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Thinkware U1000 In-Depth Follow-Up

Even before the Thinkware U1000 hit the shelves in October 2019, it was one of the most talked-about dashcams of the year. With high-quality 4K Ultra HD recording resolution and best-in-class parking mode features, the U1000 has topped every Best Dash Cam of the 2019 list.

questions from our customers and viewers alike, so feel that it is time for a follow-up review.

Recap

What we loved about the U1000 back in September 2019:

  • Eye-popping 4K Ultra HD @30FPS with the option of 2K QHD @60FPS from the front-facing camera
  • 150° wide viewing angle
  • Advanced video enhancement technologies including Advanced Wide Dynamic Range, Intelligent Automatic Exposure and Super Night Vision 2.0
  • Real-time vehicle tracking with push notifications via Thinkware Cloud
  • Driving and Parking Incident Notifications with a 20-second clip of footage
  • Extended parking surveillance coverage with Energy Saving Parking Mode 2.0
  • Smart road cameras and driver safety alerts
  • A new, modern design

Discover all the specs and features of the U1000.

What we have to say about the U1000 now

And now that we’ve had a few months to further test the dash cams inside and out, as well as gather more customer feedback, here’s what we think of the U1000:

Recording Resolution: Front & Back Cameras

The recording resolution of the U1000 continues to impress us day after day. When the U1000 first hit the shelves, many people were skeptical about its 4K recording capabilities, and often compared it to the BlackVue DR900S series.

But before we jump into any comparison wars, we need to state that the BlackVue DR900S was released in late-2017. With advancements in image sensors and processors in the last 1-2 years, the newer 4K dash cams, like the Thinkware U1000, have better technologies that were simply not available back in 2017.

This is particularly true when we look at the low-light and night time footage between the two cameras. Thanks to improved camera hardware and Sony Starvis image sensors, the U1000’s Super Night Vision 2.0 is impressively good at capturing light, producing crisp and clean low-light and nighttime video. We also find that the U1000 does a better job of capturing small but important details, like license plates. So while the DR900S is still churning out daytime footage videos in 4K-clarity thanks to the higher bitrate, it does fall a bit short when comparing low-light and nighttime footage.

The rear camera is where the U1000 stands above the competition - Thinkware is the first manufacturer to push out a 2K QHD rear camera and thus making the U1000 the highest resolution dual-channel system on the market, with a 4K UHD Front Camera and a 2K QHD Rear Camera. The other 4K dash cams currently on the market (the BlackVue DR900S-2CH and the VIOFO A129 Pro Duo) only comes with a 1080p Full HD rear camera.

Many customers and viewers have also asked if the 2K rear camera is anywhere as good as the 2K QHD Front Camera of the Q800PRO, the previous Thinkware flagship. Frankly, they are essentially the same camera - Thinkware basically took the Q800PRO’s front camera hardware, gave it a new casing and made it a rear camera for the U1000. So, if you’ve been a fan of the Q800PRO, you won’t be disappointed with the U1000’s rear camera.

Smart Road Cameras and Driver Safety Alerts

Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS)

Forward Collision Warning System
(FCWS/ uFCWS)

Red Light Camera Alert

Speed Camera Alert

We have always been a fan of the safety camera alerts on the Thinkware models. Just like the Q800PRO and the F800 Pro, the U1000 offers an audible alert for speed cameras as well as red light cameras - like "speed camera in 300 yards, the speed limit is 70 miles per hour."

And whilst you are driving, the lane departure warning system pings if you change lanes, or get too close to the car in front of you whilst coming to a stop in traffic. It will also send a ping if the car in front of you slows down when you are driving at speed.

We have had customers tell us that these alerts are a bit on the chatty side, and we’ve also had customers tell us the alerts need to be louder and chattier, so it’s a bit of a toss-up there. But, we do agree that Thinkware dash cams can be quite chatty on startup, and unfortunately, we can’t individually turn them on or off.

Overall, we can say that the ADAS on Thinkware has been quite accurate and it does come in handy more often than expected. It’s a waste not to use the ADAS on the U1000 - after all, it’s the only 4K dash cam that comes with this feature. If you have yet to make use of the function, give it a try and see it yourself.

