Hands-on reviews: Vantrue dashcams E1 and S2 2CH
Image credit: Vantrue
Two watchful-eye companions for life on the road – both inside and outside the vehicle.
Dashcams are increasingly common, both for insurance purposes and a sense of self-preservation. These cameras never lie and it's peace of mind for many motorists to be able to unequivocally prove the facts of an incident.
With one in five vehicles now fitted with a dashboard camera, motorists are even being warned to “drive like they’re being filmed” every time they get behind the wheel.
By and large, the differences between comparable models is often minimal. Any decent dashcam worth its visual salt on the market today will capture high-quality video footage, both day and night, and will also log GPS details of the journey and even watch over your car while you sleep. Where different dashcams deliver their USP is in the details.
We recently tested a pair of dashcams from Vantrue, a relatively new entry to the dashcam market. We looked at the E1, which is a very likeable and solid entry-level cam, as well as the company's well-specified two-camera front- and rear-facing system, the S2 2CH.
As Vantrue states on its website: "Safety matters. We believe a dash cam with top quality and strong performance is very necessary for every vehicle driver nowadays." Do its cams deliver?
The Vantrue Element 1 Mini Dash Cam is effectively the company's simplest offering. Described as a "smart cube" (because that's exactly what it is), the Element 1 (E1) is a neat, small square cam that would fit unobtrusively into any vehicle. It's so compact that you could make it almost disappear entirely if placed behind the rear-view mirror and you route the power cable invisibly around your car. Vantrue also offers an optional hardware kit, so you can power the E1 directly from your vehicle's fuse box, thus doing away with dangling cables altogether.
The E1 has a very appealing shape and design, with a big, friendly looking round lens dominating its (tiny) face. If what you mostly want from a dash cam is something that will keep one big eye on the road for you, the E1 has got you covered.
The Sony CMOS sensor captures detailed images of surrounding traffic and the local environment at HD resolution of either 1,080P at 60fps, 2,592 x 1,944P at 30fps or 2,560 x 1,440P (HDR) at 30fps. The viewing angle is an impressively wide 160°, with an accompanying wide aperture of F/1.8, all of which translates to beautifully clear video recordings. The 'Super HDR Night Vision' also lives up to its name.
The E1 has built-in Wi-Fi 2.4G and GPS, so you can play back the MP4 video recordings, download the detailed files and also share them directly to social media. With the Wi-Fi, there's very little need to remove the SD card, as files can be transferred to your phone directly. The GPS will continuously show you the vehicle's speed, direction of travel and GPS coordinates. If you connect the E1 to the Vantrue app on your phone (Android and iOS) you – or your passenger(s) – can have the live view there, too.
There's also a low bitrate mode, whereby you can keep recording continuously at 1080P/15fps with low-power, and also a low frame-rate mode, so the cam will capture long-running single videos in a short clip to save space on the memory card. The E1 supports microSD cards up to 512GB.
The E1 also has a built-in microphone and a speaker, which assists with both the smart voice control features and recording in-cabin conversation and other noises. This can be disabled, if so desired.
In the box is almost everything you need to get started quickly, including a neat magnetic adhesive mounting system for the windscreen, plus a 12V in-car charger cable, a USB-C 3ft data-transfer cable, a wireless remote control and, amusingly, 'Protected by…' warning stickers for your car. It's a nice touch. It's not quite the complete provision, though, as you'll need to supply your own microSD card to save recordings before you get going.
Vantrue, inevitably, recommends using (i.e. buying) one of its own branded SD cards, but we tested both dashcams on review here with generic cards that we already had lying around and we didn't run into any problems. Any reasonably modern, fast card designed for streaming video should be fine.
A few more of the E1's aces are the 24/7 monitoring function and collision detection, where the camera will auto-start recording when it senses a collision event. There's also buffered motion detection, where it starts rolling five seconds before the event and ends recording 30 seconds after the motion.
