BlackVue DR900X-2CH/CM100LTE review after a few months of ownership

NJRedStingerGT2

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BlackVue DR900X-2CH/CM100LTE review after a few months of ownership

TLDR: Possibly the worst financial investment I’ve ever made on anything car or consumer electronics related

Backstory: Approximately six months ago I started shopping for a dashcam set-up. My goal was to not only document potential driving incidents, but also monitor the vehicle while it was at a mechanic for servicing, or while parked at my home or elsewhere for extended periods of time.

After research and based on the recommendation of my installation shop I chose the BlackVue DR900X-2CH/CM100LTE for a number of reasons. BlackVue as a company has been in this space a long time, the DR900X-2CH is a flagship product from an established leading brand, it offered both mobile phone and computer apps to review the footage by removing the MicroSD card from the camera (inserted into a computer) or remotely (accessed by computer or phone), the product has many cloud features both via WIFI and LTE cellular SIM card (requiring the optional CM100LTE module), the system has the ability to be powered directly (without needing the optional Power Magic Pro hardwiring kit) allowing parking mode utilization for extended periods of time under protected use of the car’s battery without necessarily requiring additional optional batteries. Also (but not as important to me) the front camera offered 4K resolution.

It might be beneficial to mention that I generally feel very comfortable with technology. I have been employed in the video/television production industry for four decades. As such, I am very familiar with state of the art cameras, sensors, optics, video codecs, IP connectivity, etc.

The following is a list of issues (and in some cases resolutions) that have occurred during the first few months of ownership:

#1 BlackVue apps
The BlackVue Windows app repeatedly crashes on my computer (Dell Inspiron 7773, Intel i7-8550U, 16GB RAM, Windows 10 Pro, dual SSDs). The BlackVue iOS app works well on my iPhone XR. Per BlackVue support I uninstalled (completely) and reinstalled the Windows app. No resolution has been found regarding the app crashing.

#2 “Please activate your sim card” error
After the system was installed I received audible error messages “Please activate your sim card.” I took that to mean that my AT&T SIM card (installed in the CM100LTE) had not been successfully activated by AT&T. It turns out that is not what BlackVue means by that error message and my assumption was incorrect. The BlackVue smartphone app has its own LTE card activation procedure and this is what the error message was referring to.

BlackBoxMyCar has a detailed video here going over the CM100LTE SIM card activation process.

#3 Car battery duration in parking mode is approximately only 72 hours due to BlackVue camera drain
2018 car. Two year old battery. Although BlackVue markets the DR900X as not requiring the optional Power Magic Pro device to prevent the car’s battery from discharging, the longest the car can sit with the BlackVue camera(s) is 72 hours. Work around solution: I added a Battery Tender (trickle charger) to the car when parked more than a day at a time.

#4 Parking mode motion detection false alerts
Even with motion detection sensitivity set to the least sensitive setting possible (before this feature is turned off entirely), and with the detection region modified to only alert to motion in the lower half of both cameras field of view; sunrise and sunset lighting conditions will cause repeated false alerts, one per minute, approximately seventy false alerts per day!

When discussed with BlackVue tech support they repeatedly attempted to convince me this was normal. It is not. Any motion detection threshold of change in luminance, chrominance, and/or duration are all parameters which a software development team will have access to. Seventy false alerts per day, at the least sensitive setting is obviously problematic. I have example videos offered to BlackVue tech support which evidences no abrupt perceptible change in lighting, motion, shadows. Yet the camera continually sends out false motion alerts.

An example videos can be found at:

#5 “check SD card”
BlackVue tech support did request that I reformat the MicroSD card and reload the cameras’ firmware which I did per their instructions successfully. This did not improve the motion detection issue noted above but did cause a new problem. After following their instructions I then heard an audible “check SD card” error message. BlackVue tech support directed me to reformat the SD card again. This time the instructions they sent me were from the wrong model camera which would not work with the DR900X.

After speaking to a second tech support representative he suggested that I no longer use the BlackVue supplied card and instead purchase a Samsung PRO Endurance card. I did, followed the correct format procedure and it appears to solve the problem.

#6 Red flashes on the lower right-hand corner of recordings
I’ve noticed that on some front camera recordings a red chrominance discoloration flashing occurs in the lower right-hand corner of the frame. I have not identified what is causing this problem or the solution. An example video is found at:

After reinstalling the cameras firmware a third time this problem appears to be resolved.

