Backup cameras will be standard issue in all new cars sold in the US by 2018. There are lots of cars out on the road, however, that do not have rear cameras installed. That’s the market that Pearl is going after with their excellent RearVision backup camera. Read on for my impressions after using it for the last several weeks.

DESIGN AND FEATURES

You can tell immediately upon opening the Pearl RearVision that the engineers and designers that built it worked hard to make a quality product. There’s nothing cheap or flimsy about the RearVision. The plastic is high quality and sturdy. It seems like it will stand up to the elements, and has for the past month, but I’ll have to make it through a Florida summer to know for sure.

Installation is simple. Remove your license plate, install the RearVision frame, reinstall license plate and RearVision camera. It’s almost foolproof and only requires a standard screwdriver and a special driver that’s included in the box. There’s a unique screw head pattern on the screw that attaches the RearVision that is designed to discourage theft. Thus far I’ve had no problems, though I don’t live in a particularly criminally-active area. I think that the understated design of the RearVision helps it blend in. There’s nothing about it that screams “steal me!”

The RearVision has two cameras that provide one widescreen image or a pannable narrow screen view. One of the cameras is “ir sensitive” for improved night usability. There’s an internal battery that is automatically recharged using an integrated solar cell. You can also charge the unit using a built-in USB cable. It’s a well conceived and designed package.

Inside the car there’s a module that plugs into your car’s OBD-II port. This module creates a WiFi network that the camera and your phone communicate over. It also has a speaker that sounds an alert when there are objects too near the back of your car.

Pearl provides a dash/vent mount for mounting your phone. I’ve used it primarily as a vent clip. They also give you magnetic backs that adhere to your phone or to your phone’s case. These are used to attach your phone to the included mount and can serve as triggers to auto launch the Pearl app. The included adhesive and the magnets in the mount are strong but they could not hold up the heaviest phone I have access to – the Posh L640. The l640 weighs in at 230 grams. It had no problem with lighter phones like my 136 gram Moto Z.

THE APP

The Pearl Android app is a little hit or miss (I wasn’t able to test the iOS app). As a camera viewer it is fine. It can be configured to launch when attached to the dash mount and that works every time. It’s usually ready to go by the time I mount the phone, start the car, buckle in, and throw the car into reverse. There are occasional glitches where “something went wrong” or “video is recovering” appear. I really noticed this on the under powered phones I tested with – Mediatek driven budget phones. More powerful phones like the Moto Z, DROID Turbo, and another yet-to-be released Qualcomm powered budget phone had no or few issues.

If you mount your phone horizontally you’re given a widescreen view of what’s behind your car. If you use portrait view you’ll have a narrow view and a fish-eye image. In this configuration you can pan the image left and right. For me, the portrait view just makes no sense. I’d prefer to see everything all the time as with the landscape view and not have to fidget with the phone. I always used landscape other than when I needed to test the portrait mode.

Video from the RearVision is clear and relatively crisp. The video is “HD” and one of the cameras is optimized for night use. And I have to say that overall the system works great. I used the camera in day, night, rainy, and foggy conditions. At almost no point did the camera struggle to give me a usable picture. I’ve been very pleased with it thus far.

After a user-definable period, or when the car reaches 10 mph, the camera will shut off and the Pearl app will go into “car mode.” There are a few large tiles for things like navigation and music access while driving. The major problem with this mode is the lack of cusomtizability. You can only select tiles in prepopulated categories and from a prepopulated list of apps. Like the use MapQuest as your navigation aid? Too bad. Want a podcast app instead of a music player? Forget it. To me this made the car mode feature useless. Fortunately, the backup camera is the main draw so this didn’t bother me too much.

CONCLUSION

The Pearl RearVision is a little tricky to summarize. On the one hand, it works very well. It handles the primary task of providing a simple, plug-and-play, backup camera solution with ease. Everything about the device itself is of high quality. There are a few issues with the app but the main draw is the camera. On the other hand, it is very expensive at $500 at Amazon. That’s a lot of money. On the other other hand saving you from just one accident will probably pay for the device. And it’s a portable solution that can move with you from car to car. I really like the RearVision and if you’re in the market for a backup camera and can afford it you won’t be disappointed.