Papago! P3 Driving Recorder

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More and more cars crowd our streets, which also means more and more idiot drivers who only passed their driving tests with some “help” behind the steering wheel. I am fairly sure you see and experience your fair share of bad drivers daily, and perhaps you have had some close calls of your own. Unfortunate bad things do happen, and if you have ever been in an accident, you will need more than your own testimony to ensure guilt is passed on to the right offender. By providing solid evidence that can be provided by a Driving Recorder such as video footage, impact g-force readings and even the recorded sounds leading up to the accident, the authorities will have better data to ascertain what really happened. Just like a “black-box” or flight data recorders found in all commercial airplanes, the Papago! Driving Recorder will certainly help remove hearsay with tangible and reliable data.

Equipped with a full HD which records 1080p footage at 30 frames per second, and coupled with a 130° wide angle camera, the P3 sees and records almost everything ahead of your car. HD recording makes sense, because the video files created, gives you 7x better definition compared to VGA cameras and 2.2X more definition than a 720P camera. It makes sense because the added clarity makes car registration plates and other important details easier to see and therefore more useful when needed.

A GPS receiver and a G-sensor is included. This means that not only will you be able to know exactly where you are at any given time, but the data given by the G-sensor will be able to tell you in which direction the force was felt and the amount of G-forces experienced. The data will go a long way towards deciphering an accident.

Having an inbuilt GPS receiver, means that you will be able to see your current location on the mini monitor display, which is useful to a point. The P3 isn’t a full fledged GPS system, and it isn’t a navigation device. I guess, this Driving Recorder isn’t designed for navigation, which will require a much bigger screen than the 2.4″ screen built into the unit.

A feature which I think should have been included which will make the P3 more desirable to the car enthusiast market would be to increase the functionality of the G-sensor unit. By utilising the accelerometers, an enthusiast driver can glean other cool data-points like skid pad, acceleration times, horse power readouts. A good example is Dynolicious, an iPhone app that makes use of the sensors found in iPhones to give you these cool readings.

For the drivers who worry about their own driving abilities and sensibilities, the P3 is equipped with 2 interesting features. Land Departure Warning System (LDWS) is automatically booted when you achieve over 60kmh, and a graphical and audible warning is made when you stray from your designated lane. This feature works 95% of the time for me, but it grew less sensitive during the night. I believe the system uses the video images to work out where the dotted lines are in relation to the direction that you are headed. Unfortunately, the system isn’t fool proof, as the warning goes off when the road gets very twisty.

The other driving aid built into the P3 is the Front Collision Warning System (FCWS). Unlike some FCWS systems found in high end cars which uses either a radar or laser sensor to ascertain the distance of the cars ahead, the P3 again utilises what the camera sees and works out how far the vehicle is in relation to your car. FCWS is also automatically booted up when you reach speeds over 60kmh. Another audible alarm sounds when you get too close to the vehicle ahead and a red box appears over the target vehicle. I am reminded of a “target weapons lock” on fighter planes… remember TopGun? Anyway, as the vehicle gets ever closer, the red box also gets bigger. Unfortunately, FCWS doesn’t work 80% of the time at night.

These two driver aids may become annoying as they create quite a bit more noise and distractions to me than I think they are worth, but this is very personal. Fortunately, theses features can be turned off. Which brings me to the setup of the P3. The P3 is actually very easy to use and to set up. Navigating through the various features is simple and easy to do, and the unit worked right out of the box for me. All I needed to do was to choose my language preferences, voice prompts preference and time zone. The unit came with a 8GB SD card with the Malaysian map preinstalled which allows approximately 90 minutes of video footage. Video recordings are written in 5 minute clips and the system automatically overwrites the oldest clip unless you save the file. You can save up to 5 files that will prevent the system from overwriting them.

A super valuable feature built in (at least to “speedsters” like me) is the Speed Camera Warning. Regular updates of speed camera locations can be found online and you can update the P3 accordingly. I think this feature will mean that the P3 will pay for itself for drivers who travel a lot! The P3 will give you another audible and visual warning when you are approaching a speed camera area.

What I really like is the playback view of the video footage. The Papago P3 encodes the GPS location coordinates as well as the street names, your actual speed in real time, time and date plus a small map on the top left corner of the screen indicating your position on the map itself. I used this footage to make a video guide to help people find their way to my office in Bangsar, so it can be pretty useful. An enthusiast driver could make great videos of his track races.. which makes the P3 more than just an insurance utility. As you can see in the screen grab of the recorded footage, the picture is very clear and license plate numbers clearly visible. Colour rendition as well as contrast levels are also pretty decent.

If you are in the market of a POV (point Of View) camera like the GoPro, the P3 could be a good alternative if you do not intend to use the camera for anything but the car.

The included GoLife software is designed to be a desktop companion of the P3. Unfortunately, I am a Mac user and the software only works on Window’s PCs. From what I gleaned from the manual, the software lets you not only see the video clips but a separate readouts for Speed/G-sensor/G-sensor value display and a map.

Who should get one of these Driving Recorders?

If you or a family member are accident prone, please do yourself a favour and get one. It could get you out of trouble if the accident wasn’t your fault and insurance claims and other liability issues can be quickly proven with the video footage as well as other data that is being recorded.

Get one if you do lots of travelling, because the LDWS and FCWS features will alert you if you are getting tired and not paying enough attention to the road ahead. The Speed Camera Warning could also save you lots on speeding tickets.

For those who like recording their in-car exploits, the HD camera and its ability to track speeds and G-forces would make those “mamak” discussions more fun.

The Papago! P3 retails for RM899 and is available for sale online at M3Shoppe.

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I run a personal fitness centre (www.fitology.my) as well as a coworking space (www.nook.my). But my love for gadgets and modding stuff has led me to start writing this blog. Do leave us comments and start a conversation.

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