How to Choose A DVR in 2021: Tips, Secrets and Top Models

  • Cameras
  • 21 min read
How to Choose A DVR in 2021

Which car enthusiast has never thought about purchasing a DVR? This useful device in the event of an accident will help you prove your case in court and in a dispute with the insurance company, and 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 not only a beginner, but also an experienced motorist. How to choose a DVR in 2021 – let’s figure it out together.

Why Should I Buy A DVR?

In many ways, DVRs gained their popularity thanks to YouTube videos with various accidents on the roads (from accidents to the fall of the Chelyabinsk meteorite), but, of course, the functions of these devices are not limited to the production of viral content.

The main purpose of the registrar is to resolve conflict situations on the road. This is an extremely useful thing for all motorists. DVR:

  • 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 (video recording) in case of controversial moments in communication with the insurance company.
  • For taxi drivers – will 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 not only seriously improved the quality of video recording, but also acquired new functions, and some chips like Wi-Fi have even begun to appear in budget models.

Choosing A DVR in Five Minutes

How to Choose A DVR in 2021

If you do not want to deal with all the characteristics in detail, in this part we will give an easy algorithm: by answering four questions sequentially, you will quickly and correctly choose a DVR for your purposes.

1. Single Chamber or Double Chamber Model?

For most drivers, a single camera device is enough, but you can opt for a dash cam 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 on A DVR?

We recommend that you do not pay attention to registrars 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 region of $150, however, most likely, it will be a workhorse without any bells and whistles. The golden mean is DVRs 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.

70MAI A500 Dash Cam Pro Plus

Sony 70MAI A500 Dash Cam Pro Plus
Sony 70MAI A500 Dash Cam Pro Plus

The budget recorder ($49.99) Sony 70MAI A500 captures a high-quality picture both day and night, has a resolution of 2592 x 1944 pixels, and a universal viewing angle of 140 degrees. More on the meaning of these characteristics is 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 basic (640 x 480) rear-view camera costs around $39.99. If you want it in Full HD, be prepared to shell out $200-250. Premium devices cost $200 or more.

What model of the DVR is better to choose in different price categories, we will tell you in our 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 (built-in database with the location of stationary radars and cameras) is called 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) often have additional options such as 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 are really useful. The rest are purely optional.

What Characteristics Should You Pay Attention To?

DVR Characteristics

1. Video Quality (Very Important)

Resolution is one of the main parameters, but it is quite difficult to make a mistake with it. 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 1920 x 1080 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 – 2304 x 1296 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 larger 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 a number of other factors affecting the picture quality), so good Full HD will sometimes be better than bad 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.

Vehicle DVR Dash Cam 2.4” Wide Angle

Vehicle DVR Dash Cam 2.4” Wide Angle

Video recorder Vehicle DVR Dash Cam 2.4” shoots in Super HD video with high details. The model is equipped with a night mode and built-in 256 MB memory, thanks to which you can create a backup copy of small videos. The device does not have many additional functions such as Wi-Fi, but the price ($72.98) does not bite at all, especially given the good picture.

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 here with the naked eye you will hardly notice the difference from 30 fps. But the file size will increase noticeably, so there is no particular point in chasing such a frequency.

3. Viewing Angle (Very Important)

Another essential parameter for video recording. The dash cam should capture as wide an area in front of the vehicle as possible, including adjacent lanes and vehicles (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 road will fall into the frame. Taking less is definitely not worth it, whether to take more is a matter of personal preference.

Housing and Interface

Housing and Interface

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 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 (more on that later).

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 recorders are also convenient for monitoring the personnel of commercial vehicles.

Dual Dash Cam 1440P & 1080P (Built-in GPS & WiFi)

Dual Dash Cam 1440P & 1080P (Built-in GPS & WiFi)
Dual Dash Cam 1440P & 1080P (Built-in GPS & WiFi)

Dual Dash Cam 1440P & 1080P (Built-in GPS & WiFi) is a fairly budget model with two cameras in one body, which is suitable for taxi drivers and public transport. Both cameras shoot in Full HD, while the camera aimed at the passenger compartment is equipped with IR illumination that automatically turns on in the dark. Now the model can be found for $76.49 on Amazon.

An interesting and convenient option is a recorder in the form of an overlay on the rear-view mirror. Thus, the rear-view 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, 640 x 480 pixels) is suitable for convenient parking.

Xiaomi 70mai Rearview Dash Cam Wide (MiDrive D07)

70mai Rearview Dash Cam Wide
70mai Rearview Dash Cam Wide

Xiaomi 70mai Dash Cam Wide displays a picture in the full width of the mirror, it is possible to connect a rear camera via a microUSB connector. Complete with a MiDrive RC05 night rear-view camera, the model can be purchased for $79.99 on Amazon.

There are also cylindrical recorders, they take up little space, but they usually do not have a rear display.

Another option is regular recorders, which are integrated into the car and connected directly to the on-board network. They are selected individually depending on the car model and installed through the service.

