8 lens with a wider 130-degree view. This records clear videos, irrespective of whether it is day or night.

The different processing hardware and lenses in the two dash-cams make a minor difference in extreme conditions, but that isn’t something most users will encounter. Both cameras can record clear videos even through a dirty windscreen. There is no blur even at fast speeds, and the motion is surprisingly smooth. We would recommend at least 720 pixels HD to be set as the default recording resolution. With standard definition, details such as the number plates of other cars aren’t very clear.

Transcend packs in a 16 GB card with the DrivePro 220—Garmin doesn’t do the same with the GDR 35. Users can add up to 64 GB of space. Even with a basic 8 GB card, the approximate recording capacity is 9 hours for WVGA (848x480 pixels) video, just over 4 hours for 720p (1,280x720 pixels) and just short of 2 hours for 1,080p (1,920x1,080 pixels). All recordings will automatically get the GPS coordinates and the date/time stamps.

The DrivePro 220 has the Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), which monitors the markings on the road and alerts the driver if he deviates from his lane. The Forward Collision Warning System (FCWS) monitors the distance from the car in front and gives a visual warning on the screen if you get too close to it. We found both these features quite useful, although the LDWS can be annoying in busy city traffic.

While it is extremely close between the two devices in terms of performance, the Transcend DrivePro 220 does a little better simply because of the slick smartphone app (DrivePro—free on Android and iOS), which allows you to connect to the 220 and transfer the recordings to your phone or tablet.

Garmin currently only offers a desktop app with the GDR 35 to view and copy recordings from the camera, and the interface is clunky.