Field Test: Yi Compact Dash Camera Review

Updated Aug 19, 2021 | Same topic: Best Advice for Car Buyers

The YI Compact Dash Cam is taken for a spin.

Road safety is now a major issue for everyone who uses the streets, especially given the inherent unpredictability of driving in the Philippines. And one way Pinoy motorists are taking matters into their own hands is by adopting the use of dashboard cameras or dash cams. 

Fortunately, we’re not short on choices when it comes to these modern safety devices. And one company that has been making waves in offering mass-market dash cams locally is YI Technology of China. They have an extensive line of imaging products that includes action cameras, mirrorless cameras and even IP cameras for home security. As an answered prayer of sorts for the Philippine market, they’ve also decided to bring their dash cams here.

yi compact dashcam

Yi Compact Dash cam

YI Technology’s products are generally competitively-priced, and it’s safe to say that they have a dash cam for a particular budget. We’ll take a look at one of their more affordable models, the YCS.1A17. Oddly enough, the packaging mentions the product as the YI Smart Camera, which actually refers to another YI dashcam that has an identical design yet with a slightly upgraded set of features.

To avoid confusion, will be referring to the featured product as the YI Compact Dash Cam for the purposes of this review, since it’s also the name used by the official YI Technology website.

1. YI Compact Dash Cam: The package

The YI Compact Dash Cam comes in a stark white rectangular box, with the YI logo near the upper right-hand corner. The box is held together by a wraparound strip of red paper, also adorned with the company logo and the words “Dash Camera”, so there’s no mistaking what can be found inside.

The relevant features and details of the product are all printed at the rear of the box, which makes it easier to read without having to turn the box every which way, apart from making the rest of the packaging neat.

yi compact dash cam package

The neat, uncluttered packaging

YI compact dashcam full box

Included accessories and documentation

Slide off the red paper strip, and the top of the box comes off to reveal the YI Compact Dash Cam unit nestled inside. Separate compartments underneath the camera’s position hold the necessary accessories, such as a mounting bracket with 3M adhesive, and a car charger with a single USB port and LED indicator light. The YI Compact Dash Cam connects to the charger via an 11.5 ft.-long cable, which should be sufficient for most dashboard layouts. A user guide and warranty card round up the package.

yi compact dashcam

The YI Compact Dash Cam inside

>>> Related post: Best dash cam in the Philippines 2021

2. YI Compact Dash Cam: Design and build quality

The dash cam’s body is essentially a rectangular piece of hardware, slightly bigger than a box of matches, with the lens canted slightly to the left and a microphone hole underneath it. On the front, there are markings on the camera lens denoting the viewing angle, lens aperture and wide dynamic range (WDR).

Meanwhile, the rear sports a 2.7-in. TFT color viewfinder with the YI logo on the upper right corner and the control buttons lining the bottom, terminating in two LED status indicators. The left side of the camera holds the microSD card slot, while the right side has the micro USB charging port and a pinhole reset button. Topside, there’s the built-in speaker along with a T-slot used to attach the camera to the supplied mounting bracket, as well as an air vent that extends all the way to the bottom of the camera.

Yi dash cam screen

2.7-in. LCD screen wit control buttons lined up

yi compact dash cam exterior

Speaker, air vent and T-slot on top

yi compact dash cam exterior

The air vent extends all the way to the bottom edge

In terms of aesthetics, the YI Compact Dash Camera employs a streamlined and understated design, almost looking like an action camera; this will definitely appeal to users who want a clean, unobtrusive look. The compact size also makes it easier to comply with LTO guidelines requiring dash cams to be positioned directly behind the rear-view mirror. While the matte finish is noteworthy, some smudges are still evident on the black/dark gray body even with light handling.

According to the YI product website, the dash cam uses a lightweight, fire-retardant material; I note this particular detail since I have previously been using a dash cam that was partly metallic in construction, and it would generally become hot to the touch upon prolonged exposure to sunny weather, even with the car aircon running.

yi compact dash cam usb port

MicroUSB port and reset pinhole on the right

Memory card slot on the left edge yi smart dashcam

Memory card slot on the left edge

Plus points for the YI Compact Dash Camera’s sturdy build, as there were no creaking panels or loose bits on the test unit they supplied; the device may be small, but it does have an appreciable heft in the hand. Even the buttons didn’t exhibit so much as a wiggle, staying crisp despite multiple presses during testing. I was almost tempted to subject it to a drop test, if not for the protruding lens and the screen. 

