Full (long) review of the VIOFO A129 dual channel dash cam

Discussion in 'Dash Cameras & Car Recording Devices' started by synistyr, Sep 13, 2018.

  1. synistyr

    synistyr PSL +15 Advanced User

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    Videos:

    Daytime:


    Night (with WDR):


    Night (without WDR) in bad weather:



    Setup:

    I connected the cam it to my Mac, and the it powered up but had that weird digital snow/corruption. Not a good sign. Used a toothpick to hit the reset button.. didn't help. Managed to access the menu and it said firmware 1.3, which is the latest. I re-flashed the firmware. No problems with updating.

    After re-flashing everything was better. Plugged the dash cam into a USB power supply, live video was being displayed and the dash cam was recording. (assuming you notice the lenses are covered by protective stickers).

    I went through some basic settings and but when I went to setup the app over WiFi I had to change the network name/password twice before it stuck.

    Installation:
    Prying off the old dash cam (A119S) was both harder and easier than I remember. The 3M VHB adhesive is no joke. There is no pulling it straight off the glass. I tried to use a razor blade scraper remove the old base, but that turned out to be a BAD idea. A nylon pry tool/upholstery tool worked MUCH better. Didn't need the razor to remove any stuck on adhesive, and just cleaned it up with some Goo Gone (isopropyl alcohol should also work), used a bit of auto glass cleaner and it was all good.

    Tip: You can use your iPhone's Compass app's level feature to make sure the cam is level as possible before sticking it to the windshield. If you mess up also VIOFO included extra VHB sticky pads.

    Thankfully I could re-use power cable from before. It also comes with an elbow-usb adapter, along with a slip of paper in the box said it's ONLY for the front cam, and using the connector with the rear cam would somehow damage the cable. The connector is only for a LEFT connection. Without GPS it would have covered up the rear-camera usb port, and with GPS the elbow would only be for wiring to the driver's side.

    The real issue I had is the front-rear cable is THICK. Like heavy duty thick. Which is good for durability, but it's a pain to try to hide the cable in the lining of your doors/interior.

    The rear cam itself is pretty small, about the size of a Zippo lighter, but thicker.

    I did not install the rear cam onto the actual window itself. I have tinted windows in the back and if I had to remove the dash cam later it would damage the tint. Thankfully my car has cowl that covers the brake light at the top of the roof where I could mount the camera. The rear connection on the cam is at the top, so the thick cable again made it a bit of a tight install. (If you really want to install on tinted glass, you could try getting a thin strip of clear vinyl (like those oil change decals) and see if that will stick)

    You can use your phone as a level again, or use the live stream feature over WiFi from the rear cam to see what it sees before sticking the camera on. I folded down the rear seat and dumped the excess coils of cable into the trunk.

    Initial use:
    The firmware on the A129 has a few more features than the similar A119S and seems a bit easier to navigate. You can now sync the time to your phone, which is nice. You can control the exposure level for the front and rear separately, which is an obvious, but great feature. There's also a High/Low bit rate option.

    Viewing a live feed from the app is a bit flaky though. Even after connecting successfully over Wifi, when you re-open the app the live stream is black. You have to manually hit the refresh icon to get the image back. I've also noticed the stream occasionally noticeably drop frames. You could even use the rear cam as a reverse/backup camera as long as your phone is connected.

    The app itself looks decent, but could have been organized a bit better. You can access all of the same settings in the app as you can for the dash cam, but it's mostly in one long list. It would have been better to organize all the options by commonly used features, or the same menu organization as the dash cam uses.

    I found the app also crashed occasionally as soon as it was opened. I found myself tapping the live video feed expecting it to change views (e.g.: from rear overlaid on top of front) but it didn't do anything, you can only change the display for the stream when recording is stopped in the settings menu.

    Downloading time for videos from the dash cam seemed to really vary. For one test, from the front cam 1 clip took over 5minutes. The clip for the same time for the rear cam only took 2 minutes.

    Video sizes seem much smaller than the A119S. I suspect the "high bitrate" may not be the same, or possibly 30fps vs 60fps makes a big difference. File sizes went from ~350mb to ~165-195MB for a 3min clip, which is brutally slow when it claims to be running 5Ghz 802.11ac. The current card I have in there is rated for ~100MB/s read speed.

    Today I was going to go into the dash cam to turn off the WDR, but I couldn’t get into the menu. It might have been because WiFi was running (not sure) but changing the setting via the app was actually very easy.

    Video:
    Intiial test video was shot on an overcast day, which was ideal lighting to showoff how good a dash cam can operate, not too bright or dark and not too much glare or intense sunglight. The video looks excellent out the front, rear shots through tinted glass with heating wires didn't quite look quite as clear (even with a slight boost in EV), which is to be expected.