As noted in many emails to BlackVue tech support the motion detection monitoring feature (noted above) was/is a material inducement to purchase a DR900X-2CH/CM100LTE, which is a substantial financial investment well in excess of the cost of many competitors’ products. As such, considering the repeated motion detection false alerts, Windows app crashing, “check SD card” error messages, red flashing discoloration in the video; I do not believe I have received what I have paid a premium for.

Unfortunately, if I had to do it all over again, I would not purchase a BlackVue DR900X-2CH.
 

sdrawkcaB

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Very well written review! Sorry about the issues you have. My first camera was the BlackVue DR750S-2CH. Features were appealing, but reliability and stability was completely lacking. I also felt like it was a big waste of my money. My experience led me to want to go with a camera that was a quarter of the cost the next time around. In my second vehicle, I went with two Viofo A119V3.
 

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Sorry to hear about the issues you're seeing. I've experienced some of those too, but not all. It's definitely good to hear more datapoints with all this.

FWIW, the software seems to work fine on my Mac and iPhone. There's some features I'd like to see changed/added, but stability-wise it seems fine. I haven't used the Windows software.

The SIM card stuff can be a bit tricky to figure out, especially getting the carrier to activate it properly. I've had good luck with TMobile and I believe in another thread you mentioned considering switching to them too.

For the parking mode times, 72 hours honestly sounds amazing. By comparison, I get 16-20 hours on a fully charged B-124 battery. With two, that's 32-40 hours with $600 worth of batteries. You're getting 72 hours using your built-in car battery so.....

The parking mode false recordings, I see that too and I have no idea why. I've sent my rear DR750S to Blackvue for this exact issue. When it came back, it still did the same thing I believe. In fact when I got rear ended, I didn't have my rear dashcam at all because it went back for this specific issue... (I tried running a different rear cam temporarily, but the suction cup kept failing and so I didn't have a rear cam then. I'm still annoyed at this issue because of that.) That said, at this point I've just mostly written it off and figure I'll throw in a big memory card (I run 256's) and just let it run and do whatever. Not ideal, but it works.

Speaking of cards, odd to hear you've been having issues with BV cards. Usually they're pretty good, same with newer Samsung/Sandisk ones (non-counterfeits), but failures can and will happen.

The red flashes thing is definitely weird. I'm not sure what's up with that, but I'm glad reinstalling the firmware did the trick.

I totally understand that with all the little issues you've been experiencing, all that stuff does progressively chip away at the overall user experience.

It does surprise me sometimes to see even the major players having issues like this. I haven't found any brand or dashcam that seems to be totally bulletproof and reliable. I've been looking more at the Thinkware and Viofo options lately because of this. They're not perfect either and have their own trade-offs, but I guess this is all part of the search for the "best dashcam."
 

STS-134

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I just got two 900X-2CH cameras, one for each of my parents. Their needs are actually very simple. They don't need cloud capabilities and generally don't even need or want parking mode most of the time. But I got them for several reasons: form factor, and the fact that these cameras will still do parking mode (via motion detection and GPS) if you switch them on via the Power Magic Pro, and they have 4K resolution. That's an upgrade because it means they don't have to fiddle with menus on the camera itself or even worse, with their cell phone, in order to turn parking mode on and off. They literally just have to flip a physical switch on and off, which is much easier for them.
 

NJRedStingerGT2

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Sorry to hear about the issues you're seeing. I've experienced some of those too, but not all. It's definitely good to hear more datapoints with all this.

FWIW, the software seems to work fine on my Mac and iPhone. There's some features I'd like to see changed/added, but stability-wise it seems fine. I haven't used the Windows software.

The SIM card stuff can be a bit tricky to figure out, especially getting the carrier to activate it properly. I've had good luck with TMobile and I believe in another thread you mentioned considering switching to them too.

For the parking mode times, 72 hours honestly sounds amazing. By comparison, I get 16-20 hours on a fully charged B-124 battery. With two, that's 32-40 hours with $600 worth of batteries. You're getting 72 hours using your built-in car battery so.....

The parking mode false recordings, I see that too and I have no idea why. I've sent my rear DR750S to Blackvue for this exact issue. When it came back, it still did the same thing I believe. In fact when I got rear ended, I didn't have my rear dashcam at all because it went back for this specific issue... (I tried running a different rear cam temporarily, but the suction cup kept failing and so I didn't have a rear cam then. I'm still annoyed at this issue because of that.) That said, at this point I've just mostly written it off and figure I'll throw in a big memory card (I run 256's) and just let it run and do whatever. Not ideal, but it works.

