By Andrew Lam on February 9, 2016
We think the Transcend DrivePro 200 is a great budget, heat resistant camera. It’s a great value at $100 especially when combined with a 2-year warranty, 16GB card, Wi-Fi video playback and good customer service. The downside is the poor night video quality but is worth the trade off if you need the reliability. We’re much less excited for the other cameras but they do have their uses.
Table of Contents
We selected three, popular name brand dash cameras between $100 and $150 which are found in retail stores such as Best Buy and Walmart. They might be older but their replacements are either much more than the average buyer wants to pay or haven’t arrived to market.
Transcend DrivePro 200It has almost everything you want including a 2-year warranty, worldwide service. While day quality is comparable to the other cameras, night quality is bad. Get It from Amazon
Garmin Dash Cam 20Just like other Garmin products the Dash Cam 20 is designed for simplicity. Perfect camera for those who require complication-free operation or aren’t good with electronics. You’ll pay a premium at $150 for this convenience.
Papago GoSafe 200The Papago grips onto the back of your rearview mirror. Great for drivers looking for a hidden camera and don’t want anything stuck to their windshield. It has good video quality. If you don’t need this feature avoid this camera because of the ease in missing that your camera is not operating correctly.
|Garmin Dash Cam 20 $62||Papago GoSafe 200 $80||Transcend DrivePro 200 $80|
|GPS / WiFi||GPS||Optional GPS||WiFi|
|Size mm (L X H X W)||82 x 66 x 37||52 x 43 X 25 (Medium)||71 x 64 x 36 (Medium)|
Packaging & Accessories
Garmin Dash Cam 20Typical packaging, good design. There is a snug, custom cutout for the camera for better protection. Normally includes a suction mount. Get the 32GB version for an added adhesive mount. Unusually short 6′ power cable prevents cable routing. See installation for details
Papago GoSafe 200Fairly standard sized box and accessories (power cable, manual, USB Cable). Nice protective cradle for the camera.
Transcend DrivePro 200Custom double box and design. You feel like you purchased a premium product. Two versions, one with an adhesive mount, the other a suction mount (avoid this option – it’s terrible!). Does not include a USB cable or card reader which is standard even in cheap cameras.
Build Quality & Design
Winner: Garmin Dash Cam 20 Very sturdy camera body. It uses thick, quality plastic and is 33% heavier than other cameras. An elegant scratch resistant plastic covers the LCD screen. The design is fairly discreet. While large it uses a matte plastic and a smaller lens turret to draw less attention.
Papago GoSafe 200Nothing outstandingly bad or good. The metallic ring can draw attention but can be removed with a twist. It’s easy to pull the LCD screen down due to the large lip.
Transcend DrivePro 200Elegant design, otherwise average build quality. The Chrome ring is not detachable and can stand out. The mounting area is molded in one solid piece, very sturdy.
Every camera had notable flaws with its installation. Otherwise installation was straightforward and took around 5-10 minutes to finish.
Garmin Dash Cam 20The power cable is ridiculously short at 6′. We were unable to route the cable and had to leave the camera wire dangling. For many people this isn’t an issue, however it’s disappointing for a product which costs $150. You can buy another cable but if it’s not specifically pinned for power the camera will display a USB mass storage screen instead of going directly to recording. The suction mount was good. It firmly attached even in cold weather. The ball joint has a large degree of motion is and stiffly holds the camera in place without vibrations.
Papago GoSafe 200Papago’s mirror mount was intuitive to use and secure. Its spring loaded arms latch onto your existing mirror and accommodates a max height of 8cm (3.15″). The camera fit our three test vehicles: 2012 Honda Fit, 2010 Rav4 and Lexus ES350. The power cord has several protrusions making it more difficult to hide. Since I had to shorten the cable to get it to fit you may find it a challenge to hide in larger vehicles. I successfully tested the camera at different passenger heights. The camera has a wide angle and you can push out the mount to tilt the camera if that’s insufficient. One unfixable problem is if your vehicle’s rearview mirror is especially high. Installing the camera to a Nissan Versa it had increased distortion and obstructed vision. Moving the camera back to my Honda Fit all those problems were resolved.
