Anker Roav Dash Cam Review

Over the last few months, I’ve pondered adding a dash cam to my car. This idea didn’t come out of nowhere, though. After seeing enough individual cases of a dash cam being useful either in daily life or in the course of fighting traffic accident cases or violations, I started doing some research. Luckily for me, one such dash cam essentially landed on my doorstep [1].

I'm going to break this review down into a few different parts:

  1. Unboxing
  2. Setup
  3. Usage
  4. Companion App [2]

Unboxing

This wasn't my first Anker product unboxing experience so I was already familiar with what to expect. As a SoundCore owner, I knew the experience would be good but not mind-blowing[3].

The open Roav box

Cutting through the shrink-wrap plastic and lifting the lid, I was immediately greeted with the star of the show.

Under the tray

Underneath the black camera tray lay two divided sections and an Anker 2-port USB car charger. The long, narrow section held a spudger that would become more than useful once I got to the installation. The other the charging/power cable and mounting plate. The addition of the USB car charger was a nice touch. I wasn't expecting to find one in the box. I ended up tossing this aside[4] since I had one in my car, already, for iPhone charging.

Box contents

The box, in total, held the camera, two mounting plates [5], USB charger, USB-A to micro-USB charging cable, and spudger tool.

In addition, there were three document books: a quick start guide, the user manual, and a quick-quick start guide (a welcome card). I found the quick-quick card to be good enough to get everything up and running, but know the extra info is there, should you need it.

The only thing I wish it came with is an SD card. I see quite a few competing options for sale online that offer SD cards included. It's a cheap addition and an oversight by Anker, in my opinion.

Setup

Upon first start, you're prompted with a couple questions including setting the date and time. It's definitely worth nothing that the time is 24-hour so if it's 6:49PM, set it to 20:49. Don't do what I did and set it to 06:49. I found this out after the fact via a screenshot I'll share later.

At the time, I didn't know there wouldn't be an SD card included so my setup process was put on hold until I could acquire one. Anker recommends a Class 10 card of 8GB, 16GB, or 32GB in size. I recommend getting the largest you can afford that Anker supports. I don't know if it'll take cards larger than 32GB. I didn't have any to test. I recommend the SanDisk 32GB microSD card. The one I used is the SanDisk Pixtor 16GB, found at BestBuy for $20 on sale but $32 at the time I wrote this review. [6].

Once the card was in, the device is off and running. It automatically records while on so its first video was me staring at it staring at my kitchen counter. Since it wasn't plugged into power, it also started counting down from 60. At zero it automatically turns off to save power.

Moving to the car, it was relatively easy to get this thing installed. Where I wanted to put it--behind the rear-view mirror on the driver's side--I have a toll tag blocking the dismount from the adhesive-backed mounting plate, so I put it on the other side. A hidden plus of this is that I don't see it while I'm driving. My front passenger will, but that's not really a problem.

During the relocation, I had to use the spudger to pry off the mounting plate. Let me be the first to say that adhesive is serious. It'll eventually come off but watch your leverage. I'm not responsible if you break your rear-view mirror trying to pop the plate off your window... though when I got mine off, it flew out the open door with conviction.

Now that it's on and plugged in, I need to route the cables. I opted to take the headliner-to-A-pillar route since a quick evaluation revealed the B-pillar wasn't going to work for my car. This meant I might not have enough slack to make it all the way to my center-console-mounted car charger [7].

When it was all said and done, I was short by about 3 feet. I ended up using a USB-A male to USB-A female extension to reach the rest of the way. It's hard to know how long is long enough because everyone's car is different so I can't fault Anker for that.

Usage

Recording videos is dead simple. The device is designed to automatically turn on and start recording when power is applied so turning the key (or pressing a button in some newer cars) is all that's required. By default, audio recording is turned on so if you don't want any evidence of your terrible in-car radio sing-a-longs, I suggest you flip that off in the settings.

Video Quality

The Roav has three quality settings:

  • 720p @ 30 frames/second
  • 720p @ 60 frames/second
  • 1080p @ 30 frames/second

The default is 1080p and that's where I left it. Examining a 5 minute clip, the video file came in at roughly 500MB. If you bought a small card, you'll be overwriting footage after every 70-80 minutes of driving. For most, that's totally fine, too. With my 32 GB card installed, I shooting for 2.5 hours of footage available at any given time.

The videos are decent. The quality isn't super great, but the dynamic range (differences between light and dark) are pretty good. The morning of my writing this review, I took a drive. The timestamp is off, but it was at 9:33 AM. Depending on the angle, license plates weren't always legible, which was unfortunate. I suspect legibility will be limited to those directly in front of the camera or when the sky isn't so bright.

Note: I have yet to test it at night. I'll follow up when I do.

Here are a couple clips. The first is from what I was still parked.



And the second from when I was driving (taken around the same time as the screenshot above).



