Dash Cams: Ever Vigilant
While you may have been exposed to dashcam compilation videos on YouTube before, these devices are far more useful than just to record odd traffic accidents. Dashcams are cameras attached to the dashboard (or to the rear window in some cases) of your car and which are active while driving, constantly recording the road ahead. The main benefit of a dashcam is to record evidence to be used in case a traffic accident occurs, to (usually) help prove the fault of the other party.
Dashcams are different from regular cameras in a number of ways.
Recording through various weather conditions and a pane of glass usually causes issues for most cameras, but dashcams are designed with this functionality in mind. They have high resolutions, necessary for making out details like license plates, internal memory to save recordings, they are often powered through the lighter port, have particularly wide angles and feature night vision.
As dashcams advance in complexity, some new features have been introduced. Detection tech allows them to automatically turn on when it detects something bumping into your car even when you’re parking, and some models even allow for you to turn on a mode where it’s constantly active in idle mode, and begins recording upon detecting movement, becoming a sort of security camera for your car.
When looking for dashcams, there are a few key features to keep an eye out for.
The wider the angle of recording the better, since things don’t always come at you from straight ahead. No camera will record sideways (unless you position it so, but why would you?), but many can cover 4 lanes or more. Another essential is night vision, without which the dashcam will very likely only be useful during the day, regardless of the car’s lights being on as those do not illuminate at a wide angle. Resolution is another thing to look out for, however most modern dashcams have sufficiently sharp recordings. In terms of storage, all dashcams support removable SD cards, however some come packaged with the cards, whereas for others you’ll need to buy them separately – usually you are better off with those that are included.
Beyond these essentials, features like G-sensors, shock detection and automatic recording are bonuses which come in handy and can elevate one model over another. Dashcams vary greatly in price, but you generally shouldn’t expect to pay less than around $70 for a decent model. That said, prices can go up into the several hundreds of dollars.
With the rapid spread of ride-sharing apps and the explosive increase in the popularity of services like Uber and Lyft, a new angle needs to be covered by dash cams. Recording the interior of the car can be just as important as recording the exterior, and footage of what happens in the cabin may be the key to resolving legal matters should incidents occur.
Quick Look: Top 5 Car Dash Cams
|1||Z-Edge Z3 Upgraded||• 2.5Kresolution|
• 155 degree FOV
|• High resolution|
• High quality
|• Low FOV|
|2||Falcon Zero F170HD+||• 1080p resolution|
• 170 degree FOV
• 5-year warranty
|3||Roav C1||• 1080p resolution |
• Wide angle FOV
|• Companion app |
• High quality
|• SD card not included|
|4||Thinkware X500||• 1080p resolution |
• Wide angle FOV
|• Semi-smart with detection tech |
• Front and rear camera
|• Expensive |
|5||Rexing V1||• 1080p resolution |
• 170 degree FOV
|• Crisp image |
• Expandable with GPS and other add-ons
|• SD card not included|
Z-EDGE Z3 Upgraded Ver. Dash Cam
The Z-Edge Z3 has a long track record of being one of the top-rated dashcams on the market for several years, and an updated variant of the model was released early in 2017 to one-up that achievement. This camera-style dashcam has some fantastic features and rises above other models with impressive stats.
The feature which sets the Z3 Upgraded apart from the crowd is the higher resolution. 2.5K blows your regular 1080p out of the water, ensuring that every little detail that might come in handy when an accident goes to court, such as license plates, is clearly visible and legible. The higher resolution is such a big deal precisely because it directly affects the primary function of the dashcam, while many other extra features that other models possess are just fluff. They may be interesting or even useful fluff, but none are as fundamentally important as higher resolution.
The Z3 Upgraded, beyond having an impressive resolution, ticks all the other boxes when it comes to dashcams. HDR (the same thing as WDR) allows it to auto-adjust to all lighting conditions, and this feature incorporates night vision as well which works exceptionally, offering the greatest visibility in darkness among dashcams.