It also comes with that wireless controller, so you can control the E1 remotely, take photo snapshots while the video is recording, lock the cam in the event of a collision, and turn its audio functions on and off.
The LCD screen can also be turned off while the cam is still recording, to minimise in-cabin distractions. This can be done either on a timer or via voice command, if you like shouting at your gadgets.
We enjoyed using the E1. We like its industrial design, with its minimalist, elegant camera-style appearance. There's even an optional lens filter attachment available to minimise reflections and glare for situations and locations with extremely bright sunlight, enhancing contrast and boosting saturation in the E1's still and video footage, just like a DSLR camera.
On the subject of temperature extremes, it's also worth noting that the E1 is a supercapacitor design, which avoids the potential for internal batteries overheating in hot regions. Similarly, the E1's windscreen attachment is superior to a suction-cup style holder, as used on other dashcams, including Vantrue's own older models.
The combination of 3M electrostatic stickers for the mount and a magnetic sliding latching mechanism for the camera itself makes for a very reliable – and permanent – installation. Even so, the camera can be easily removed and reinserted to the mount if necessary (e.g. for security reasons or to transfer videos to a computer).
The E1 is a compact and straightforward dash cam, but with the necessary quality and smarts to deliver the footage goods. If you don't care to overcomplicate things, the E1 would be a great choice.
Stepping up a level, the Vantrue S2 2CH is a two-channel affair, with both front- and rear-view cameras.
Much of the core functionality and in-box equipment of the E1 also applies to the S2 2CH, as they share a common design approach, although there are a handful of key improvements and refinements to the S2, all of which are naturally reflected in the price.
The front camera is again a 160° wide-angle view, while the rear/in-cabin camera is slightly wider still at 165°. This records virtually the full cabin for a standard-size car or SUV, including both front seats and the back seat. This can be crucial for proving what passengers did or didn't do, in the unfortunate event of an incident. It's as useful for family and friends as it is for professional drivers, such as taxi operators who may face difficult customers.
In operation, the recording quality choices can either be HD 2.5K 1,440P or 1,080P at 30fps when recording with both cameras, or a higher-quality mode of 2,560 x 1,440P at 30fps if using just the front-facing camera.
The lens system in the S2 is also better quality than that in the E1, featuring as it does a Sony Starvis sensor. This is an excellent camera sensor, capturing crisp and clear detail with natural colour and contrast, 24 hours a day. This is the kind of step-up in quality you should expect from a premium dashcam.
There are also four infrared LED lights facing into the car as part of the rear-view camera setup, which helps to properly illuminate drivers and passengers and ensure that captured footage is optimal in all lighting conditions.
Aside from that useful second camera and its very fine capture and resolution hardware, the S2 also has a 3in IPS touchscreen, which makes interaction a little bit easier for menu choices and selections. There's more to tweak with the S2 than with the E1, so while a touchscreen wasn't really missed on the latter model, it's almost essential for the former.
The Wi-Fi, GPS, app interaction, auto-off screen function, automatic collision detection and 24-hour parking mode features are all much the same as with the E1. Note that for the 24-hour parking mode to truly be effective with either model, the cam needs to be either hardwired to the vehicle or run off an external battery. Otherwise, if the engine isn't running, neither is your dashcam.
The S2 is another great dashcam from Vantrue. For the record, there's also a three-channel version available (the S2 3CH), for bigger vehicles or drivers who want a dedicated rear-window cam, too. The company further offers a suite of dashcam options to suit pretty much anyone's in-car cam needs, so you can hone your focus from the entire range to find the cam for you.
The E1 and the S2 represent different approaches to the dashcam concept. The E1 is a simple, no-fuss, some-frills option, with an easy-entry price point. The S2 kicks everything up a notch, with an appreciable improvement in quality all round, with a price tag to match. Either cam will do a great job of capturing the world around your car, which is the core functionality. How many more bells and/or whistles you want is up to you.
$149.99 (approximately £134)
Price: $259.99 (approximately £232)
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