Transcend DrivePro 200The suction mount was completely useless. I couldn’t get it to stick regardless of cleanliness and position. It’s too small. Buy the adhesive version instead. Luckily I had a mount from the DOD LS460W which fit. The mounting size is standard. You can find many mounts off eBay which will fit this camera. Transcend’s power cable is the best of the three cameras, thick, no obstructions and long.
Ease of Setup
Garmin and Transcend have well designed interfaces. It’s digitally labeled controls are intuitive, navigation is simple and the options well labeled. Garmin goes one step further by illustrating options such as volume and brightness. Garmin omits a few options to simplify operation. You cannot disable GPS logging. Your speed is always shown on the recorded video. As well you can’t disable loop recording preventing your camera from not working. Papago was confusing. It used a combination of printed and small-on screen labels. It’s easy to press the wrong buttons and the settings were poorly described. Looking at manuals Transcend does a great job in describing and illustrating every step. Garmin lacked information and diagrams, otherwise OK. Papago was both awkwardly worded and missed information.
We looked at how easy each camera was to use on a daily basis. Garmin was the winner as you don’t need to change your habits to ensure you are protected. Transcend and Papago requires you to look at the camera to see if it’s working properly.
Audible NotificationsWell designed audible notifications let you know when your camera is working. Garmin does this best. It beeps twice only when the camera starts recording. However if it encounters any problems there is no alarm or voice warnings such as found on Blackvue’s camera. Transcend and Papago beep when they turn on but you have no idea if they are recording. You have to look at the LCD screen to see if there any problems. There are many stories with drivers getting into accidents and finding out that nothing was recorded.
LCD NotificationsAll cameras show warning messages when things go wrong. Transcend and Garmin have persistent and easily seen messages. Papago has a major flaw with its design. It’s very easy to miss messages about it not being able to record. Any warnings disappear after a few seconds. You have to look for the small recording icon as it doesn’t have a LED status light. As well this requires the LCD to be pulled down which somewhat defeats the purpose of the camera.
Emergency RecordingAll cameras have a feature to lock the video file from being overwritten. On Papago and Garmin you have to press the button twice. Once to disable any screensavers and the other to activate the file protection. Transcend has the best system using a large dedicated button that only needs to be pressed once.
MobilityGarmin and Transcend can turn face the side windows. Good feature if you need to record an accident, police interaction or anything interesting you see.
Motion DetectionGarmin 20 has no motion detection. This is a camera designed for simplicity so it may have been intentionally left out. As well there is no option to disable loop recording on the camera.
Battery LifePapago can record for 20 minutes, Garmin for 80. Transcend cannot turn on without the car’s power supply. If you leave Transcend disconnected for longer than a couple days the power runs out and the time and date resets.
Video Quality & Raw Files
Winner: Papago GS200 Overall the Papago GoSafe200 has the best video quality, Garmin second and a fair distance behind the Transcend 200. All three cameras have good quality during the day. Transcend does miss out on finer details but otherwise has similar license plate legibility At night Papago’s GoSafe200 outclassed the other cameras while moving and has better low light sensitivity. Garmin at a standstill appears to have similar clarity but has significantly more motion blur. Transcend unfortunately looks bad, it’s appears blurrier under almost all conditions except in the city because of increased light.
The Garmin 20 has less motion blur, it’s license plate is legible. On Papago and Transcend, it’s a blur. Download Raw Videos: Garmin – Papago – Transcend
Garmin and Transcend are desaturated. Papago has more true to life colours but looks worse than the other cameras. We think the distortion is from the Papago’s close position to the top of the windshield. Download Raw Videos: Garmin – Papago – Transcend
When we moved the camera to the Honda Fit the overall quality significantly increased from the lower mounting position. The obscuring sun dots also disappeared. Download Raw Videos: A118-C – Papago
Transcend doesn’t capture finer details such as the brickwork. Download Raw Videos: Garmin – Papago – Transcend
Transcend has less details than the other cameras but does better because of the well-lit environment. Garmin has more motion blur which lets Papago reign supreme on video quality. Download Raw Videos: Garmin – Papago – Transcend
At a standstill Papago and Transcend appear to have similarly matched video quality. It looks quite good.
