It’s true that as far as driver safety is concerned consumer cars have come a long way in the last decade or so: many assistive systems once considered luxurious or exotic have become standard, while basic computers incorporated in most models are able to control and oversee a number of functions that used to require a driver’s attention (just don’t get us started on autopilot). What car manufacturers cannot help with are street and road conditions (which are often far from ideal) and consumers with disabilities that can make driving harder.
Enter Lanmodo’s Vast Pro, a device that can help with both.
The Vast Pro is an after-market dashcam that can be used in any type of car to complement the driver’s view of the road under any conditions, as well as offer a number of useful features that might come in handy in different situations. Products of this type are not exactly uncommon, of course, but the Vast Pro offers specific advantages that help it stand out, totally justifying its asking price compared to conventional dashcams.
Installation and setup
The “unboxing experience” of the Vast Pro is a satisfying one: apart from the product itself and the necessary accessories for its placement and use — the base, suction cup and power cables — the box also contains a screwdriver, a sizable memory card and a USB memory card reader for that (if you think that these were a given then you clearly haven’t bought an Apple product for a while). Before actually installing my main unit, its firmware was updated as per Lanmodo’s suggestion. It was fast, easy and reassuring: as the product already works great, it can only get better in time via updates like this one.
Installation is easy because it offers options. The most obvious one — which I went with while testing — is to use the included base in order to place the Vast Pro on the dashboard, ideally in the center so as to not obstruct the driver’s view (its adhesive is surprisingly strong and the unit is not in any danger of falling off even if the car meets some serious road bumps). Power cables can be attached to either the 12V/24V power supply port of the car (the “lighter plug”) or to its OBD port (more on that later).
The second option is powered in the same way but uses the included suction cup to have the Vast Pro attached to the windshield. It may not look as clean or pretty, granted, but there are more than a few types of cars where either the dashboard is not high enough for the camera to offer a proper view of the street ahead or the dashboard’s surface is curved (not helping with the Vast Pro’s base safe placement).
Either way, the Vast Pro is easily configured using the on-screen menu options and the array of buttons at the top: audio capture during video recording and video recording duration (when the memory card fills up the new footage overwrites the one already stored in it) are the most important ones. Once these are set, it’s time for a test drive… and that’s when the real fun begins.
Hello darkness, my old friend
Since I received the Lanmodo Vast Pro during the pandemic and lockdown was actually in effect while reviewing it, I was forced to use it during night time at first… but that turned out to be a good thing: it’s under poor lighting conditions or no lights at all that this product is at its most useful. The Vast Pro camera offers “night vision” so good, so effective that it’s amazing to behold during the first hour or so: car lights typically illuminate the street ahead at a distance of, say, fifty meters, but on the Vast Pro’s screen the driver can actually see much further down the road, in color, in real-time: not a few more meters or even a hundred, but no less than double that. Maybe more.
Lanmodo claims that Vast Pro’s night vision range is “up to 300 meters” but even when it proves to be somewhat less than that in practice, it’s way more than what any car’s lights on the high scale can offer. So it definitely makes driving at night or in poor conditions in general — think dim street lights, fog, rain, snow etc. — much, much safer. Sometimes even a couple of seconds’ worth of available reaction time can make all the difference between having an accident and avoiding one, let alone the 10–12 seconds afforded by Lanmodo’s estimates.
It may sound like an overstatement to say that the Vast Pro can “turn night into day” with its night vision system but that’s what it does, essentially, as it can operate in such low light that it’s not much different from darkness. What’s equally amazing is that the image on its screen offers plenty of detail even when there’s hardly any light on the road to speak of — grain is visible, yes, but the overall sharpness is astounding (especially considering that this is a 1080p resolution screen and not a 4K one or anything).
The 45-degree field of view on offer is also perfectly acceptable, even if there are dashcams out there that offer a wider one. Those dashcams usually exchange the wider field of view with considerable image distortion on the sides and, to be honest, I prefer the clean, rectangular footage of the Vast Pro.
Plenty of other use cases, too
So the Vast Pro easily justifies its asking price just by making driving at night — or in poor conditions in general — much safer. But a number of other things offered by this dashcam could prove extremely useful in certain circumstances. The video recording function is an important one: up to 5 minutes of footage are stored in the device’s memory card at any given time and, in case of a collision, the relevant file turns to read-only automatically so it will not be overwritten. This could save the day as evidence in case of e.g. an accident where the guilty driver refuses to take responsibility.
Then there’s the option to use the Vast Pro as an anti-theft measure of sorts. For that to happen the user will have to connect the device to the car’s battery (via the OBD cable included and the necessary wiring). After doing that, the Vast Pro will remain “in Park mode” when the vehicle is turned off but will automatically power up and start recording if its sensor detects any movement at all. I did not test this, but it’s a clever way to at least dissuade wannabe-thieves, as anyone trying to pick a car’s lock would surely be unpleasantly surprised by an 8-inch screen in the vehicle suddenly going bright.
In all cases, the footage stored by the Vast Pro is just as clean and detailed on a PC screen as it is on the screen of the unit itself. The USB memory card reader that comes with the Vast Pro is a 2.0 device and it takes some time to transfer a lot of footage to a computer (up to 28 hours in a 128 GB microSD memory card), but that’s a small issue, easily resolved by a better card reader.
An absolute steal for the price
All in all, there’s much to like about the Vast Pro: it is well-designed and well-built, its screen is bright and clear, its installation and operation are easy (by dashcams’ standards). Most importantly, it does exactly what it says it will with no effort on the user’s part: it offers an impressively detailed image of the road ahead while driving practically under any conditions. This is the kind of luxury that was unavailable to most people just a few short years ago unless they paid a lot of money for pre-installed such systems in usually expensive cars. Incredibly, the Vast Pro is better than any pre-installed system of this kind, no matter how expensive. The proof is there, bright as day (pun intended).
Isn’t there anything to complain about regarding the Vast Pro? Well, no, nothing major. It’s one of those rare gadgets that keep the promise of their intended purpose and it does so admirably. There are a few things that Lanmodo could tweak with firmware updates to make it better: more flexibility, for instance, in recording time would be nice (maybe 10-minute intervals so we can grab “night drive” footage for YouTube song uploads?), as well as more brightness level options for Vast Pro’s screen (while it’s impressive that it is so bright it can be distracting while driving at night).
But we are talking about quality-of-life improvements here. The Vast Pro delivers where it matters and it does so at a price that is actually low. In fact, one could say that it’s an absolute steal at $249 — the special Christmas price Lanmodo was offering at the time of writing, down from $599 including worldwide shipping — as it’s one of the most effective measures one can take for safe car driving. Either as an aftermarket accessory or as a preinstalled extra not only do consumers have to pay more for it… but it will not even be as good. Which makes the Vast Pro a no-brainer.
My review unit included just the Vast Pro — plus the memory card/USB reader which one may or may not need — but as a consumer right now I’d probably go for the Vast Pro plus the Rear Camera pack: the latter is placed just below the rear bumper of the car (so there’s some wiring work involved) but not only does this combination offer a view of the road behind the car in the same quality as the Vast Pro, but actually plays the role of a parking assistant as well. The same special Christmas promotion Lanmodo is running reduces the price of that pack to $299 from $699, offering even more value for money. Always appreciated, that!