Where the now-ubiquitous action camera was born out of a desire to capture totally awesome adventures for social media posterity, the slightly less glamorous dashcam was designed to make insurance claims easier, or provide essential evidence should an incident on the road require legal attention.
Unfortunately, insurance companies across the globe have reported an increase in ‘cash for crash’ scams, where a fraudulent motorist will deliberately slam on their brakes to make the car behind run into the back of them.
Take a trip to China, meanwhile, and the bizarre craze for pedestrians faking hit and run accidents is also on the rise, with dashcam footage providing essential evidence that an incident was faked, as well as entertaining YouTubers in the process.
The diminutive dashcam is different to your standard video or action camera in that it records small chunks of footage (usually one to two minutes) at a time, constantly recording over the oldest clip, to ensure the memory card isn’t full of pointless footage a few minutes into a journey.
Older models typically required the user to manually save or tag the appropriate clip in the event of an accident, but new G-Sensor-based incident detection technology has taken over, and now does this automatically.
What to look for
Most dashcams use similar camera technology, and are usually mounted somewhere on the front windscreen (you’ll need to ensure it doesn’t block the view ahead), but many boast additional features that characteristically see the price increase.
These can include multiple lenses for front and rear-facing coverage, improved sensor and image quality (HD recording, for example), night vision, built-in Wi-Fi for easy file transfer and numerous parking modes that use a time-lapse feature as a surveillance function to capture details of those irksome car park prangs when the owner is off shopping.
1. Nextbase Duo
Offers both front- and rear-facing cameras
Sensor: 720p | Viewing angle: 140 degrees | GPS tracker: Yes | Memory: MicroSD card (included)
Two cameras in one
No Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity
Low image resolution
Nextbase has long been a leading name on the dashcam market, and this dual camera unit offers both front- and rear-facing coverage in one simple unit, as opposed to running unsightly wires to a separate unit in the rear windscreen.
The Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) image processor makes low light and night time recording possible, while the crystal clear two-inch display makes it simple to interact with menus and change settings before setting off.
At 720p resolution, the footage isn’t the sharpest on the market, but the unit cleverly stitches both front and rear imagery together into one handy, side-by-side film for easier reviewing.
Naturally, the Nextbase features a loop recording function, which will automatically delete older files as required. But it will also automatically detect and incident and save important clips to the on-board microSD card.
It also features a built-in GPS module, which allows for the vehicle’s exact route, speed and position to be recorded, while a date and time stamp embedded on to the recorded footage provide further additional evidence.
Unfortunately, there isn’t any Wi-Fi or Bluetooth compatibility, so retrieving footage will require extraction of the memory card and synching up with a laptop or PC.
2. Thinkware TW-F770
Onboard Wi-Fi for quick video transfer
Video quality: 1080p Full HD | Viewing angle: 140 degrees | GPS tracker: Yes | Memory: MicroSD card (included) and internal memory
Great night mode
No rear camera
The super 2.19MP Sony Exmor CMOS sensor provides excellent quality from this sleek and diminutive package, while the additional extra flourishes are an added bonus.
Designed to be mounted just beneath the rear-view mirror, the TW-F770 features just a few small buttons and no external screen – this is because it can be linked to a smartphone via its on-board Wi-Fi.
This enables clips to be quickly and easily sent to a smart device, should you need to access them quickly, for example, but it does add an additional step to any settings and menu changes.
A Super Night Vision feature boosts low-light settings for improved image quality at night, while a neat Time Lapse feature acts as a CCTV camera when the vehicle is parked.
Bear in mind, though, that this mode will require hard-wiring the unit into the vehicle’s power supply, as is the case with most cameras featured on this list, rather than simply using a standard 12V lighter adaptor.
An on-board GPS tracker, as well as speed and upcoming red traffic signal warnings make this a very accomplished piece of kit.
3. BlackVue DR650S-2CH 32G Dash Cam
The choice of professional drivers
Video quality: 1080p Full HD | Viewing angle: 129 degrees | GPS tracker: Yes | Memory: MicroSD card (included)
A professional solution
Full HD recording
Initial set-up can be tricky
Often cited as one of the best solutions for regular or professional drivers, the dual-camera BlackVue covers many bases and boasts numerous additional features that go some way to justifying the lofty price tag.
To get the most out of its features, including a detailed parking surveillance mode, the cameras require hard-wiring to the car’s power supply, but BlackVue makes this easier with an OBD II port converter, which plugs into most vehicle on-board diagnostics ports with ease.
The 2MP CMOS sensor and 129-degree lens capture excellent-quality HD video footage from the front camera, while a smaller unit at the rear records in 720p, with incident detection technology automatically flagging the appropriate video footage.
The BlackVue’s clear advantage over some of the rivals listed here is its Over-the-Cloud abilities, which mean drivers can check live footage from the car via a smartphone, laptop or PC, even when it’s parked.
The small, sleek unit is also neat and doesn’t look out of place on modern vehicles, although the lack of screen and limited buttons mean it does require smartphone tethering to adjust settings.
4. Mio MiVue 698 Dual 1080p
It may be getting old, but it’s still one of the best
Video quality: 1080p Full HD | Viewing angle: 150 degrees | GPS tracker: Yes | Memory: MicroSD card
Great all-round package
Crisp video footage
No memory card included
Starting to age
Although the Mio MiVue 698 has been on the market for a year or so, it still remains one of the best packages around, offering superb image quality, front and rear coverage and a clear touchscreen for simple control.
The screen automatically blacks out when it detects movement, to abide with some country’s road laws and avoid unwanted distractions, but clear audio prompts take over to warn of upcoming speed traps once the screen is dimmed.
Built-in GPS takes care of speed and location video overlays, while built-in Wi-Fi makes video and image transfer to smartphones and other devices simple.