Once you start moving Papago is clearly better. It’s able to use a lower shutter speed which reduces motion blur. Download Raw Videos: Garmin – Papago – Transcend
GarminYou have to use Garmin’s Dash Cam Player if you want to view information such as speed and position. Luckily it’s nicely designed. We found it easy to use and shows all the data you need including your speed and position on a map. When you connect the dash camera to the computer it will automatically detect and sort the videos by date.
PapagoPapago only mentions their GoLife Player in the FAQ. You then have to Google the actual software because it’s found through their website. While the software is pretty decent the lack of updates makes the Registrator Viewer a better choice.
Transcend 200Transcend’s program is less user friendly than Garmin’s but does an adequate job.
Other Camera Features
GPS Speed / Position LoggingGarmin 20 is equipped with GPS which logs your speed and route. Your positional coordinates and speed are overlaid on top of the video and written as metadata. We found everything fairly accurate and had a good signal even in the downtown core. Papago GS200 can use an optional GPS receiver for an added $40. This wasn’t tested.
WifiTranscend’s WiFi program (iOS and Android) allows users to playback/download videos and change settings. Setting up and using the program was straightforward. You have to connect to its WiFi network before the software can connect to the device. I wish I had it during my own accident. I didn’t want to let the other driver know I had a dash camera so I pulled out the SD card to discreetly view the footage. WiFi would have made it easier.
FirmwareAll cameras have new Firmware a year after the cameras were released. This is a good sign as support can often end to save money and free up developers for newer cameras. On Transcend and Papago you have to download the file and transfer the file to the SD card. Garmin uses their Express software and will automatically detect the device and provide the updates, simplifying the process and prevents users from bricking the camera.
Reliability, Warranty & Support
On average these cameras have better reliability compared to the white-label models we reviewed. These cameras are sold and supported by brick and mortar retailers such as Best Buy, Walmart, and Costco. Transcend has the best warranty at two years and because it uses capacitors instead of lithium batteries should perform better in hot environments. The downside is the time and date resets if the camera isn’t used for a few days. Looking at support all three companies have a good reputation. Papago and Transcend (going by Captain Transcend on Amazon) go the extra distance and responds to Amazon reviews and Facebook comments on a timely basis. Garmin doesn’t have much of a public customer support presence, their Facebook questions go unanswered.
The three cameras tested preformed as expected – better reliability, cheaper price but loses out on performance. Transcend gets a recommendation. The other cameras from Papago and Garmin you should buy only if you love their features.
Where to Buy Buy from Amazon – USA and UK If you live in Canada this camera is overpriced. We’ll update this section once there is a better alternative.
Transcend DrivePro 200The DrivePro 200 gets our recommendation for a budget, heat resistant camera. If you live somewhere especially hot and can’t cough up another $100 for better video performance this would be the camera to get. Keep in mind you lose a lot of quality at night especially if you live somewhere outside the city where there is less artificial lighting.
|The Good||The Bad|
Garmin 20While it has bad video quality for $150 it’s the least expensive camera with a decent user experience. Most budget cameras beep when the camera starts up, not when it records. There are so many stories where people mistakenly believe their camera is working but find out after an accident they have nothing. I think for most this Garmin camera is not appealing but those who enjoy the additional peace of mind it’s a good buy
|The Good||The Bad|
Where to Buy Buy from Amazon – USA, Canada, UK
Papago GS200In general we would not recommend the Papago GoSafe 200 unless you need the mirror mount feature. This camera can leave you without protection as it’s too easy to miss camera failures. Decent video quality but not as good as other Ambarella A7 solutions (Ausdom A261). Bad Design. Most people will probably keep the LCD retracted but will leave you unaware of any problems. I’d only get this camera if I loved the design. I’ve talked to enough people who don’t want to stick anything onto their windshield.
|The Good||The Bad|
Where to Buy Get it from Amazon – USA, Canada, UK Note: In UK, Papago is called Aiptek