Hands-on review: Mio MiVue 798 dash cam and MiVue 818 dash cam
Image credit: Mio
Keep your hands on the wheel while these dash cams keep an eye on the road.
From something of a slow-burn start as an optional car accessory, the dash cam market has exploded in recent years, producing an avalanche of new cams and new companies.
Accordingly, when it comes to choosing your first dash cam, the sheer weight of options can seem daunting. Fortunately, the quality today of even the most cheap and cheerful models is sufficiently good that they'll still see you right in terms of at least proving what happened on the road, in the event of any legal debate.
Where your shopping choice gets a bit gnarlier is when you want to step up to crystal-clear footage to capture the smallest crucial details, such as the registration on a moving number plate as a hit-and-run driver exits stage left at speed.
Whilst there are some long-established heavy hitters in this more premium market space - e.g. Garmin, of satnav fame - there are plenty of equally solid players snapping at their heels, such as Mio.
Mio puts out a wide range of dash cams, from low-end to high-end, with its models frequently iterated and updated the way other companies update their smartphone ranges. There are large ones, small ones, rear-window ones, with every kind of camera lens and HD quality accommodated.
We're looking at a pair of the company's higher-end dash cam products here, to compare and contrast the differences: the Mio MiVue 798, which has been available for a little while, and the more recent Mio MiVue 818.
Both are the traditional rectangular shape, with a front-facing camera and a large colour screen. Both capture excellent footage. Where they diverge is in the specifics.
One of the key draws for the 798 is the Sony 'Starvis' CMOS image sensor. This is a very high-quality 6.8Mpixel sensor, of which Sony is understandably very proud, and its inclusion in the 798 results in superb video footage from the camera, with excellent contrast and rich colours in any light condition, day or night. The all-glass lens system also helps capture a crisp image.
Installing the 798 is straightforward, with one suction cup supplied of good and grippy quality. Stick that rotatable bad boy to your windscreen and you're good to go. An in-car charger is also supplied in the box.
Setting up the dash cam and adjustment of various parameters (e.g. formatting the SD memory card) can be done through the MiVue Pro app on your phone. A series of folders will also be created on the 798: Normal, Event and Parking Mode. The Event folder is where footage is automatically saved in the event of any impact; the footage is also automatically sent to the app.
The 798 can shoot video in sparkling resolution up to 2.5K 'Quad HD' at 1600p, with a wide angle view of 150° and a light-loving aperture of F1.8, so at the maximum setting any fine detail in the image will be captured and rendered legible. To run it continuously at the highest-quality video setting will naturally eat up a gargantuan amount of SD card space, so a sensible side purchase would be a good-quality, fast-streaming, high-volume card (128GB max). The 798 at least uses H.264 technology to produce high-quality videos at smaller file sizes.
The 798 also has built-in Wi-Fi, both for over-the-air (OTA) updates to the unit itself, but primarily so that you can back up your videos to a smartphone or tablet. This is done using point-to-point transmission, not your phone's 3G/4G signal. You can also share them via the MiVue Pro app, available for iOS and Android, including easy sharing to Facebook. One caveat is that if the Wi-Fi mode is on, the maximum quality for live recordings is 1080p. However, the upside of 1080p is that the cam then runs at 60fps, whereas the frame rate is actually slower at 2.5K HD 1600p, at 25fps.
It's worth remembering that dash cams are not solely there for insurance purposes, even if that has become their default deployment. They can also be used for fun, recording a particular journey or special driving event and location.
In the unfortunate event of any accident, the 798's three-axis G-sensor records the direction and force of a collision, including impact, turns and acceleration, adding this data to the captured footage. As video evidence goes, it's a comprehensive recording of any type of incident.
The GPS module is housed neatly inside the 798's body, where some other cams require an external box. Location and speed data are logged on every recording, as well as altitude, longitude and latitude. The 798 features an audible warning and Mio's patented 'Smart Alert' technology to alert you to fixed speed cameras if you happen to be driving too fast both before and through the measured section.
Pleasingly, the OTA updates can also update speed camera data on the device, so you won't get caught out by new locations, although certain EU locations are excluded from this, including France, Germany, Switzerland, Latvia, Estonia, Romania and Turkey. The police in those countries must really want to catch people speeding.
The 798 also offers the car's occupants a further fillip with its advanced driver assistance systems, as dictated according to the footage the cam is catching. These include a 'Forward Collision Warning System' (FCWS), a 'Lane Departure Warning System' (LDWS) and a 'Fatigue Warning' (FA). Your car may already have one or more, or none, of these - or something much like them - but they're certainly welcome for free as part of the dash cam set-up.
