Buying Guide: Leading dash cam dashboard cameras reviewed (updated)

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Reviews from 2016 and 2015 can be found on pages 2 and 3 respectively (click above), or click here to jump to the latest dash cam reviews


THE TECHNOLOGY that has been safeguarding the reputations – and insurance policies – of good drivers in Russia for many years is now taking the UK by storm.

Though our roads are becoming safer, there were 186,189 accidents in 2015, the most recent figure available. Fitting a dash cam to your car can reduce your insurance premiums – and offer you peace of mind when it comes to disputes over liability in an accident.

Driving has pulled together a number of leading examples, from basic video recording models to top-of-the-range dashcams with multiple cameras, accident sensors and the ability to record your speed and location by GPS.

Our detailed findings are below, with the models now grouped by year of review as well a budget, so this is the best place to come for information on the top dashcams currently available.

Dash cam Q&A

Why fit a dash cam?

The Insurance Fraud Bureau estimates that 30,000 “crash for cash” incidents – for example, when a driver slams on their brakes to make a following car hit them – take place every year. Dash cams can help insurers identify fraudulent claims and determine who is at fault, so some offer a discount for drivers who have one installed, as long as they agree to provide footage on request (check with your insurer to see if a deal is available with your chosen dashcam).

Bear in mind that police will get involved if someone has been injured in an accident; they have the power to seize footage, which may be used as evidence.

How do dash cams work?

Dash cams are smarter than your basic video camera. Yes, you could attached a forward-facing GoPro or Dogcam to your windscreen and record your whole journey in one long file, but what if you run out of space on your memory card before the end of the journey?

Dash cams get round the problem by splitting the video into small chunks, usually video files of 1-3 minutes. When the memory card is full, the oldest file will be deleted to make room for a new file, meaning it will always record.

However, important files can be locked and protected from deletion, either manually (by pressing a button on the device) or in most cases automatically if the device detects a sudden change in speed (because of an accident or emergency stop).

Do I need to wipe the memory card manually?

Yes. Although the oldest video clips are deleted automatically to make way for new footage as the dash cam records, you may find that the protected (emergency recording) files build up over time and eventually fill the card, perhaps causing an error message to appear. For this reason, it’s best to format the memory card once every couple of weeks or so. In most cases, you will be able to do this via the dash cam’s menu.

Where can I mount a dash cam?

Dash cams should intrude no more than 40mm into the swept area of your windscreen wiper blades and must not be mounted in the area directly above the steering wheel.

Can a dash cam screen be on when I’m driving?

No. If a dash cam has a built-in screen, make sure it is switched off or turns itself off after a few seconds, as the law says motorists must not be able to view video-playing devices while driving (there are some exceptions to this rule related to providing information about the status of the vehicle itself – a parking camera, for example – but a dash cam does not meet these criteria).

Can you hide away the dash cam’s power cable?

Yes, even if you’re plugging the power cable into a 12V (cigarette lighter) socket, you can normally tuck the cable behind the car’s headlining and down the inside of the trim on the A-pillar (the metal body structure either side of the windscreen), then under the carpet to the centre console.

If you decide to “hardwire” the dash cam, which means running a power cable directly into the car’s fuse box, you can do the same thing and keep things even neater, as you can hide the cable completely.

Why would you hardwire a dash cam?

If you’re certain you’re going to stick with the same model of dash cam for some time, this can be beneficial as it will have direct access to the car’s 12V electricity supply via the fuse box, meaning even if the engine is switched off, it can draw power if needed. Some dash cams have a parking mode, for example, that will record bumps when you’re parked and the car is locked; if you plug into the cigarette lighter socket, it’s unlikely the dash cam will receive power from it while the ignition is off.

Note: As most dashcams are plugged into a 12V (cigarette lighter) socket for power, if you have only one socket in your car and already use it for a sat nav or for charging your mobile phone, you will need to invest in an adaptor. Halfords has a number available: click here.

2017 dashcam reviews

Entry-level forward-facing dashcams

Nextbase In-Car Cam 112 review

RRP at time of test: £49.99
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Nextbase 112 dash cam review

Installation ★★☆☆☆

Would have scored highly but the plastic assembly for sucker mount, which allows the camera to be slid on and off without have to unplug the cable, broke twice while on test, suggesting teething problems with manufacturing. Nextbase told us our model (which we tested extensively between late 2016 and mid 2017) was an early model and the problem was identified and fixed, with all models sold after March 2017 using new components. Hopefully this also fixes another issue with the sucker coming unstuck, as it did on several occasions with our 112. Nextbase says it will replace faulty mounts free-of-charge.

In theory, the Click & Go mount, which itself is connected to the 4m power cable with the camera sliding on and receiving power via metal touch points, is a clever and useful idea; it allows you to grab the camera easily when leaving the car, reducing chances of a break-in.

A star is also knocked for no SD memory card in the box – you’ll have to buy that separately – but the camera itself a cute, compact design that you can get up and running within minutes.

Ease of use ★★★★★

The Nextbase 112 starts recording as soon as you provide it with power (e.g. starting the engine), the menu is simple and easy to navigate via the screen, the record button is clear, as is the emergency record button. Top marks.

Functions ★★★☆☆

While there’s no GPS, which would record your speed and location, it does have a G-sensor (with sensitivity settings), a decent screen allowing you to replay footage instantly, a photo mode and a parking mode, which can detect bumps while the car is parked. An in-built battery lasts for up to 30 minutes.

Video/audio quality ★★★☆☆

The 112 records at 720p resolution, so not full HD, and the 120-degree viewing angle is average, but the quality is excellent for a budget camera and audio is captured clearly, too.

