Dashboard cameras have gained greater popularity among motorists for various reasons. Some use them for fun, for creating a travelogue folder of their trips, for security purposes, and, sometimes, for use in legal proceedings.
The basic dash cam or car DVR is composed of a camera system that record continuously in a loop, a memory card and an LCD screen for viewing. Video cameras are usually classified according to the lens specifications and video quality, while the LCD screens vary in size, though 2.5 to 2.7 inches are the standard sizes.
The camera records videos in a loop, meaning it runs continuously and overwrites the oldest files when the memory is full. Thus, it is preferable to use 32GB microSD cards when you want to preserve the footage with less frequent downloading into a computer.
Dashboard cams come in a variety of models and combination of features, from the simplest, easy to use video recording devices to the more sophisticated, feature-packed models with powerful capabilities.
No matter what your preferences are, you will find dash cams in the market with varying price ranges and features to match. Sometimes, choosing the correct one becomes a tough choice, particularly when the technical features of the camera are not sufficiently described or the camera limitations explained.
How to Choose the Best Dash Cam
Video Resolution. Video quality is the most important factor in choosing a dashboard camera. Some cameras record at VGA resolution (640×480), which is much lower than the standard for 720p HD video standard (1280 x 720). 1080p resolution (1920×1080) is full HD. Some of the newer models are capable of recording at higher resolutions for more detailed images, but you have to remember that higher resolution images use up more memory space.
This becomes an issue only when you want to keep a complete video of your road trips because it will require frequent downloading and replacing of the SD memory card. Other related features are night vision support and WDR technology that contribute to enhancing video images.
Loop Recording. Loop recording is the norm for dashboard cams, which means car drivers do not have to bother about turning the camera on and off. This feature is possible through hardwiring the camera into the electrical system of the car, but a more convenient option is to choose a model that conveniently plugs into the cigarette lighter socket.
When the car ignition is fired, the camera is automatically turned on and starts recording, and continues to save the images into the microSD card until the car stops.
Security Features. These are the features of the camera that work in emergency situations to create or preserve video files. These features include the G-Sensor that locks and protects the current video footage from being damaged or erased when the car suffers from a collision or is hit by any object and Motion Detection and Parking Mode that triggers the camera to record videos even while the vehicle is parked.
What to Look for in the Best Dash Cam
Mounting and Operation
Dashboard cameras usually come with suction cups for the windshield or a camera holder that can be positioned on the dashboard. While this is not really a critical for the functioning of the camera, some drivers prefer one over the other so you have to check if the model you are buying comes with your preferred mount. Ease of operation means you can let the camera do its job with minimal or no input.
All features incorporated into the dashboard camera are useful and contribute to its performance. However, you have to consider your reasons for installing the camera in your vehicle. For example, Motion Detection and Parking Mode are useful features when you are concerned with parking security at home or at work. When you have no security issues, these features have no significant use.
A good quality dashboard cam comes with a hefty price. This means that to get the highest resolution and to obtain a model with the most advance features, particularly for car security, you have to be prepared to pay the price. Simply put, there are many makes and models of dashboard cams in the market and you should have a discerning eye to pick the best model within the price that you are willing to pay.
ABLEGRID GS8000L Night Vision HD1080P with 120 Degree Wide Angle and G-Sensor Vehicle Camera Video Recorder
The ABLEGRID GS8000L Night Vision HD1080P with 120 Degree Wide Angle and G-Sensor Vehicle Camera Video Recorder is a shake-proof camera equipped with a 120-degree wide angle lens that records HD-quality videos. On the road, the LCD screen gives a clear view of what is in front of the car from a wide angle perspective, with an option for a 4x digital zoom when you want to focus on certain image details.
- Novatek 96220 G-Sensor – This feature automatically locks the video file being produced when the car swerves wildly or suffers from a collision. The sudden impact and subsequent jarring of the dash cam automatically trigger this security feature to preserve the video and prevent it from being damaged or erased.
- 2.7-inch LCD screen with 4x digital zoom – This allows you to view details on the road in front of the car in a wide perspective from the 120-degree lens as you drive. Images, particularly those from the sides of the car that are not noticeable while you are driving, become more distinct.
