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Lifewire / Danny Chadwick
Amazing picture quality
Useful mobile app
Remote for capturing still images
Requires a smartphone to use
The DDpai mini3 is more of a social media device than a security-camera-style dashcam. From its handsome design to the 4K-quality videos and social media features, it all seems centered around making this camera fun to use.
The mini3 by DDPai is unique among the dashboard cams we’ve tested because its primary function is as a social media and photography device, rather than as a basic security camera for your car. The picture quality was the best among the car cams we reviewed and is by far the most stylish and discreet. What really makes it stand out is the mobile app, which adds a social media element that makes owing this device a lot of fun.
The first thing you notice about the mini3 is that the camera housing is smooth and cylindrical. Other dash cams are very square and bulky, so right out of the box, you know this is a different kind of camera. It’s very sleek and feels like it belongs in the 21st century.
The way the dash cam attaches to your windshield is also unique. Instead of a suction cup or dash mount, the mini3 has a specially-designed bracket that you slide the camera module into. The mount goes behind your rearview mirror so it is all but invisible to you while you drive. That’s a big contrast from the other models we tested that must be put somewhere within your field of view.
The DDPai mini3 has 32GB of onboard storage, so there’s no need to worry about changing microSD cards and keeping track of adapters.
It can achieve this ultra-low profile because it has no display. Instead, it uses your smartphone as the display via its mobile app, which means you’re required you to have a mobile device to use it.
The DDPai mini3 has 32GB of onboard storage, so there’s no need to worry about changing microSD cards and keeping track of adapters. You can review your footage and manage your memory directly in the mobile app and through the computer. It’s good to have one less part to keep track of.
It’s also the only dashcam we tested that’s wireless, generating its own Wi-Fi network to connect to your smartphone or other mobile devices. This is really convenient because anyone that has the app can access the camera so long as they’re in the immediate vicinity of the car. Just remember to rename the Wi-Fi network and change the password for security reasons.
Like other dashcams we’ve reviewed, the mini3 comes equipped with a G-sensor and motion detection abilities. This allows it to act as a security guard for your car when you’re parked and as video backup in you’re ever in a traffic accident (although the Smart Parking Mode, which records while you’re parked, requires you to invest in DDPAI’s hard wire kit).
Another unusual feature is the ability to take still photography as you’re driving. The dashcam comes with a nifty remote control that’s shaped like an oversized bottle cap. If you see something you want to take a picture of, like a nice bit of scenery, push the remote’s button and the camera takes an extremely high-quality snapshot for you. You can also set it to take up to 30 seconds of video.
One of the downsides of this device is that it doesn’t allow you to adjust its loop recording feature. Other dash cams we tested let you choose to set the recordings at one, three, or five-minute intervals. With the mini3, all loop recordings are 1:37 seconds.
Perhaps the biggest downside to this dash cam is the fact that there is no battery, meaning it must be plugged into power at all times to record.
Another drawback is the sound. While it is by far the best sound recording quality we’ve encountered in a dashcam, it was often out of sync with what was happening on the screen.
Perhaps the biggest downside to this dash cam is the fact that there is no battery, meaning it must be plugged into power at all times to record. You have to buy a separate battery pack if you want to use the parking guard feature.
The user manual for the DDPAI mini3 is detailed enough that you’ll know what everything does and how to use it. It starts you off by prompting you to download the app, which will walk you through the process of connecting to the camera’s Wi-Fi and give you a tour of its features. After that, you’re ready to go—it only takes about 10 minutes to be comfortably familiar with the mini3.
The most complex part is installing the power cable since you have to conceal the wire inside your car’s roof and side panels. DDPai has a good tutorial on how to do this, and the camera comes with all the necessary tools right in the box (something lesser cameras lack).
What really sets the mini3 apart from other dashcams is its mobile app. The user manual instructs you to download the DDPai app before you use the camera for the first time. Once it’s on your phone and paired with your camera, the app’s “Camera” tab contains all the tools you need to watch the live feed, control the camera, review footage, and adjust settings—all the things that make a car cam useful.
The “Camera” tab also gives you the ability to do basic video edits like trim and crop footage. This is also where you can download any of the loop recordings you want to keep from being overwritten when the 32GB card gets full.
However, it’s the organizational tools and social media features that make the mini3 more useful and fun than any other dashcam we reviewed. The app’s “On the Road” tab contains a very basic social media experience that allows you to browse videos and pictures that people have shared from all over the world. There are posts from users in many different countries, which is great if you love to travel or just want to see beautiful and candid views of places you’ve never been.
The app’s “Albums” tab is where you can find and organize all the photos and videos that you take with the remote. In our testing, the video we captured played back in jaw-dropping quality. It also provided interesting statistics for the timeframe it captured, like how many left turns you took, how many times you changed lanes, accelerated, and decelerated. It even goes into detail about the g-forces on the car and the slope of the road you’re driving on.
The “Profile” tab is where you can set up an account to share your own driving experiences with the world. This isn’t necessary to use the camera or browse other people’s posts, but it’s a really unique social network—try trading Twitter for a week and see which one is more fun!
True to the promise of its design, the camera is par excellence. It can capture footage in 4K resolution as well as 1600p using an f/1.8 aperture that lets in more light. That, along with the camera’s high-capacity processor and image sensor, yields eye-popping detail, richness, and clarity. It is by orders of magnitude the highest-quality picture we’ve seen among the dashcams we’ve tested.
It can capture footage in 4K resolution as well as 1600p using an f/1.8 aperture that lets in more light.
Once it was installed and ready to go, we drove this dashcam through the cities, suburbs, mountains, forests, and red rocks of Utah. Because the camera is so well-hidden behind the rearview mirror, we often forgot it was there. But when we passed a particularly scenic lake or rock formation, it was natural to just reach down and push the remote button to snap a picture.
As of the time of this writing, you can pick up the DDPAI mini3 for about $130. For what you get out of this camera, we think this is a great value. Similarly-priced models we tested don’t nearly match the quality and utility you get from the mini3.
We also tested the mini3 alongside the Z-Edge Z3 Plus, which is a similarly-priced dashcam with more of a focus on security.
The Z3 Plus is square and boxy compared to the more stylish form of the mini3. It has an integrated three-inch view screen with physical controls, so you do not have to have a smartphone or tablet to access its most useful features. And although the quality of the picture is excellent, it’s nowhere near as detailed or clear as the mini3’s. But it does have collision detection and a “parking mode” that automatically records motion around your car like a security camera (without the extra hard-wiring kit that the mini3 requires).
In the end, these two dashcams serve slightly different purposes—if you want a device that’s strictly intended to document what happens to your vehicle as a form of protection, then the Z-Edge model is a good fit. But if you’re a frequent road-tripper who wants some fun extra features for recording your travels, then you’ll probably get a lot of enjoyment out of the mini3.
A surprisingly fun dashboard camera that’s perfect for people who want to share their adventures.
If you’re a road-tripper, travel vlogger, or plugged-in social media user, then the DDPAI mini3 is made for you. Not only is this dashcam stylish and discreet, it also captures beautiful photos and video of your travels that are perfect for sharing or simply saving to revisit down the road.
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