VERDICT ★★★☆☆

Could be the new leader in budget dash cams but the issues we had with our early example’s mount are cause for concern.

Words: Will Dron

 


JooVuu X review

RRP at time of test: £69.99 (or £79.99 for battery model)
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JooVuu X review

[N.b. After this review was published, JooVuu got in touch asking for feedback to help it improve the product. It also updated its quick start guide to make set-up easier to follow. On this basis we agreed to retest the device, however we stick by the original verdict]

Installation ★☆☆☆☆

It’s a nice size and shape, so it doesn’t take up much room on the windscreen, but it only has an adhesive mount so you’ll need to get its position right first time. Requires an app so you can’t get started until you’ve connected the camera to your phone, which, is not at all simple.

There are two models: one with a battery and one that uses a capacitor. The battery suffers in the heat of your car interior on a hot day and in the freezing cold of winter, so we advise going with the capacitor. Both versions have three buttons, and it’s not obvious what any of them is for. The “M” button, we guessed correctly, is for “Menu”. The button next to it, on the underside, printed with a video camera allows you to stop and start recording. The third, located on the side, we worked out through a process of elimination while struggling to follow the laughably-named “Quick Start” guide is the Power button. (Update: following our feedback, the “Quick Start” guide now includes labels for the buttons.)

Once you’ve inserted a memory card (there isn’t one in the box so you’ll need to buy that separately) you are required to format it (delete any exisiting data), which involves a sequence of button presses with success indicated by a flashing (or was it solid?) green (or maybe blue) LED. This took around 10 minutes of concentration to master.

Next you have to download the app and connect the phone via WiFi, but first you need to put the camera into pairing mode, which involves another round of button pressing. This took more time and much frustration, as the camera didn’t seem to want to pair with our Samsung Galaxy until the fifth or sixth attempt.

(Update: we were taken through the set-up process by the manufacturer, and it’s relatively straight-forward once you know the sequences, but we forgot it and when it came to doing it again later we were back to square one)

Ease of use ☆☆☆☆☆

With the camera and app connected, you can use the smartphone to view a live stream of the footage, change settings and view recordings. Except we saw a number of error messages while connected and were unable to reconnect the camera after the first go, so we gave up. Sorry, readers, but it was that bad a user experience.

Functions ★★★★☆ (based on manufacturer claims)

JooVuu boast of a “7G lens” and up to 2560p resolution (1080p is full HD) at 30fps, along with a stereo microphone, motion detection, G sensor, car plate stamp, speed recording, the ability to change the clip length between 1,2,3,5 and 10 minutes in length, along with the ability to change the field of view (155, 120, 90 and 60 degrees) – an extra lens was included in the box but it’s not obvious what it’s for or how to attach it. However, as we gave up on the JooVuu before recording any of our own footage, so perplexed as we were by the mind-boggling and fiddly set-up process, we cannot confirm or deny the full extent and quality of the functions.

Video/audio quality ★★★★☆ (based on manufacturer footage)

Better than full HD is claimed, and at 30fps, with stereo audio. Again, we gave up on the device before fitting it to a car so we’ll have to take JooVuu’s word for it. The footage on the manufacturer website looks decent, if not the best we’ve seen.

VERDICT ★☆☆☆☆

If you’ve forgotten what it feels like to be so frustrated you want to pull your own hair out, buy this product. (Update: we wanted this British start-up to succeed, and gave the manufacturer every chance to guide us through set-up and operation over the phone, but were still left irritated when it came to running the device at a later date)

Words: Will Dron

 

 


TaoTronics TT-CD06 review

RRP at time of test £79.99

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Taotronics TT-CD06 dash cam review

Installation ★★★★★

TaoTronics seems to have thought of everything. Aside from the camera itself, inside the box is a 3.6-metre USB charging cable with a 12V (cigarette lighter socket) adapter that has two ports, for 1.0A and 2.4A output – the dash cam take the latter, leaving the 1.0A slot free for trickle charging a phone. There are two mounts, so you can choose to use to stick it to your windscreen using adhesive pads of a suction mount (which we much prefer as it avoids mess and allows easier repositioning). You also get cable clips with adhesive backing, to keep the cable tidy, and a shorter USB cable for connecting to your PC. Bonus marks are awarded for including a big 32Gb micro SD card and a 30-month free extended warranty card in the box.

Ease of use ★★★★☆

There’s nothing revolutionary about the design and the menus are similar to those you’d find on a Nextbase, so functional rather than beautiful, but it’s easy to find your way around using the four buttons and 2in screen, and it starts recording as soon as it receives power. A grumble, though, is that the emergency button isn’t coloured red so it’s not immediately obvious in the event that you need to find it in a hurry.

Functions ★★★☆☆

Without global positioning, the TT-CD06 lacks a feature that many will want on their dash cam, but there is the all-important G-sensor. It also includes an internal battery and motion detection and parking modes, which can record if there’s a bump or movement around the car while you’re parked. Other dash cams also have a lot more whizz-bang, but that’s reflected by the price.

Video/audio quality ★★★☆☆

Overall quality of footage is really very good, particularly for this end of the market. It records in 2K resolution (2048 × 1080 pixels) at 30 frames per second or 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels) at 45fps, and the result is a smooth crisp picture in either mode. The 160-degree angle of vision is a bit wider than average. Footage appears clearer than average in low light conditions – TaoTonics says it has a 400W light sensor and 6-layer lens – but struggles a little in blinding light, when the sun is low in the sky.