Extended Parking Surveillance with Radar Module

The U1000 supports several parking mode options, including the Energy Saving 2.0, Time-lapse, and Buffered Parking Mode. But what makes an already-powerful parking mode even better is the RADAR Sensor.

The RADAR Sensor is an optional radar module that you can purchase separately and hook it up to your U1000 setup. The radar module is designed to enhance the U1000’s Energy Saving Mode with buffered recording, something that is an “either-or” previously.

So, instead of relying on the U1000’s own built-in motion detectors, you will be using the RADAR module’s ultra-high-frequency radar detection technology. You will still get a 20-second footage clip, but instead of post-incident, you will get a 10-second pre- and 10-seconds post-incident, in other words, “buffered” footage. The RADAR also allows your dash cam to stay “asleep” longer, which significantly conserves power usage, giving you a true energy-saving performance. Pair it with the Cellink NEO battery pack or the Thinkware iVOLT BAB-50, to extend the parking mode run-time up to 170 hours - that’s 7 days!

Note that the RADAR Sensor only covers the front of the vehicle, and we have had viewers asking for all-around RADAR coverage. While the option to add a RADAR Sensor to the rear camera is currently unavailable, it makes perfect sense for it and we are working with Thinkware on this, so we have our fingers crossed!

Thinkware Cloud

We recently released a video on the Thinkware Cloud that gives you an overview of the various Cloud features that come with the U1000, Q800PRO and F800 Pro. We have had many customers praising the Cloud features and push notifications.

In order to take advantage of Live View and the other Thinkware Cloud alerts, you need to have your U1000 permanently connected to the Internet. If you use a mobile WiFi device or an car-embedded router as a hotspot, then you could configure it to stay permanently connected to the dash cam. Whether you're using your smartphone's WiFi hotspot or a Mi-Fi device, you will still need to download the free Thinkware Cloud mobile app from the App Store or the Google Play Store, and then use your smartphone's WiFi hotspot to establish the initial connection and then proceed to connect to the Mi-Fi hotspot. Unfortunately, there are no clear instructions from Thinkware on this process outside of the troubleshooting tip.

It is also known that the smartphone’s Bluetooth or other Bluetooth devices in the car may interfere with the WiFi connectivity. If you are having connectivity problems, you may want to shut down all Bluetooth devices when you are using your smartphone to connect to the U1000.

*Interested in learning what the Cloud can do for fleet managers? We have an article on that!

Installing the U1000

As far as the installation process goes, the U1000 is pretty much the same as previous Thinkware models. However, one thing to note is that, because of the new elongated design, the U1000 is not as easy to mount in an aesthetically pleasing way in vehicles that have a large rain sensor. And the job gets trickier if you are adding in a RADAR sensor. The RADAR sensor needs to be mounted alongside the U1000 front camera, and doing so also increases the surface area the camera plus radar unit requires, resulting in a less stealthy setup. To get around this, you typically would have to mount the camera on the passenger side of the rain sensor and then mount the radar on the driver side. And if your vehicle has a very oblique windshield, you may need to swivel the front camera lens to get the best view of the road ahead.

Need help installing the U1000? If you are in the Greater Vancouver area, why not book a Dash Cam Installation Service appointment at our Service Centre in Richmond? Our skilled technicians have installed the U1000 in many of our customers’ vehicles to date, including Japanese and domestic passenger cars and pickup trucks, as well as exotic supercars. We have equipped the McLaren 570S, the Lamborghini IP570, Ferrari 458, Rolls Royce Ghost, Porsche GT3, Lamborghini Aventador, McLaren 12C, the Rolls Royce Cullinan, and many more with a U1000.

Firmware Update

Thinkware released a firmware update for the U1000 - 1.00.09 - recently that addresses the G-Sensor sensitivity that many users have voiced their concerns about. The new update allows users to set the G-sensor sensitivity to 1.5 and 2 (previously 3 and 4).

What does that mean?