This model also offers a greater measure of control over the dashcam itself than most others, even if it doesn’t come with a manual toggle for the LCD screen. Other things it does allow you to control are audio recording, saving, on the fly storage management and mode settings.
Beyond having your standard G-Sensor, the Z3 Upgraded also boasts a motion-activated surveillance feature some of the other models we’ve looked at come with. Considering the camera ships with a 32 GB memory card, the price of the package is perfectly justified, and attractive considering how minimally it is above lesser dashcams. In addition to this, there is a 30-day money back guarantee and an 18-month limited warranty to reassure you. That said, there is naught wrong with the quality of this cam – after all, this is the top dog.
A single drawback, because nothing can be perfect, is a slight decrease in the angle of the field of view. We’ve come to view 170 degrees as an industry standard, and no other model dips below this, however the Z3 Upgraded only records in a 155 degree angle. The difference is minor and those 15 degrees are not likely to cause trouble, but hey, if you’ve got 155, why not go to 170?
Why It’s Our #1 Choice
The Z3 Upgraded is considered the peak of dashcam technology on today’s market for good reason. Trading some kind of semi-useful extra for an unabashedly practical and utilitarian upgrade in resolution is the kind of sensible engineering that shows the designers didn’t just want to pad the features list, but instead advance in a direction of usefulness to the consumer. Beyond that, it does everything else that dashcams should, and exceptionally. Wrap all this up in a high-quality body, and you’ve got the best dashcam of 2017 ready for action.
The Z3 Upgraded’s single shortcoming (the 155 degree FOV) is dwarfed by the positive aspects it boasts, and it can achieve all this at a particularly attractive price, which includes a storage device as well. We really haven’t increased too much in price between now and the start of the guide, so really, we urge you to pick this model.
- YOUR EXPERT WITNESS: The best dash camera 2016 voted by Wirecutter just got even better - records...
- ULTRA 2.7K IMAGE QUALITY: Never miss a license plate in stunning Wide Quad HD (WQHD) 2560x1440P and...
- HDR NIGHT VISION: Enable High Dynamic Range (HDR) for superior low light compensation when driving...
- AUTOMATIC SAFEGUARDS: Records automatically on vehicle ignition - switches off automatically with...
- BUY FROM US: Now 32GB SD memory card inside every pack- Support up to 128GB card (most other models...
FalconZero F170HD+ DashCam
FalconZero’s F170HD+ doesn’t bring too much new or unique to the table. It tries to stand out from the crowd by doing the same things, just better. It’s a 1080p, 170-degree angle camera with an LCD screen and night vision, so it ticks all the boxes in terms of the basics. The FalconZero’s reliability is what it uses to sell itself.
Longevity and reliability are where the F170HD+ stands out. It is sturdy with a partially metal construction, and many users report that it functions fantastically after years of use. You can leave it inside your car in both searing heat, scorching sunlight and subzero temperatures with the knowledge that it will do its job just as well the next day. Falcon Zero know they made a nigh-indestructible dashcam, which is likely why they happily offer a record 5-year no questions asked warranty.
Also standard fare in the F170HD+ is the G-Sensor which automatically starts recording in the case of a collision, however this too is something we’ve come to expect from dashcams rather than applaud. As mentioned before, WDR night vision is also something this camera is capable of, and the package comes with an SD card.
Something that most other dashcams lack, however, is a basic photo capture mode which is present in the F170HD+. Sure, this isn’t a necessity, but a nice feature to have.
Falcon Zero created a more than adequate dashcam with the F170HD+’s unrivaled reliability, however it fails to stand out from the crowd with any special features. Reliability on its own isn’t enough to justify a higher price, however, as even with a good reputation the experience of every customer is different.
