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Best Car Stereo For The Money – Most people buy used cars instead of new models, which means most people do not have the latest and greatest technology in their vehicles. How many cars on the road today are equipped with cassette players, iPod integration, or navigation systems with very outdated maps?
There are many products designed to deliver a more modern car. Dash cams are quite popular, like the Roav models we’ve reviewed before. There are also third-party tracking tools, such as T-Mobile and Linxup SinkUP. Special navigation systems have largely been replaced by smartphones, but there are still many to choose from, such as those from Garmin.
‘Raven Connected Car System’ aims to be all of these devices in one package. Although it offers many functions, there is one important weakness that must be considered by every prospective buyer.
Design and setting
Not much Raven design. It is a black plastic box, roughly in the form of a round soundbar. There are two 320×320 LCD panels on the front, along with two cameras facing the cab. At the back is a camera facing the street, so Raven can serve as a dash cam. This unit is purely utilitarian – nothing flashy.
The setup process is relatively simple, but long. The included bases are attached to your dashboard, or you can install them upside down in the front window. There are additional adhesive pads included in the box, if you want to move them later. From there, you just move the Raven to the base, and connect it to your car using the included data cable / cable.
The rest of the process takes place on your phone. Once you’ve downloaded and opened the mobile app, you’ll be prompted to create an account and pair with Raven. Then you just have to wait for the cellular connection of the unit to be provided, which takes about 30 minutes in my case.
There was one design flaw that I noticed after a few days of use, which became very annoying as time went on. Raven has a built-in fan to keep everything cool, which is understandable given how hot the car’s interior is. Unfortunately, Raven’s fan is very visible.
Not only does it make a constant buzzing sound, but the fan stays on almost all the time – even in cold weather. It’s less noticeable if you play music or have a window down, but that is a striking flaw in the Raven’s otherwise-decent hardware design.
Like most other car diagnostic / tracking devices, Raven connects to your vehicle through the OBD II port. For those unknown, almost every car produced in the last 20 years has this port, which is located somewhere around the dashboard (usually under the wheel).
Raven uses the CAN protocol for some functions, which does not become mandatory in the United States until 2008 (or 2001 for European vehicles). There is a list of cars equipped with CAN here. In addition, Raven is only designed for use with gas and hybrid cars.
My car is Nissan Leaf 2015 (complete electric car), and I do not see any gas / hybrid requirements until I receive a review unit. I tested all the Raven functions in my car and gas car family members, and the only difference is:
MPH, acceleration, ambient temperature, and acceleration gauges on Raven do not work in my Leaf. They work well in gas cars.
The Raven would randomly die when I was driving, thinking I had parked the car. Again, there is no problem in the gas car.
I suspect electric cars send different signals via OBD / CAN rather than gas-powered vehicles, which Raven can not read correctly.
Raven has five main functions. First, this is a 1080p dashboard that continuously records car and street interiors (you can also wave your hand in front of Raven to save the highlight clips). Secondly, the security system is always active which will alert you if motion is detected when your car is parked. Thirdly, this is a tracker with push notifications for certain actions (such as hard acceleration). Fourth, a diagnostic tool capable of reading OBD information. Finally, Raven serves as a screen for navigation instructions.
That’s pretty much a function for one device, and Raven almost gives it away. Camera recording looks good, but it may be difficult to position Raven correctly (unless you put it in a window). Security and warning features work, but they are somewhat sensitive. My car did not crash during this review period, so I can not test diagnostic features.
The navigation function was a bit disappointing to me. As seen in the photo below, Raven can display the direction of navigation – but there are two catches. First, you must start navigation from the Raven app, so there’s no Google Maps (Raven uses Mapbox for this feature). Secondly, if you turn off your phone screen, the navigation immediately stops. The mobile app will be updated soon to fix the last problem, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re buying Raven right now.
Unfortunately, I encountered a major problem while uploading a sample video recording for this review. A large number of video files in my Raven unit are incomplete or corrupt. That’s definitely not great for cam dashboards – imagine getting accidents and realizing your camera footage is inaccessible.
I thought maybe the SanDisk microSD card that came with my Raven unit was broken, so I switched it with the Samsung Evo card I previously used in Anker Roav C1 / C2 reviews. After several hours of driving, I checked the record again, and there were five corrupted files out of a total of 320 recordings.
I know this is not a problem with microSD cards, so my best guess is there is something wrong with Raven software that causes it to keep incomplete or broken records. It is possible that the factory reset will solve this problem, but in any case, this is a basic function that should not be damaged under any circumstances.
The Raven mobile app has five tabs. ‘Drive Reports’ contains statistics about your vehicle, including mileage, average travel duration, average speed, and so on. ‘History’ allows you to view your recorded driving history, complete with calendars for easy navigation and travel outlines. ‘Dashboard’ shows the feed directly at the top, and a map at the bottom. ‘Media Manager’ allows you to save recordings from Raven, and the ‘Settings’ tab is where you can customize the look of the unit and other options.
Most of the time, IOT devices like Raven have a terrible companion app, especially on Android. That is not the case here – the design is simple and the navigation is very easy. I have not experienced any bugs, except that some video files will fail to transfer to my phone. As mentioned in the previous section, the original file is corrupted, so this is not a technical issue with the app itself.
Raven has two 1080p cameras – one leads to you and one leads to the road. The interior cabin camera works well, but the exterior camera is not good. The contrast is rough, and it is difficult to read the license plate unless you stop.
Another challenge with exterior cameras is positioning. If you install Raven on your dashboard instead of pasting it in the front window, the scene may be obscured by the car’s interior.