Which car enthusiast has never thought about purchasing a dash cam recorder? This helpful device will help you prove your case in court and a dispute with the insurance company in the event of an accident. You may also accidentally film an unusual accident on the road that will become a real hit on YouTube.
However, the variety of models and the difference in their cost will confuse a beginner and an experienced motorist. How to choose the best dash cam recorder for a car? Let’s figure it out together.
Why Should I Buy A Dash Cam Recorder?
In many ways, dash cam recorders gained popularity thanks to videos with various accidents on the roads. Of course, the functions of these devices are not limited to the production of viral content.
The primary purpose of the recorder is to resolve conflict situations on the road. It is a beneficial thing for all motorists.
Benefits of A Dash Cam Recorder
- A dash cam recorder will help to document the accident for the use of video evidence in court.
- Protect against illegal actions of law enforcement officers.
- Provide a weighty argument (videorecording) in case of controversial moments in communication with the insurance company.
- Taxi drivers can record illegal actions on the part of the client.
If you already have a recorder, the article will help you understand if it’s time to update it.
Over the past few years, these devices have seriously improved video recording quality and acquired new functions, and some chips like Wi-Fi have even begun to appear in budget models.
Choosing The Best Dash Cam Recorder in Five Minutes
If you do not want to deal with all the characteristics in detail, in this part, I will give an easy algorithm: by answering four questions sequentially, you will quickly and correctly choose a dash cam recorder for your purposes.
1. Single Chamber or Double Chamber Model?
A single-camera device is enough for most drivers, but you can opt for a dashcam with an optional parking camera. Taxi drivers and public transport workers will need a two-chamber model in a single body - the second camera will record what is happening in the cabin.
2. How Much Are You Willing to Spend?
I recommend that you ignore recorders cheaper than $100-$200 at all: it will be money wasted. And if such a "budget" model fails you when shooting an accident, the consequences can be much more expensive.
For single-chamber models, a pretty decent device can be taken in the range of $150; however, most likely, it will be a workhorse without any bells and whistles. The golden mean is a dash cam recorder in the range of $200-250: in addition to the decent quality of the captured image, pleasant bonuses are possible in the form of Wi-Fi and night mode.
The budget recorder ($49.99) 70MAI A500 captures a high-quality picture both day and night, has a resolution of 2592 x 1944 pixels, and has a universal viewing angle of 140 degrees. More on the meaning of these characteristics are in the next section.
For $100-150, you will find recorders with the highest video quality. There are also premium devices from $200, with bells and whistles such as cloud storage.
A decent two-camera model with a primary (640x480) rearview camera costs around $39.99. If you want it in Full HD, be prepared to sell out $200-250. Premium devices cost $200 or more.
What model of the dash cam recorder is better to choose in different price categories? I will tell you my recommendations at the end of the article.
3. Do You Need A Radar Detector or Speed Cams?
A video recorder with a radar detector (identifier of police radars) or speed-cam (a built-in database with the location of stationary radars and cameras) is called a hybrid. Decent options in this segment cost around 100-150 dollars. Cheaper devices often do not know how to identify the types of "threats" and rarely receive updates. More expensive devices (from $150) usually have additional Wi-Fi or very advanced radars.
4. Are Additional Features Important?
They will be listed in detail below; here, we only note that automatic on and off (they are present on almost all modern models) and Wi-Fi is really useful. The rest are purely optional.
Characteristics & Features of A Dash Cam Recorder
1. Video Quality (Very Important)
Resolution is one of the main parameters, but it is pretty challenging to make a mistake. Models with HD 720p resolution are practically not found even in the lowest price segment. However, even this picture quality is sufficient in most situations. On the other hand, the better the resolution, the easier it is to recognize another car's license plate.
The standard for DVRs today is Full HD 1920x1080 pixels. You will find such a resolution in both cheap and expensive models. Super HD is also quite popular; it is slightly larger than Full HD - 2304x1296 pixels. There are even more sophisticated options, up to 4K, but two points need to be noted here.