Speaking of cards, odd to hear you've been having issues with BV cards. Usually they're pretty good, same with newer Samsung/Sandisk ones (non-counterfeits), but failures can and will happen.

The red flashes thing is definitely weird. I'm not sure what's up with that, but I'm glad reinstalling the firmware did the trick.

I totally understand that with all the little issues you've been experiencing, all that stuff does progressively chip away at the overall user experience.

It does surprise me sometimes to see even the major players having issues like this. I haven't found any brand or dashcam that seems to be totally bulletproof and reliable. I've been looking more at the Thinkware and Viofo options lately because of this. They're not perfect either and have their own trade-offs, but I guess this is all part of the search for the "best dashcam."
Thank you for the input and comments. For what it’s worth I also posted this same review on Facebook’s BlackVue Owners Group (which I believe is primarily Australian based). Regardless, an admin there stated the red chrominance flashing is a known issue related to BlackVue’s implementation of HDR. He recommended turning HDR off. If mine starts flashing again I will try that.

As to the rest of it, I’ve worked around most of the issues but would like BlackVue at minimum to acknowledge #4 Parking mode motion detection false alerts.

BlackVue tech support has blamed everything under the sun (no pun intended) but take ownership of this. I sent them a YouTube video in which they saw my car’s security system light blinking on the dashboard and blamed that …. however the light blinks 24/7 when the car is parked and the false motion detection alerts only occur during sunrise and sunset (not 24/7).

They then blamed shadows that may be moving within the frame from sunlight, and I sent them an example video with no perceptible change in lighting.

They then said that these false alerts are typical of ALL motion detection dashcams.

It is this point that annoys me the most as I am quite familiar with the way motion detection technology works. BlackVue tech support is being less than accurate/truthful when they portray BlackVue’s current implementation as normal and without room for improvement. As in the case of BlackVue, motion detection can be done based on a number of different metrics, either individually or in combination.

These metrics are: changes in luminance on an individual pixel basis, changes in chrominance on an individual pixel basis, changes in luminance and/or chrominance based on spatial resolution (a quantity of adjoining pixels changing simultaneously), and lastly changes luminance and/or chrominance based on temporal resolution (how long or duration in time a specific pixel or a group of pixels experience a change state) therefore triggering an alert.

Clearly BlackVue’s firmware/software developers are aware of and use these metrics as they have include within their BlackVue app a way for the end-user to adjust sensitivity. When the end-user selects different sensitivity settings they are simply adjusting the threshold (on one or more of the above metrics) allowing alerts to be triggered, or not.

If one accurately understands how parking mode motion detection is implemented and understands that BlackVue’s developers have full access to the various aforementioned metrics and they set where thresholds are programmed (for each user sensitivity choice in their app), then clearly when a user sensitivity is set to the lowest possible setting and when the field of view is reduced as to avoid sunlight and windows in a parking garage; 70 false alerts per day would suggest the developers need to offer an even less sensitive choice (whether in luminance, chrominance, spatial or temporal resolution change). This problem is not a motion detection technology issue per se, but rather how BlackVue is implementing the various metrics and thresholds they have programming access to.

As to the DR900X-2CH parking mode duration while on the car battery, I agree, but would like to offer a thought.

BlackVue's website explicitly says in regard to the DR900X, “Native Parking Mode with built-in voltage monitor to protect your vehicle battery (hardwiring cable included) ..... DR900X Series can be hardwired to your vehicle’s fuse panel for Parking Mode, without requiring optional accessories. The dashcam will switch to Parking Mode automatically when vehicle ignition is turned off. Voltage cutoff and timer can be set in the BlackVue App."

BlackVue is marketing the DR900X as not requiring the optional Power Magic Pro (as the PMP features are built into the DR900X) and while the DR900X is compatible with the optional battery packs these may (or may not) be necessary based on each individual use case.

While it would be unreasonable to assume unlimited power duration off the car’s battery it is reasonable based on the marketing of the DR900X to receive “some amount” of duration. So then the question becomes, what is a reasonable expectation in regard to duration?

BlackVue can address this question by simply stating “without optional batteries the DR900X-2CH may operate in parking mode for approximately ____ hours subject to the type and condition of car battery. Optional batteries are available from BlackVue for extended parking mode operation.”

