In the emergency room, after my crash last Sunday, the state patrolman asked me for what happened. And I gave him information that I know was not helpful. The summary of it was, “I saw a truck flipping off to the right, then someone crashed into me.”

I asked him, “If I had a dash cam, would that be helpful?” Without thought or pause he answered: “Yes.”

Later, at physical therapy, I was being told by the woman working on my back that last autumn she had been struck by a train at a crossing that the guards did not engage and the warning lights did not trigger. The responding law enforcement officer insinuated that she had ignored the lights. Another example of having a dash cam would have exonerated a driver.

So I went shopping. When starting to search, the first article that came up was Jalopnik’s appropriately titled article: Why Is It So Hard To Buy A Decent Dash Cam? I’ll summarize it for you, all of the people who make dash cams are Chinese companies that you’ve never heard of and quality is usually poor. A helpful article at The Wirecutter pointed me in the direction of the G1W.

The G1W? you ask, who makes this thing? It’s unclear. I’ve seen it listed on a few other websites with different company names, and every reviewer who comments on it either has a different name or is equally puzzled as to what the name of the company is in English.

So I ordered one. The manual is in Chinese first. English is about the fourth language back. It’s laid out in a way that feels like reading technology tea leaves, and was nearly without any help at all. My test drive with it had some problems up front. After driving for awhile and deciding that having the LCD on the back constantly active and would serve as a dangerous distraction, I realized that the LCD had become unresponsive. The thing had frozen up.

I press some buttons, press and hold the power button, nothing. Fortunately, the “battery” in the unit lasts about ten seconds (not an exaggeration, I’m not sure why there is a battery in there at all, if this is the expected charge duration) so disconnecting it and letting it sit allowed the thing to turn itself off. After powering it back on, the red light on the LCD blinked, indicating that it was recording, but once I arrived home, I determined that it had been lying to me.

On the brink of returning it, I decided to fiddle around with the settings some more. There is a setting for turning of the LCD after some time of driving (I chose three minutes), and I used the camera itself to format the SD card inside, and also mistakenly reset the camera to it’s default settings, putting all of it’s menus into Chinese. After some more fooling around with it, I took it out for another drive, and it worked as I’d expect it to. Quality of video is good enough for legal reasons, I’m sure. Build quality of the camera is not that great. I’d happily spend double the price tag for something that I have more faith in, but if this is the camera of choice for Russians, it’s good enough for me.

Here is a test video of the camera. You’ll notice that the date and time are wrong, despite me having set them about ten minutes earlier. The string of A’s is supposed to be my license plate number, which I didn’t bother setting.