First, increasing the resolution will increase the size of the video files, and therefore the memory card will fill up faster. You will need a more significant and higher-end memory card (more on this below).
Secondly, the resolution is not the same as the final recording quality (below, we will consider several other factors affecting the picture quality), so good Full HD will sometimes be better than lousy 4K.
In general, stick to Full HD or Super HD models; with all other things being equal, you shouldn't pay extra for more advanced resolutions.
2. Frame Rate (Very Important)
Perhaps an even more critical parameter than resolution. The recorder records video while moving; therefore, in order not to skip frames and avoid motion blur (the so-called motion blur), the frequency must be at least 30 frames per second. Even at 24 and 25 fps, you can get blurry images at night.
A frequency of 60 fps will give a smoother picture, but you will hardly notice the difference from 30 fps here with the naked eye. But the file size will increase noticeably, so there is no particular point in chasing such a frequency.
3. Viewing Angle (Very Important)
It is another essential parameter for video recording. The dashcam should capture as wide an area in front of the vehicle as possible, including adjacent lanes and cars (as well as people and possibly animals) on the side of the road.
The viewing angle of 120-140 degrees can be called optimal - three lanes of the highway will fall into the frame. Taking less is not worth it; whether to take more is a matter of personal preference.
4. Chamber Size (Very Important)
Any obstructions to your vision while driving can be dangerous, so models with a large body/camera should be avoided. If the glass is already covered with air purifiers, key fobs, and transponders, the recorder will further obstruct the view.
In general, the more compact the camera, the safer. Device size directly correlates with the form factor.
5. Form Factor (Important)
The most common type is the classic box. The size of the case in such recorders depends mainly on the diagonal of the display.
Recorders with a portable camera significantly save space on glass. As the name suggests, the camera sits on the glass, and the rest of the electronics, display, and controls can be installed in a convenient location where they don't interfere with your view. This option is also great for motorcycles and scooters.
Models with two cameras in one body (one directed towards the road and the other directed towards the passenger compartment) are most often used by taxi and public transport drivers. Such dashcam recorders are also convenient for monitoring the personnel of commercial vehicles.
An exciting and convenient option is a recorder in the form of an overlay on the rearview mirror. Thus, the rearview mirror, if desired, turns into a screen, which is convenient for controlling the recorder.
When choosing a similar form factor, it makes sense to consider options with an additional rear parking camera. The picture from it is automatically displayed on the screen when the reverse gear is turned on. At the same time, even a model with the simplest rear camera (for example, 640x480 pixels) is suitable for convenient parking.
There are also cylindrical recorders, they take up little space, but they usually do not have a rear display. Another option is regular recorders integrated into the car and connected directly to the onboard network. They are selected individually depending on the car model and installed through the service.
6. Display (Important)
Most dash cam recorders have a display from 1.5 to 3.5 inches diagonally. Displays as small as 2 inches make it easy to adjust settings and preview footage quickly. A smartphone or computer is required for viewing and settings in models without a display, which is not always convenient.
7. Governing Bodies (Worth Paying Attention)
Better to opt for models with clearly marked and easily accessible controls. Even if basic settings are made via the touchscreen, the buttons for quick functions can come in handy in unexpected situations.
8. Mount (Important)
The dash cam recorder (or rather, its bracket) is attached to the glass through ZM tape or a vacuum suction cup. Scotch tape is safer but disposable. Using a suction cup, you can move the device on the glass, but it can fall off if you wipe the glass badly before attaching it. If this is your first recorder and you do not know where to connect it, you should take the option with a suction cup.
According to attaching the recorder to the bracket, the magnetic mount is the best option - this way, you can quickly disconnect the device when leaving the car.
As for the power supply, it is better to pay attention to the models in which the wire is inserted into the bracket and not into the recorder itself - this way; you will get rid of the need to remove the wire from the recorder every time, taking it from the car.
