Transcend DrivePro 520 review: Looking both ways
With the recent spate of violence against Uber drivers many people are again looking for dashcams which can not only record what’s happening on the road in front of them, but inside of the cabin too.
The DrivePro 520 from Transcend is one of the options South African have, so we gave it a few hundred kilometres of testing to see how it fairs.
Inside the box you’ll find the DrivePro 520 itself with a small black plastic body which is very far from feeling cheap, but doesn’t at all touch anything you’d call premium at a glance.
The front is host to a full HD 1080P camera with a large 130 degree FOV, and a small speaker for various alert noises.
Around the back is where things get interesting. There’s a 720P camera surrounded by four infrared LEDs that are housed inside of a rotating chamber. This allows you to position the camera to face anywhere in the cabin, and it can encompass the driver on the right-hand side just fine, despite the fact that it’s located on the left-hand side of the unit.
There’s also a 2.4″ screen that, while being too dim in direct sunlight, does a great job of showing you a livefeed of what the camera is capturing. Four buttons below the screen are there for control as the screen has no touch capability at all.
The mount that connects the dashcam to the windscreen is one of the worst ones we’ve seen in a while. We got the suction cup variant instead of the more permanent adhesive, and it’s incapable of holding up the weight of the unit. In the end we had to resort to tape to keep everything together.
This is a real shame as the articulation on the mount is actually fantastic, but that doesn’t count for much when you’re recording video of the floor after the dashcam falls down for the tenth time.
Also in the box is a 32GB microSD card which can capture a lot of footage, even with the dual-recording setup. Finally there’s an included cable for keeping the dashcam powered up and, this may seem like a nitpick, but it’s far, far too long. Not only does it stick out of the cigarette lighter port a fair ways, but the cable is a ridiculous four metres long.
Even if you’re using that cable in a spacious truck, there’s no reason for this. Did Transcend think we’d need to power up the dashcam in the next car over or something? Making matters worse is the fact that the cable terminates in a 90 degree angle that points upwards, which, combined with the length, means that it’s usually an unpleasent affair setting things up.
Oh, and it’s also using the outdated mini USB, so you can forget about sharing your phone’s power accessories with it.
That’s a problem as the internal battery on the 520 only lasts around 20 minutes, so you’ll want to be plugged in most of the time.
If you ever unplug the dashcam from the power, even if the battery is fully charged, it will turn off. This means that if you’re in a serious enough accident that your ignition cuts out, the 520 will turn off and probably miss important footage. This is another strange inclusion which we imagine was included to reduce setup time when you get in the car – turn the car on and the dashcam is turned on automatically, and vice versa – but as we pointed out above it’s not ideal.
Finally looking at the quality of video the 520 can capture, and the road-facing camera doesn’t leave much to be desired. It’s a bit grainy, and our test footage hosted on YouTube has been compressed, but it’s nice and clear and deals with car problems excellently. Muck on the windscreen, vibrations from the car and even poor positioning from the operator are all compensated for here. This camera won’t miss anything and it won’t disappoint.
The cabin-facing camera, on the other hand, does. In the day time, or even low light conditions just after sundown, it works just as well as the the other camera, easily caputring the entirety of the cabin and even some of the street through the rear windscreen.
In the dead of night, however, it’s a hit or miss affair. Those infrared LEDs light up a tiny part of the cabin and will need to be aimed precisely at a person’s face to capture their details. If you need to see more than one person in the cabin, you’ll have to rely on streetlights or you’ll need to leave a light on with the purpose of helping this camera out.
Transcend DrivePro 520 review: Conclusion
There are a lot of mistakes made in the Drivepro 520, and some of them may be unforgivable depending on your needs. It’s still a very solid choice for Uber drivers and businesses looking to increase accountability, and you may be able to look past the R3 249 RRP when you consider the amount of money it could save you in the future.