- Loop video recording – The capability to record in a loop means that you get footage from the time you start the car to until you stop driving. The dash cam powered through the car charger continuously records and saves the video into a compatible microSD card of up to 32GB capacity.
- Anti-shake technology – The anti-shake feature means that the quality of the video remains clear even when the car passes through road bumps and rough terrain that can cause the camera to jar.
- Easy to install and operate – The camera installs easily through a suction cup mount and once plugged into the car charger, it will start to record when the car starts. The default mode is video recording and no user input is required unless you want to alter the settings.
- Affordable – The dash cam is affordably priced and gives a good performance to commensurate with its cost.
- Versatile – Since the dash cam comes with a rechargeable battery, it can be used as an HD camera outside the car.
Things to be aware of
The supplier specifies that the battery that comes with the camera lasts for about 10 to 15 minutes only. Thus, it is suitable for use in emergency situations and is not appropriate for continuous video recording.
The ABLEGRID GS8000L ably performs the functionalities of a basic dash cam, which is to continuously record full HD videos of your trip. Its performance is at par with other dash cams in the same price range.
The Rexing HD18 Car Dash Cam with Dual Camera Lens HD 1080P Night Vision and 160 Degree Wide Angle is equipped with two cameras for monitoring the front and back of the car. The rear camera is especially useful when backing out of packed parking lots by giving a wide-angle view of oncoming cars and pedestrians so you can safely maneuver the car. The night vision and HD 1080P resolution are features that provide clear and detailed videos even in low light situations.
- Dual lens camera lens – This feature gives you clear images of the front and rear of the car from the extra-wide 3-inch HD LCD screen. This is made possible by the Picture-in picture feature that allows you to choose either camera to show a larger on-screen image while the feed from the other is a much smaller image. You can also opt to have just one of the camera feeds visible.
- G-Sensor – This is a safety feature of the camera that locks videos to the memory in case of accidents. The locking mechanism is triggered by an impact to the car and by sudden braking and wide swerves.
- Loop recording – The dash cam is powered through the car charger and is designed to start recording when the car is driven. Loop recording means continuous video recording with the oldest files being overwritten with new ones when the memory is full.
- Night Vision – This feature is enabled by the use of a high-ranking main control chip with an image sensor. To further enhance this feature, the camera uses a glass lens of 6 layers for filtering images that result in clearer videos.
- Ready to use – The camera comes with a 16GB memory card so it is ready to use out of the box. All you have to do is slip the card into its slot and then plug the camera into the car charger for the video recording to commence when you start the car.
- Easy to install – The camera has a compact design with a suction mount and comes with extra long wires for easier installation. The wire for the car charger is 4 meters, while a 6-meter wire is provided to simplify the installation of the rear camera.
- Easy to operate – The camera has intuitive, easy to figure out buttons and the manual provides clear instructions for its operation.
Things to be aware of
Continuous loop recording means the camera automatically overwrites older videos with newer ones. When going on a long, recreational trips, you have to bring extra memory cards or transfer the video footage that you want to preserve onto your laptop.
The Rexing HD18 has passed rigid tests, which means you can rely on the camera to deliver uninterrupted video footage of your road trips in its default video recording mode.
The Lecmall 2.5-inch LCD 270o Whirl Dashboard Camcorder is an affordably-priced dash cam video recorder equipped with a microphone for recording sound. Equipped with a 120-degree wide angle camera and a 2.7-inch TFT LCD screen for viewing, its default mode is loop video recording. The camera comes with a low capacity battery that can be used when you opt to use the camera for taking snapshots outside of the car.
- Three options for recording resolution (1280 x 960, 720 x 480, and 640 x 480) – This feature is important when you want to save on memory usage and prefer general images over details, which mean you have to choose the lower resolutions. Higher resolutions will give clearer images but will use up greater memory space.
- 120-degree wide angle camera view with 270o whirl – This camera feature gives a panoramic view of the front of the car so you will see details on-screen that are usually not noticeable when you are driving. The 270o whirl feature is convenient for showing footage from different perspectives.
- Sound Microphone – The audio recording feature can be switched on when you want to input comments on video footage that you find interesting, particularly during cross-country recreational trips.
- IR LED Illumination – In low light situations, the IR LEDs provide illumination to show images from dark areas.