Other Specifications and Additional Functions
9. Memory (Important)
In modern dash cam recorders, the function of cyclic recording is used (if it is not there, you should not purchase such a recorder) - if there is not enough free space for a fresh video, the old recording is erased, so the same amount of memory will be stored on the card. It means that it is not worth chasing recorders that support giant memory cards. Optimal for single-chamber recorders will be a card volume of 16 GB, for two-chamber recorders - from 16 GB.
The speed of writing the card is also essential; its class determines it. When using a card of the wrong type (lower), malfunctions are possible. To record in Full HD, you need a card of at least class 10 for Super HD and 4K - from UHS Speed Class 1 (U1).
Some dash cam recorders (mostly mid-range and above) have a small amount of built-in memory that can be used for important backup videos.
10. Processor (Optional)
There is no point in chasing the best processor when choosing a registrar. Even if you have the most advanced processor, but the rest of the hardware and software does not reach it, you will not get anything good.
Ambarella processors are considered a reliable option, but in any case, look at the rest of the device's specifications. In general, we can say that the processor does not determine which dash cam recorder will be the best. But, if you buy a dashcam of an unknown brand with an unpopular processor, it is better to check its characteristics or read reviews on the Internet.
11. Auto On/Off (Important)
Check if your dash cam recorder has a function to turn on when the engine starts automatically. Otherwise, the well-known law of meanness may work: something happened on the road, and the recorder was turned off. Today, most modern car dash cam recorders (not just the good ones) are equipped with this feature.
12. Wi-Fi (Useful)
If the dash cam recorder is equipped with a Wi-Fi module, you can remotely connect to the device from a smartphone or tablet. In some models, thanks to Wi-Fi, an option is available to watch videos from a smartphone without first downloading the whole video. It can be helpful in situations where the video needs to be watched immediately. Using Wi-Fi, it is also quick and easy to set up the dashcam via a smartphone.
13. Cloud Services (Optional)
High-end registrars have a constant Internet connection. You can use the recorder as a GPS tracker and view the location on a map and connect to the recorder's camera remotely from anywhere in the world. A helpful feature of registrars with a cloud service is sending notifications that something is happening to the car: an attempt to steal, a tow truck has arrived, etc. Unfortunately, the need to purchase additional devices for permanent Internet access, such as a 4G modem, also increases the dashcam cost (with all the necessary accessories, it will cost 150-200 dollars).
14. GPS (Optional)
In theory, a GPS tag can help prove that the accident happened precisely where you claim it if the record is not clear. GPS can also calculate your speed, which in theory will come in handy when challenging illegal speeding tickets, but we have not heard of actual cases. GPS will also be helpful for travelers who ride in remote places without communication and want to remember their routes.
15. Speed Cam (Optional)
Speed cam, or GPS-informer, provides information about the location of police cameras, radars, etc. It is not an active radar detector but an information system similar to that found in famous navigators for mobile devices. If you rarely get out of the city, a speed cam is more justified than a hybrid device with a radar detector.
16. Radar Detector (Optional)
The radar detector can detect the work of the police radar (speed detector) and warn the driver of the danger. How helpful is this option? It is up to you. In some countries, the use of radar detectors is prohibited (apart from fines, both the device and the car are often seized; and somewhere, for example, in Sweden, you can even go to jail for using radar detectors). The cost of a recorder with a decent radar detector starts from $100-150.
Important Check List Before Buying A Dash Cam Recorder
- Decide if you need a single or double chamber model.
- Choose the form factor you like best.
- The recorder's body and the camera, which is mounted on glass, should not interfere with the view - preference should be given to more compact models.
- If this is your first registrar, it is better to choose a suction cup as a mount.
- Decide if you need a radar detector or speed cameras.
- The shooting resolution must be at least HD (1280×720), better - Full HD (1920x1080).
- Optimum viewing angle: 120-140°.
- The recorder must have a function to turn on when the engine is started automatically.
- The optimal size of a memory card is 16 GB. Memory card class - not less than 10th.
