“Hold my beer and watch this!” is one reason to have a motorcycle dashcam, but that is not what motivated me to do this review. I was almost left-turned into, and it got me thinking about purpose-built motorcycle dashcams. The auto driver had the sun in his eyes and started to go. I believe he spotted my high beam pulsing and stopped before impeding my way. In any case, a dashcam would have shown that I had the green light, the correct speed, and it was his mistake. Front and rear cameras might also get license plates or clearly identifiable info about potential witnesses.
I have had a forward-facing, loop recording, mini action-camera on my Yamaha Venture for several years. When I got home from the close call, I checked the storage chip and discovered there was no video from that ride. Upon further investigation, I determined that my heretofore trustworthy $65 action camera, acting as a dashcam, had a power connector issue and no longer worked at all. Note to self—look for reliability in the next dashcam!
I reached out to two companies that I determined have been selling dashcams for over ten years and have worldwide distribution—Blueskysea and Thinkware. The companies offer 1080p dashcams at significantly different price points. I asked them both if they were ok with a head-to-head review, and they both agreed.
Blueskysea is a Chinese company with sales through Amazon in the USA. They have very responsive email tech support but no voice support. The DV988 kit I tested is $200 MSRP.
Thinkware is a Korean company with sales through some big box stores, Amazon, and direct. Its phone and email support are out of British Columbia. The M1 kit I tested is $500 MSRP.
Whatever your reason to record and review your motorcycle travels, such as sharing beautiful scenery with social media, action and excitement, or for forensic video of a hopefully never-to-happen accident, both units will do that. If you will only want to view the video if something bad happens, you don’t need a screen on the control unit. Both dashcam’s phone apps are user friendly and quickly show or transfer captured video. In addition, you can pop out the microSD card and review on your computer your front and rear camera videos simultaneously, using each company’s respective downloadable computer applications.
Keep in mind that if your goal is to read license plates at a distance, you will need to step up from 1080P to an Ultra High Definition 4K camera system that has 4x the resolution. A common complaint about industry-standard 1080p dashcams is that they don’t have the resolution to clearly record license plates. In reviewing video from both dashcams, I was never able to read a passing license plate. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any motorcycle (water-resistant) 4K dashcams advertised anywhere.
I mounted both cameras on my Venture right next to each other. I wanted to get a true side-by-side comparison of their features and video quality. The front cameras are mounted side by the side of my LED spotlight base. The rear cameras are mounted on each side of my rear license plate. That’s two cables running from the rear to my tank bag, and two cables running from near my right mirror back to the tank bag, plus two remote controls mounted to my tank and two power wires, and two grounds running to the accessory LED spotlight switch on my left side handlebar.
I determined that, except for low-light recording, the lesser-priced Blueskysea DV988 acted just like the more expensive Thinkware M1. Their phone apps work well. Their installation was identical. Video review of riding over rough pavement showed their video stabilization was equal to my eye. Their desktop playback apps do an equal job of video playback. I did learn during the testing process that the models I chose were not comparable in low-light situations.
This is where the two units differ:
The Blueskysea DV988…
- …does not come with a required minimum 16 GB microSD card (can use up to 256 GB)
- …has a finger skin touch screen (not glove) that gives you access to all settings and videos right from the unit.
- …can be set to record video segments of 1, 2, 3, 5, and 10 minutes.
- …has a wired remote that can take a still image, or lock the currently recording video so it is not written over by the continuous loop recording.
- …has a shock sensor mode that will lock videos so they are not written over when it senses a g-force shock higher than one of three selected settings—Low, Medium, or High.
- …can be left in “parking monitoring” mode, where it will sense a bump and start recording. I don’t recommend parking monitoring, as it could drain your battery too low to start your bike. It does have a setting to shut off this feature if the voltage drops below a preset lower limit. I didn’t risk it.
The Thinkware M1…
- …comes with a 32 GB microSD memory chip, a card adapter, and a USB memory card adapter. It can take up to a maximum 64 GB microSD card.
- …has only one video segment recording length of one minute.
- …has a wired remote that can create a separate video from 10 seconds before the button press to 50 seconds after the button press. The video is stored in a separate folder so it will not be written over by the continuous loop recording.
