REVIEW – Dash cameras have almost reached “necessity” level these days. I won’t be surprised to see them become standard equipment much the way back up cameras have in the past couple of years. They provide security and protect you in case of an accident or even provide a little entertainment should something odd happen while out on the road. Last Christmas, my mom got me a camera for my truck and it’s been very useful so I jumped at the chance to review the Z-Edge Z3 Pro dual lens car camera to use in my wife’s car.
What is it?
The Z3Pro is a windshield mount car camera that has a forward and rear facing camera to capture both the road in front of you and the view of the interior of the vehicle.
What’s in the box?
- Z-Edge dash cam
- User Guide
- USB Data Cord for downloading from mount to PC
- USB Power Cord
- Warranty Offer
- Micro SD Card 32 GB
- Windshield Mount
- Power Adapter
- Sticker Clips for power cord
- Cord Tool to squeeze cord behind headliner
The camara is a full HD 1920 x 1080P WDR (wide dynamic range) with a 150 degree field of view. The display is 2″ diagonal measurement LED screen. The camera also has a microphone that will record the audio if you choose.
Design and features
The Z3Pro provides an advanced camera for both the front and rear facing lenses, providing full HD in both directions. There are a few optional features to deactivate or adjust if you prefer: Motion Detection, Vibration Detection and Loop Recording. As is fairly standard these days, the loop recording uses the 32GB of available memory to record and then re-record continuously over the oldest unprotected data. Therefore, if you have something that you want to keep, you’ll need to either “protect” the file or download the file to a PC somewhat quickly. You can adjust the settings to record in 1, 3 or 5 minute segments. Motion Detection will activate the camera, even while the vehicle isn’t in use, to record motion detected outside the car. Vibration Detection will also record a snippet if the camera picks up the vehicle/camera being moved or shaken while not in motion – for instance, if someone is trying to break into your car or if your car is hit while parked.
As you start and turn off your car, the camera powers on and off as it’s provided power. Additionally, the default settings have the display showing the front view and then a picture-in-picture style display showing the rear facing camera. You do have the option to show only the front facing camera on the display, however, it will still record both cameras while in use. It does save each file as a FRONT and BACK recording. Even while recording, the display will turn itself off to conserve energy but can be woken up with the touch of one of the buttons.
The camera has 4 IR LED lights and supports night vision recording as well, so even in low light or night time driving, you’ll still get a quality recording. Additionally, the camera records GPS data so when you playback the videos on a Mac or Windows PC, it will display the data as well as your location on Google Maps.
Finally, the rear interior view is ideal for those who use their vehicles as a ride-share vehicle – however, I don’t know the ethical ramifications of recording passengers with or without their permission so I won’t get into this topic in this review.
The initial set up involves taking the product components from the box and assembling the camera, mounting hardware and cord to prepare the camera to be mounted in the car via the simple suction cup mount common to GPS and dash cameras.
Then you follow a simple menu to set up the language, date and time settings.
Finally, you run the power cable up and around the windshield in the path you desire to get the power cord to the USB power port on the provided power adapter that you plug into your standard vehicle power port. While we used the adhesive clips to attach the cord along the windshield, they do provide a tool to try and pry/squeeze the cord under the headliner. Our headliner had a soft feel to it, and we afraid to damage the headliner with the prying tool.
The camera has performed as expected throughout the three weeks it has been in use. It provides recordings of our trips throughout the city and occasionally picks up on movements while parked in our driveway or in parking lots – typically someone walking to their vehicle along side or in front of our car.
Unlike the camera I have in my truck, this camera does not have wifi or an app to access the videos. This then requires you to either remove the micro SD card and use an adapter to plug into your PC or take the entire camera off the windshield mount and plug into your PC via the provided USB data cable. If you find yourself in an accident or witness to an accident, you do end up then trying to show anyone the video on a small 2″ screen rather than being able to immediately download to your phone and share with officials or others involved in the accident.
The menu buttons take some getting used to as well. On many occasions, while simply trying to navigate the various menus we took unintentional selfies, which while hilarious was also rather frustrating. It would be highly advisable to keep the user guide in the vehicle, as there are also many different symbols that pop up on the status bar across the top of the display.
Finally, the performance of the software and interface with the camera unit is not the greatest. My first attempt at downloading videos involved using the provided USB cable to plug the camera unit directly into my laptop and desktop, neither would work properly and I had to go out and buy a MicroSD card reader to get the application to recognize the video and play them. However, taking the MicroSD card out of the camera is actually easier than taking the camera out of the car and plugging it in via the USB cable. Here is a screenshot of the software with a video loaded:
As you can see, it provides quite a bit of data: date & time stamp, speed, longitude & latitude along the route, current speed, max speed on the recording, average speed on the recording, & total distance for the recording. Additionally, it provides a google map overlay in the upper right corner that shows the start and tracks the route along the recording. The audio is very clear, picking up any conversation, noise or music playing within the cabin.
And here is an example showing the rear facing camera:
So, I’m not sure why but it does seem that some times the camera doesn’t get all the data points, map and speed info loaded when you open the video as you can see above. This could be a problem if you’re trying to prove something to an officer or otherwise and that data would support your claim. There is what looks to be a data file created with each recording so perhaps the data is still there, just doesn’t get picked up by the software when opening the file for some reason or another. That starts getting into technical info that I’m not educated enough to deduce.
I was able to upload the video directly from the MicroSD to YouTube. For this exercise, I selected a video where we had turned the audio off on a trip to the north side of town:
Finally, here is a look at the night time recording – which I was very surprised to find was extremely clear and well defined.
Not too bad for a trip to the store, I left the audio on this time to give an impression of the audio quality.
What I like
- Full HD video
- Rear Facing Camera providing additional video coverage in cabin
- Protection of videos to keep from being recorded over
- Easy physical setup
- IR LED lights and night time recording
What needs to be improved
- Access to videos – it would be great to have an app with wifi access to the videos instantly.
- Menu navigation – the software takes some getting used to and could be clarified with clearer details in the user manual.
- Power Cord – as with any of these cameras, having to route the cord and clip it around the edges of the windshield isn’t very aesthetically pleasing – not sure what the remedy would be outside of long life rechargeable batteries but until these style cameras are intrinsic to new vehicles, this is a problem we’ll all face. You can use the prying tool to squeeze the cord under the headliner if you choose.
While we enjoy having this camera for the added security and safety features, I do not find that it provides enough value for the price point. There are equal quality cameras on the market at a lower price that provide much more efficient and convenient wifi data downloading and reviewing of video. For the price of this unit, I could buy two units like the one I have in my other vehicle & face one to the front and one to the rear, then download the footage to my phone without getting out of the car – and have some money left over. While originally struggling with the software, I did end up finding it easier to use once I got the MicroSD card reader – and the data it provides would be highly useful in any kind of investigation should it be needed. If you have no basis of comparison, I would imagine a buyer would be pretty impressed with the results of this camera, especially if they were unaware that wifi capable models are available. But again, you’re limited by having to wait until you get to a laptop or device to download/upload the content for whoever may need it. Overall, I think it’s a good camera system with great features, at just a bit too high of a price. So, if you see a price drop or see it go on sale, jump on it.