Settings

There's a whole host of settings that can be flipped around (check out the Companion App section for a visual aid) but the ones you'll find most important are the crash sensitivity mode and the Parking Monitor.

Crash Sensitivity

If you're in an accident, you'll want to make sure the video is saved off. The Roav will lock the video file so it can't be overwritten at a later date.

Parking Monitor

If you're leaving your car unattended, the Roav will keep an eye on things for you while you're gone, for a set amount of time, up to 24 hours. This'll rely on the battery being charged so if you're taking infrequent short trips and leaving the car for more than 24 hours, you might want to consider either shortening the duration or... well... driving longer. The battery might not make it to the end of the 24-hour window.

Overall, I found the usage of the Roav to be fine. I kept getting confused by the fact that it's not a touch screen--so much in our lives is, these days--and that tapping the capacitive buttons below the screen was how I needed to navigate. I suspect it'll eventually sink in.

Companion App

The Roav has built-in Wi-Fi. When it's turned on, you can connect to it as you would any other Wi-Fi hotspot [8]. Once you're in, fire up the Roav app. The app itself is relatively self-explanitory so I won't go into a ton of detail about it.

Like I mentioned earlier, all the settings are available from within the app. I'd argue this is the best way to set up the device. The screenshot above is what I've configured for my Roav.

Video Navigation

Being able to browse the Roav's stash of videos on my phone is quite nice. Tapping on a video will allow me to start watching it, download it to the app for offline viewing or--and this is the odd part--download it to the app so I can copy it to my phone. Yes, it's a two-step process.

Downloading a clip is relatively painless. The speed is decent (around 3MB/second) which let me fetch that 550MB video I told you about earlier in just a couple minutes. The app doesn't do a very good job of estimating how long it'll take, though. The above screenshot had a valid and reasonably accurate estimate but the long video download did not (below).

Wrap Up

Overall, I like The Anker Roav. It'll probably stay in my car for some time as it serves the purpose I need it to. I'd recommend this camera to anyone that is looking for one on a budget or doesn't need a load of fancy features. There were a few areas I'd love to see the next version improve upon:

  1. I feel Anker could have stepped up the screen quality a bit as well as provide a better-compressed video file (15mbps is a bit much for a dash cam, in my opinion)
  2. Optional connection for a rear/internal camera. So much nonsense can happen behind a driver that a forward-facing camera won't catch. The same goes for inside the car.
  3. Provide a micro SD card in the box. They're cheap...
  4. ...or have internal storage.

FINAL VERDICT: BUY.

You can pick up the Anker Roav on Amazon for under a hundred dollars right now. That's a steal, in my book.


  1. Anker contacted me and asked if I wanted an opportunity to review the Roav, free of charge. I obliged. Affiliate links may be used based on my final conclusion. Consider this the disclaimer. ↩︎

  2. This is its own section because the Roav app is entirely optional. Everything you can do by poking at the camera screen or popping out the SD card can be done in the app and vice versa. ↩︎

  3. I think Apple takes the cake, there ↩︎

  4. a drawer ↩︎

  5. the second was underneath the camera in the black tray ↩︎

  6. I wouldn't normally go to a retail store for something like this but I didn't want to wait and the difference was just a few dollars-- a deal's a deal! ↩︎

  7. my car provides two cigarette lighters: one underneath the center stack and one in the center console underneath the arm rest ↩︎

  8. You might notice your phone not show a Wi-Fi symbol. I deduced this is probably because the phone can't actually get to the Internet via Wi-Fi so it'll prefer LTE. Here's a screenshot of my Wi-Fi settings to show it still connected, regardless. ↩︎


Strange Things Around These Parts

You're looking at what I can do in an evening (plus some tweaks after). I've been wanting to move to some sort of WordPress alternative for a while, now, and with the semi-maturity of Ghost, I feel like now's a good time to switch. While I'm not a huge JavaScript/Node.js fan, I did find Handlebars to be extremely easy to grasp.

Please excuse the mess while I clean up. Migrating from WordPress isn't straightforward in any sense.


New Workspace: a story

The culmination of several months of tinkering and not being completely satisfied with my work area has come to a head. Here’s a bit of back story on how this came to be, why I did it, some of the stuff I tried (and failed), and all the relevant links to what you see here are included at the end.

Let’s get this train moving.

Why?

About a year and two months ago from when I write this, I left my job in an alright office to take up a position at Papertrail. There were two primary lures hanging from this position that drew me in: the kind of people I’d be working with and the allowance of working remotely 100% of the time.

I had toyed with the idea for several months prior, wanting the flexibility to travel more often and even relocate from where I was living at the time (silicon valley) without having to look for yet another job.

This meant needing a high quality work area in which I can sit for 6-10 hours per day and get all my most important work done. For some, that can literally be anywhere–a coffee shop, the couch–I’m not quite like that. In order for me to mentally be in the right place while I work. Distractions are my arch nemesis.

With this concept in mind, I had to figure out what I’d need in order to be successful, or at least feel like I was being successful (have to check that bias box, you know).

