We review some of the best dash cams on the UK market.
Technology in cars has taken great leaps forward in recent years. Assisted parking options and anti-collision systems have made it easier and safer to drive modern vehicles than ever before. Satellite navigation is now a standard feature, so arguments about the best route to take are becoming a thing of the past! Something you may not have considered, but which I highly recommend, is an in-car camera system, or dash cam.
In the event of a car accident, a dash cam can be worth its weight in gold. You may not be able to describe exactly what happened in the heat of the moment, or another driver may falsely claim you are at fault. Insurance fraud has become a serious problem in the past decade, and having dash cam footage of an alleged accident can get you out of a potentially expensive situation.
The ‘parking mode’ offered by some of the best dash cams begins recording the moment there is any impact to your car. This means if another driver hits your vehicle or knocks a wing mirror off when it’s parked you’ll have recorded evidence. If the driver fails to stop and leave a note with their details, the dash cam can identify the guilty party.
Another great feature of a dash cam is the ability for emergency services to trace you via the onboard GPS tracker after a breakdown or accident.
The devices are cheap to buy and easy to install, so I decided to carry out my own dash cam review with a view to buying one. The one concern I had was whether they are legal to use, but a little research soon confirmed this isn’t an issue. So with that said, here are my reviews of the best dash cams on the UK market.
Best dash cam reviews
I consider myself quite a ‘techy’ person, but I was baffled when I started on this dash cam review exercise. As well as trying to understand specifications like the frame rate and viewing angle, I wasn’t sure whether I needed a front and rear-facing camera and features like night vision.
It all became clear very quickly once I started comparing the best dash cams in live trials. The devices in this review cost between forty and two hundred pounds, so there are devices for all budgets.
I quickly established that Nextbase are one of the most popular manufacturers of dash cams, and the brand name regularly scores well in product comparisons. The 512GW model was just under the budget I was looking to spend on my dash cam, so this was a good place to start. Other models in the range include the 412GW and the 612GW, and you have to look closely to see the difference between them at first.
Key features and specifications
I liked the styling of the Nextbase 512GW as soon as I opened the box, and it wouldn’t look out of place in most modern cars. The lack of wires included worried me at first, but I soon realized this is because it connects to an app on your smartphone via wi-fi. This was an instant tick in the box for me as I wasn’t keen on the idea of wires trailing on my dashboard.
The instructions are very clear for this dash cam, and I had it fitted in a few minutes. I didn’t really need to watch them, but the Nextbase website offers a series of videos to help with installing and operating the 512GW. A word of warning here. Although using dash cams is legal, you can fall foul of the law if you fit one where it may obscure your view on the windscreen. For all my dash cam tests I attached each device high on the windscreen close to the rear-view mirror. The only thing I struggled with was tucking the power cable away neatly, and this will depend on the layout of your car and where the twelve volt socket is situated.
I fitted a 16GB SD memory card to the 512GW, and this is where I started to encounter some technical issues. It wouldn’t start recording at first, so on the advice of the instructions I formatted the card. Eventually, I had to remove and re-insert the SD card and update the firmware before it would work. This took around an hour and lots of reference to the instructions. Finally, I was out on the road and recording!
It’s important to understand that most dash cams will loop the recorded footage and delete the oldest data. This prevents the memory card from becoming full. The 512GW allocates a proportion of the SD card for the intelligent parking mode, and this is a really clever feature. A friend of mine had his new BMW severely damaged by a hit and run driver recently, so parking mode is one of the reasons I chose to buy a dash cam.
The 512GW has a Sony Exmor R sensor, technology used in some very good digital cameras. The footage is recorded in quad HD 1440P format at 30 frames a second. This means recordings should be very clear and bright, even in low-light conditions. I was impressed with the quality but did have to adjust the angle of the dash cam so that the road was correctly exposed at all times.
- Easy to follow instructions and easy to install.
- Wi-Fi connectivity means no trailing wires other than the power supply.
- Excellent quality 1440P HD recording over 140 degrees viewing angle.
- Tools to make downloading and sharing data easy.
- Seemed a little ‘buggy’ at times, screen froze and I had to refer to instructions.
- Touch screen not always responsive, physical buttons would be better.
The Vantrue N2 seems to score well in other dash cam reviews, so my expectations were high. The combined front and rear-facing cameras mean the device records both the road ahead and what’s happening inside your car, making it a popular choice for taxi drivers.
The design and build quality of the Vantrue N2 appealed to me instantly, and it looked like an enhancement to my car rather than a bolt-on accessory. The ‘Super Night Vision’ feature sounded really interesting, so I couldn’t wait to get out and experiment with this dash cam.