VERDICT ★★★☆☆

On the basis of this, TaoTronics could become a major player in dash cams. The TT-CD06 is an attractive, compact dash cam delivering decent quality video and excellent audio clarity. We also like the fact that it comes with a long warranty, and two types of mount along with other helpful bits and pieces in the box, including a 32Gb memory card. Overall, it’s easily a match for the Nextbase 112; it’s just a shame you have to pay a fair wedge more for it.

Words: Will Dron

 


Mid-priced forward-facing dash cams (from £99.99)

Ring RBGDC200 GPS dash camera review

RRP at time of test: £99.99

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Ring RBGDC200 FULL HD GPS DASH CAMERA review

Installation ★★★☆☆

Simple enough, comes with a decent suction mount and the power cable is a decent length. However, there’s no micro SD memory card in the box so you’ll need one separately

Ease of use ★★★☆☆

The button layout isn’t terribly clear and they feel quite cheap and fiddly, and the menu looks budget, too, but it’s simple enough to find the settings you need via the 2in display.

Functions ★★★★☆

Includes GPS, so you can view your position via map coordinates or on the map provided in the accompanying software, plus a G sensor to detect accidents. It also uses a lithium battery, so you can replay footage away from the car for a short time, but chances are this will perish over time when exposed to the extremes of hot and cold in the car’s interior (while parked in the sun/ during winter). Recording starts as soon as it detects power. It’s just a shame there’s no emergency button, allowing you to lock footage of accidents or events you witness in front of the car.

Video/audio quality ★★★★★

Records in full HD (1080p) resolution, and the quality of the footage is exceptional in day and night conditions, displaying numberplates clearly. Audio is a little muffled but perfectly decent.

VERDICT ★★★★☆

Excellent video quality and decent functions in an average package, and the omission of an emergency button is a big mistake. One for Maplin patrons but won’t impress those used to tech from the likes of Apple.

Words: Will Dron

 


 

Nextbase 412GW review

RRP at time of test: £129.99

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Nextbase 412GW dash cam review

Installation ★★★★

We’ve had a 412GW on test for a number of months now. Early in the test we were having problems keeping its Click & Go mount (a Nextbase innovation last year) stuck to the windscreen and after a while, in extreme heat, it broke. We had a very similar experience with the Nextbase 112, which was also one of the first to use Click & Go. Nextbase sent a new mount and told us the problem was identified and fixed, with all models sold after March 2017 using new components.

Since then, we’ve not had any problems with the 412GW’s mount, and the Click & Go idea is excellent: the camera itself slides on and off — and receives power from — the mount, with the 12V power cable running into the mount from the cigarette lighter socket. The cable is 4m so you can run it under the carpet, up the inside of the trim around the A-pillar and the down into the mount. All very simple to set up and it means the camera can come with you when you leave the car.

As usual with Nextbase dash cams, a star is knocked for there being no SD memory card in the box – you’ll have to buy that separately.

Ease of use ★★★★★

As with most dash cams, the Nextbase 412GW starts recording as soon as you provide it with power (e.g. starting the engine), so you don’t have to think about pressing record. The 412GW is almost exactly the same as the 512GW, albeit a little smaller, and uses touch-sensitive buttons that are slightly less easy to locate without looking at the unit. They respond well, though, and the menu system is simple to navigate via the 3in screen, if not especially attractive.

Functions ★★★★★

The 412GW shares most functionality with the 512GW. Importantly, it includes GPS, so it can show exactly where you had the accident, and a G sensor that will detect bumps and lock footage associated with it. An inbuilt battery last up to 30mins, which might be useful immediately after an accident.

A smartphone app is simple to use and connects quickly, allowing you to download and share footage. We’re warming to the idea of WiFi/app-enabled dash cams but really, their use is limited.

Video/audio quality ★★★★★

Supposedly, the 512GW is superior to this camera as it has an anti-glare polarising filter, although the difference in quality is minimal. That is to say, the footage from the 412GW is also superb, day and night. Nextbase uses a six-lens system for extra clarity, and the 140-degree viewing angle is decent; it allows you to capture objects in the periphery.

The 412GW records in 1440p “Quad HD” resolution, which means the image comprises 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (for comparison, full HD is 1080p, or 1920 x 1080 pixels) at 30fps. If you drop the resolution to record at 1080p, it will record at 60 frames per second. Audio is clear, too, if you wish to include it.

VERDICT ★★★★★

A little less expensive than the Nextbase 512GW but packed with almost all of its tech and functionality. A problem with the Click & Go mounts appears to have been resolved so we can highly recommend the 412GW; it hits a sweet spot of affordability, video quality and features.

Words: Will Dron

 


High-end forward-facing dash cams (from £149.99)

Nextbase 512GW dash cam review

RRP at time of test: £149.99
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Best dash cams: Nextbase 512GW dash cam review

Installation ★★★★☆

The 512GW uses Nextbase’s Click & Go mount, so you run the cable from the 12V (cigarette lighter) socket, hiding it from sight under carpets and behind interior trim, and attach the mount to the windscreen via its sucker. But the camera itself can slide on and off this mount, receiving power via metal contacts. It’s a clever system that allows you to remove the camera quickly and easily when you leave the car, without disturbing the mount. A quick-start guide is included in the box to help guide you through the process.

Nextbase had issues with the reliability of the sucker mount initially (we had several fail on us), but as reported in our review of the Nextbase 112 (above), the manufacturer says it has resolved the problems; we have had no issues with the 512GW.

Date and time are set over the airwaves, so this dash cam is ready to go and starts recording as soon as you connect the power.

We have knocked a star off as Nextbase doesn’t supply a memory card with its cameras, so you’ll need to buy one separately.

