Dash-Cam Review: The Swann DriveEye

dash-camThe proliferation of Russian dash-cam videos on YouTube has confirmed that Russia is just the craziest. Explosions. Comets. Military tanks driving on public roads. People throwing themselves at stopped cars hoping for an insurance settlement for being run over. Drivers running over said insurance fraudsters anyways. The list goes on. Thanks to insurance fraud rates and other factors, everyone in Russia has a dash-cam.

Swann Drive Eye Dash-Cam: The Review

I have a dash-cam now, too. It’s the Swann DriveEye, and though I’m not Russian and I live in a place where the craziest thing I’ll likely see in the course of a day involves a raccoon waddling off with some stuff from my garbage, I hooked it up to give it a try.dash-cam screen view

First up, if you’re checking this dash-cam unit out, note that it’s tiny. The packaging and images on said packaging might make it look bigger. I was expecting the DriveEye to be about the size of a Smartphone, which could be a visibility issue when mounting it to a slim windsheild. Turns out, it’s only a bit bigger than a 9-volt battery, and you can mount it just about anywhere, even behind your rearview mirror, where you can hardly see it. The unit hangs upside down, with the mount above, supporting low-profile mounting options. Software flips the videos right-side up easily if required, depending on your mounting needs.

The unit’s small size belies its extensive feature content. In addition to recording at full high-definition and running on a removable micro SD card, it also has a built-in sensor that detects sudden acceleration, deceleration and impacts. There’s a mic too, so users can record their own narration over video recordings.

The DriveEye operates on the premise of continual recording.  When you plug it into your power outlet via USB, your ignition turns on the power, which causes the camera to power up, and recording to start on its own. This takes about 1 second when the car is started. Translation? If you’re moving, the DriveEye is recording.

Recording generates three-minute files, one after the other, with no gap. Once the memory card is full, the files are over-written, earliest first. Recording is constant and automatic, though an accident puts things on lock-down.

If you get hit by a Camry or plow into a truck that’s just cut you off, the DriverEye’s sensor picks up on the sudden movement and automatically protects the footage thirty seconds before that movement, and keeps recording to that protected file for 30 seconds after. The completed file is then locked in: it can’t be over-written or deleted on the camera, and needs to be removed manually. As such, any recorded evidence you collect is fully protected. Additionally, if you see anything worthy of recording, perhaps like a Russian space-comet blasting across the sky, you simply press a button, and the ’30 seconds before / 30 seconds after’  footage lockdown is activated manually.

Thanks to the built-in battery, the DriveEye can continue recording even after the car is shut off, running on battery power while you’re in a store or restaurant. If you, say, back into your parking space and get hit by another vehicle while you’re gone, this ensures license plate data and other video evidence is captured and available.

dash-cam size profile

All interfaces are fairly logical in layout and easily navigated once you learn the two-button system for menu manipulation, which makes the learning curve minimal. There’s a screen on the camera to review footage whenever you like, an HDMI output for easy TV playback, and an available Smartphone app for watching footage and controlling the DriveEye from your Smartphone, if you like.

This Smartphone app powers added security features enabled by so-called Cloud Mode functionality. Since the DriveEye has a built-in battery and built-in WiFi, and since you probably have WiFi coverage in your driveway where you park, you can effectively turn it into a remotely-viewable security camera. Using the DriveEye, an internet connection, and the Smarphone app, you can view live footage remotely over WiFi—either entirely over your home network, or remotely via the cloud, after the feature is set up.

In any case, the high-resolution recording and wide-angle lens lay a foundation that turns the DriverEye into an action cam, too. Engage the action cam mode, and you can call the shots, recording laps of your favorite weekend racing course for future reference, or documenting road-trip shenanigans with your buddies. Should you use action camera mode without plugging the DriveEye in, battery life of about twenty minutes should be adequate for quick clips while remotely mounted, though recording is continual when the unit is powered.
Used at a local drag strip, the always-on DriveEye proved handy. Simply tap the ! button in Dash Cam mode after a pass down the strip, and the previous 30 seconds, including your launch away from the tree, are captured. The wide-angle lens captures the tree, and your fellow racer in the other lane, if applicable. Plus, since the camera is already mounted and recording anyways, recording your weekend drag-strip passes or road-course laps is, literally, as simple as hitting a button or two.

Three other notes. First, I use a lot of camera gear, both still and video, in the course of a week, and the DriverEye stands tall with the best of that gear for resolution and playback clarity, despite its miniscule size. Second, the wide-angle lens is fantastic for capturing evidence, even peripherally, on its own, but remember that it’s also mounted a foot or more ahead of the driver’s own eyeballs, enabling a clear and very wide view of the entire forward driving environment. Recording quality at night is very good as well. Third, if you like, you can have a local car audio shop install an always-on power outlet for a few bucks, if you want the DriveEye to record constantly while your car is parked, too.

My only complaint after a week of testing was the inconsistency of the g-sensor to trigger recording after aggressive swerving or braking. Sudden and violent evasive maneuvers on an empty road saw footage locked down about half of the time. So, though the DriveEye will record on its own in the event of an impact, locking down video of near misses that don’t result in an impact should be done manually, by tapping on the ! button, just in case.

Swann DriveEye dash-camAll said, the Swann DriveEye should make a handy investment for someone after a value-added DashCam that offers solid recording quality, security camera functionality, and makes a fantastic always-on action-cam for weekend racers, too.

Pricing from about $180 USD, with more information at www.swann.com.


Here’s a video clip showing the quality of the DriveEye’s footage, and me nearly getting cut off in a parking lot.