    For night shots, it seems to have about the same level of light as looking through the glass yourself. Detail wise, obviously 60fps for both front and rear would have been nice, but dual 1080p is still very good. The first night video I had WDR on, and the video was really blown out and super saturated.

    The second night video I shot was in some ugly ugly weather, but the quality was MUCH better. Not sure if that is a bug or what. Would be cool if WDR could be disabled automatically at night tho.

    The viewing angle for the A129 is slightly wider than the A119S. The A129 is listed at 140 degrees, and the A119S was 135, meaning the image is slightly more fish-eyed, but you get a bit more of the road recorded. The A129 uses the same Sony Starvis/IMX291 sensor as the A119S in front and rear cameras, so the night time performance should be similar.

    It's nice having WiFi to pull a quick clip and edit on my phone (see sample Video 1). The VIOFO A129 does not have any cloud features, and personally I don't have a need for it. My vehicle is parked in a parkade underneath my building, and I wouldn't even be able to access the dash cam remotely.

    The VIOFO website only lists the camera operating temp between -10C and 65C, which might be bad news since it can easily get to -30C and beyond here. Time will tell how it holds up to brutal Canadian winters.

    The A129 supports up to 256GB cards, which is great, except for trying to find a decently priced high endurance (MLC) micro SD card greater than 32GB is a pain. VIOFO is selling their own high endurance MLC micro sd cards now, and I just heard from VIOFO that they’re available on Amazon.

    Pricing:
    The normal price for VIOFO A129 dual channel with GPS is $229CAD + tax. I actually got mine from eBay during one of their sitewide discount days, and even with the exchange it was cheaper than local (but only because I didn't get dinged at the border).

    But with the eBay sale I also got a big ebates bonus percentage back and I ended up paying $164CAD including tax/shipping. (aka: ~$125USD or less) Normally it would have been ~$240CAD with tax.

    For $164CAD (or even $240CAD) the bang for the buck is pretty good. A similar 2 channel dash cam with front and rear 1080p, GPS, and WiFi from the other big brands such as Thinkware or Blackvue is going start around $340+tax. There's a few comparable 2 channel dash cams such as Aukey or other random brands on Amazon around the same $229 price range, but lack the same features.

    Shipping was shockingly fast from the US. Ordered on a Tuesday, arrived the following week Wednesday.

    Conclusion:
    Very impressed with the video quality, especially at night (with WDR off!). A few hiccups but overall easy install and setup. VIOFO still the best for buck dash cam around, and now also best bang for the buck dual channel.

    The Good:
    2 channel dash cam with front AND rear 1080p
    Records audio from both cameras
    Clips are separate front and rear files
    Excellent video quality (especially at night with WDR OFF)
    Sony Starvis/IMX291 sensors in BOTH cameras, same as the A119S
    WiFi so you can download clips on the go
    Price!
    Supports larger micro SD cards- up to 256GB (if you can find one)
    Well packaged, with all the needed parts (pry tool, clips, extra vhb stickies, extra elbow connector, data cable)

    The Bad:
    SLOW WiFi, even at dual channel 5Ghz 802.11ac but still usable
    The Live Video/WiFi is the same button
    THICK front-rear cable
    Initial setup hiccup.
     
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  2. Heywood

    Heywood Learning Something New, Still Dying Stupid Advanced User Premium Member

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    Good review. Thanks.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  3. TeamQuack

    TeamQuack s\/\/er\/e Advanced User Premium Member

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    my wifi works fast, but is very susceptible to interference and slows down randomly so the connection is not stable. perhaps a firmware update?
     
  4. synistyr

    synistyr PSL +15 Advanced User

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    Yeah hoping wifi issues can be smoothed out with the next firmware.

    Hard to see how much interference there could be when I was trying to download clips while sitting in the drivers seat. Haha.

    Have you noticed any WDR issues?






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  5. synistyr

    synistyr PSL +15 Advanced User

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    Update:

    I still find wifi to be brutally slow on this dash cam.

    WDR in the daytime didn't make a massive difference but if like to see the CPL filters come out.


    Day time video is pretty good but I do miss the higher bitrate and fps from the A119S.






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  6. RdNerd

    RdNerd Premium Member Beginner User Premium Member

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    "Brutally slow" is kinda putting it mildly. To be honest I'd say useless.

    I been using this dashcam for a month now. Recording both front and rear so highest quality video option is 1080p 30fps.

    I tried the wifi app to view the video footage and it is really awful. The buffering is slow and even spectating 10 seconds makes the video stop and lag.
    It really is a shame because other than that I like this dashcam a lot.
    I wont bother anymore using the wifi mode because it simply does not work good enough. Its like they rushed the wifi feature and did not test it at all. Hopefully they can fix this with fw update even tho I doubt it.
     

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