Ease of use ★★★★★

As easy as they come. The 512GW uses touch-sensitive buttons that are slightly less easy to locate without looking at the unit, but they respond well, and the menu system, while not especially pretty, is simple to navigate. Even the smartphone app (see below) is simple to use and responds quickly.

Functions ★★★★★

The 512GW is absolutely loaded with smart features. It’s WiFi enabled, so you can connect it to a smartphone app and play back footage before downloading clips to your phone, from which you can share online (we can’t see a way to do this via the app currently). There’s GPS, so it tracks your location and speed and shows it on the footage (you can remove the speed/ stamps via the menu if you prefer), and a G-sensor, which recognises sudden movements (such as an accident) and locks the file.

The Nextbase 512GW also includes Parking Mode, so if you decide to leave the camera in the car when parked it can detect bumps from other cars and start recording. There’s even a new time lapse mode, which takes snaps along your journey and creates a speeded up video of the trip, should you want one.

Interestingly, there’s a slot on the shoulder labelled “R CAM”, for which there isn’t a lot of info at the moment but we understand this will allow a second camera to be connected so that you can record out of the rear window, too. However, this is still in the development stages and will require a software update to work; expect some news in the second half of 2017.

Video/audio quality ★★★★★

The 512GW is Nextbase’s current (July 2017) flagship model and records in ultra-high definition 1440P (also known as Wide Quad HD, with the image comprising 2,560 x 1,440 pixels). Numbers of pixels does not a good image make, we have found, but the 512GW’s is superb thanks to a polarising filter and a six-element glass lens, which reduces glare and reflections. Numberplates in daylight are crystal clear, ans the 140-degree viewing angle offers a good view of the edges of the road.

Night time images aren’t noticeably clearer than older models, it has to be said, but the 512GW is still a front-runner in this department. Audio is very clear.

VERDICT ★★★★★

Nextbase video quality remains the gold standard for dash cams, and the cameras remain as easy to use as ever. The 512GW is loaded with features and insider suggestions that it may be possible to connect a rear-facing camera at a later date are intriguing.

 


Thinkware F770 forward-facing dash cam review

RRP at time of review: from £219

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Best dash cams: Thinkware F770 review

Installation ★★★☆☆

The F770 is offered as a front camera device with a 16GB memory card, for £219, or as a front and rear camera unit with 32 GB, for £269. Additionally, there’s the choice of either a ‘plug and go’ 12V (cigarette lighter) power lead, or it can be hard wired into the car, with no difference in price.

The prices are expensive, so the F770 needs to put in a good performance to justify its place in the market.

Thinkware, a South Korean manufacturer, supplies an adhesive mount that attaches to the inside of the windscreen and secures the F770. It is easy to fit and remove the dash cam from its mount, but if drivers wish to change vehicle they will need to buy either a replacement sticky pad for the mount (£4.99) or an additional mount (£12.99). There is no optional sucker mount that’s compatible with the F770.

Ease of use ★★★☆☆

The Quick Start Guide booklet supplied isn’t particularly clear for novices. For example, it doesn’t explain in layman’s terms that the user needs to locate the F770 on their smartphone’s WiFi settings menu, and establish a connection between the two, in order.

The manufacturer’s manual is better. However, there’s a catch. To power the F770, you need to be in the car, so setting it up with a smartphone and while looking at the instruction manual can be a head-scratching affair.
The device is controlled via buttons on the unit or using a free app on your smartphone. But again, you need to be in the car to operate any of this, as the dash cam needs to be powered up.

The app connects to the dash cam using a generic password and is easy to navigate and operate. You’ll need it, as it’s the only way to check the camera’s view of the road ahead, other than watching back recorded video footage.

Functions ★★★★☆

As mentioned, the F770 is WiFi enabled, so connects to a smartphone. That allows users to change the unit’s settings, such as whether or not you want it to capture footage should the car be bumped when parked (only with the hardwired version).

Drivers can choose to activate audible alerts for safety (speed) cameras, a lane departure warning (above 30mph) and a front collision warning (above 20mph), which sounds a chime accompanied by spoken alerts. These are issued based on embedded GPS and road data.

The forward facing camera records in 1080p with High Definition, and its Sony image sensor is claimed to provide outstanding video quality in low-light conditions. It offers a 140 degree viewing angle.

The 16GB version stores 124 minutes of footage, as invidual one-minute films and files, and overwrites these once the memory card is full. In the event of an accident, should the dash cam detect an impact it saves and protects footage of the 10 second priors and after the impact.

Video/audio quality ★★★☆☆
There is no vehicle speed or location information provided when playing video files. However, the quality of the audio was good.

The F770 seemed to struggle when driving toward the sun. Changing light conditions, such as shadows from trees, would cause lens flare. It also struggled with reflections of the dashboard against inside of the windscreen. The camera records at 30 frames per second, but often it was difficult to read number plates of other vehicles.

At night, the ‘super night vision’ didn’t seem particularly super to us. On lit main roads or in suburban areas the picture quality was fine, but on unlit roads the only visible areas were those illuminated by the headlights.

VERDICT ★★★☆☆

The Thinkware F770 offers average performance that fails to justify its high price.

Words: James Mills

 

Nextbase 612GW Elite dash cam review

Nextbase 612GW dash cam review

  • RRP at time of test: £249.99
  • Check the latest prices at Halfords.com

Installation ★★★★☆

Now that Nextbase’s mounts appear to be fault-free (see Nextbase 112 review), the full benefits of the Click & Go Mounts are becoming obvious, as not only can we slide the camera on and off the magnetic mount with ease, when entering or exiting the car, but can also switch between Nextbase dash cams without any fuss at all. For buyers, this means you should be able to upgrade your dash cam by simply sliding off the old model and sliding on the new one. It takes about two seconds.

