The Cobra CDR 820 is probably one of the smallest dash cams on the market yet still manages to pack in 1080P recording and a 1.5" screen. The whole camera unit measures just 1.8" tall and 1.8" wide so it's not much bigger than a CompactFlash memory card you might find in a DSLR. There are various buttons spread out across the device and a protruding lens up front.
Inside the Box
Like other Cobra dash cams the CDR 820 comes with a suction cup mount, 8GB micro SD card, cigarette lighter power cord, and mini USB cable. We found the cigarette cord a little too short for a neat wire tuck but that is typical of the Cobra dashcams which aren't really meant for hardwiring like the Blackvue or Finevu dash cams. While the suction cup is pretty sturdy, it does add a lot of bulkiness to the overall size of the device and looks out of place with such a small dash cam. It'd be great if Cobra could provide an alternative adhesive mount for those who really want to take advantage of this dash cam's small proportions although it seems like a universal tripod female end so perhaps it wouldn't be too hard to source one.
The small 1.5" LCD Screen is helpful for framing and making sure the camera is recording
While the Cobra CDR 820 doesn't have some of the high end features like GPS, WiFi, or Parking Mode, it makes up for this with a pretty decent sensor and neat form factor. It uses a 5MP sensor that supports 1080P video which is paired to a somewhat narrow 118° viewing angle lens. An internal G-sensor will also protect video files when it senses an impact so it won't get written over when the memory card loops. Although it comes with a 8GB card, the CDR 820 supports up to 32GB cards which would be good for a little under 4 hours of Full HD recording.
Sharp video with great sign legibility, click through and watch in 1080P!
What we liked most about the CDR 820 was it's video performance, which is more or less the same as the larger GPS-equipped CDR 840 that we were quite impressed with as well. The sharpness is great even in low-light recording although perhaps the contrast could have been adjusted for better dynamic range especially at night. As with the CDR 840, we have a similar complaint that the lens angle is a bit too narrow, particularly as you approach an intersection but most dash cams have some kind of trade off between lens sharpness for wide angle capturing. Overall the level of video quality you're getting at this low-mid range price point is still very good.
The small size and sharp video make the Cobra CDR 820 a compelling mid-range single channel dash cam. The video specs and performance are however quite comparable to the Blackvue DR3500 which is a little more money but offers a lot more protection thanks to it's parking mode capabilities, so that's definitely worth a look as well. Ultimately, as long as buyers are aware of the pros and cons we've listed, we think they'll be very happy with the CDR 820.
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