- FULL HD 1920x1080 Recording at 30 fps, Begins Recording as Soon as Car Moves
- Motion Detection Recording When Parked, Super Wide 170 Degree Angle of Recording View
- Loop Interval Recording to micro SD Card, SD Card Included
- f/2.0 Six-Glass Lens with Night-Vision, WDR Enhanced Image Quality, HD Photo Capture Mode
- Unparalleled USA Lifetime Customer Support, And Backed By Our 5 Year Hassle-Free Warranty
Roav Dash Cam C1
The Roav C1 dash cam is a whole other deal than the OldShark Gs505, offering a different selection of features and a completely different form factor. Instead of looking like a regular camera and sitting on a stand attached to the dashboard, this is a stealthy little device that is attached to the windshield with adhesive, up behind the rear-view mirror. The C1 is a wide angle 1080p camera with an LCD display that can be used for direct control and storage management.
While it may not be the C1’s most practical feature, the main aspect that sets this apart from other dashcams is the inclusion of a companion app which allows the pairing of the camera with a smartphone for additional functionality. With the Roav app, you can playback, save and manage the recordings of the C1 on your phone remotely. Thanks to the G-Sensor of the C1 which auto-records whenever there is a crash or movement, you can see if something like that happens even if you are not near your car.
The C1 has full night vision capabilities and records at a width of 4 lanes. It’s highly durable with a wide temperature range of operation as well as your standard shock resistance. The camera works with a USB charger plugged into a USB-to-lighter port adaptor which has two USB ports, leaving one free for other purposes, which is a nice bonus.
The base package of the C1 does not contain a storage card, and we recommend buying a high endurance card. Standard micro SD cards have a tendency to wear themselves out over time, especially if they are constantly used and data is being read and written. Since a dashcam is recording constantly, regular SD cards will expire quickly.
Roav offers a 12-month product replacement warranty, however generally their devices are sturdy and of a high quality, meaning you likely won’t need to take them up on that offer lest the camera be damaged by some ulterior cause.
The Roav C1 represents one of the best dashcams we reviewed for this guide, and yet it remains one of the more affordable models at the same time. It is the only model boasting a companion app, which in the modern tech world of smart-everything is a massive bonus. That said, it isn’t as directly useful as higher resolution or as valuable as included SD cards, which is why it isn’t our top pick.
- Crystal-Clear Recording: An advanced Sony Exmor sensor, wide-angle lens, and Nighthawk Vision...
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Thinkware X500 Dual-Channel Dashcam
After doing a bit of a price leap with the X500, we’re finally looking at a model that is significantly different from those that came before. Until now, almost all models we’ve looked at had the same features with just one or two differences each, however the X500 does plenty different, though this isn’t apparent from the raw stats – it’s a 1080p wide-angle dashcam with an LCD screen for direct control.
The main feature of the X500 could be interpreted as making it twice as good as the other cameras – there are two cameras in the package. The main unit is your run-of-the-mill forward facing dashcam, but a second camera unit is included to be mounted on the rear window, offering recording in both directions. Since regular dashcams are of no use when something occurs outside their field of vision, using multiple cameras to expand that field seems like a logical step.
So why isn’t a camera with such obvious advantages our top pick? First of all, the dual set-up itself can offer problems, such as the clear issue of storage space filling up twice as fast. With loop-recording, this isn’t an immediate issue, however if something noteworthy happens that doesn’t tip off the G-Sensor (like someone keying your car), important evidence will possibly be gone before you realize something even happened.
Once again to speak in the favor of the X500, it incorporates a system we were surprised not to see in more models. Since this is a camera constantly looking at the road ahead, in this day and age it would be logical to include some detection algorithms to offer the drive guidance. The X500 does this, such as warning when one is veering out of their lane or something is dangerously close in front of the car.
This feature too, however, is a double-edged sword. It’s way too oversensitive with no option to calibrate, meaning it will scream at you to pay attention even if you’re not doing anything wrong. On thinner roads, it may constantly think you’re about to drive out of your lane, which makes it an absolute nuisance.
