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MEGATech Reviews: Transcend DrivePro 520 Car Video Recorder
How do you make a name for yourself in the increasingly crowded dashcam market? How about including GPS, WiFi and a dual lens design to boot? Carpool karaoke, here we come!
Pros
  • Unique dual camera design
  • Loads of features
  • Surprisingly good audio quality
Cons
  • Video quality could be improved
  • Large design can be obtrusive
  • Stuttering playback in mobile app
8Overall Score

What's that? You thought dual camera configurations were reserved only for smartphones? Think again. Perfect for all the selfie-obsessed drivers on the road (please don't take selfies while behind the wheel), the Transcend DrivePro 520 Car Video Recorder is a fully-featured dashcam with one very notable highlight: it actually boasts two cameras instead of one. Is this useful or is it just a gimmick?

Transcend's Got All the Bells and Whistles

MEGATech Reviews: Transcend DrivePro 520 Car Video Recorder

At its most basic level, the DrivePro 520 is your standard issue dashcam. It offers a 130-degree wide angle view on the front, automatic loop recording, and full HD 1080p video, along with a motion G-sensor to detect impact and an emergency button on the bottom to save the current clip and protect it from being overwritten. They've also tossed in a 32GB microSDHC Class 10 UHS-I memory card for good measure.

This car video recorder separates itself from the more entry-level end of the pack by boasting integrated GPS and Wi-Fi, the latter of which is used to connect to a mobile app for wireless downloads and streaming. There aren't any of the fancy safety features, like lane guidance or fatigue detection, but you do get this unique dual lens configuration. The front camera stares forward as usual, while the back camera rotates around a full 180 degrees to record what's happening inside the car.

To mount the dashcam to your windshield, you are offered the choice between two separate SKUs. Pictured here is the version with a suction cup mount. The other version offers double-sided adhesive tape. Watch my unboxing video and feature overview for a closer look.

Design and Layout

MEGATech Reviews: Transcend DrivePro 520 Car Video Recorder

A few things struck me about the design choices Transcend made with this dashcam. First, it is physically larger than some of the other units I have reviewed in the past. It's almost a square in shape; the added height (relative to its width) is immediately striking. I would have preferred a more compact design.

The main connections are found along the right side of the dashcam (when viewed from inside the car). That's where you find the microSD memory card slot and the micro-USB port for connecting the 12V power cable. There are a couple of speakers on top and a red "emergency" button on the bottom.

An unfortunate curiosity is that the front lens is fixed in position. If you want to adjust your view, up or down, left or right, you have to move the entire dashcam. That's rather inconvenient and it is further exacerbated by the fact that you've still got the rear (or inward) facing camera too. Achieving the perfect view for both requires more work as a result.

MEGATech Reviews: Transcend DrivePro 520 Car Video Recorder

Speaking of the inward facing camera, it can rotate on a swivel to face just a little toward the passenger side of the inside of the car all the way around to face the front of the car. For most intents and purposes, you'll want to center it to see as much of the interior of the car as possible. This is perfect for Uber or Lyft drivers who want to document what's going on with every ride. You'll also notice that the inward facing camera is surrounded by four infrared lights. This enables the night vision capability so you can still see at night.

Below the full color display are a series of four buttons for navigating the menus. You'll notice the "snapshot" button on the right, for instance, which takes a still picture while you're still recording your video. The buttons can be a little finicky, so you do need to press them firmly. You'll also notice the picture-in-picture view to show what's being seen both on the inside and the outside of the car. The actual video clips are saved as separate files, designated as A and B with the corresponding time stamp.

Using the Mobile App

MEGATech Reviews: Transcend DrivePro 520 Car Video Recorder

In addition to the unique dual lens display, another differentiating feature on the DrivePro 520 is Wi-Fi. This works in tandem with the mobile app, available for iOS and Android, to allow for two main sets of functionality. Connecting is simple. Just connect to the access point created by the dashcam (the instructions come with a default password that apparently cannot be changed) and launch the app.

From here, you can adjust the settings on your dashcam through a more efficient user interface than on the DrivePro 520 itself. Change the resolution, turn the microphone on and off, adjust the video length, and so on. Going through the menu can be a little slow but it does work. While you're doing this, though, the display on the dashcam itself turns off.

MEGATech Reviews: Transcend DrivePro 520 Car Video Recorder

The more important function of the mobile app is the ability to review, download and stream the footage that is stored on the dashcam. It takes some time for the thumbnails to populate. You can also get a "live view" of the dashcam, though it is on a slight delay (not unlike some action cameras). In practice, attempting to stream saved footage to your phone isn't practical. It just can't keep up and it keeps stuttering.

You're far better off downloading the video clips you wish to see to your mobile device first. Bear in mind that individual video files are in typically in the 300-500MB range, so downloading each clip will take some time. This is with five-minute clips of 1080p or 720p. Once the clip is on your phone, you can use apps to edit the clip, upload to YouTube or do whatever else you want.

DrivePro 520 Sample Video Footage

The video quality on the Transcend DrivePro 520 is serviceable if not particularly brilliant. I did observe a very noticeable difference between the front-facing camera and the rear-facing camera. The inward camera on a sunny day creates a video that appears over-sharpened and over-saturated. Glare can be an issue too. It is very clear, though, and I was thoroughly impressed with the audio quality.

Switch to an overcast day with the outward facing camera and you get an entirely different story. Everything looks a little muted and fuzzy around the edges. When watching the sample clip below, be sure to switch to the 1080p video quality setting and view it in full screen. The license plate of the car directly in front is visible and you can make out some of the others. Understandably, the wide angle lens creates some severe distortion. Adjusting the EV may help to brighten the scene.

Night time quality is roughly comparable with what you'd get with other dashcams. It is inherently more difficult to see at night, so don't expect to pick out license plates from across the street. And yes, I know I need to clean my windshield.

While the footage coming out of the DrivePro 520 is perfectly usable and will give you a reliable record of what's happening on the road (and in your car), it's not the best. The Sony Exmor imaging sensor found on the PAPAGO! GoSafe S30 produces better quality overall.

MEGATechie Double the Pleasure or MEGATechie Fender Bender?

MEGATech Reviews: Transcend DrivePro 520 Car Video Recorder

I'm not going to say that the video recorded by this dashcam is bad. It's not. It serves the purpose it needs to serve perfectly fine. I found the audio quality to be surprisingly good and the overwhelming wealth of features is truly impressive. The mobile app, while not the most refined thing in the world, is a convenient way to get footage out of the dashcam without pulling the memory card and going back to your computer.

It's worth repeating just how useful the dual camera design really is. Capturing what's happening in front of your car is invaluable, but recording what happens inside your car can be equally valuable under certain circumstances. If nothing else, it makes Carpool Karaoke a little more accessible for everyone.

The Transcend DrivePro 520 retails for $199.95 and is available now with your choice of suction mount or adhesive mount.


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