3. YI Compact Dash Cam: Mounting, controls and interface

The adhesive on the supplied mounting bracket is considerably strong, so you would be well-advised to plan the mounting position in advance, and only peel off the plastic from the 3M pad when you’re absolutely sure. The grip, for all intents and purposes, is permanent, and I pity the poor soul who has to contend with removing the bracket just to attach it to another vehicle. A suction cup option would have been nice, for easier removal and transfer. But at least the adhesive on the bracket is guaranteed to hold even under the sweltering heat.

Mounting the dash cam on the windshield

Mounting the dash cam on the windshield

Mounting the dash cam on the windshield

As a caveat, YI does not supply the Compact Dash Cam with a microSD memory card in the sales package, so you might want to buy one beforehand. The dash cam works best with a microSDHC (High Capacity) or microSDXC (eXtended Capacity) card that has a minimum of 8GB and maximum of 64GB capacity, with a rating of at least Class 10, and formatted for FAT32. In any case, after inserting a new card and turning the dash cam on, you will be prompted to format the card as preparation for recording.

The micro USB end of the supplied cable goes into the dash cam, with the Type A end going into the car charger. Pressing the Power/Settings button activates the device. If it’s the first time that the unit has been turned on out of the box, it will flash a QR code onscreen, prompting the user to download the free YI Dash Cam app either from Google Play (for Android devices) or the Apple Store (for iOS devices).

Menu icons yi compact dashcam

Menu icons are easy enough to navigate through

Although you have the option to skip this part since it’s not a prerequisite to operate the dash cam, the app comes with certain advantages that enhance the usage experience. For one thing, it turns your smartphone into an extended monitor, letting you view the footage captured by your YI dash cam in real-time.

The app also enables you to adjust and tweak the dash cam’s settings remotely, and it even lets you download or send a particular video clip online, all without having to touch the dash cam unit. All these are made possible through the YI Compact Dash Cam’s WiFi connectivity using the 802.11n standard.

The dash cam will also prompt you to set the date and time, and this also only happens once, since these will be stored inside the system memory the next time the dash cam is turned on. Once the startup process is complete, the camera switches to recording mode almost instantly, with the viewfinder showing what’s ahead. Pressing the Camera button pauses and resumes the recording, while the Album button right beside it takes you to the media gallery to view your recorded footage so far.

A short press on the Power button takes you to the Settings menu, where you can adjust the YI Compact Dash Cam’s operating parameters. The camera records clips with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 saved in MOV format, but this can be downsized to 720p in order to save memory, especially if you’re using a microSD card that has a limited capacity. Each resolution records video at a fixed frame rate of 30fps. If you’re looking to save even more memory, there’s an option to limit each recording at either 1 or 3 minutes. You can also toggle the audio recording on or off, in case you don’t want sound to accompany the footage.    

4. YI Compact Dash Cam Performance

Footage taken with the 2-megapixel imaging sensor shows a good amount of detail, even at the relatively lower setting of 720p. The 130-degree viewing angle was sufficient to capture the width of EDSA, so it should be enough for expressway drives. The colors can be a little oversaturated at times, especially when the camera is automatically compensating for external conditions, but you don’t exactly use a dash cam to record video for aesthetics or technical accuracy. Scaling up the video to 1080p tends to distort the images somewhat, and there was no way to adjust it in the Settings menu.

Daytime footage was clear on both resolutions, whether sunny or overcast. In low light situations, such as indoor parking areas, detail was adequate, despite a bit of noise coming in. Not surprisingly, clips shot at night were the lowest in terms of clarity, albeit still perfectly usable. Due to the absence of natural light, the best you can go for is footage shot on well-lighted streets.

There are some dark areas in the frame that might need a little adjustment using third-party video software, although for this particular review, the dash cam had to contend with shooting from behind a windshield that had medium magic tint. The YI’s night mode does a good job of compensating for this handicap, and plate numbers on other vehicles were still readable even with just the light from my headlamps at a comfortable distance.

The buttons could use a little backlighting however; during the first few times I operated the camera in the dark, I would accidentally press the emergency record button when I meant to pause recording.  

yi dash cam performance

Cutting-edge technologies give outstanding performance

Audio captured by the built-in microphone was also adequate both for interior and exterior sounds, although I do wish there was a volume adjustment setting. Playback through the YI Compact Dash Cam’s speakers was a little tinny on account of their size, so you might want to transfer the footage to a computer for later viewing, where the audio output is considerably better. Speaking of transfers, there are several options at hand: you can remove the memory card to load it onto a card reader, physically connect the YI Compact Dash Cam to your computer via the USB cable, or use the YI Dash Cam app to download the necessary footage directly onto your smartphone.