Key features and specifications
I just loved this dash cam from the moment I opened the box, and it’s high-spec features really appealed to the geek in me! It has the same feeling as an Apple iPhone in that it’s intuitive to set up and use and feels like it’s built to last. Fitting was easy, and it feels more discrete than other models tested in my dash cam review. The suction pad fits firmly to the windscreen and it doesn’t rattle or feel like it’s going to fall off.
The front camera on the Vantrue N2 records on a Sony Exmor sensor with a vision angle of 170 degrees. Standard recording is at thirty frames a second, but you can also switch to sixty frames a second meaning number plates will be pin-sharp. The rear camera records to equally high quality, and it’s hard to fault the recorded footage. Toggling to night vision status produces incredible results. A unique HDR video system adjusts the camera’s exposure to balance light and dark areas, and the detail captured by a device as inexpensive as this shows how technology has advanced. This is like something out of a James Bond movie!
The Vantrue N2 automatically switches to parking mode when you reach the end of your journey and park. I left the car on my drive and tested the motion detection a few times, and it activated as soon as I got near. There’s also a clever time lapse function you can use to take photographs at specified intervals. You could use this for monitoring activity around your car over an extended period or make a fun time lapse of a long journey as I did.
This is a really smart piece of kit, and I get the sense the N2 model benefits from improvements on previous models and some new innovation. Recording starts automatically when you begin driving, and the loop recording function means you don’t have to stop and erase old data when the memory card is full. A gravity sensor locks data into an ‘Event’ folder if a bump is detected, so you don’t have to worry about losing important moments. There’s also a button to lock the current recording to protect something being overwritten. This could be useful if you witness an accident or crime and want to keep the footage.
- A pleasure to use, intuitive, easy to operate a modern design.
- Superb quality footage capture, even in low light.
- Front and rear cameras, particularly good for taxi drivers or those who carry passengers.
- Night vision takes this dash cam to another level.
- Some users may not like the voice recording inside the car, but this can be switched off.
When I started to collate a shortlist for my dash cam review this model immediately caught my eye. It’s at the top end from a price point of view, but its sleek and sophisticated design has strong visual appeal. It wouldn’t look at of place in a luxury saloon car such as a BMW or Mercedes. The BlackVue DR750S is an updated model of the DR650S, one of the first cloud connected dash cams on the market.
Key features and specifications
As you would expect for the price, the BlackVue DR750S scores very well on specifications. Recording is full HD 1080P at sixty frames a second, producing movie quality results. A Sony CMOS sensor captures superb quality even in poor light. There was a heavy downpour on the motorway on one of my test drives, but I could still read number plates and even make out the faces of drivers.
I was disappointed to see the viewing angle of this dash cam is only 139 degrees. Having seen the results of the Vantrue N2 from its 170 degrees I found the narrower view quite restrictive. It’s also surprising that the Blackvue DR750S only has a forward-facing camera. Perhaps this was a design compromise, but I feel this would put a lot of drivers off what might have been the best dash cam currently available.
Blackvue’s ‘Over the Cloud’ technology is an innovative way of connecting the camera to your smartphone. I struggled with this a little at first and wondered whether my iPhone was too old a model for the connectivity to function. Perseverance paid off, and the system works well once you’ve configured the app. Using the Wi-Fi ‘hotspot’ on your smartphone enables you to connect the Blackvue DR750S to the internet, and this makes some interesting tools and features available. I particularly like the ability to transfer files from the dash cam to the Cloud from the app.
- Visually appealing and compliments the look of modern cars.
- Superb recording, the sixty frames a second makes a real difference to the footage.
- Over the Cloud system makes it easy to access, share and store data.
- An expensive piece of kit, and I don’t feel the extra cost is justified.
- Field of vision not as wide as other models in my dash cam review.
- No rear-facing camera.
This model was below the budget I’d set myself, but I thought it would be interesting to include some cheaper models in my dash cam review. The Garmin 55 reminded me of my first sat nav when I opened the box, and it’s not as stylish as other dash cams in my opinion. That said, I kept an open mind and focused on performance rather than looks.
Key features and specifications
You have to be prepared to accept some compromise in budget products, but there’s a point where that becomes a false economy. Recording is in 1440P, but the quality didn’t come close to that captured by some of the other dash cams in my review. I can only assume it’s the sensor quality that lets the Garmin 55 down. Colours appear muted and grey on recorded footage, and it really struggles as daylight falls. I used it to record a trip to the airport to pick up a friend, and I’m not sure how useful the footage would have been if an accident had taken place on the motorway. I found it difficult to read another car’s number plate on the footage recorded after sunset.
