Dash cams are soaring in popularity as drivers look to either capture dramatic on-road footage or provide evidence if they have to make an insurance claim.
With so many new models coming to market we’ve gathered examples costing from £40 to £200 to see how they compare.
A quick note: four of the cameras tested here claim to offer advanced driver assistance system (ADAS). Our time testing each one was limited, however, we found all of them inconsistent in the time we had. We carefully followed the calibration instructions but found the units veered from over-sensitive to barely aware in both lane departure and forward collision alert. As a result we found none came close to dedicated in-car systems and wouldn’t recommend relying on any of them, although individual drivers’ experiences may vary.
Yi Smart dash cam
Video quality: 1296p 30fps | Viewing angle: 165 degrees | GPS: No | Screen size: 2.7″ | ADAS: Lane departure, forward collision alert | Wifi: Yes | Auto emergency record: Yes | Parking mode: No
It was a close run thing between this model and the second place Garmin but the Yi wins through its sheer value.
At £45 it’s the cheapest here yet has one of the highest resolution images, and the widest field of view. The recorded image quality is excellent, although the 2.7-inch screen isn’t brilliant.
The camera is also one of the smallest and least obtrusive models and thanks to a swivel ball mount is easy to position precisely and out of view. And it uses a USB plug for power meaning you can use a double charger to keep your phone or sat nav powered at the same time.
Setup and operation through the screen or app are quick and easy and the Yi’s only real weakness is that it doesn’t record GPS location or speed to the clips, unlike every other camera in this group.
2. Garmin 55
Video quality: 1440p 30fps | Viewing angle: 122 degrees | GPS: Yes | Screen size: 2” | ADAS: Lane departure, forward collision alert, red light, speed camera; stop/go | Wifi: Yes | Auto emergency record: yes | Parking mode: Yes
Only its high price relative to the Yi stopped the Garmin winning this test. If the additional features such as GPS are important to you then it’s worth the extra outlay.
It leads the group on image quality and comes with all the functions offered by others such as ADAS, WIFI, GPS and night vision but with the added bonus of voice control. The 2.0-inch screen is small but the phone app works well for viewing footage and changing settings.
The Garmin 55 is a tiny box with a tiny ball and socket mount meaning it will slot neatly out of sight but is easy to position and operate thanks to side-mounted rather than rear-mounted controls.
3. Mio MiVue J60
Video quality: 1080p 30fps | Viewing angle: 150 degrees | GPS: Yes | Screen size: n/a | ADAS: Lane departure, forward collision alert, red light, speed camera, stop/go, headlight reminder, fatigue alert | Wifi: Yes | Auto emergency record: Yes | Parking mode: Yes
This is the only camera not to feature a touchscreen, which means that it can slip neatly behind your rear-view mirror and be forgotten about. The slimline design works well, even if it’s still larger than the Yi or Garmin.
Everything is controlled via an app, which is simple to use but we did suffer occasional connectivity issues – a problem for a camera with no screen.
Image sharpness isn’t quite on a par with the higher-resolution cameras but contrast is great and it is good enough should you ever need to refer back to it, and the wide-angle lens is one of the best here.
Like some of the others its mount attaches with a sticky pad and only adjusts up and down so you need to be very careful when placing it.
4. Nextbase 412GW
Video quality: 1440p 30fps | Viewing angle: 140 degrees |GPS: Yes | Screen size: 3” | ADAS: No | Wifi: Yes | Auto emergency record: Yes | Parking mode: Yes
With the joint highest resolution screen here the 412GW produces excellent quality footage from its 1440p sensor. The lens angle is one of the lowest of the models tested but good enough for day-to-day use.
Like all except the Yi and Thinkware, the 412GW embeds GPS and speed data onto the video clips and there’s a simple app for controlling settings and viewing clips via smartphone.
However, the camera is pretty big and bulky, as is the mount. The mount is a suction pad with swivel fitting so adjusting the camera is easy but it is hard to fit properly out of the driver’s line of vision.
5. Halfords HDC300
Video quality: 1080p 30fps | Viewing angle: 150 degrees | GPS: Yes | ADAS: No | Wifi: Yes | Auto emergency record: Yes | Parking mode: Yes
Like the Nextbase, the HDC300’s biggest weakness is its sheer size. It too has a large powered swivel mount attached with a suction cup. That’s great for positioning or if you want to swap the camera between cars but it means the camera is often in your peripheral vision.
Its lower resolution also counts against it in the present company, although it’s plenty sharp enough for most uses and the 150-degree view of the lens captures a good view ahead and to the side.
Once again settings, recorded clips and live view can be accessed via an app, which is handy because the tiny buttons at the side of the screen aren’t the easiest to use.
For an extra £28 you can add a rear-facing camera to the Halfords setup to give all-round protection.
6. Thinkware X700
Video quality: 1080p 30fps front and rear | Viewing angle: 142.7 degrees | GPS: Yes | ADAS: lane departure warning, forward collision warning/urban forward collision warning, front vehicle departure warning | Wifi: No | Auto emergency record: Yes | Parking mode: Yes
The most expensive camera in our group but also the most disappointing.
In its favour it is the only one to come with a rear-view camera as standard and it is one of only two that can be hard-wired into your car or run off its own external power source to allow reliable protection while parked. However, the camera and mount are bulky, and the GPS unit is an optional separate dongle rather than built into the camera.
The main image quality is good – on a par with the Halfords unit – but the rear unit struggles in tricky lighting and the front camera has a relatively narrow field of view. It also doesn’t work with a smartphone app so everything needs to be controlled via the 2.7-inch touchscreen.
The X700 isn’t a bad camera but even with the extra rear camera it feels overpriced in the above company.