As you see above, there is a lot of “so it is not written over by the continuous loop recording.” To prevent you from running out of free space on the card for recording, you will have to delete the locked videos manually on both units, or do a quick format of the microSD regularly.
If you want to save the video from a full day’s ride, you better not have ridden longer than the memory capacity of your microSD chip. Both units have two cameras continuously recording at about 80 MB per camera, per minute.
A 32 GB card has a maximum run time of under three hours, less saved space or locked videos. A 64 GB card will give you under six hours. Two hours is plenty if you are only recording for a forensic evaluation of an accident.
When off for a 10-day tour, a 128 GB card will give you under 12 hours of record time. If keeping segments of your daily tour is what you want to do, you will have to download your day’s video collection to your laptop nightly. Ten-to-twelve hours of riding and recording per day will generate about a terabyte of video over 10 days.
Before buying any dashcam with a control unit, you have to figure out where to put it. The control units are a little longer and a little wider than a pack of cigarettes. If you can’t find an accessible location on your bike that will fit a cigarette pack, it will be really tough to install. Your alternative can be a water-resistant mini action-camera that can plug into power and has “loop” or “continuous” recording modes.
Once you find that accessible spot for the control unit, you will have to route its five wires. Where you attach to power is determined by where the control unit is placed.
The Thinkware M1 is water-resistant to IP66 standards, but does not have any mounting bracket. There is no reason for it not to be hidden away where you can still get to the memory card. The Blueskysea DV988 is also IP66-rated, and has a functional screen. It comes with a handlebar bracket, and it has to be mounted horizontally with all five wires coming out the right side of the unit. Running wires under your tank is almost inevitable if you have a front and rear camera set up.
Due to my handlebar’s deep U-bend, there is no way to mount the DV988 on the supplied non-swivel bar mount. I wouldn’t want to have the five wires moving and bending with each control input anyway. The DV988 comes with a universal action-camera mount in the box, so you might be able to find a way to mount it in your field of view. The DV988 unit could also be ‘detachable’ if you are worried about it being stolen. However, it would be a real hassle to unplug the five pigtails every time you left the bike. If you are concerned about theft, hide it, and use the smartphone app, which is just moments of wireless connection time away.
Once you determine where to locate the control unit, you need to find an accessory power source that turns on with your key. You want your dashcam to automatically turn on when you start the bike, so there is no chance of forgetting to turn it on. After locating an accessible accessory connection point, you need to figure out where to mount the front and rear cameras. The mounting system they both chose is 3M tape on the bottom of a flat mounting bracket. We trust 3M tape to hold our very exposed and expensive action cameras and Bluetooth communicators to our helmet, so I see no reason to not trust it to keep the dashcams in place.
The Thinkware M1 uses an action camera type attachment to its 3M tape base, so you can mount the front and rear cameras to any standard action camera base if the supplied base doesn’t suit your needs. The Blueskysea DV988 has a proprietary base with two predrilled screw holes in case you don’t have a flat surface to peel and stick tape to.
You can mount both units’ cameras on any angle and still have correct looking video because they both can rotate. The M1 cameras are separate from their tubular slide-in mounting brackets, while the DV988’s lens can be rotated. Because I was temporarily mounting all four cameras for this review, I decided to mount them to corner braces that I cut to length and drilled. You can see them in the photos.
Although my original thought was for these corner braces to be only temporary, painted to match and shortened, they would actually be great permanent mounting locations.
The next step in preinstallation is figuring out where and how to run the black camera wires so that they are least visible (especially if you have a light-colored paint scheme) and do not interfere with steering, or any moving parts such as wheels, shocks, or chains.
Once the dashcam systems are physically installed, you download their phone apps and give them a live video test to adjust the camera views to your liking. That’s it. They both physically install identically. Their phone apps are mostly intuitive. If the instruction manual needs clarification, Thinkware support responds quickly during the day, while Blueskysea replies quickly during the night.
You can see my comparison stills and, although there is a quality difference, the only extreme disparity between the Blueskysea DV988 and the Thinkware M1 is low-light quality. Both units come with a one-year factory warranty (double-check that you’re buying from an authorized seller) and are manufactured and distributed by reputable companies. Although the Thinkware M1 packaging is more to USA appearance standards, I am hard-pressed to justify the $300 price difference compared to the Blueskysea DV988, unless you need good low light recording.