6. Display (Important)

Most DVRs have a display from 1.5 to 3.5 inches diagonally. Displays as small as 2 inches make it easy to quickly adjust settings and preview footage. In models without a display, a smartphone or computer is required for viewing and settings, 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 DVR (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 if you wipe the glass badly before attaching it, it can fall off. If this is your first recorder and you do not know where to attach it, you should take the option with a suction cup.

According to the method of 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

DVR Specification

9. Memory (Important)

In modern DVRs, 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. This means that it is not worth chasing recorders that support huge 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 important, it is determined by its class. When using a card of an unsuitable class (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 DVRs (mostly mid-range and above) have a small amount of built-in memory that can be used to backup important 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 DVR 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 DVR has a function to automatically turn on when the engine starts. Otherwise, the well-known law of meanness may work: something happened on the road, and the recorder was turned off. Today, most modern car DVRs (not just the good ones) are equipped with this feature.

12. Wi-Fi (Useful)

If the DVR 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. This can be useful in situations where the video needs to be watched immediately. Using Wi-Fi, it is also quick and easy to set up the DVR 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, as well as connect to the recorder’s camera remotely from anywhere in the world. A useful feature of registrars with a cloud service is the ability to send 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, is also more increases the cost of the DVR (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 exactly where you claim it, in case 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 real cases. GPS will also be useful 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. This is not an active radar detector, but an information system similar to that found in popular navigators for mobile devices. If you rarely get out of the city, 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 in advance of the danger. How useful this option is? 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.

Whistler Mfu440

Whistler Mfu440
Whistler Mfu440

Whistler Mfu440 combines a DVR and a radar detector in one housing. The device detects radar models and blocks false signal sources, which significantly reduces the number of false alarms. The recorder records a clear picture with a resolution of 2560 × 1440 pixels, and thanks to the GPS / GLONASS module, you can receive accurate data even in difficult reception conditions. In addition, there is a variant of the model with an additional rear camera and Wi-Fi. You can buy it on Amazon for $179.99.

Check List

  • Decide if you need a single or double chamber model.
  • Choose the form factor you like best.
  • The body of the recorder and / or 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 (1920 x 1080).
  • Optimum viewing angle: 120-140°.
  • The recorder must have a function to automatically turn on when the engine is started.
  • The optimal size of a memory card is 16 GB. Memory card class – not less than 10th.

Best DVRs – Our Recommendations

We did not collect the rating of the best car DVRs – 2020–2021. But let’s talk about those models in each price segment, which, in our opinion, most correspond to the above criteria.

Budget Models

Kingslim D4 4K Dual Dash Cam
Kingslim D4 4K Dual Dash Cam

Our Choice: Kingslim D4 4K Dual Dash Cam ($99)

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 an excellent device. The updated version received a new Sony IMX323 matrix with improved night shooting, which creates video with a resolution of 1920 × 1080 pixels at 30 fps. From the previous version, Kingslim inherited a compact body that does not interfere with the driver’s view. The viewing angle of the camera itself is wide enough – 170°, while the fish-eye effect is perfectly corrected by the firmware.

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 $99.99.

Alternative Option: Pathinglek Dash Cam 1080P DVR ($35)

Pathinglek Dash Cam
Pathinglek Dash Cam

An even cheaper DVR option with decent Full HD. Gizmodo once called the device the best budget model on the market. The special 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 fairly good picture both day and night. The 170-degree field of view creates slight distortion in the corners, but it is not particularly problematic for it. You can get it on Amazon for $34.98 only.

Average Price Category

Average Price Category DVR

Our Choice: Xeapoms 4K 10” Mirror Dash Cam ($109.99)

In terms of image quality, the Xeapoms 4K 10” Mirror Dash Cam can easily compete with sophisticated high-end devices. Quad Full HD resolution (2560 x 1440), speed, Wi-Fi, GPS + GLONASS – all this in a registrar that costs less than $110. 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 to 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 $109.99.

Alternative Option: TOGUARD 4K Dual Dash Cam for Cars ($99.99)

TOGUARD 4K Dual Dash Cam
TOGUARD 4K Dual Dash Cam

This model, under the brand name of a famous Chinese manufacturer, shoots 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 rear-view camera, which will cost $99.99 on Amazon. Like a number of other models of the manufacturer, the TOGUARD 4K Dual Dash Cam is equipped with the ADAS driver assistance system, which, by analyzing information from the camera, helps the driver to avoid an accident. The system includes a motion sensor, collision warning and lane control. Additionally, this DVR has a built-in GPS module.

High-End Models

REXING V5 Dash Cam
REXING V5 Dash Cam

Our Choice: 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 effectively 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 built-in memory of 128 MB and support for memory cards up to 64 GB. This is a real top among combo models. REXING V5 Dash Cam is available on Amazon for $199.99.

Alternative: Vantrue N4 3 Channel Dash Cam ($259.99)

Vantrue N4 3 Channel Dash Cam

This recorder completely replaces the standard rear-view 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 rear-view camera (1440 x 1080) 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.

  • All prices are valid at the time of publication of the article.