Like similar devices in the market, the YI Dash Cam utilizes an impact sensor to automatically record footage seconds before and after an accident. The feature’s sensitivity (Low, Medium, High) is easily adjustable, so you can choose the trigger the emergency recording feature even with just a slight nudge to your vehicle.

Emergency recording mode can also be manually enabled by pressing the red Emergency recording button below the screen. The camera stores emergency recorded footage in a different folder from regular recorded clips, which protects the former from being overwritten even when the card’s memory is full (except when you manually format the memory card), which comes in handy when preserving important video evidence. 

One aspect of the dash cam that puzzled me is the Driving Report feature. When enabled, it will supposedly display pertinent details such as vehicle acceleration, braking and driving time when the vehicle has been in motion for more than 10 minutes. Even after an hour or so on the road, the feature did not engage at all. The issue might be solved with a firmware update, downloadable from the official YI Technology website. It’s not a deal-breaker for me, and anyway, I’d be the first to question the utility of having all that information displayed on a tiny screen when the driver should be looking at the road ahead.

5. YI Compact Dash Cam: Conclusion

If you’re still looking for a camera to keep track of daily driving conditions, the YI Compact Dash Cam is a good place to start. The minimalist design should cater to most people’s tastes (as well as quietly blending in with the vehicle’s interior). Its compact size means that your field of view won’t be hampered in the least especially when driving. The air vents are a thoughtful detail, considering our tropical climate.

Audio and video recordings are clear and perfectly usable, even in less than ideal conditions, and it even provides you the flexibility of setting the most ideal video resolution and clip length to your preferences. The wireless connectivity used with the accompanying smartphone app is a big bonus, which takes away the need to physically remove either the card or the camera for transferring files.

yi dash cam features

If you’re still looking for a camera to keep track of daily driving conditions, the YI Compact Dash Cam is a good place to start

YI did a good job of designing a secure mount for the dash cam. Probably too good a job I’d say. I wished the unit came with a suction mount option instead of just the adhesive type, since trying to disengage the bracket from the windshield is a feat worthy of the next Mission Impossible film plot. It would have been nice too if YI had included a memory card in the sales package (even just an 8GB one), for the benefit of first-time users who are not necessarily tech-savvy and who might have no idea of the appropriate card type (to illustrate, the microSDHC card from my previous dash cam didn’t work on the YI, which meant I had to temporarily use the memory card from my smartphone).

Still, for the price of P2,499, the YI Compact Dash Cam provides undeniable value.

It’s not exactly the most sophisticated dash cam out there, but at least it’s not complicated to use either: quite the opposite in fact, from installation to everyday operation. It certainly does the job more than adequately, which helps in giving you safer trips and better peace of mind.

You can get the YI Compact Dash Cam at YI Store Philippines, YI Technology’s newly-opened flagship store at Cyberzone area of the SM Mall of Asia, as well as various official dealers nationwide: Blade Auto Center, Smart Future PH, URBAN Gadgets, Hey Joe Gadget Store, PRG PhotoShop and Maricel Online Store. If you prefer transacting within the convenience of home, you can also avail of the YI Compact Dash Cam and other YI Technology products through Lazada and Shopee. For a complete list of dealers serving your area, as well as warranty claims and tech support, visit the YI Technology Facebook page.

YI Compact Dash Cam specifications 
  • 2.7 inch TFT LCD (960 x 240) screen
  • 2MP f/2.0 camera with ultra wide angle 130° FOV (field of view)
  • 1280x720P video resolution (1920x1080P maximum) at 30 fps
  • H.264 compression
  • Microphone and speaker with noise reduction
  • Built-in three-axis sensor
  • 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi 802.11n connectivity
  • Supports 8-64GB Class 10 or above w/ FAT32 format
  • Supports iOS 8.0 or later or Android 4.1 or later
  • 3M mounting bracket

Special thanks to Darnell Austria, YI Technology Southeast Asia Regional Manager, for providing the test unit used in this review.     

Joseph Paolo Estabillo

Joseph Paolo Estabillo


Joseph holds a degree in Journalism from the University of the Philippines Diliman and has been writing professionally since 1999. He has written episodes for CNN Philippines' motoring show Drive, and has worked on corporate projects for MG Philippines and Pilipinas Shell. Aside from being’s Content Lead, he also writes content for numerous car dealerships in the U.S., spanning multiple brands such as Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Maserati, among others.


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