A review of the Cobra CDR 810 dash cam

Records your drive in HD video


Buck Pomerantz

Buck Pomerantz was born and raised in Philadelphia. His parents bought their first television set when he was born. He figured out how to run it by the time he was two. Besides athletics, his formative interests included electronics, amateur radio, music, and stage crew work. He got his BA in writing from Brown University. Then he joined a rock 'n roll band as their soundman and moved to Charlottesville, Virginia. After that venture failed, he spent time in Boston, New Orleans, and Berkeley. He worked in a music store in Austin manufacturing, installing, repairing, and operating sound systems for recording studios, clubs, and bands. He moved back to Charlottesville, ran a little recording studio and finally joined Crutchfield as a copywriter. He has 2 grown children and 3 grandchildren, but after a good nap he can still rock out.

More from Buck Pomerantz

After watching that meteorite explode in Russia and then all the other crazy dash cam footage flying around the internet, I knew I had to try one for myself. So I jumped at the opportunity to put one in my car and give it a review. And I'm here to tell you that it was a fun week tooling around with this camera recording my daily commutes and then watching the videos.

Cobra CDR810 dash cam

Cobra CDR810 dash cam

Unfortunately, watching them afterward at home became rather addictive and time-consuming. On the other hand, the picture was so realistic that I became a little car sick after an hour or two of watching it on my computer monitor. 

Works right out of the box

The suction cup mount is amazing — it easily fastened and unfastened itself from my windshield over and over again, as I carried the unit back and forth between my car and my computer. Not only could I firmly hold and position the camera virtually anywhere I wanted, I could also swivel and lock the mount and rotate the lens for a better aim.

Cobra CDR810 suction cup

Adjust this dash cam's suction mount for the perfect fit on your windshield.

I found that the best position was just on the far side of my rearview mirror. The camera wasn't visible to me in the driver's seat, so it didn't block any of my view of the road, or tempt me to watch the video screen while driving. This also allowed the camera to be mounted high on the windshield, so it aimed downward to get more of the road directly in front of my car into the picture.

I plugged the included cigarette lighter/power adapter into my car and the unit. The CDR 810 was ready to go before I was. When it senses power, it automatically turns on in record mode — so I got a whole lot of video of my palm and lap when I first set the camera up in my car. When I finally got it all together, the camera performed all its functions flawlessly. For one thing, it clearly showed that I had a disgustingly dirty windshield.

Learning the buttons before watching the show

It took me a while to understand the dual-function buttons, but after a couple days I didn't have to refer to the manual anymore to remember what they did. Speaking of the manual, it's not incredibly well-written, which led to an apparent problem I was having: I couldn't set the time and date like the instructions said I could. Fortunately, I was able to get in touch with a Cobra rep who pointed out that the instructions are indeed unclear, but that if I were to push the menu button twice, I would get to a second menu, where I would find the settings I was looking for.

Most people probably won't even fool with the manual and will just explore the CDR 810's capability on their own. That's how I proceeded after the first day or two. One thing I found not covered in the instructions is how to turn off the monitor while driving: you must enable a Screensaver mode, which turns off the monitor screen after a set number of minutes.

Watching the video

To view video clips on a computer, you plug the included USB cord into the recorder and your computer. The CDR 810 comes on, as a camera for a couple of seconds, then displays a menu offering a choice of either Mass Storage, PC Camera, or USB Charging. Choosing USB Charging allows you to operate the camera/recorder normally — on/off, play/record, and scroll through menu options. My computer doesn't have a program that uses a camera, so I didn't test the PC Camera feature.

Choosing Mass Storage, after a half-minute or so, makes a Removable Disk icon appear in the My Computer folder on a PC. Double clicking on that reveals a folder labeled DCIM. Double clicking that folder reveals more folders, each numbered with what appears to be an index number followed by the date, in "mm/dd" form. Each folder contains the recordings made on that particular date, arranged, top to bottom, earliest to latest. The CDR 810 comes pre-set to record consecutive 3-minute clips and save them as AVI video files. Double clicking on one, on my machine, opens up Windows Media Player and starts playing the video.

The wide picture shows the sky beautifully. In freeze frame/pause, you can read the street signs. Sometimes the light angle pixelates the lower portions of the picture, but not enough to interfere with what you're seeing. You can read the license plate numbers of the cars in front of you at traffic stops, but not while moving. Pedestrians can't be identified very well — the view is too wide-angle for that much detail to be rendered.