- 32GB micro SD support – Video recording takes up considerable memory space, particularly at higher resolutions. You will not need to change the memory card or download images as often when a 32GB card is installed.
- Rechargeable battery – The rechargeable battery that comes with the camera is useful for emergency purposes and for those times when you want to use the camera out of the car. You have to remember, though, that the battery is of low capacity and will give only a few minutes of use even when it is fully charged.
Things to be aware of
The dashboard cam gives good resolution images but these are not HD quality. However, the highest resolution setting of 1280×960 gives video images that are of good quality for a budget-priced unit.
The Lecmall 2.5-inch is an affordably-priced dash cam that performs well. It is easy to install and operate and provides a cost-effective way of documenting road trips.
The HD Rotatable 2.5-inch LCD DVR with IR LEDs is simply designed with a plastic screw that attaches the camera assembly to the suction cup, and operates even without user input. The suction cup is made from sturdy plastic that provides ample support and with the sufficient length of the charge cable and you can power up the dash cam by connecting it to the car charger. In the default mode, the camera records video continuously when the car starts and ceases when the car stops. The rechargeable battery is an alternative source of power that allows you to use the camera outside the car in case of emergencies.
- Wide angle camera with 120-degree view – This feature gives you a clear view of the front and sides of the car without losing focus on your driving.
- Options for 1280 x 960, 720 x 480, or 640 x 480 resolutions – The options for image resolution allows you to balance camera use with the microSD card that you use. The highest resolution setting for clearer, HD-quality video consumes more memory, while the lower resolutions that have less detail will give longer recording times.
- 2.5-inch TFT LCD screen, 270o whirl – The camera is equipped with a standard-sized screen to provide you with a clear view of video images as you drive.
- Microphone – You can pause video recording to activate the microphone that allows you to include short comments on the road videos, particularly when there are unusual sights or events along the way.
- Price – The camera is affordably-priced, with many users commenting on its better performance vis-à-vis other models that are similarly low-priced.
- Easy to use – The camera is easy to install using the suction cup or holder, and the operation is simple and straightforward. You can leave it at the default recording mode without making any input and get good quality videos at the end of your trip.
Things to be aware of
The camera comes with a low-capacity battery that is intended for emergency use only. The camera is designed for use plugged into the car charger and the battery that comes with it only has 5 to 10 minutes use when fully charged.
Car owners who are on the lookout for a budget-priced dash cam with good performance will find this camera a good investment that will last for years, or until they opt for models with more advanced features.
The Rexing VI 2.7-inch LCD 170o Wide Angle Dashboard Camera Recorder 1080p with G-Sensor and WDR is rated highly by many users because of its reliability in producing HD-quality videos during daytime and low light situations. Its good performance is supported by WDR technology for better contrast in images, a wide-angle lens for deeper video perspective and night vision capability that is useful in low light situations. This compact camera fits discreetly behind the rearview mirror.
- Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution – The camera delivers full HD recording through its AR0330 170o wide angle, 6-layer glass lens. It also provides options for recording in lower resolutions if you want longer recording time for the microSD card you are using. The wide angle view gives details that are not noticeable when you rely on eyesight.
- Wide Dynamic Recording (WDR) technology – This feature means the camera has the capability to simultaneously show light and dark areas with good details. This results in the high overall quality of video images that are rich in details.
- Accident Auto Detection – This feature is supported by the installed G-Sensor that automatically locks the current video footage when an impact is detected as an object hits the car. By locking in the video as the impact is felt, important details are preserved and can be used for investigations.
- Easy to install – Installation is simplified by the 3M adhesive tape that easily supports the compact, lightweight camera.
- High quality day and night videos – The camera is equipped with a superior lens with enhanced night vision. The AR330 has 6 layers of glass that filter the images to produce cleaner and more distinct details in every frame.
- Excellent audio – The microphone and speaker that come with the unit perform well with no sound distortion.
Things to watch out for
The camera has an operating temperature of 10oF to 140oF. Extremely cold and hot weather can adversely affect its operation and excessive heat can cause warping and the adhesive tape mount to fail.
The Rexing VI has received high ratings from satisfied users who find its performance comparable with or even better in some areas compared with higher-priced models with similar features.