The X500 also features a surveillance mode to record while parked, however the dual cameras have a much higher power draw, to the point of potentially draining the ignition battery before your next trip, since the device is not intended for use without an external power source.
Considering the significant price increase, we would have expected most of the issues we mentioned to be solved, but it seems we have to wait for Thinkware’s next model to crown a new king among dashcams. It’s a shame, because we loved seeing a device doing something different finally, but the experimentation just isn’t refined enough to make it a better product for the consumer in the end.
- A Full HD 1080p dash cam with Sony Exmor image sensor and a Full HD 1080p rear cam provide complete...
- High performance 32GB UHS-I microSD card with SPOR (Sudden Power Off Recovery) technology...
- Lane departure, front collision, red light and speed camera alertshelp increase driver awareness.
- Built-in GPS Tracker embeds crucial data such as time, speed, and location data
- Optionnal accessory: Hardwiring cable to enable Parking Surveillance mode
Rexing V1 Car Dash Cam
Rexing’s V1 dashcam is another mount-less wedge shaped camera attached to the windshield with an adhesive. It’s small and discreet but offers video quality on par with the competition. It’s a 1080p camera with a 170-degree angle of view, so those base stats are identical to all others we’ve looked at so far.
The V1 is completely generic in terms of features that actually impact its function as a dashcam, however what sets it apart is the fact that it is designed to fit into a system of multiple Rexing devices in your car, forming a kind of smart-car (not meaning the small, utterly impractical make of car) system. It has ports for Rexing rear-view cameras and GPS devices, which all connect and communicate with one another, though they are sold separately. For example, the Rexing GPS, when connected to the dashcam, will allow you to get specific locations for your recordings. While this feature isn’t of any use with the V1 on its own, it can be helpful if you need the other devices as well.
The V1’s LCD display has a convenient feature that oddly enough most other dashcams neglect – it can be turned off. Many dashcams with LCD displays keep them on at all times when active, or turn them on and off automatically giving the user limited control, both situations of which are not ideal when driving at night.
It doesn’t include an SD card, but does support storage sizes of up to 128 GB. Loop recording is another standard feature present here, as is WDR and the G-Sensor, making this overall just another standard dashcam with no discerning features save for the connections with other Rexing devices. The device itself is a high-quality construction too.
The Rexing V1 performs the duty of a dashcam well, however you can find other products which provide the same quality at a lower price, just without the ability to connect additional devices. If that one specific gimmick isn’t something that interests you, the V1 may not be a good choice.
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- 170 DEGREE ULTRA WIDE ANGLE LENS & WIDE DYNAMIC RANGE: The 7 layer glass lens opens up to capture a...
- SUPERCAPACITOR & PARKING MONITOR: The dash cam uses a supercapacitor which can withstand extreme...
- WIFI CONNECT: View, save, and share dash cam recordings wirelessly on your mobile device with the...
- LOOP RECORDING AND G-SENSOR: Video can be recorded in 1,2 or 3 minute intervals. When the storage...
OldShark GS505 Car Dash Cam
The GS505 from OldShark is one of the cheaper models in the pantheon of dashcams. This camera is attached with a large suction cup, has a 1080p resolution and a 170-degree angle of view. It features an LCD screen for instant playback and video management and is more or less shaped like a small digital camera, making it quite easy to notice.
The main attraction with the GS505 is that is shares almost all of the features of more expensive models at a smaller price, making it both affordable and functional. It has everything we called out as being essential, such as night vision, with many of the extras like a G-sensor (which automatically detects a crash and locks down the recording to prevent the loop feature from deleting it automatically). The long list of features didn’t bloat it’s price, however.
The GS505 is shipped with a 32 GB micro SD card in the package. 32 GB should be plenty of space for videos, however the loop record feature keeps up the illusion of never running out of space – once the card’s capacity has been reached, the oldest video is overwritten with the newest.
