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Pogue's cheap, unexpected tech gifts No. 5: a spectacular dashboard cam

David Pogue
Tech Critic

In Russia, dashboard cameras are everywhere. Police corruption is so rampant that citizens equip themselves with these always-on cameras so they’ll have proof of their own lawful driving.

As a cool side effect, Russian dashcams have caught all kinds of amazing video—of the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor, for example. Or search YouTube for “Russian dashcam accident compilations” to see all the accidents these things have recorded.

There’s no reason a dashcam can’t be equally useful to a non-Russian, though.

After researching dozens of these things, I’ve decided the Viofo A119 is my pick. It’s $90 and tiny enough to hide behind your rear-view mirror. It has an 11-foot cord, complete with cable clips that let you run it along your windshield edges on its way to your cigarette lighter.

As soon as you turn on the car, the camera starts recording—gorgeous, clear, 1080p hi-def. When you turn off the car, it stops.

It holds as much as your memory card allows—a couple of hours’ worth of footage, say—and then replaces the older files with newer ones. Then, if anything worth saving ever happens, you hit the red Emergency button to delete-protect that video file for reviewing later. (The camera also auto-protects the current file in case of an accident.)

In other words—this is super important—this camera requires no thought or effort on your part, ever. It’s always on, always recording, automatically, by itself. The only time you even need to think of it is when something happens while you’re driving—and then, with one button press, your day is saved. Show the judge or the public that you were within the law, that you were harassed by police, that the other guy was at fault in the accident, whatever.

Two-inch screen, built-in speaker, records audio too, 160-degree wide angle, adjustable lens angle (up/down, left/right). An optional $10 GPS mount adds location stamping for each video, plus lane-departure and imminent-collision warnings.

Just a great, great device—and a swell gift for anyone.


David Pogue, tech columnist for Yahoo Finance, welcomes non-toxic comments in the Comments below. On the Web, he’s davidpogue.com. On Twitter, he’s @pogue. On email, he’s poguester@yahoo.com. Here’s how to get his columns by email.