We admit we were a little wary when an e-mail arrived in our inbox, offering a new dashcam for us to try out. The catch was that it would be coming from another country, courtesy of Gearbest.com. We’ve reviewed products like this before, but they didn’t come from foreign countries. But the website was true to its word: A brand-new Xiaomi Yi dashcam reached us via mail.
You might have heard of the Xiaomi brand by now courtesy of its smartphone business. In its home country of China, it likes to project itself as the Chinese version of Apple Inc. Its products imitate the simple packaging and design of the Cupertino-based iPhone maker.
The zen aesthetic is evident the moment you see the box. It’s a plain-white package with the word "Yi" at the corner. The back is also bare save for a sticker with specifications. When you open the lid, you see the product: a gold Yi and nothing else.
After admiring the Yi, we set about installing it in our vehicle. We encounter the first snag: The software menu is in Chinese, and there’s no way of changing it to English. The seller's product page does have a menu translation to help you in accessing the more advanced features.
The good thing is that these devices are pretty much plug-and-play. And since the possible video resolutions are still English numbers, we're able to set the picture clarity we want. Seeing as a generous 16GB microSD card is bundled, we select one of the higher resolutions.
A nice touch with the Yi’s car charger is that it has two USB slots, something we haven’t seen in other dashcams we’ve reviewed. And it has a high power output, capable of powering our Waze-running smartphone.
So we try out the Yi for a few days, and the gadget stuns us with its video quality. The lens has an aperture of F1.8, and this lets a lot of light in even during nighttime. It is easy to see what’s happening on the road in the evening. Reviewing the daytime clips, it almost looks like an HD GoPro camera is being used. The plate numbers of the other cars on the road are clearly seen, and we can still read the street signs.
We show the Yi’s footage to our writer Niky Tamayo, the author of our three-way dashcam comparo last year. He says the Yi’s output easily beats any of the cameras he has reviewed.
So what’s the catch? Other than the lack of an English menu, there’s no built-in GPS. Those high-resolution videos also consume a lot of memory space. A three-minute video takes up 450MB to 500MB, so a 16GB microSD card can be easily filled in a day. Like with all dashcams, the newest clip overwrites the oldest file, of course.
The Yi also has other advanced functions like a smartphone app via Wi-Fi, a lane-departure warning system, and a forward-sensing system, but we’ll tackle those once we’ve successfully deciphered the whole menu.
You can order the Yi for $61.99 (P2,883). There's a customs tax of about P800 when you pick up the gadget from the post office.
For what it does and how easy it is to set up, the Xiaomi Yi is our best pick if you want a dashcam that can capture your future submissions to our Facebook page. Its beautiful design is a nice bonus.
Photos by Dinzo Tabamo