Unfortunately, the realization didn't come until about two months ago (see section five of this post) when I decided I needed to start taking this more seriously.

The (Super) Early Incarnation

When I lived in California, my first workspace was an IKEA desk that fit just perfectly in the little den in my overpriced silicon valley apartment. At six feet (183cm) wide, it was good enough for the time. Realistically, I couldn’t make it any bigger, anyway. The room was six and a half feet (198cm) wide. Snug.

This desk housed my monitor, keyboard, mouse, and laptop. A few other miscellaneous things here and there like my XLR microphone and interface eventually made their way onto my desk, but that was it. I can’t stand desk clutter and am of the idea that if it’s not useful to you at the moment, it shouldn’t be there save for minor aesthetic complements.

When I moved, I voted to get rid of everything. It saved on moving costs and gave me a great excuse to start fresh… which lead to…

The Second(!?) Early Incarnation

My first attempt at a clean, functional workspace post-move involved a huge L-shaped corner desk build out from IKEA. I took two 47″ x 29″ (119cm x 74cm) rectangle tables and plopped a 47″ x 47″ (119cm x 119cm) L-piece with a curved cutout in the middle, giving me a massive 98″ (248cm) long-in-each direction L-shaped desk thing. The idea was wonderful in my head, but in reality, it didn’t turn out quite like I had planned.

The first hurdle was the curve. Because of how deep it was, any chair I found that could support long sitting sessions didn’t scoot up far enough thanks to the chair’s arms bumping against the desk edge. This meant I had to lean forward in order to even just barely reach my keyboard without it hanging over the lip. Not good.

This setup started after I moved from California to Washington in October 2016. This lasted almost five months before I had to call it quits and start from scratch (again).

Inspiration and Another Go

I started browsing the Internet and combing Instagram for ideas on how I can create a super clean, more minimal workspace without breaking the bank. The minimal desk design style is super hot right now and I wanted a piece of that hotness.

I came across a few others on Instagram who had used wood kitchen counter tops for their desks for a few reasons: they’re

  • cheap,
  • strong, and
  • big

One of the concepts behind this clean/minimal workspace movement is large swaths of the desk going unused in the traditional sense. It also allows for a decent number of items on the desk without drawing too many parallel lines with the cluttered feeling.

With countertop in hand, I opted to reuse the legs from my previous botched desk setup as a means for holding it up. At roughly 60 lbs (27 kg), it’s not incredibly heavy but remember, this is a solid slab of wood. If it’s not heavy, it’s at least awkward.

This is where having power tools came in handy. Sinking the screws into the wood required some torque and body weight to lean into my 18 volt cordless drill. With some effort, they screwed in and weren’t going anywhere. Handy tip, the screws that come with the IKEA desk legs–the ones you can buy individually—are short enough to sink into a wood counter top without punching through. Go team.

I was able to muster along with this and a set of drawers (also from, you guessed it, IKEA) as the support on the other side. The drawers are exactly the same height as the legs, making this an easy build.

Good, But it Could be Better

This configuration only lasted a couple months as we approach present day. I had seen the IKEA trestles being used in other setups like this one:

ikea-example
(credit: https://www.instagram.com/p/BQ3Tw80l9SF/)

and I knew that’s what I had to do. Further, I was completely confident the birch with white trestle legs would look super clean.

So that’s what I did.

Fixing the top to the legs required a bit of elbow grease this time, too. Since the trestles will be level, I don’t need a ton of security; enough to keep the legs and top lined up is enough. I marked out where the legs need to go and where I needed to drill. I created a pilot hole then sunk the screws that act like pegs that came with the legs. That’s it! Not rocket science by any means.

In addition, I swapped out a lamp I had since I moved in for the standing version of my desk lamp, and it made all the difference. During the day, I have enough light from the window to not need to worry about filling the room with light. At night, these two lamps flood my desk with enough light to be able to work with ease.

It’s Finished

When I got to a point where I’d be comfortable sharing it with the world, I posted a picture (the same one you see in the header of this post) on Instagram. Turns out Instagram loves this stuff and ate it up. If I ever seriously wanted to increase my Brand, this would be how I’d do it. (lol)

IMG_3632_jofipc

The Pieces

Here’s what you see in the photo–with relevant links:

Furniture

Lighting

Decoration

Electronics

Miscellaneous

  • WordPress-branded coffee cup
  • Pens

Or is it?

At the time of this writing, I still have a couple tweaks to make. I need to create a more permanent home for my work Macbook Pro in the form of a vertical stand (probably from Twelve South) and a desk mat. One of the downsides to this butcher-block wood slab is it’s not a super smooth texture. Butcher-block requires treatment if it’s going to get wet, something I haven’t done, and probably won’t do for some time.

In a few months, who knows what I’ll end up doing. I’m moving again next October into hopefully a more permanent home so this build might need some tweaking. Who knows, really…


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