iTrue X3 Dashcam

Originally posted October 1, 2015

This is another post transferred from the DashCamTalk forums. Future posts will be done directly on this site and linked to from the forums.

iTrue offered me one of their new X3 dashcams for review. I hadn't heard of them before, so I thought I'd give them a try.

Here's the video review, but if you want more detail or prefer to read, well, you're in the right place. :)

The iTrue X3 is a medium sized dashcam with a large screen in back, and large lens housing on the front. Fit and finish is great – the chrome ring around the body is actually a metal frame, and the black parts are simulated stitched leather texture with a thin rubberized coating. This makes it feel more classy than just a plain black plastic case. It reminds me of some of the new smartphone styles that have come out recently – chrome and leather.

Basic Specs:

  • Novatek 96650 CPU
  • Aptina AR0330 sensor
  • Glass lenses
  • Li-Ion battery for use while unplugged
  • 1080p@30fps
  • 720p@60fps
  • Large LCD screen on back
  • Mini-HDMI port
  • AV out jack (3.5mm)
  • GPS input port (3.5mm) – GPS antenna not available at time of review
  • Mini-USB power input
  • Uses MicroSD cards up to 32gb

In the box:

  • iTrue X3 Camera
  • Car power cord (approx 12 ft. or 3.7m) - 1.5 amps
  • Mini-USB cable
  • Suction cup mount

Note - the unboxing pic above shows an SD card, but I don't know what capacity iTrue will ship with the camera. They sent me a 16GB card for the review.

Obviously the first thing you'll notice about this camera is the gigantic lens trim ring on the front, and the LED in the upper corner of the camera. There's no mistaking this thing as anything other than a camera. Personally, I don't care for all the chrome on this camera. I can deal with the LED, the iTrue logo and the small chrome piece around the speaker opening, but the lens trim and chrome around the body is just too much for me. If you're inclined, it's about 10 screws to remove the chrome lens trim and its supports (it's all one piece), but then you'd be left with an ugly opening around the lens.

The mount bracket on top of the camera is actually made out of metal – it's not just chrome-plated plastic. So it ought to be more durable than the suction cup mount it attaches to. The suction cup mount CAN rotate left and right, but it's not intended to be rotated very often. It seems like it's basically only meant to be rotated once to compensate for the angle of the windshield where it might be mounted. The second time I rotated it while in the car, it fell off the mount. That's partially because this is only a friction fit mount with no clips or detents. During normal driving where I wasn't moving the camera, I had no issues with shaking or the camera coming loose. It was also very easy to take the camera down and put it back up for each trip. I didn't want to leave it in my car while parked – all that chrome is too much of a theft risk. The fore/aft pivot adjustment on the mount has teeth in it so that once you set it where you want it and tighten the screw, it's not going anywhere. Even slamming on the brakes or dropping the clutch and accelerating hard did not make the camera tilt up or down.

One minor nit-pick about the camera is that the MicroSD card slot is a bit recessed. Even with my fingernails a little long and needing a trim, I still had a hard time inserting or removing the microSD card. This is fairly minor though – they did put a big bevel around the slot so you don't need a special tool to try and get the card in or out like you do with some other cameras.

Speaking of SD cards, one of the first things I did was try to use a 64gb card in the camera, even though the manufacturer specifies 32gb as the max. If the 64gb card is formatted in exfat, which is the standard format for anything over 32gb, it won't work. The camera cannot format an exfat card in the camera itself. However, if you format the 64gb card as FAT32 in your computer or other device (remember, Windows can't do that by itself – you need a special app), a 64gb card WILL work just fine in this camera. Just keep in mind that if you ever need to format your 64gb card, you can't do it in this camera.

One other small problem I discovered while using the camera – because the record LED is actually under the power button, and the buttons are clear, you cannot see the record light on a bright, sunny day – light from the sun washes out any LEDs under those buttons so they're effectively invisible. So when the screen is off you can't tell if it's still recording unless you cover the buttons with your hand to try and see the LED.

The Novatek/Aptina chipset/sensor combo this camera uses is becoming a very common since it was made popular by the G1W series as well as the A118/A118C and countless others. It's a pretty mature chipset with most of the bugs worked out, and is pretty reliable.

The screen on the back of the X3 is a little over 2.5” or 6.7cm diagonal, so the menus are very easy to read, icons are clearly visible, and playback of video is actually usable on the camera. The clear buttons feel nice – they curve up on the right edge similar to old blackberry keyboards, only bigger. Each button is clearly labeled, and its alternate functions (depending on what mode the camera's in or if you hold it down) is labeled next to the button on the edge of the screen. Speaking of buttons – each one has more than one function. You'll need to read the owner's manual to find them all, especially concerning playing back videos. But on that note, the manual is one of the best dashcam manuals I've seen. It's actually pretty well written with lots of screenshots and explanations of the various functions.

Loop recording works as expected, with about 1 second of overlap in each file just like other Novatek cameras, so you'll never miss anything while it starts a new file. It also allows for loop segments of up to 10 minutes – I like that option. The LED on the front is super bright white and can only be turned on or off inside the menus – it's not automatic. I left it off, as there's no way it could possibly be better than my car's headlights, and besides, it would cause major glare inside the car at night. Like the one on the G1W series, this light serves no purpose and can safely be ignored.

Sound quality from the built-in mic is just OK. It seems to have a fairly decent range of sound, but it doesn't pick up sounds like the turn signals, and even voices are a bit muted. Music that was playing on the car stereo lacks highs and lows, but then, this isn't intended to be a studio-grade microphone. It should work fine for picking up car horns, emergency sirens, tire noise and other loud stuff that may be relevant in an accident.

When I took apart the camera to see how it's made, I was surprised to see a copper heat spreader plate attached to the back of the image sensor. This should help out a lot in hot environments, and help avoid focus shift. The lens can be adjusted, but they glued it all the way around (not just a few dots of glue like some manufacturers), so it'll take some real work to remove all that glue if you ever want to refocus the lens. Other than that, it looks good inside. No ugly solder joints, neat and tidy packaging, and fairly easy to take apart if you ever need to. No special tools required other than a small phillips screwdriver.

Image quality during the day is of course great, and isn't bad even driving straight into the sun. No camera will handle it perfectly, but this one does OK. The iTrue handles light transitions such as trees and bridges pretty good during the day, and doesn't have too much trouble with headlights and street lights at night. Night quality is surprisingly good even compared to the A118, which has the same chip and sensor, but different optics. Apparently the iTrue optics let in a lot more light, because even with exposure set at 0 and WDR enabled in both cameras, the iTrue is visibly brighter than the A118 at night in a side-by-side comparison.

Media Info:

Overall this seems to be a decent little camera. While the form factor isn't for everyone, no one dashcam is perfect for everyone. The most important thing is that this camera gives you good video quality both night and day - that's the reason we buy dashcams.


Original post on DCT: