Dash cams are booming business in the UK. An estimated three million people already use them to help simplify matters in insurance claims as well as to monitor their own driving, and some insurers even offer discounts for drivers who fit one.
Viofo is one of the companies making the most of this boom, with a range of cameras starting at less than £100 and rising to more than £200 depending on which features you need.
Tested here is the top-of-the-range A129 Pro Duo (£203.33). This two-channel unit uses the same basic case as others in the Viofo range but with an upgraded Sony Exmor R sensor to offer 4K recording and 8MP photography from the 130-degree front camera. The rear camera uses the same 1080p HD Sony Starvis sensor as other variants.
Like most modern dash cams, the Viofo has built-in wifi and a smartphone app. This allows you to stream footage from the camera and adjust all the unit’s settings via your phone. It’s handy but left us questioning why the unit needs a screen at all. Removing the screen would enable Viofo to make the camera unit smaller and less obtrusive.
A GPS enabled mount adds speed and location data to recordings and an optional Bluetooth remote control allows you to lock recordings via a small dash-mounted button. What it doesn’t feature are any ADAS functions such as lane keep warning or forward collision alert. We’ve never found these systems particularly reliable, so it’s no great loss, but some rivals do include them to boost their specs.
When the car is parked a smart buffered parking mode will capture the moment of any impact as well as the period immediately after and, cleverly, before the contact. Alternatively, there are time lapse or low bitrate modes which use less storage space.
As with other versions of the A129, the main camera is a boxy affair with a two-inch viewing screen and five physical buttons, meaning it can be tricky to mount completely out of sight. It’s not as slimline as some dash cams and the lens only adjusts vertically, meaning you also need to spend some time aligning it properly. More problematic is the rear camera with a top mounted video output that means you have to locate it low down on your window, potentially obscuring your view.
The standard A129 Duo impressed with its image quality when we tested it last year and, as hoped, the 4K sensor in the front-facing camera is another step up in clarity and quality, capturing events in fine detail. As with most dual-channel cameras, the rear-facing unit offers the lower “Full HD” 1080p resolution but it is still more than good enough for most situations.
HDR and “Super Night Vision” processing help return decent low-light images, with good detail even in dark conditions but don’t expect the same sort of performance as in daylight.
The A129 Pro Duo is another strong product from Viofo, with the same small issues that affect the whole A129 range. The rear camera’s poor design remains its biggest problem and the front-facing unit’s bulky shape isn’t as neat as some rivals. But the image quality is excellent and it is substantially cheaper than some other 4K cameras we have tested.