If you have ever fallen into a YouTube rabbit hole of great dashcam videos, you may have considered the benefits of picking one up. Dashcamera's are still a rarity in the United States, but major automotive electronics brands such as Pioneer and Kenwood have entered the market.
The tide of the dashcam can also change state: my inbox is sinking more and more from driver emails asking what dashcams are doing, what the best dashcams are and why automakers aren't incorporating them into new cars & # 39; s . So here's a look at the best dashcam choices at every level of price and features to help you buy one that is worthy of the risks of using a dashcam.
I've tested most of the five models below, and many more, so I can get through the noise to get you what's important at the level and price of each dashcam. All of these are readily available from Amazon or Best Buy at prices ranging from $ 45 to $ 500. And although I haven't used every model on the market (an impossibility given the flow of often unnamed dashcams out there), these are great examples from every layer in the market.
By the way, if you are an old hand at dashcams or want to jump into the forefront, see our summary of the.
This strangely named autodashcam offers all the basic functions and is our choice for the best dashcam option under $ 50. The camera lens records 1080p video and audio in a continuous loop recording on a 32 GB microSD card that you provide. The camera's super wide-angle lens automatically detects and saves collision images. It uses the same motion detection sensor technology when the vehicle is parked to detect if someone is reversing or tampering with your vehicle, and records that event.
The 3-inch LCD screen on the back is used for focusing the camera angle, viewing dashcam recordings and navigating through the fairly simple menus with buttons along the edge. This wide angle camera can easily be mounted on your windshield with its suction cup. Do not expect an HD video quality interface for this price, but you will hardly use the menus after the initial installation.
This is something that you have not seen until recently: a dashcam of a brand name. The design is also more pleasant and sticks like an OEM part into the top of the windshield instead of hanging on an ugly holder.
The camera lens does all the basics plus a few tricks: it has a strange frame rate of 27.5 frames per second that is tuned to ensure that it never misses the status of an LED traffic light that has a pronounced on / off has flicker that other cameras may record as no signal at all. Built-in GPS tagging ensures that the clips you record have time and GPS location embedded.
If you are a Kenwood person, check out a Kenwood DRV-N520 (currently about $ 150 from Amazon), which is a dashcam that only works when connected to a Kenwood double-DIN aftermarket head unit.
Like the Pioneer, this Kenwood dashcam comes from an important brand in automotive electronics. The 1080p full HD DRV-A301W does not fit neatly into the windshield of a car like the Pioneer, but it does have a larger 2.7-inch rear LCD screen, a Wi-Fi network connection for image transfer, internal super capacitors instead of batteries, and a smart magnetic release that makes it easier to hide or transport.
4K becomes the new standard for the video camera & # 39; s around us and this dashcam reflects that. The Vantrue X4 has night vision and a real 4K sensor for full 4K recording up to 30 fps. Video quality can make a big difference when viewing video later and making a face or license plate. On the other hand, it ensures larger file sizes. so you probably want a memory card of 256 GB. and this camera seems picky about which microSD card brand: avoid popular SanDisk cards, advises Vantrue. The X4 uses exotic battery technology in the form of an internal super-capacitor instead of the built-in lithium ion battery. Vantrue says that makes an internal power source more sustainable, especially in the baking heat to which your dashboard is exposed.
This camera has no screen; instead, use Wi-Fi and the app on your smartphone as an interface. You can choose to add a wired reversing camera, but instead of covering the inside of your vehicle, it looks out of the rear window.
But the real innovation in the F800PRO is how it uses its forward camera and accelerometers to leave your lane and forward collision alerts, as well as warnings about upcoming traffic cams thanks to the cloud-connected database.
The linked model below contains a 32 GB SD card in the package.
The Thinkware M1 motorsport camera combines 1080p full HD cameras on the front and back that simultaneously record with a unique external push button control path. It is different than dashcams designed for a car, because the design of the camera & # 39; s is intended to make it a good dashcam for motorcycles and ATV & # 39; s. The electronic image stabilization of the M1 is essential for capturing usable video quality in such robust applications, such as with an internal super capacitor rather than a more temperature-sensitive lithium ion battery.
These tips apply to most dashcams, so keep them in mind:
- Buy a large SD card. Some cameras come with generous storage, but do not get the largest memory card that the camera supports. More camera storage means that you will be less likely to notice that a video clip that you really need from a week ago has been overwritten.
- Tighten the cable. Nothing looks worse than an annoying power cable that hangs on your dashcam and all dashcams use one. The Vantrue X4 offers a hardwire set and the and a tool to hide the cable. But any dashcam power cable can be "dressed", just take the time to do it.
- Think of audio. Some states have two-party consent laws that can put you in trouble if you pick up the voices of casual carpoolers, Uber or Lyft customers, or even fragile friends and family who didn't know you were eavesdropping on them.
- Know that dashcams cut both ways. If you have an accident with another driver, a visible dashcam is a sign that you have a recording. The other person can tell their insurance company and their lawyers may want a copy of what you have recorded. That can go bad if you're wrong, but don't try to destroy evidence.
Originally published earlier this year. Updated with current prices. CNET Holiday Gift Guide 2019