When installing for the first time, the cable runs from the mount, up into the headlining of the car, along to and down the A-pillar, tucked inside the trim, and then under the carpet and back up to the 12V socket in the centre console. Sounds complicated but it’s really not – anyone can do it in just a few minutes.

The sucker for the mount isn’t quite as powerful as other products on the market, and you’ll need a residue-free area of glass for it to stay put without dropping off, but assuming the windscreen is squeaky clean, it should remain attached until you choose to remove it. An adhesive pad is also supplied, should you want a more permanent solution.

Nextbase is marked down as usual for not supplying a memory card with the product; you’ll need to purchase one separately (the 612GW requires a 64Gb or 128gb U3 class MicroSD card).

Ease of use ★★★★★

Nextbase has introduced a touchscreen with the 612GW, as well as a new menu system. It’s now extremely easy to navigate around and get to submenus quickly. However, the company hasn’t forgotten the all-important emergency record button, which can be found on the right-hand side of the casing and is marked clearly in red, so top marks for ease of use.

Functions ★★★★★

The 612GW has GPS logging, a G-sensor to lock footage in the event of an accident, a parking mode to record bumps while you’re away from the car and WiFi connectivity so that you can share footage from your smartphone easily. By default it logs a high and low quality version of each video file, meaning footage should be easy to share even if you don’t have a fast internet connection.

The 612GW also has an auto-dimming function for the screen at night (although you should go into the settings and set the screen to time out if you want to comply fully with the current laws on screen use in cars), a time lapse mode and spoken announcements for when key features are activated. Nextbase also offers its own video editing software on a disc. Pretty good all round.

Video/audio quality ★★★★★

The 612GW is marketed as the world’s first 4K dash cam, with a 3,840 x 2,160 pixel resolution at 30 frames per second and HDR (high dynamic range). The benefit, in theory, is clarity, allowing you to see details such as numberplates and so on in ultra high definition. We’ll be honest: the benefits over cheaper Nextbase dash cams in daylight are marginal and at night, virtually non-existent. So, in terms of image quality, things haven’t move on that much since the first Nextbase we reviewed a couple of years ago, the 402GW. It’s worth saying, though, that the 402GW still ranks highly for image quality (we still use it a base comparison for all dash cam reviews) and so even marginal improvements are impressive. But still, in terms of image quality we wouldn’t be able to recommend the 612GW over the 512GW, also launched in 2017, which records at 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (known as Wide Quad HD) and costs £100 less.

Audio is extremely clear.

VERDICT  ★★★★★

Video quality is only very marginally better than less expensive Nextbase products so you’ll have to think carefully about whether you want to splash the extra cash, but it’s still market-leading. We really like the touchscreen menu, Click & Go mount and range of functions, as well as the brushed aluminium design. Smart and the quality is definitely evident, so it deserves the full five stars, but it is pricey and the SD card costs extra.

Words: Will Dron

 


Rear-view mirror dashcams

Nextbase Mirror Dash Cam

Nextbase Mirror dash cam review

Installation ★★★★☆

We’ve only seen one other rear view mirror dash cam, in our very first round of testing — the Crash Catcher CC3, which includes a rear-facing camera as well as the front-facing camera. In terms of concept, though, the idea is the same: the unit sits on top of your car’s rear view mirror rather than the windscreen. You can view the footage and menus via a screen that sits behind the mirrored glass, which can be switched off leaving just the mirror. This Nextbase model is slicker in design than the Crash Catcher, with a smaller bevel, reduced thickness and discreet buttons along the lower edge.

The sole camera faces forwards and sits on the left side of the device, behind the mirror, which improves the slick design and makes it less obvious to potential thieves; from the cabin, it looks just like a regular rear-view mirror. However, the position of the camera on the passenger side does suggest that the Nextbase Mirror dash cam may be more at home in a left-hand drive vehicle, as the mirror would be angled so that the left side is positioned furthest forward. On a UK, right-hand drive car, the right edge of the mirror is pushed toward the nose of the car, meaning the camera is some distance from the windscreen.

Nextbase Mirror dash cam footage review The angle also means that the camera must be tilted as far to the right as it will go in order to point straight ahead, and some of our Golf test car’s rear-view mirror mount, which is thick as it also holds the car’s own collision detection camera, was in shot. After some fettling, though, we did manage to get a decent view of the road ahead, albeit with the far top-right corner of the frame obscured (see still image). Importantly, there was a clear view of the road in the lower right corner.

Attaching the Nextbase Mirror to the car’s mirror took just a few moments, and the process was easier than with the Crash Catcher: four small suckers on the camera side stick onto the car’s mirror, then you hook a couple of rubber hoops around the back of the mirror and onto hooks located on the top and bottom of the device.

The power cable plugs in to the top of the device and can be run along the inside of the car’s interior trim, down the A-pillar and under the carpet to the 12V (cigarette lighter) socket. It’s only marginally more fiddly than a standard dash cam. Halfords, which has exclusive rights to sell the Nextbase Mirrow until September 2017, offers to hardwire it into your car for £30, meaning this could be the least conspicuous dash cam we’ve tested.

Once powered up, the clock sets automatically and it starts recording straight away, assuming you’ve inserted a memory card into the slot on the underside. Unfortuantely Nextbase don’t include one, as some other manufacturers do.

