PLEASE NOTE: the DR490-2CH has been discontinued. Its sucessor is the BlackVue DR590-2CH
For the better part of 3 years, the BlackVue 2 channel dash cams dominated the marketplace. With the DR650GW-2CH and DR650S-2CH models, they offered a complete solution with front and rear protection as well as a unique WiFi app. The video quality at the time was decent as there weren't too many real competitors offering this sort of package. In the past year or so though, we've seen the emergence of a number of 2 Channel devices that offer similar WiFi apps and also Full HD/Full HD capabilities. Ever since the Thinkware F770 was released, the BlackVue devices lost a fair bit of market share as customers demanded better video quality, especially from the rear camera. With BlackVue's newest 2 channel dash cam, the DR490-2CH, we can see that they want to take back some of that customer-base.
What do we think?
Perhaps we should first mention that the DR490-2CH is not a direct replacement for the DR650S-2CH. It doesn't offer any form of WiFi connectivity and GPS is an optional external extra. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as it keeps the price point fairly low and the front unit is a bit smaller as well. The design of BlackVue dash cams have always appealed to customers and the DR490 is no different. It has a premium feel to it and a very discreet look. While it's not a revolutionary device, the DR490-2CH price point makes it an incredible value as it offers parking mode and Full HD/Full HD video at such an affordable price point.
How's the video?
Upon first reviewing the video, it was clear that the DR490-2CH offers a better image than the older DR650S-2CH. The rear camera on the DR650 was rarely able to pick up license plates even at very low speeds. With the DR490, the rear camera picks up a decent amount of detail even at night through a tint. When we look at the hardware used on the DR490-2CH, it's easy to see why. It utilizes the new and improved Sony STARVIS line of CMOS sensors which we're only starting to see on flagship dash cams. We're impressed that BlackVue can offer the Sony STARVIS sensor at a price point just above $200 USD.
One thing that the DR650S-2CH always lacked was memory card partitioning. This is an important feature that helps protect event files from being overwritten by insignificant videos. The DR490-2CH brings this feature back to the BlackVue lineup and even lets you configure it through the settings. We also like that they switched to a 2.5mm rear camera cable as it appears to be a lot more durable than the coaxial used on previous 2 channel BlackVue cameras.
What's it missing?
As mentioned earlier, the DR490-2CH doesn't have a WiFi feature. This means that if you need to change settings or watch any videos, you'll need to take the Micro SD card out. For some users, this isn't that big of an issue since you generally only need to do the setup process once. That being said, retrieving videos is a bit of a hassle for two main reasons: The front and rear footage is stitched into one file and you'll need to go through the BlackVue viewer to split them up. The other is that the .AVI file it records in is not as universally compatible as the .MP4 file type used on the DR650S-2CH and other premium 2 channel dash cams. You may need to convert the files as not all programs support AVI.
Overall the DR490-2CH offers a compelling package. You give up a bit of convenience compared to WiFi enabled dash cams but you get great video quality at a price point traditionally reserved for 720P/720P dash cams. It's a simple and well built device that offers incredible value for first-time dash cam buyers. Those that want the best might want to wait for a new WiFi dash cam from BlackVue or consider other Full HD/Full HD devices from other manufacturers.