As for the audio recording, not only do you hear the radio, you hear yourself mutter, curse, and occasionally scream in utter rage at other drivers. My advice is to not listen when you play back a video.

Features of the filing system

The CDR 810 comes with an 8 GB memory card already installed. This translates to about 55 total minutes of 1080P HD video, written as 1-, 2-, or 3-minutes clips, or as one continuous file. The recorder automatically overwrites the oldest files, when it needs the storage room, so folders can be empty. Right-click delete takes care of them and keeps long-term video clip storage manageable.

This isn't in the instructions, but renaming a file automatically saves it from being overwritten, which seems like a handy feature. Files and folders are easily manipulated, copied, moved, or saved where you want. I transferred these clips to a thumb drive for our video editor to process.

Picture quality

At dusk, because the road is in deep shadow while the sky is still bright, the large contrast makes the footage a bit herky-jerky. The same thing happens with early morning shots when the sun is low and the shadows long. The motion regains its smooth appearance after the sun goes down, or rises high enough to illuminate the road. An overcast day provided the cleanest, most detailed videos.

Video of night driving looks like a surrealistic, dream-like tunnel-vision of flaring headlights, looming darkness, sparkling street lights, odd patches of black, flashing red lights, and warmly glowing streets. Activating the CDR 810's infrared lights added a little reddish glow to the picture, but I couldn't say if that actually increased visibility or not.

More fun

Another video I watched showed all the scary dangers of negotiating a crowded parking lot: cars backing out of spaces, pedestrians in the driving lanes and stepping out from between parked cars, abandoned grocery carts, car doors opening.

And then, it happened — a worthy traffic incident. Ahead of me was a driver who was consistently crossing the double yellow line, weaving all over the road. And then he ran past a school bus that had its stop lights flashing!

Well, maybe those were the yellow warning lights and he made it past okay. But with this dash cam I still feel like I rule the road.

Note: Keep in mind that the use of this device and/or a windshield mount may be restricted in some states or jurisdictions.

Last updated July 09, 2015
  • james dobbs from Winfield, al.

    Posted on 5/19/2015 3:14:42 PM

    I need to know what video editor you use? my current Das Cam I use WMM 2.6 But, won't work with Cobra CDR 820 But, I didn't USB Camera to PC I took card out put into a card reader could that be the trouble? I sent it back But, like to order it again if I can find a way to edit the video.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/19/2015 4:11:51 PM

    James, we sent your question to our sales team to help you choose a dash cam that works for you. They'll be contacting you via email soon. According to the Windows Movie Maker support site, the software supports .avi files, which is the format that the Cobra CDR 820 uses. The CDR 820 manual instructs you to use the included microUSB-to-USB cord for file transfer, so that may have been where the problem occurred. Also, keep in mind that if you purchase a product from us, you are entitled to lifetime Tech Support for that product. They will be able to troubleshoot issues like this if they arise.

  • Lee Birnbaum from Texas, USA

    Posted on 6/7/2015 12:35:36 AM

    I've now owend around a half dozen dash cams, and wht I've learned is that the most important thing in evaluating video quality is knowing the internal chipset/processor used. So my question for the CDR 810 is, which processor does it use? Not just brand, but which specific processor for that brand, as each manufacturer makes a lineup from inexpensive "entry level", to high end (fast graphics processing, much more light sensitive, smooth, much crisper picture for the same "full 1080 hd", etc.) Thanks -Lee

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/8/2015 11:48:29 AM

    Lee, Cobra makes no mention of the CDR 810's internal chipset/processor in the manual or on their website. You may find that some brands will always mention this information in their dash cam specs, while others may only mention it when it's something to flaunt. For instance, the Cobra CDR 900 Super HD dash cam with Wi-Fi is one of Cobra's premium cameras and features an Ambarella A7LA chipset.

  • Terry Gerber from Bluffton, Indiana

    Posted on 9/17/2015 7:44:44 AM

    Great article, was interesting because I was debating on buying the Cobra dash cam, and was looking for more info on it. Again, thanks for the info.

  • Lee from Baltimore, Md.

    Posted on 9/21/2015 1:34:32 PM

    I am looking for a dash cam with the following features. ...good night vision, easy to use, automatic start, stop feature. I drive a truck for a living. Crutchfield has always steered me in the right direction in the past, and I trust your opinion.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/21/2015 2:39:38 PM

    Lee, I've passed your information along to our sales department, and an advisor will be contacting you soon to help.

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