Ease of use ★★★★☆

It’s no more complicated than any other Nextbase dash cam, and they’re pretty simple to operate. As mentioned, providing power starts recording so there’s little to concern yourself with on a daily basis. The menu system is clear and simple to navigate via the 4in screen, although they’re not the most aesthetically-pleasing we’ve tested; Nextbase’s menus are a bit low-fi — more PC than Apple Mac — but it’s a system that you can find your way around very quickly using the up and down arrows and OK button.

The emergency button isn’t clear, however – it’s simply labelled with a white exclamation mark. If the button were coloured red it would be easier to find when you need it, should you witness a crash ahead of you.

Functions ★★★★☆

It’s loaded with the most useful functions currently available: GPS (global positioning), to record your location, a G-sensor to monitor sudden movements, such as accidents or hard braking and a parking mode (which will wake up the camera if a bump is detected while the car is parked). It also includes WiFi connectivity, so you can view footage on and download to a smartphone, which is a function we’re quickly warming to.

Video/audio quality ★★★★☆

It records in 1080p (full HD) at 30 frames per second, which isn’t the highest resolution on the market today. However, the footage is clear, if a little grainy, and numberplates/road signs are as clear as most rivals’ efforts. Night footage is also decent, as is audio, and the 140-degree viewing angle is fairly standard today and offers a good view of the periphery.

Important note here: the first time we used the device the video froze five minutes into our journey and remained frozen for the rest of the journey (audio continued recording without error). It worked fine from the next time we drove the car, however, suggesting all we needed to do was switch it off and on.

VERDICT ★★★★☆

Discreet and inexpensive, with decent video and all the functions you’ll need — this a good device for those who don’t want a electronic devices cluttering up their windscreen. Although we set it up with a decent view of the road, due to the position of the camera lens it may not be suited to all right-hand drive cars, so try before you buy.

Words: Will Dron

 


Sat nav dash cams

Mio MiVue Drive 65 LM sat nav dash cam review

Mio MiVue Drive 65 LM sat nav dash cam review

Installation ★★★☆☆

Considering how complicated this could be, given the complexity of the device, Mio have made it as easy as possible. The power cable is short – only around 1.3m – which is enough to get from the 12V (cigarette lighter socket) socket to the screen, but not hard-install and hide it away behind trim. To be honest, you’ll be removing the device from your windscreen and hiding away from view after use, so it may be preferable for many. Although you could find a longer power cable, as it connects via mini USB, the factory cable includes an aerial for global positioning, so you’d lose signal.

The main problem with the 65 LM is its sheer size; it has a 6.2” screen. You’d think this would be an advantage, as the mapping is clearer, but as it takes up so much room on your windscreen it can easily obscure your view of the road. The printed Quick Start Guide states, “Never mount your device where the driver’s field of vision is blocked,” but how you can do this is questionable. Remember, the law says dash cams should intrude no more than 40mm into the swept area of your windscreen wiper blades and must not be mounted in the area directly above the steering wheel.

Assuming you can find a safe and legal place on the windscreen, the suction mount is good and strong, and the screen slide neatly on and off. Mio also sells a rear camera, which connects via another mini USB cable, but the basic device is blessedly simply and free of unnecessary cables.

Switch it on and the Mio Tutorial greets you, explaining how to use the menus and navigation, but there’s no explanation of how the dash cam works and it’s not clear if it is recording at this time time. The main menu has good, clear icons, including one for the camera, so you dive straight in there and make sure the positioning of the camera affords a good view ahead.

Helpfully, Mio supplies a 16Gb memory card in the box, allowing you to get up and running without delay.

Ease of use ★★★☆☆

As mentioned, the menus are clear, simple and attractive, and the size of the screen is obviously helpful; even fat-fingered owners will be able to type destinations into the digital keyboard.

There are problems, however, besides being able to see beyond it to the road ahead. The first thing is that it’s not obvious at any time if the dash cam is recording. In the map view, while using navigation, there’s a small icon for the camera. Tap this and three more icons slide out, one of which clears things up; it allows you to stop (or start) recording.

The other two icons open up the camera view and the footage respectively and herein lies another problem. Everything is accessed via the touchscreen, rather than physical buttons, and pressing the right area of the screen while on the move is difficult to say the least. In fact, we’d have to recommend pulling over and stopping the car if you want to find and change a setting as there is a danger of being distracted. See rule 150 of the Highway Code.

Functions ★★★☆☆

A sat nav / dash cam combo is great, on the face of it. It does assume, however, that you want to use the navigation for every journey… unless you’re a minicab driver, this probably isn’t the case. Yes, it comes with real-time traffic info, but we’re yet to find a mapping system as good as Waze for this sort of info, and routing around traffic in central London, so cabbies may not be especially interested. On the plus side, it includes safety camera info and lifetime map updates.

There are other smart features, too: lane departure warning, which tells you if you drift out of lane on a carriageway, and forward collision warning, which warns in case of hitting something ahead of you. Of course, these can’t act on the brakes or steering so it relies on the driver responding.

Importantly for the dash cam side of things, a G-Sensor (to record accidents) and GPS (of course) are included. There’s no app compatibility, for sharing footage via your phone, but you can transfer video files to a computer fairly easily via a memory card reader.

Video/audio quality ★★★☆☆

Footage records in “Extreme HD” (2304 x 1296 pixels) at 30 frames-per second, which should provide crystal clear images. However, daytime footage quality didn’t blow us away – it was a little grainy. In twilight, it was pretty good, comparatively.

A 140-degree viewing angle gives a pretty decent view of the periphery.