Unfortunately BlackVue has left this question unanswered thus leaving the door open for consumers who may want 84 hours, or 96 hours to be disappointed. While approximately three days is fine for some customers, some may need four days, or five.

Since BlackVue sells optional batteries it is in their best interest to estimate duration on the average car’s battery. As noted previously, I resolved this issue by installing a Battery Tender to the vehicle. So my problem in this regard is solved.
 

PilotGirl59

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Wow, I was just about to purchase the 2 channel 900X and the cell moduale. The main reason is for parking mode when I'm away from my car... When my car is in the garage I just unplug the dash cams in my current rides so no long term recording is needed, but when out and about I want it to work. Sending me alerts as needed, but dam so many false alerts a day would drive me crazy.
Thanks so much for this. now not sure wtat to do............
 

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What about just disabling the motion detection notifications? I only have them enabled for impact detection and that's it. It did that initially to quit getting alerts when people/cars go by my car. It may record a bunch of extra clips, but just throw in a big card and call it a day. Other dashcams also record a lot of stuff I ultimately don't need with motion detection too so it's not a huge deal, though it is annoying to have the motion detection triggering when sitting idly in the garage. Without the notifications though, it ultimately doesn't make a big difference though, at least for me.

Here's what I run on my DR900S:

DR900S cloud notifictions.png

Sometimes I'd get false impact detection alerts from loud cars driving by so I've raised the impact detection threshold to cut those down. Motion detection alerts I don't need constantly. At this point the main notifications I get are when I get into my car and close the door (impact detected) and don't start driving immediately. :)
 

NJRedStingerGT2

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Wow, I was just about to purchase the 2 channel 900X and the cell moduale. The main reason is for parking mode when I'm away from my car... When my car is in the garage I just unplug the dash cams in my current rides so no long term recording is needed, but when out and about I want it to work. Sending me alerts as needed, but dam so many false alerts a day would drive me crazy.
Thanks so much for this. now not sure wtat to do............
Agreed, it's not "right," and worse BlackVue is saying it's normal.
Post automatically merged:

What about just disabling the motion detection notifications? I only have them enabled for impact detection and that's it. It did that initially to quit getting alerts when people/cars go by my car. It may record a bunch of extra clips, but just throw in a big card and call it a day. Other dashcams also record a lot of stuff I ultimately don't need with motion detection too so it's not a huge deal, though it is annoying to have the motion detection triggering when sitting idly in the garage. Without the notifications though, it ultimately doesn't make a big difference though, at least for me.

Here's what I run on my DR900S:

View attachment 173892
Sometimes I'd get false impact detection alerts from loud cars driving by so I've raised the impact detection threshold to cut those down. Motion detection alerts I don't need constantly. At this point the main notifications I get are when I get into my car and close the door (impact detected) and don't start driving immediately. :)
>>What about just disabling the motion detection notifications?<<

That’s what I have done. But it defeats the purpose as motion detection notifications was one of the reasons I paid a premium for this system.

>>It did that initially to quit getting alerts when people/cars go by my car.<<

At this point I would be ok with false car/people alerts, but the 70 false alerts were being caused by simple changes in sunlight & clouds.
Post automatically merged:

The red flashes thing is definitely weird. I'm not sure what's up with that, but I'm glad reinstalling the firmware did the trick.
I did not report here yet but the red flashes did come back sporadically. Maybe the theory I heard on Facebook that this is due to BlackVue's HDR is correct. I have not tried turning HDR off yet.
 

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Vortex

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>>What about just disabling the motion detection notifications?<<

That’s what I have done. But it defeats the purpose as motion detection notifications was one of the reasons I paid a premium for this system.
Gotcha. Yeah in theory motion detection alerts will only be really useful in areas where there's otherwise very little motion like an empty parking garage.

I remember complaining about getting tons of "false" motion alerts when reviewing another dashcam and people were like "what do you expect? It's going to record all the motion, even if you don't need those clips."
>>It did that initially to quit getting alerts when people/cars go by my car.<<

At this point I would be ok with false car/people alerts, but the 70 false alerts were being caused by simple changes in sunlight & clouds.
I hear you. I actually have a similar issue with my home security cameras triggering motion detection events with sun/cloud/lighting changes.

The motion detection alerts in your garage when nothing is happening, I'm completely with you that that shouldn't be happening.

Motion detection alerts due to sunlight changes, I also find those annoying, but at this point I've just accepted that as part of how motion detection functions and it's part of why I now rely on impact detection instead.
 

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