Dash cams are often very simple devices, quietly recording video then saving a portion when a collision is detected. The $250 / £220 Vantrue M2 is a considerably more complex affair, bundling a front- and rear-facing dash cam system with a mirror that offers both a rear view and parking guidance when reverse gear is selected.
Vantrue M2 specifications
Sensor: Sony Starvis
Resolution: 2560 x 1440 (front) 1920 x 1080 (rear)
Field of view: 148 degrees (front) 140 degrees (rear)
Frame rate: 30fps (front and rear)
GPS: Yes, but not integrated
Where to start? The Vantrue M2 boasts a higher-than-average resolution for its front camera, at 1440p, but the real highlight is of course the mirror unit and reverse camera feature.
The rear-facing camera acts as a dash cam too, but when the driver selects reverse gear it’s used to help with backing into a parking space, complete with guidance lines to help you out.
There’s also GPS, HDR, a parking mode when the camera unit is hardwired to your car, optional audio recording, and the entire 12-inch display works as a touchscreen.
Build and handling
Installing this dash cam is not for the faint-hearted, and ideally you should hire a professional to do it for you. The main unit is simple enough to attach to your car’s own mirror – it doesn’t replace the mirror, but fits over the top with a pair of stretchable rubber straps. If your vehicle’s mirror is a strange shape then the Vantrue M2 might not fit properly
The dash cam is then powered from your car’s 12V lighter socket with the included cable, or can be hardwired for a permanent power supply with a wiring kit sold separately.
We’re disappointed at how the GPS unit, while included in the kit, isn’t integrated with the dash cam itself. Instead, the small box connects with a cable and sticks to the windscreen with an adhesive pad. Given the size of the main unit, we had hoped the GPS antenna would be hidden inside.
Then things get complicated. The weatherproof backup camera is designed to attach above your vehicle’s rear number plate. Its short cable then attaches to a much longer cable, which has two components; one runs right through the interior of your car (ideally through the roof lining) and plugs into the front camera. Owners of other dual-camera systems will be familiar with this setup.
A second, slimmer cable attached to the main one is then attached to a wire powering your car’s reversing lights. You’ll have to dig your way through the boot to find the reversing light wiring, and this will vary significantly depending on what car you have.
Thankfully the included instructions are fairly clear, English translations notwithstanding, and the kit conveniently comes with a range of screws, mounts and tools to help you install everything neatly.
The main unit looks good and feels well made, but lacks the dimming function your car’s existing mirror likely already has. It is powered via a Mini USB connection, which is a fairly old standard now, so you’ll likely have to use the included power cable and that cable only. With the power, GPS and rear camera cables all connected and sprouting out the top of the mirror, it looks a little cluttered, lacking the seamless finish of a system fitted by the vehicle manufacturer.
Setup is fairly simple, but routing the power and rear camera cables through your car can be a challenge. We also found that our car’s USB port, which can handle Apple CarPlay, couldn’t power the Vantrue M2, so the 12V lighter socket was our only option.
Once everything is in place, the M2 works well. The rear camera gives a great view of the road behind, or with a swipe at the display you can use the mirror in the conventional way. Tapping then swiping up or down quickly adjusts the display’s brightness, but it’s a shame there isn’t an automatic function here for dimming at night or when driving through a tunnel.
Another swipe switches the view so you can see ahead and behind at the same time, if you prefer. The menu system is responsive, simple to navigate and displays very clearly on the reflective surface. The device really does perform the dual function of being a display and a mirror, and is equally good at both tasks.
Attaching the rear camera to your reversing lights isn’t a requirement, but doing so automatically switches to the rear view and overlays parking guidance lines when you shift into reverse. It’s a neat additional feature, but the system works just fine without it. We could certainly get used to seeing the rear camera’s live feed permanently, instead of the reflection of a regular mirror.
Video quality is good, thanks to the 1440p resolution and Sony sensor, and we think Vantrue has done a solid job of giving the dash cam an entirely new form factor.
Vantrue M2: Verdict
When assessed as a dash cam, the M2 works much like any other. Video quality is good and footage is saved to a microSD card when a collision is detected. But the big talking point here is the rear view mirror integration. Vantrue gets a lot right here; installation is relatively simple, albeit a lengthy process when it comes to routing the various cables, and the system works well.
It’s a shame that the GPS antenna isn’t integrated, and needs attaching to the windscreen. We also disliked the look of three cables sprouting out the top of the mirror, giving it an untidy aesthetic. You’re unlikely to fool anyone into thinking this is a factory-fitted accessory, as the look is very much that of the aftermarket.
But, if you’re happy to put the effort in and don’t mind the untidy look, the Vantrue M2 is a smart piece of kit that offers much more than almost any other dash cam system.
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