VERDICT ★★★★☆

Combining sat nav and dash cam is sound on paper, and Mio’s execution is laudable, with a big screen, lush menus and lots of functions. As with the other devices below, if you’re in the market for both a dash cam and a sat nav you can argue a case for this all-in-one device. However, the 65 LM’s cumbersome size, sub-Waze traffic-negotiating skills and average video quality mean the whole is less than the sum of its parts. We’ve awarded four stars to match the scores of the Garmin devices tested previously, as the Mio is as good as its rivals.

Words: Will Dron

 


Forward- and rear-facing dash cams

Nextbase Duo HD dash cam review

Nextbase Duo HD dash cam dahscam review

  • RRP at time of test: £199.99
  • Check the latest prices at Halfords.com

Installation ★★★☆☆

There aren’t that many dash cams on the market that have both forward- and rear-facing cameras contained within the same casing, and for the Nextbase Duo HD it proves to be both its main strength and its weakness when it comes to installation.

It’s good in that it doesn’t require a second camera to be attached to the rear window, with a cable running through the car to the main, forward-facing camera; this means it’s less fiddly and time-consuming to get up-and-running. It’s less smart in that getting the perfect position on your windscreen can be quite tricky, if you want to get a good, clear view both forward and through the rear window. The forward-facing camera has a 140-degree wide angle lens, while the rear-facing camera is a telephoto lens that gives a 50m zoom view through the back window, and getting the two angled for an unencumbered view both ways is a little tricky.

To help, the rear view is shown on the 2.7in screen in a smaller window (the screen is very useful here) and in the end we did manage to find a spot that got a decent view front and rear. Importantly, it was also in a legal position on the windscreen (dash cams should intrude no more than 40mm into the swept area of your windscreen wiper blades and must not be mounted directly above the steering wheel). However, we recommend trying before you buy to make sure the Duo HD is suitable for your particular car. In the picture above, it’s positioned directly behind the rear-view mirror, but that’s not always possible on modern cars, which often pack their own radar and/or camera in that position, for driver assist systems such as auto emergency brake and lane departure warning/assist.

Power is supplied via a long cable that plugs into the 12V socket and up to the Nextbase Click & Go Mount (which enables the camera to be slipped off and on very easily. The cable can be tucked away behind the rooflining, behind trim down the A-pillar and under the carpet. Once it has power, it starts recording…. assuming you have bought a micro SD memory card, that is; as ever, Nextbase doesn’t supply one in the box.

Ease of use ★★★★★

Installation aside, the Duo HD is very simple to operate. It records as soon as you switch on the ignition, has a clear emergency record button, marked in red, and navigating the menu via the buttons under the screen. Although it does have WiFi and connects to the Nextbase app, the screen means you don’t need to mess around with any of that if you don’t want to. The only downside is that, now we’ve experienced the touchscreen on the Nextbase 612GW, the Duo HD’s menu system is a bit slow to manoeuvre through and less aesthetically-pleasing by comparison, but it’s just as simple to use as other Nextbase models that have received top marks in this regard.

Functions ★★★★

A rear-facing camera is a major advantage, we reckon, while the basics are all ticked off: GPS logging and a G-sensor (for recognising accidents and locking the footage). In addition, there’s a parking mode that records bumps while parked up, WiFi so that you can view and share clips via your smartphone, and Nextbase’s Replay 3 video editing software, should you want to trim the footage, join clips, or add text and titles via your PC. It doesn’t have lane departure warnings or any other driver assist systems that some dash cam makers pack in to their products, but those are not missed in the slightest.

Video/audio quality ★★★☆☆

Both cameras record in full HD (1080p) at 30 frames per second and the quality appears to be very good in the daylight for both cameras, with the rear-facing 50m zoom lens doing a much better job than expected of picking out details such as drivers’ and cyclists’ faces. The rear camera is less good at recording number plates, due to the fact that they’re normally below what is visible through the rear windscreen, and at night you can see virtually nothing in unlit areas.

The forward-facing 140-degree camera performs much better than the rear camera in low light conditions and appears to have excellent clarity in daylight, but if you pause footage of passing cars, number plates are blurrier than other Nextbase cameras we’ve tested. Still, buyers may appreciate the trade-off in quality of footage for the benefit of having an eye fore and aft.

Audio is clear and records on video footage from both cameras (forward and rear views are logged on the memory card as separate files).

VERDICT  ★★★★

At less than £200 the Duo HD could be seen as very good value for money when compared to other dual camera solutions. It is a little tricky to position on the windscreen, so try before you buy, and the footage isn’t as sharp as the best cameras on the market today, but as an all-in-one front- and rear-facing dash cam solution, the Nextabse Duo is neat.

Words: Will Dron

 


Dod RC500S dual 1080p dash cam review

Dod RC500S dash cam review

  • RRP at time of test £295.00
  • Check the latest prices at Amazon.co.uk

Installation ★★☆☆☆

In short, not easy but you should only have to do it once. It comes in a nicely-presented box and the two camera stick to rear window and front window using adhesive mounts. Normally we prefer sucker mounts as it allows you to move the position of the camera easily, but the compact size and cylindrical shape of each means you should be able to attach centrally on the screen, probably behind the rear view mirror at the front, angle the lens and then forget about it.

Then you’ve got to connect the cameras using the supplied AV cable, which should then be concealed behind the roof lining. Then attach the power cable and plug into the 12V supply, again tucking the cable away behind trim and under carpet. Give yourself about 20 minutes to half an hour for this. If you want to hardwire the RC500S into your fuse box for an even more permanent installation, expert knowledge and extra time will be required.

Then you’ll need to connect to the app on your smartphone (downloaded from your app store). Ho-hum, we’re not keen on dash cams without screens, partly because they make it easy to ensure you’ve got a good, clear view of the road but also because checking footage via an app adds an extra step to the process of checking footage. It’s all just a bit fiddly.