Previously, the setting for the U1000’s Strong Impact Notification While Parked” IMPACT 1 was a 3G force, and IMPACT 2 was a 4G force. A G-sensor level of 3 or 4G force is equivalent to the force of an earthquake. In other words, unless your vehicle was hit by another vehicle or object at the force of an earthquake, you will not be receiving any Strong Impact Notification While Parked alerts from your dash cam. Unfortunately, we haven’t had the chance to test that out yet, but when we do, we will give you all an update then. But kudos to Thinkware for listening to their users.

Common Customer Questions & Feedbacks

We would like to end this follow-up review with several customer questions and feedback.

1. Image quality: Thinkware U1000 vs. VIOFO A129 Pro

Yes, this question comes up a lot and some viewers have commented that the VIOFO A129 Pro delivers a better 4K image quality than the U1000.

Video quality depends on a lot of factors, it could be something as technical as the image sensors and processors, or as simple as a better microSD card or a cleaner windshield. Even the device you are using to view the footage video somewhat makes a difference.

Our stance remains that you purchase the Thinkware U1000 for the overall features, like a 2K QHD rear camera, Advanced Driver Assistance System, true parking mode, smart camera alerts, strong cloud features, the ability to use ultra-high-frequency radar motion detection, etc. and not just for the 4K image quality.

Our Recommendations: If your priority is solely a sharp 4K video of the road ahead, then checking out the VIOFO A129 Pro or even the BlackVue DR900S is what we would do, too. However, if you are in the market for a best all-round dash cam, then the Thinkware U1000 is still our go-to recommendation.

2. Scalability: Adding a Rear Camera and the RADAR Sensor to the Single Channel Front-Only Camera

When Thinkware first launched the U1000, it came in two buying options: a Single-Channel Front-Only camera and a Dual-Channel Front-plus-Rear camera system. In a way, it was a an "either-or" situation, with no optional rear camera you can purchase separately and if you want to beef up your Single-Channel Front-Only with a rear camera, you were pretty much out of luck.

But that's now all in the past - the U1000 Rear Camera will be available at BlackboxMyCar very shorty, if not already by the time you read this review. If you currently have the Single-Channel U1000, you can now add on a rear camera to capture comprehensive front-and-rear footage.

Our Recommendations: If you are still in the research stage, we recommend the Dual-Channel variant right off the bat. With the Dual-Channel, you get both the front and rear cameras, as well as a bunch of freebies: Thinkware Hardwiring Kit and Thinkware CPL Filter.

The RADAR Sensor is compatible with both the Single-Channel and Dual-Channel systems.

3. Stock memory card

The U1000 comes with a stock 32GB microSD card. As we all know, that’s more than a tad too small for 4K. Like the Q800PRO, the U1000 records in 1-minute increments but its 4K resolution bumps the file size up significantly. Add in the rear 2K footage and your total data per minute is over 300mb. The stock 32GB SD card will give you about 90 mins of footage if you’re recording both front and rear.

The maximum SD card size for the U1000 is 128GB, which will save 10 hours of front camera footage or about 6.5 hours of front and rear footage.

Our Recommendations: Get an extra 128GB SD card and keep the stock 32GB as a backup card.

4. IR or 3-Channel Setup

It seems that many customers and viewers are interested in a 3-Channel setup using the U1000 Dual-Channel, or wondering if there is a compatible IR cameras for the U1000 for in-cabin recording. Unfortunately, there is no U1000-specific IR cameras at this time and the U1000 is not compatible with existing Thinkware IR models. We will be working on this with Thinkware and will keep you posted!

Our Recommendations: If you are looking for a 4K UHD system with in-cabin recording capabilities, perhaps pair the a U1000 Single-Channel with the BlackVue 2-Channel IR system, like the BlackVue DR590W-2CH IR. This setup will give you 4K UHD capture of the road ahead, and a Full HD capture of the traffic behind as well as in-cabin.

5. Heat Resistance

Due to the fact that the U1000 has yet to go through a full summer heat cycle, there hasn’t been much opportunity for any real heat testing of the U1000. However, we have customers in the hot and humid southern states and many of them have reported that the U1000 is more heat-resistant than the other 4K models on the market. After all, Thinkware dash cams are known for their reliability in heat conditions.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is Thinkware continues to raise the bar. The U1000’s 4K video capture, smart-features, and energy-saving are impressive and definitely set the standard.

Thinkware U1000 In-Depth Follow-Up

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