The Garmin 55 offers voice control, and this could be a useful feature. Unfortunately I found myself having to repeat commands, and the device sometimes missed my instructions completely. This could be a serious problem if it failed at a critical moment.
On the positive side, parking mode on the Garmin 55 seemed to work well and it activated every time I nudged the car during my test. The device’s menu is easy to operate, and set up and configuration are easy. It’s possible to transfer recorded data to your smartphone via Wi-Fi, but I found this very slow and ended up removing the SD card and uploading via a card reader.
- An entry-level dash cam for users on a budget.
- Easy to set install and set up.
- Recording quality falls short, especially in low light.
- Doesn’t compare well with models costing a little more. Feels like an update is needed.
- Failure of basic functions let the Garmin 55 down.
Orskey Dash Cam Front and Rear
As the Garmin 55 was such a disappointment I decided to add another dash cam to my review. I wondered if a device costing around a quarter of the price of some of the others I tested could be anything more than a toy. The Orskey isn’t perfect, but it excels in many areas and is certainly worth considering if you’re looking for a budget dash cam.
Key features and specifications
The Orskey dash cam doesn’t score well on looks or build quality, but it makes up for that in specification. It has the look of a digital camera you might take on holiday rather than a device you’d attach to your car. Installation and set up are easy, but I did find this dash cam a little more obtrusive than others in my test.
I was amazed to find that there was also a separate rear-facing camera in the box, so this really is excellent value for money. Installing the rear camera did involve some time fitting wires and finding the best spot to attach it, but this is well worth it for the extra protection it gives you. So-called ‘tailgating’ is one of the most common causes of car accidents, and a rear-facing camera is ideal for recording evidence if this happens to you.
I used the Orskey for a few trips to work and a motorway journey at the weekend. The clarity of the 1080 HD footage is excellent even in low light. Another feature I really like is the 170 degree field of vision.
I’m not sure if the Orskey would be as reliable over the long terms as more expensive dash cams, but it compares very well based on my test. So much so that I bought one for my daughter’s car. It offers most of the features of the more expensive dash cams, including automatic capture of unexpected incidents and protection of recordings you might need to refer back to.
- Excellent budget dash cam providing quality recording.
- Rear-facing camera included.
- 170 degree angle of vision.
- Would not suit the styling of high-end vehicles.
- Operation not as intuitive as more expensive models.
- Fitting rear camera took an hour and required tools.
Buyer’s guide to dash cams
I expect dash cams will become a standard feature of cars in the near future, just as sat navs have. I witnessed a number of near misses during my review exercise and realise how valuable dash cam evidence would have been if I’d been in an accident. As well as their role in supporting insurance claims and capturing criminal activity, dash cams can help you to improve your driving and become more aware of the road. For taxi drivers and anyone driving for a living, they are essential.
If you’re considering buying a dash cam, the following are important factors to consider.
It goes without saying this is essential if your dash cam is to be of any value. Don’t be fooled into thinking all 1080 HD results look the same. The lens on the dash cam and the sensor inside are important elements in the quality of recorded images. Recording at sixty frames a second rather than thirty also improves quality.
Ease of fitting
A dashcam should clip into the holder on your windscreen in seconds once it’s installed. If it takes any longer you may not bother on short journeys, and this is when an accident may happen and you’ll need the footage.
Your dash cam should look as if it’s part of your car, so modern styling is important. This is particularly important if you have a luxury saloon.
Accidents at night are common, and this is the time criminals may try to break into or vandalise your car. Footage from the best dash cams is just as clear at night as during daylight hours.
I’ve had the experience of a driver hitting my car in a supermarket car park and driving away, so I know how important this is. All of the devices in my dash cam review featured a parking mode, but some were better than others.
Ease of access and sharing
The ability to transfer data via Wi-Fi or upload into an app can make it easier to share data captured on your dash cam
Conclusion and final verdict
I knew very little about dash cams before I started this comparison exercise. However, I’m very familiar with digital cameras and technology in general, so I was able to understand how dash cams work and the important features pretty quickly. The surprising thing is how paying a lot more for a dash cam doesn’t necessarily mean you get a better product.
On balance, the Vantrue N2 is the best dash cam out of those I tested. It has front and rear cameras, produces superb quality footage and has the feel of an Apple product about it. The BlackVue product came close, but I didn’t find it as easy to use.
If you’re on a budget, you can’t go wrong with the Orskey dash cam. I was really surprised at the product’s specification for the price and can’t fault it in terms of recording quality.