What is the Yi Mini Dash Camera?
The Yi Mini Dash Camera is a compact dashboard camera from the Chinese company that is increasingly focusing on the market outside its home country. At a price of under £40, the Yi Mini is unbelievably cheap, although that is with a current £10 discount on Amazon. But the usual price is still under £50, making this a potentially huge bargain, considering it shoots Full HD video.
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Yi Mini Dash Camera – Specification and Windscreen Mounting
Yi doesn’t provide a huge amount of detail about the sensor specification, other than that it has 2-a megapixel sensor. A dual-core CPU is mentioned, but not the size of the sensor. The lens is F2.2 and there’s a 140-degree field of view, which is fairly standard for a dashcam, although some offer an even wider angle.
There are two recording options: Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) and 720p (1,280 x 720, both of which operate at 30 frames per second. The higher resolution uses a data rate of 15Mbits/sec, which is reasonable for Full HD, and MicroSD cards up to 64GB in capacity are supported. The latter would allow nine and a half hours of footage to be recorded before looping begins to overwrite the oldest files. So you could probably make do with 16GB or even 8GB.
The Yi Mini is a little surprising when it comes to its mounting provision. Like the Halfords HDC400, the mount is integrated directly into the unit, and isn’t detachable, which makes for a more discreet installation. But unlike the HDC400, the Yi Mini still sports a small LCD screen, making control and configuration easier.
The attachment is via 3M double-side adhesive tape, and there’s no extra pad included in the box. In other words, installation is meant to be essentially permanent. The usual lengthy cable is provided for power, and the good news is that this uses Micro USB to connect to the Mini with regular USB Type A at the other end.
However, the car power adapter only has one USB port, unlike some of Yi’s products such as the Ultra. There are also no clips included in the box to route the lengthy cable around your windscreen, so you will have to find a way to do this yourself.
Yi Mini Dash Camera – Menu and Optional Safety Features
Since the Yi Mini has its own LCD panel, you can configure it locally, although there aren’t many options to choose from. You can switch between the two resolutions, choose one- or three-minute loop file durations, and turn audio recording off and on.
The Yi Mini doesn’t have a built-in GPS, but it does have a G-sensor, so it will tag incidents. This has three different sensitivity levels. You can also choose a timeout for the LCD of 1, 5 or 10 minutes, or leave it on permanently. There are three brightness levels. But that’s it for menu options.
Despite the extremely low price, the Mini still has built-in WiFi. When you first start up the dashcam, it prompts you with a QR code which will take you to a website, and then to the app store for your smartphone. You’re then guided through setting up a WiFi connection and back to the app, which will detect the presence of the dashcam.
The app has pretty much the same options as the Mini itself. However, it also allows you to choose whether the video is timestamped and given the Yi logo watermark. There’s an option called Driving Report, too, the function of which is not documented. However, a search of Reddit revealed that this involves the capturing of G-sensor information to text files that are stored on the memory card alongside the video.
Yi Mini Dash Camera – Image Quality
Although the Yi Mini offers a reasonable data rate for Full HD, this, unfortunately, doesn’t translate to the best video quality. In optimal conditions, the colour is faithful and there’s a good level of detail. You can read text clearly when within 5m or so. Contrast is handled reasonably well, although the brightest regions like the sky are blown out in favour of keeping the main area properly exposed, so there’s no wide dynamic range trickery taking place, although these are mentioned in the specification.
However, problems occur when you are driving more directly into sunlight. In fact, the Yi Mini’s video then becomes very blocky and fuzzy, making it nearly impossible to make out text. It’s hard to see a number plate even when directly behind a vehicle. Direct sunlight is a problem for many dashcams, but the Yi Mini handles the situation particularly badly. Overall, this places its video performance below average.
Should I buy the Yi Mini Dash Camera?
On paper, the Yi Mini looks like a bargain. It has decent features, yet its cost is incredibly low. However, the sub-£50 price, even including postage from China, is in line with the video quality on offer, although it is better in this respect than the more expensive RAC 107. If you’re really on a tight budget, the Yi Mini Dash Camera is worth considering, but we would recommend saving up and getting the higher-end Yi Ultra instead if you’re after a dashcam that performs well above its price.
The Yi Mini Dash Camera is unbelievably cheap, but its video quality is fuzzy in direct sunlight.
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Author: James Morris
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