Above all else, the extra-wide 150-degree lens does an excellent job of capturing the action, while a high-performing sensor ensures the resulting video footage is some of the best around.
5. Z-Edge Z3
Simple to use with razor-sharp images
Video quality: 2K and 1080p Full HD | Viewing angle: 145 degrees | GPS tracker: No | Memory: MicroSD card (included)
Superb image quality
Easy auto operation
Fewer features than rivals
No GPS tracker
With its sharp ‘Ultra 2K HD’ image quality, broad 145-degree field of view and super-simple user interface, the Z-Edge Z3 has regularly been voted one of the best devices in its class.
The CMOS sensor and advanced image processor ensure the resulting footage is razor sharp, making it easier to read licence plates and capture incidents with superb clarity.
A 3-inch touchscreen display makes interacting with the camera extremely easy, although you’ll likely just set the camera up and let it do its thing, as most of the functionality has been automated for ease of use.
Like most cameras on the list, the unit will power up and instantly start recording when the ignition is switched on (so long as it’s plugged into a power source), and turn off when power is cut.
Memory is managed via a loop recording function, and incident detection ensures vital clips aren’t erased.
In short, it’s a great package for those who simply want a fuss-free camera that delivers quality images without the hassle.
6. TaoTronics TT-CD06
A great low-light performer
Video quality: 2K and 1080p Full HD | Viewing angle: 160 degrees | GPS tracker: No | Memory: MicroSD card (included)
Super-wide field of view
Good low-light capabilities
Considering the price point, it’s very difficult to fault this TaoTronics model, even if it doesn’t boast GPS for speed and location recording or some of the added niceties of more expensive rivals.
That said, there’s plenty in the box to get excited about, chiefly the various well-made suction or adhesive mounts, the extra-long power cable and a 12V lighter socket adapter that features two ports, meaning you can still charge your phone with the dashcam running.
The unit itself boasts a G-sensor, for automatic saving of important incident footage, as well as a super-wide 160-degree field of view that’s able to capture five lanes of traffic.
Low-light video footage is very good, and the audio quality is surprisingly good at this price.
Minor foibles include the small and fiddly buttons, while the lack of speed and positioning information might be a deal-breaker for some.
7. Garmin Dash Cam 35
Video quality: 1080p Full HD | Viewing angle: 113 degrees | GPS tracker: Yes | Memory: MicroSD card (included)
Simple touchscreen interface
Hypersensitive warning systems
Field of view could be wider
Garmin has applied its knowledge of action cameras and fitness trackers to the world of dashcams, and its mid-range 35 model offers sharp imagery and enough additional features to make it well worthy of consideration.
The field of view might be narrower than that of some of the rival cameras featured here, but the video and audio quality captured are excellent, while the GPS positioning technology enables you to record speed, location, time and date information.
Again, vital clips are automatically stored via the built-in G-Sensor technology, and the camera requires little additional fiddling after the initial set-up is complete.
Plus, Garmin’s clever Dash Cam Player software (available free for most laptops and PCs) makes reviewing, organizing and saving important files easy, with the addition of a digital map helping you to pinpoint where an incident occurred.
There’s also a speed trap warning system that uses audible bleeps to capture the driver’s attention, which can get rather annoying after a while, but this can be turned off in the settings menus.
8. Cobra CDR 840
Looks great and easy to use
Video quality: 1080p Full HD | Viewing angle: 118 degrees | GPS tracker: Yes | Memory: MicroSD card (included)
Struggles in low light
GPS can be unreliable
A dashcam isn’t exactly the sort of thing you purchase for its smouldering looks, but the Cobra CDR 840 is one of the very few units on this list that seems to have been designed with aesthetics in mind.
The rear touchscreen may be small, but it’s sharp and very easy to navigate thanks to a simple joypad-style switch interface, with a clearly labelled, bright red button for manually saving important clips.
Built-in GPS will take care of speed and location, while the G-Sensor tech will automatically save clips should the device detect an accident.
The GPS system can prove a little touch-and-go if satellites are difficult to reach or if adverse weather is playing havoc with the signal, but this is another unit that’s very quick and easy to set up, with minimal on-going attention required.
9. YI Smart Dash Camera
Lots of tech in a small package
Video quality: 1080p Full HD | Viewing angle: 165 degrees | GPS tracker: No | Memory: MicroSD card
Lane departure warning
Lack of GPS
Suction mount could be better
Yi is a recent entrant into the action camera arena, and is also busy plying its trade in the world of dashcams with some neat units that cram a large amount of technology into their small forms.
The huge field of view on its Smart Dash Camera model means it can monitor the surrounding area and even warn the driver if the vehicle is straying out of its lane. Plus, a forward collision warning sounds if the device senses an impending impact with the vehicle ahead.
This is all part of the Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) package, which works in conjunction with G-Sensor technology and sees the camera automatically record and save clips in an emergency situation.
An impressive all-glass, high-resolution lens and f/1.8 aperture means that video recorded in low-light situations is crisp and clear.
10. RoadHawk DC-2 HD GPS Dash Cam
Great image quality, but lacks looks
Video quality: 1080p Full HD | Viewing angle: 120 degrees | GPS tracker: Yes | Memory: MicroSD card (included)
External audio input
Not very stylish
Simplicity is the name of the game here, and what the RoadHawk DC-2 lacks in exterior looks and additional features it more than makes up for with great image and audio quality.
Gyro-balanced image stabilization and a high-quality sensor team up to create excellent footage, even in low-light scenarios, while an audio-in connection allows additional microphones to be added.
GPS technology is included to take care of speed and location data, although an external GPS antenna connection is also offered should you require a more powerful and reliable signal.