Driving down the road you never quite know what you’re going to see. From a meteor falling from the sky, to an explosion, to car accidents, anything could happen. Dash cameras mounted inside vehicles have become more affordable and more popular than ever. So when I discovered a unit custom tailored to fit my 2016 Tesla Model X SUV, well, I could resist the dash cam purchase temptation no longer!
Thanks to a thread on the TMC forums, featuring an unboxing & installation video in the first post, I had ordered my dash cam before even taking possession of my certified preowned Tesla Model X. My vehicle is a 2016 hence it has the first generation autopilot (AP1) offered by Tesla. Due to changes with the second generation autopilot (AP2), there is a different dash cam (same features, different outer shell).
For AP1 vehicles, you’ll need THIS UNIT like I purchase. But for AP2 vehicles, you’ll need their newer unit RIGHT HERE, which should work the same as my review here for discussion purposes. That unit isn’t yet for sale on Amazon, but I have found it on eBay if you look there.
Click on the images throughout this blog post for larger views
Installation & Setup
Physical installation of the TOPFIT Dash Cam is actually very nicely covered in the video on the TMC thread, so I’m going to just glaze over that. In my case, the black plastic cover (factory) popped off very easily. But like Tesla 007 said in his YouTube video, it took me the better part of 10 minutes to get the new unit installed. Once you snap it in, though, it is not going anywhere! (It pops in with a nice click, solidly).
Setting up the unit requires that you connect to the WiFi of the device with the provided password. As noted in the TMC thread you will want to “Forget Network” once you’re done with the device, so as to avoid it connecting to the camera wifi every time you drive your car, otherwise it can cause issues with some apps that are trying to use the camera as a data connection point.
Once connected to the TOPFIT Dash Cam you can use the app to view photos, videos, or make configuration changes. See the images below for various screen shots within the iOS iPhone app. For the first week I left the device as-is and made no changes to the configuration, though I did eventually tweak a few things which I’ll talk about in a second.
Overall I was able to get the TOPFIT Dash Cam installed and the app going in about 20 minutes start to finish, which I felt was pretty darn good.
Smart Phone App
Although there is a companion app for the TOPFIT Dash Cam, the truth is that you don’t actually need to use it if you don’t want. Once the unit is physically installed into the vehicle, if you’re happy wth the default settings you could just enjoy it in that state. Since the memory is a 32GB removable microSD card (on the passenger side of the device), you can simply remove the card to transfer files to your computer at your leisure.
That said, the companion app is required in order to make setting changes to your TOPFIT Dash Cam, which you may desire as I did. For example, I was able to turn off the audible prompts on the device (they list this as “prompt tone” in the app’s setting page). This made it so the female voice that normally announces the device coming to life each time you enter your car went away (which is good because she spoke a language I didn’t understand anyhow). Only downside is that using the “hand wave” to record a still shot, that shutter click sound is gone too. Small price to pay.
From within the app you can do a live view of the video stream and control the recording. You can also transfer photos/videos, but the speed was less than spectacular. If you want to transfer files from the TOPFIT Dash Cam, you’ll want to just use the SD card. If you’re like me you have a full size SD card slot reader in your laptop so you’ll need an adapter. I’m using the SanDisk Memory Card Adapter with good success.
Speaking of storage, you will get about 6-8 hours of video clips before it starts to FIFO and kick out the oldest videos to replace with the newest. You could also upgrade the SD card (say to something like an 128GB version), if you’re so inclined and need/desire more recording before it starts to purge. There was a place to format a new SD card built right into the app.
I didn’t play with the lane departure or front collision settings that I found on the TOPFIT Dash Cam‘s app setting page, especially since I had disabled the sound anyhow. But it would be curious to see how well those worked in comparison to the Tesla offerings. If you are a Tesla owner and you played around with those items, I’d love to hear what your experience has been.
Photo & Video Capture
One of my favorite features of the TOPFIT Dash Cam is the photo capture option. With just a wave of your hand it will grab a photo– just wave it on the driver-side of the unit, in front of the buttons. (Sidebar: the unit defaults to turning on when the power comes on, but you can turn it off using one of the side-buttons).
With the sounds turned off, you’ll also disable the shutter sound it makes when capturing a photo. But the sensor works even a few inches away, and with relatively low latency. Above are some of the photos recently captured with the unit. Only issue I found here was that shadows or other changes in overhead light would occasionally trigger the TOPFIT Dash Cam‘s camera, so you will likely end up with photos even if you don’t want them. Still it wasn’t that many photos, and their file size is relatively small, so it doesn’t hinder SD card capacity much.
Photo quality is overall decent, but not necessarily good enough to capture license plates from vehicles more than a few feet away from your front bumper. In this regard there are better options on the market, though many of them are either more expensive or cannot be as easily installed by a novice. Still if you’re looking for ultra-HD image quality the TOPFIT Dash Cam grabs still photos which are only 2304 x 1296 so keep that in mind.
Video quality is of equal resolution, which I find to be VERY good and more than ample for my desires. Frankly I’m not trying to capture the color of someone’s contact lenses. Personally my goal was to be able to determine cause of an accident that I am involved in or may witness. Or to be able to simply capture that “holy sh!t” moment that you see driving down the road. Which is yet another reason why the TOPFIT Dash Cam‘s still-shot wave/grab is so cool.
Here are a half dozen random videos I’ve recently captured, to show variations in time of day, weather, and sunlight. See below:
At the end of the day what I love most about the TOPFIT Dash Cam is that it was tailored to fit directly into my 2016 Tesla Model X without any wire hacking, or decreased visibility. As the photos show, it looks OEM, connects to the factory wiring, and was able to be installed myself without any added labor costs. I also enjoy that the TOPFIT Dash Cam doesn’t look like something that a thief might want to break into my car to steal.
My only major change to the unit that I’d like would be constant power when the car is off– but the factory harness they are connecting to doesn’t have power in those instances so this would not be an easy change to make.
There are plenty of other dash cams on the market today, some for even less money. But only the TOPFIT Dash Cam has the fit/finish to look like Tesla put it there– and that’s what makes this unit great for so many owners like myself!
Have something to add to this review? Questions or something you’d like me to test? Let me know in the comments section below!