Eyes On the Road: Swann Navigator HD Dash Camera Review

Swann Navigator HD Dash Camera
The Swann Navigator HD Dash Camera. Swann

I can’t see Russia from my house. But I do know that dash cams are apparently a big deal over there. Chalk it up to insurance scammers, law enforcement concerns and the need for solid evidence should you ever be involved in some incident that requires some legal wrangling.

In contrast, dash cams aren’t as big in countries such as the United States, for example. Then again, that doesn’t mean they don’t have their use.

At least, that’s what I told myself as I installed the Swann on my windshield for its maiden voyage on a gloomy, overcast day with mild showers.

“I wonder what kinds of awesome footage I’ll be getting?” I thought to myself as I pressed the Navigator HD’s suction attachment to my windshield.

Turns out my daily commute to work isn’t the most exciting thing in the world. In fact, the only excitement was when the camera fell off a couple of minutes in, resulting in a few seconds of exclusive footage of my, uh, lap area. IDA Awards, here I come.

Then again, the purpose behind the Navigator HD isn’t capturing glorious high-definition footage like a GoPro for public consumption. As with the cameras on the Swann Xtreem Gravity Pursuit 1080p drone or the Soocoo S60 WiFi Sports Action Camera, the video from the Navigator HD has that budget look marked by a somewhat muddy quality that leans more toward the blue spectrum and lacks warmth.

Instead, the raison d’etre behind this camera is as equally boring as my daily drive to work, though, potentially just as important. That would be video documentation in case you find yourself, unfortunately, involved in an accident.

In that sense, the Navigator HD does a pretty solid job. For starters, the 1080p fisheye lens not only provides good camera coverage but also good detail for making out plate numbers before it.

The camera also throws in extra features that could prove useful as evidence for insurance or law enforcement, such as GPS location and speed tracking, which gets embedded in the video at certain speeds for example. The camera’s sensors also can detect when you’ve been involved in a crash and automatically protects the video that was being taken leading to the accident. Otherwise, you can also protect videos from deletion manually. Taking photos is possible while the camera is recording video as well.

Setup, meanwhile, is a snap. If you plug the camera into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter socket or USB port, it will automatically power on and start recording. Turning off your car also makes the camera shut down after 10 seconds. By activating its motion sensor, it will also automatically take footage during times when your car is parked. For low-light situations, you have the option of bumping up exposure by two levels for added sensitivity.

The camera records to a microSD card of up to 32GB capacity, which it sadly does not come with so you’ll have to furnish your own. Its default setting has it recording videos in five-minute increments, after which it will start overwriting the oldest video should it fill up all available space.

To save your videos to your computer, just connect the device via USB or take out the microSD and connect that via an SD Card or USB adapter. You can also view videos on the device itself, which has a playback function.

Speaking of playback, the user interface for the camera isn’t the most intuitive one out there, which is a similar issue I ran into with the SwannSecure home monitoring system. As such, I recommend reading the included manual or checking it online to figure out how to delete videos or change some camera settings. You’d at least want to familiarize yourself with its features as it throws in several extras, like the ability to use it as a webcam or enabling a mode that detects driver fatigue, for example.

In addition to its inelegant UI, other downsides include a dangling wire when plugged to your car’s lighter or USB ports, which you’ll likely be using a lot. That’s because battery life for the camera is just 15 minutes in HD, which is enough for just a short one-way trip. I also had issues with having the device recognized by my work computer when attempting to access its videos so I can transfer them. Lastly, pricing is a tad high with a suggested retail price of $149.99.

Overall, however, the Swann Navigator HD Dash Camera is a solid dash cam that comes with plenty of features. If you’re considering getting a dash cam and don’t mind the price, this one can be worth looking into.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Official site: http://www.swann.com/



Jason Hidalgo is About.com’s Portable Electronics expert. Yes, he is easily amused. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhidalgo and be amused, too.