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Useless GPS and Poor (VGA) Image Quality
on 29 April 2016
Basics: This device boasts two cameras, forward- and rear- pointing – both have native VGA (640x480) resolution (Ugh!).
The device also claims to have GPS data logging – meaning it will not directly display a GPS map on its screen – but it will record your position as you drive – and this record can then be viewed when replayed on an internet-connected PC. Interestingly, the device also displays (during file replay) a continuous readout of G-forces in each of the three axes (x, y & z) – which could be handy if claiming for pothole damage to your car (unfortunately the ‘z’ axis sensor did not appear to work in my camera – so no bumps or potholes were recorded).
The files that this camera produces are not directly accessible to your Windows PC – you need to view them via the supplied “X2 Player” software – though that software does allow you to export copies of the recordings to a more accessible, Windows-friendly .avi format. The X2 software is not supplied on a CD ROM - it is actually built into the camera. You must format your micro SD card in the camera prior to first use as that not only creates the peculiar file format needed by the camera – it also copies the “X2 Player” software onto the card for later (computer) replay. The player software does not actually seem to install itself on the PC – you just click the .exe file and ‘OK’ any warning messages about allowing the programme to make changes to your computer (this happens every time you run it). The viewer software actually works quite well (I’m using Windows 10) – though every time I tried the “Update Firmware” option, it crashed.
NOTE: the camera-formatted card cannot be read by Windows (except for the partition that holds the X2 Player software). Regardless of how many hours of footage that you have shot, the memory card will show no files or folders containing video when examined in Windows Explorer ... the “X2 Player” software is your only means of accessing recorded footage. A memory card, formatted by the camera, will fool Windows into reporting that the card has much larger capacity than it actually has – but don’t worry about it. The camera does not appear to offer ‘loop’ recording – so when the memory card is full you will need to delete recordings manually or just reformat the card.
On first activation of the software, the GPS settings will tell you that you live in Beijing ... but that is easily fixed using the tools menu button (in the X2 Player) to select the Google Maps option. Initially I went walkabout in the garden – just to see how the GPS performed. It didn’t. After 10 minutes the camera was still claiming there was no GPS signal (it lied) – but I had a look at the recorded files anyway. Having got over the initial shock of discovering that I appeared to be in China rather than Edinburgh, and having switched to the Google Maps option in the X2 Player, I was: (a) pleased to see that the GPS had in fact picked up a signal (despite what the camera’s screen was saying) and then (b) a little surprised to discover that my garden had moved about a mile south of its usual location. Ah! I thought, it must be Aliens (or the military) experimenting with Star Trek transporter technology – no other explanation seemed to fit the facts! Later testing, in my car, demonstrated a continuing Alien influence as, without warning, the GPS told me that, on multiple occasions during an hour long trip, my car had instantaneously leapt half a mile or more off-road (in random directions – entirely unrelated to my actual direction of travel) before just as suddenly leaping back (though not necessarily to my actual location). This element of random unpredictability in location certainly makes for an interesting looking journey ‘track’ – but one which is probably useless as evidence in any insurance claim or court proceedings.
Image Quality: The main reason for buying a dash-cam is probably to provide evidence in the event of an incident. To serve that purpose you really need a camera that will capture as much detail as possible. Unfortunately, whilst the spec. for this camera claims a 1280x480 resolution – you need to be aware that this is the combined, side by side, resolution offered by the two cameras when simultaneously displayed. Each camera offers only a 640x480 (VGA) resolution – and, actually, the bottom 40 pixels (or so) of that are lost to the black band that carries the date information. As one camera looks towards the interior of the vehicle its usefulness in capturing incident details is somewhat limited. This leaves only the forward camera to capture the ‘action’.
To show just how inadequate 640x480 is at capturing essential details (e.g. number-plates) I’ll attach a couple of frame-grabs taken in a car-park. The upper frame is a 640x300 crop from the Lujii, the lower frame is a matching crop (640x300) taken from my normal dash-cam (an E-Prance G1W). The E-Prance shot is not a telephoto one – its lens has a similar angle of view to that of the Lujii – it is just that at 1920x1080 the E-Prance’s full frame is three times the width of the Lujii’s. Put it another way, all else being equal, a genuine full HD camera will capture about seven times more detail than a VGA one (3x horizontally and 2.25x vertically). These two frame grabs demonstrate that fact ... in the upper one (Lujii) the number plates on the cars (which are about one and a half car-lengths in front of the camera) are barely visible – and completely unreadable ... and no matter how much you enlarge that image - that is as good as it gets. The lower crop (E-Prance) has the same pixel count as the Lujii’s crop – but as it was taken by a camera with seven times the imaging area (in pixels) it is perfectly possible to read the number plates. The Lujii’s image has other problems as well – in bright conditions it tends to underexpose – making it even harder to read number-plates.
Overall, the Lujii is pretty-much useless as an evidence gatherer – its images lack sufficient detail and its GPS tells blatant untruths. Other reviews have noted the clumsy way in which access to the memory card is impeded by the power and GPS connections and, I would add, the near-impossibility of navigating the menu buttons without smearing the interior lens with fingerprints. Look elsewhere; spend another 10-15 pounds and get a camera that has native high definition capability – this particular model just doesn’t cut it.