You may also like to read: Buying Guide: Best Nikon Bridge Camera of The Year
Best Dash Cam Recorders - My Recommendation
Let's talk about the models in each price segment, which, in my opinion, most correspond to the above criteria.
1. Budget Models
1. Kingslim D4 4K Dual Dash Cam ($115)
The first version of Kingslim D4 4K Dual Dash Cam has earned popular love: the combination of low price and excellent shooting in a compact body is a universal recipe for a fantastic device. The updated version received a new Sony IMX323 matrix with improved night shooting, which creates a video with a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels at 30 fps.
Kingslim inherited a compact body from the previous version that does not interfere with the driver's view. The camera's viewing angle is wide enough - 170°, while the firmware perfectly corrects the fish-eye effect.
Power is supplied through the bracket, so you don't have to pull the cord every time you take the recorder out of the car. You can get it on Amazon for $115.
2. Pathinglek Dash Cam 1080P DVR ($49.99)
It is an even cheaper dashcam option with decent Full HD. Gizmodo once called the device the best budget model on the market. The unique feature of Pathinglek Dash Cam is its magnetic mount, which can be found in much more expensive recorders.
The neat digital camera-style body features a large 3-inch display. As for the quality of the recording, then for your money, you get a pretty good picture both day and night.
The 170-degree field of view creates slight distortion in the corners, but it is not particularly problematic. You can get it on Amazon for $49.99 only.
2. Average Price Category Models
1. Wolfbox 4K 10'' Mirror Dash Cam ($119)
In terms of image quality, the Wolfbox 4K 10" Mirror Dash Cam can easily compete with sophisticated high-end devices. Quad Full HD resolution (2560x1440), speed, Wi-Fi, GPS + GLONASS - all this in a recorder that costs less than $120.
Thanks to the built-in Wi-Fi, you can watch videos from your smartphone without downloading them first. The database of cameras for speed-cam is updated monthly, which will help avoid fines while driving around the city (the database is updated not only for New York and Washington but also for other cities. You can get it on Amazon for $119.
2. Kingslim 4K Dual Dash Cam Recorder ($199.99)
Under the brand name of a famous Chinese manufacturer, this model shoots a beautiful 4K video. The universal viewing angle of 140° captures the road situation across the entire width of the carriageway without distortion. There is also a modification with a rearview camera, which will cost $199.99 on Amazon.
Like several other manufacturer models, the Kingslim 4K Dual Dash Cam is equipped with the ADAS driver assistance system. Analyzing information from the camera helps the driver avoid an accident. The system includes a motion sensor, collision warning, and lane control. Additionally, this dash cam recorder has a built-in GPS module.
3. High-End Models
1. REXING V5 Dash Cam 4K with Modular Capabilities
The flagship combo model from REXING, which combines a radar detector, a video recorder, and a GPS informer, can rightfully be considered one of the best combo recorders on the market.
Firstly, the model has the highest resolution among combo devices: the picture in Super HD looks good both in day and night mode.
Secondly, the advanced radar detector uses signature technology to separate real "threats" from false alarms. It can also identify difficult-to-detect low-power radars. The database of cameras and radars is constantly updated, so you can turn off the radar detector in the city and rely on the speed.
The model has a built-in memory of 128 MB and support for memory cards up to 64 GB. It is an absolute top among combo models. REXING V5 Dash Cam is available on Amazon for $200.
2. Vantrue N4 3 Channel Dash Cam ($259.99)
This recorder completely replaces the standard rearview mirror, and you do not need to contact a service to install it. This model produces a beautiful picture in Full HD, plus comes with a rearview camera (1440x1080) with a parking assistant function.
Vantrue N4 3 Channel Dash Cam uses Android as the operating system, so you can install the necessary programs yourself (for example, choose a GPS informer that you like). In fact, instead of a rearview mirror, you get a full-fledged tablet that can be used as a multimedia system - movies, music, speakerphone, navigation system, and anti-theft system in one bottle.
The device works as a 4G modem; it has GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. It is available on Amazon for $259.99.
All prices are valid at the time of publication of the article.