And be warned, the instruction leaflet is basic. If you’re at all tech blind or impatient, get someone else to do the installation. Also, we installed the rear camera upside down, so check the orientation before you pack everything up.

They good news is that a 32Gb memory card is supplied in the box.

Ease of use ★★★☆☆

To be fair to the Dod, once you’re installed you don’t have to think about the cameras at all – they just run in the background. Switch on the car and you can hear the camera power on. Press the WiFi button on the main camera and you get a voice alert telling you it has switched on, ready to connect to your phone. It also has a clear emergency record button, to lock footage of an incident, should you spot one ahead (or behind in the case).

We have to mark it down for the app, though. It works better than most app-based dash cams, it’s fair to say, but it’s still designed by a programmer and not a real human being. It’s the sort of app that would drive Steve Jobs to murder, all odd fonts, weird symbols, convoluted menus and overlay over overlay. You will need the app user guide supplied in the box, for sure.

The good news is, you probably won’t use the app much and if you want to access footage, the best way to do it is to remove the micro SD card and connect it to your computer (via a USB adapter.

Functions ★★★★

Having forward- and rear-facing cameras is a pretty big bonus, given that rear-end collisions are commonplace, but there are other tricks up the RC500S’s sleeve. Global positioning info records where you are on a map, the G-sensor will detect shocks and lock what it believes to be important files, Parking Mode (hardwiring kit only) will record any bumps while you’re parked, the speed camera alert does what it says on the tin and the time and date are set by satellite. It has what you need.

Video/audio quality ★★★☆☆

Resolution for front and rear cameras is 1080p but the quality of the footage from the rear camera is so much poorer than the front. Not only is it more pixelated but it’s also a lot darker in low light. The front camera is pretty good in this regard, featuring a Sony Stravis SMOS sensor and up to ISO 12,800, but there are other top devices with more crystal clear images.

You get a slightly wider field of vision at the front (145° compared with 140° at the rear).

Audio is clear, however, and is picked up from on both cameras (videos from each are recorded as separated files simultaneously on the SD card).

VERDICT  ★★★☆☆

Installation is tricky, the app is fiddly and the image quality is decent rather than exceptional, but it’s a slick-looking product that has been carefully designed, with some important features. And speaking from experience, having a rear-facing camera should not be sniffed at. Definitely one to consider if you need a dual camera dash cam and know your way around electronics.

Words: Will Dron

 


Thinkware F800 Pro dual dash cam review

Thinkware F800 Pro dash cam review

  • RRP at time of test: £329.00
  • Check the latest prices at Amazon.co.uk

Installation ★★★☆☆

As with the Dod RC500S above, this has two cameras that mount to front and rear windows via adhesive mounts. Again, we prefer sucker mounts as it allows you to move the position of the camera easily, but as with the RC500, the Thinkware F800 is compact enough that you could attach centrally on the windscreen (probably behind the rear view mirror) and at the rear, angle the lenses and let them do their thing. In addition, the front camera slides on and off a plate, so you can remove it from the car easily should you wish to.

A supplied AV cable links the two devices, as with the Dod, which should then be concealed behind the roof lining. Then attach the power cable and plug into the 12V supply, again tucking the cable away behind trim and under carpet. And as with the Dod, you’ll need 20 minutes to half an hour for this.

The Thinkware differs in many ways from the Dod, though. For a start, front and rear cameras come in separate boxes. As does the hardwiring kit, should you wish to do this. It’s not quite as neat when it comes to packaging.

We had thought that much worse was the app, which connects to the camera. Or didn’t connect, we should say. Eventually we found the bit in the manual about it and realised we’d installed the wrong Thinkware dash cam app (you need Thinkware Cloud F800 / F800Pro rather than Thinkware Dashcam Viewer) and all was well. The WiFi pairing button is clear enough, as are the helpful audio alerts, and the app is quick to navigate and decently laid out.

It also comes with a 16Gb memory card.

Ease of use ★★★☆☆

If you’ve downloaded the right app, not so tricky. With the wrong one, impossible! We do prefer dash cams with screens, as apps are fiddly, but appreciate the compact size and shape on the F800. It’s a shame there’s not an obvious emergency record button, though, in case you spot an incident up (or down) the road that needs to be preserved for a third party.

Functions ★★★★

Having a rear-facing camera is a bonus, for sure. It also has a parking mode to record bumps while you’re away from the car, a time lapse mode, a “geo fencing” mode so that the car can be tracked within a certain area (useful for rental companies, parents or fleet managers), GPS, a G-sensor (far too sensitive by default but can be altered via the app), speed camera alerts, a lane departure warning system, a front collision warning system, and an alert to tell you the vehicle in front has pulled away.

Video/audio quality ★★★☆☆

As with the Dod, the resolution for the front and rear cameras is 1080p but the quality of the footage from the rear camera is so much poorer than the front. Not only is it more pixelated but it’s also a lot darker in low light. The front camera is pretty good in this regard, featuring a Sony Exmor R CMOS lens and Starvis sensor, but it’s not quite as good as the best on the market today.

Audio is slightly muffled but quite loud, and is picked up on both cameras (videos from each are recorded as separated files simultaneously on the SD card).

VERDICT  ★★★★

Has the edge over the Dod RC500S thanks to a much better app (assuming you have the right one), but installation is tricky, there’s not an obvious emergency record button and we still prefer to work with an inbuilt screen, where possible. Footage is also decent but not exceptional. Gets four stars as we think having a rear-facing camera is a real advantage.

Words: Will Dron

 

Click on the links below to see reviews of dash cams from previous years

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