The Mio MiVue 798 is an excellent dash cam. That Sony Starvis sensor is the jewel in its crown, as dash cams are really all about the quality of the footage. On this front, the 798 delivers in spades. It's also appreciated that there are no additional subscriptions required for services, such as the speed camera updates which are free for life.
The MiVue 818 is very similar to the 798, building on the latter's solid platform and pushing certain specs higher. The 818 still has a very good camera lens and sensor system, although it's not Sony's Starvis CMOS inside. Contrast and colour is still very good, just perhaps a shade different to the 798's camera system. These are very fine margins and we're not talking about DSLR cameras for portrait and landscape photography here. These are dash cams, where most of the footage they capture will be overwritten when the SD card is full.
Providing the image is crisp and clear, you should have the information you need. Both the 798 and 818 will assist you with this.
Where the 818 impresses is with its 2K 1440p WQHD recording mode at 60fps, with a 140° wide angle of viewing and a 4:6 ratio of sky to ground. Although technically 10° or so narrower than the 798, the real-world difference is not dramatic. This wide angle still captures the full expansive vista in front of your vehicle and brings in plenty of side view to the captured images, which is useful for any potential impact evidence, for example.
At this 2K 1440p resolution, for both day and night footage, the 818 captures a very crisp image with sharp edges, not soft and blurred like some lesser cams. Soft and blurred is death for number plate recognition.
Again, like the 798, if you're using the Wi-Fi, the 818 steps down to a full HD 1080p/60fps mode. The footage captured at 1080p is still detailed and clear. The 818's Wi-Fi mode operates much the same as the 798's, with real-time sync to a smartphone of recorded footage and the OTA updates.
The 818 also has built-in Bluetooth, which enables the 'Find My Parked Car' feature, whereby the 818 saves the GPS coordinates of your vehicle and your phone so that you can navigate back to your car using the map functionality in the MiVue Pro app. That's a neat trick and useful in foreign locations.
Just like the 798, the 818's GPS will also warn you of Mr Gatso and his safety camera friends, with the same free updates for life. The GPS also facilitates the 'Average Speedcam Alert', where the screen shows the road's speed limit and the remaining time in seconds for the interval between speed cameras, as well as tracking your (hopefully) decreasing vehicle speed, giving you ample time to slow down. Even if you drive through a long tunnel without a GPS signal, the 818 will estimate the distance between known cameras and offer its guidance.
The 818 also has a 'Smart Parking Mode'. When the car is stationary and the engine is turned off, the 818 automatically switches to its Smart Parking Mode. It will activate video recording if the sensor detects any motion or impact near the front of the vehicle. This will be a reassuring feature for anyone with an expensive vehicle, although it does require the additional purchase of a Mio Smartbox, listed on the Mio site at €35. Depending on the value of your car, this may be worth it for peace of mind.
Everything else with the 818 is essentially the same as the 798: the same screen size (2.7"); same set-up process; the video file organisation; the journey details and three-axis G sensor incident data logging; the option to record audio with the video; the sharing options from the app, and so forth.
Looking at two cams together, it's clear that the 818 has the more modern, sleek design. The 798 by comparison looks a little older - which it is. Not that there's anything fundamentally wrong or aesthetically objectionable about the 798. It's simply that the 818 looks better. This may be an issue for some people, which is totally fair. For other people, who looks at their dash cam once it's in situ anyway?
Of the two, if it's ultimate image quality you're after, the 798 is hard to beat with that Starvis sensor. This is probably what is causing the difference in price between these two Mio models. The 818 doesn't have the same Sony sensor.
It wouldn't be the first time that we've seen a manufacturer drop a premium feature or two from one model in order to keep the price of its successor low, although arguably the 798 and 818 aren't directly related. Mio has a number of dash cam product lines, much like headphone companies often have multiple tiers and product lines which ostensibly all appear to be very similar. The 818 is technically superior to the 812, its true dash cam brethren lineage.
Either of these two dash cams - the MiVue 798 and the Mivue 818 - would serve you well as your in-car eye on the road. Image quality is top-notch, with a useful range of video resolutions from which to select, and the additional features and functions are nice to have. Digging into the granular tech spec of each device throws up a few pros and cons for each, when you compare and contrast, but really, they're both solid, well-made, reliable devices which do an excellent job of exactly the thing you want them to: video recording your journey and all the other idiots around you.
No doubt newer models are already hovering in Mio's wings, but there's no real reason to wait when what's already available is as good as this.
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