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I have been a fan of dash cams for a while now. I’ve had a dash cam installed in the last few cars I owned, but I’m also a weird case; I change cars really often. I’m a car dealer, and I don’t usually keep cars for a long time, so hard-wiring a dash cam in every car and then uninstalling it became quite a chore. The Ring Car Camera seems like it’s going to be really easy to move from car to car, and that alone makes it worth at least trying out to me.
I like the Ring security cameras overall, and I use them at my house. I’m not in love with Ring’s history on privacy, but I’m also a realist. If I want my cameras to have cloud storage, and I do, there’s not really anyone I totally trust. I’m not willing to roll my own camera system with video storage though, so I feel like Amazon is probably better than a random Chinese company. I guess time will tell if this is a dumb decision.
I pre-ordered the Ring Car Camera in January when preorders opened up, and received it on February 20th. Installation is pretty straightforward. The camera is powered by the OBDII, or On Board Diagnostic, port. Every car that’s model year 1996 or newer will have one. You plug the adapter into your OBD II port, then plug the camera into the adapter, then place it on the dash.
I wasn’t 100% sure I was going to keep the camera, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to move it to another car, so I didn’t even peel the backing off the sticker that sticks to the windshield yet, but so far just wedging the camera in there has been totally fine, it hasn’t moved at all.
Setup was easy, and if you’ve ever set up another ring camera, very familiar. You plug it in, scan the code in the Ring app, then it works.
The cellular connection works well. It might be a different story out in the country where cell coverage is spotty, but it works well for me every time I’ve tried it here in the Memphis area.
Okay, now this is where this story gets weird. Is it a good dash camera? No. Not at all.
First off, Ring is doing too much *magic* behind the scenes. It’s hard to know where your videos are. Some are on the camera, and some are in the cloud. If they’re on the camera, you can only get 20 second clips. If they’re in the cloud, you can get longer clips, up to about 2 minutes. The only way to tell is by looking at a video and seeing if it has a little SD card symbol in the bottom right corner. If it has that symbol, it’s stored on the camera. If it’s not, it’s stored in the cloud.
How do you move things to the cloud? I have no clue. The only reliable way I can tell that will make sure a video is stored in the cloud is by doing live view. For the sample videos for this article I had to have Daisy do live view so I could get longer clips.
The way I expected it to work is that it would store the videos locally on the camera until I connected to wifi, then upload them to Ring. I connected it to my wifi, and when I come home and park in my garage, I can see it on my network, but so far as I can tell, the driving videos never get uploaded to the cloud.
That means that if you want a video of something that happened while you were driving, and were not in live view, you are limited to 20 second clips. That seems like, not very good for a dash camera.
Also, even when you can get full clips, the quality, especially of the front facing camera, is not very good at all. We’re talking like cheap AliExpress no name dash cam quality. It’s grainy and just very obviously low bitrate. Anything from the last 5 years that’s a dash cam brand you have heard of absolutely smokes it in quality. Here’s the Ring front facing camera, and then a Viofo camera from like 2018. The Ring camera looks like straight garbage, and this is with the cellular plan that allows you download 1080p videos. I can’t even imagine how crappy it looks at the lower resolution.
So basically I hate it, right? Well, not really. As a dash cam it sucks, but as a security camera it’s actually really cool. The front facing camera is kinda just a free benefit. The quality sucks, you are never going to identify anyone or get a plate from it, but I guess it would at least show fault, like if someone ran a light and hit you or came into your lane, it would at least prove the other driver was at fault.
The interior camera though, and the ability to connect to the camera while away from home, is honestly super rad. You can check and make sure you locked your doors if you always worry that you forgot to lock your doors every time you walk into a store, like I do. You can check on your car if you’re parked in a sketchy area. If you’re at home and your family member is driving the car you can check on them if they weren’t feeling great or if you’re waiting on them to pick you up you can see the location. Unless they don’t want you to and close the cover, but still.
Basically, it’s a garbage dash camera, but it’s a pretty novel thing to have a security camera in your car.
I think I’m going to keep it, but I think I’m only putting one in the family car. I’ll likely pick up something like a Garmin Mini along with their OBD II power adapter to move from car to car for me.