This is where the G-sensor feature comes in. The G-sensor can detect rapid deceleration which generally indicates an accident has occurred. If the sensor is tipped off, the last recording (recordings are saved as 5 to 10-minute chunks) will be locked down so that the loop recording feature would never overwrite it. While chances are an accident is a big enough event for you to remember to save the footage anyway, this is a handy safeguard to have.
Wide Dynamic Range recording is an automatic light adjustment feature, which synchronizes the lens automatically to provide the best possible recordings in most lighting conditions. An extension of WDR is night vision, which provides perfectly visible footage even during low-light conditions.
Since these dashcams act sort of like a black box for your car, it is important that the footage isn’t lost in the case of an accident, lest the very purpose of the camera be negated. The GS505 is designed to be shock resistant and even explosion resistant. However, this is one place where the price comes into new light.
Many customers have reported quality issues with the device. The build isn’t particularly sturdy and the cameras often malfunction. While an 18 month warranty and 45 money back guarantee is offered, quite a few reports are floating around that the company doesn’t make good on this promise, neglecting to reply to requests. Oftentimes the cameras lock themselves into motion detection mode and switch off when waiting at an intersection, a particularly uncomfortable situation because these are where most accidents happen. Do note though that the device not working when unplugged isn’t an error – it is only intended to work when plugged in.
The OldShark GS505 is a decently priced dashcam which seems like a bargain when the list of features is considered, however the device’s reputation when it comes to quality should lead you to think twice before picking this particular model.
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Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual Dash Cam
Vantrue’s N2 Pro is a newer product, but has accumulated a massive number of 5 star ratings in a short amount of time, and sports impressive features such as wide angle and high resolution recording. However, it drums up more than just high-end numbers on existing and expected features to justify it’s rather large $200 price tag. This is a new dash cam for a new age, when recording the interior of the car has become just as important as recording the exterior.
With the rise of Uber and Lyft, getting from A to B without a car of your own has become infinitely easier. However, if you’ve been keeping tabs on the news, such ride sharing services also provide criminals with opportunities previously unavailable to them. The Vantrue N2 Pro doesn’t have the word “Uber” in its full-length product name by accident. This is part of a new wave of dash cams which record the interior of the car as well, with both the driver’s seat, the passenger seat and the back seats (somewhat obscured though) all in view. The interior recording is done at 1080p, 30 FPS and 140 degrees.
The N2 Pro has several recording modes. If you deactivate the interior recording, the freed up processing power can be used for different setups. Forward-only recording may be done at 2560×1440 resolution, making this the highest resolution dash cam we’re reviewed. One can also choose to downgrade to 1080p and record at 60 FPS. The camera supports micro SD cards up to 256GB with continuous recording that overwrites the oldest files if the card is ever full. 24/7 motion-activated parking mode will switch the dash cam on and off again using a motion sensor allowing you to rest easy that the car is protected even when you’re not inside.
The Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual Dash Cam is an impressive device fit for the newest trends and situations, filling a niche that was previously open for the taking. While overall this may be the most capable product we’ve looked at, we wouldn’t place it as our #1 pick because of the high price. While the additional features may justify the price tag, quite simply, the interior recording isn’t necessary unless you frequently travel with strangers in your car, and statistically fewer people do than don’t.
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Though we’ve seen the first legs of this among some models reviewed today, dashcams seem to be among the last devices to catch onto the “smart” bandwagon of technology development. This mentality is new among manufacturers, which is why those products which have features that can truly make them “smart” dashcams, like the X500, need a few more passes before being practical.
Our top pick should reinforce in you the importance of the key features, with the resolution being the top priority. When looking for dashcams, it might be best to steer clear of those which are decent dashcams with extras and rather pick excellent dashcams sans superfluous bonuses. In a few years time, we strongly suspect a similar ranking would look completely different, but we’ll just have to wait and see.