Dashboard cameras or dash cams are not whimsical car accessories to dress up your vehicles; they are additional components that can be used to protect and safeguard you for insurance purposes, inform you of your speed and location, and provide you with some level of peace of mind that major events can be accurately captured in video to resolve disputes and arguments. In addition, you can store great bonding moments with family and friends. In our search for the best dashboard camera in the market, we focused primarily on entry level to mid-priced units. However before going into the nitty-gritty of dash cams, there is one common thought that many consumers dwell upon: Why not just use a regular video camera? After all, it is more affordable and can even be used in and out of the vehicle.
Compared to a basic video camera, the dash cam is a smarter appliance. Unlike most video cameras, the dash cameras are able to split video files into smaller files of 1 to 3 minutes so that when your memory card has been maximized, the oldest short files will be deleted so you always have space for new recordings. This is what is called loop recording. On the other hand, you can also opt to save critical files so they are not deleted automatically.
|Dashboard Camera||HD Format||Viewing Angle||Price|
|1. THINKWARE TW-F750||1080P||149 degrees||$$$|
|2. Garmin Dash Cam 35||1080P||N/A||$$|
|3. Swann DriveEye 150DCM||1080P||160 degrees||$|
|4. Magellan MiVue 538||1080P||130 degrees||$|
|5. Cobra CDR-895D||1800P||140 degrees||$$|
Best Dashboard Camera List
THINKWARE F750 Quick Review
THINKWARE was established in Korea in 1997. Its success has allowed it to cross borders and is now available in the US, Sydney, Canada and Singapore. The THINKWARE F750 received the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Innovation Award in recognition of its achievement in consumer technology design and engineering.
The company refers to the F750 as a “mobile attorney.” The model has all the basic dash cam features and more, making it one of the best dashcam units in the market.
Key features the F750 has include:
- Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS)
- Front Collision Warning System (FCWS)
- Safety Camera alerts for red light, speeding, speed zone, mobile speed zone (police with speed guns), and combined speed and red light zone
- Built-in GPS with visual alert and audio guidance
- Built in Wi-Fi, Playback
- 19 M pixel camera, 1080p, full HD, 149-degree viewing angle, Sony EXMOR CMOS sensor
- Compatible with UHS-1 Micro SD card up to 64 GB
- Dual Save technology which allows for automatic back-up of files
- Comes with one lithium ion battery
- One year warranty if sold by authorized dealers
A particularly great feature about this model is that you can enhance the F750 by adding optional accessories like a rear view camera and parking surveillance mode. You can also manually shut off the lane and collision alerts whenever you want. To make the package more interesting, THINKWARE has an accompanying smartphone app you can download so all your files can be transferred to another storage device using Wi-Fi.
Garmin Dash Cam 35 Quick Review
Garmin leads the pack when it comes to GPS tech innovation, and they are one of the most recognized names in satellite navigation. The Dash Cam 35 has a 3-inch screen, making it easy for its users to easily and clearly view things.
This product is perfect for anyone who just needs a dash cam but do not want complicated installation steps. The cam can be used out of the box, ready to use in minutes! Even with a 3-inch screen, this unit is quite compact, leaving enough windshield space and minimalizing distraction issues.
The windshield-mounted Dash Cam 35 includes the following specs:
- 1080p Full HD at 30 FPS, adjustable to 720p to save on memory
- Micro SD memory storage, with 4GB included and expandable to 64 GB
- Built-in GPS receiver
- Loop recording with option to save specific files
- Compatible with Garmin Dash Cam Player software, BingMap, OpenStreetMap, and BaiduMap
- Auto recording
- One lithium ion battery included
- Forward collision, speeding, red light alerts
- Comes with a long power cable that can be plugged into the cigarette lighter
- One year limited warranty
The only downside for some may be that the Garmin Dash Cam 35 does not record audio. This model is the most basic plug-and-play camera, making it great for those who have little to no experience with dash cams. This is a camera that just works and does its job well.
Swann DriveEye SWADS-150DCM Quick Review
Swann Communications is a security-specialist company that started in Australia and has since set up offices in the United States, Canada, and parts of Asia. They are known for their state-of-the-art security technology and DIY products at affordable prices.
Their DriveEye 150DCM is a smart dash cam with a video resolution that ranges from super HD 3MP or full HD 1080p, and records audio in real time. The free DriveEye Ultra is Swann’s app that allows you to control the camera and watch your home’s live footage from wherever you are in the world. It connects to your device using a Wi-Fi connection and cloud technology.
Aside from the stunning remote control feature, here are the other reasons we’re so excited about this product:
- 2304 x 1296 resolution
- 2 inch LCD with 160 degree lens angle
- Micro USB cable
- Expandable storage Micro SD up to 64GB (not included)
- Rechargeable 700mAh lithium ion battery
- Playback on Mac or PC
- Built-in Wi-Fi
- Collision and acceleration alerts
- Loop recording with emergency save for important files
- HDMI port
- Audio can be manually switched off
- Action cam mode
- 3 mount options: windshield suction, tripod, wrist
- 10-foot charge cable
- One year limited warranty
The 150DCM can only be used with either the Apple 6.0 or higher, or the 4.0 or higher Android. Because this dash cam is packed with so many usable features, it is recommended to use it with your devices’s latest versions to can enjoy the full Swann experience!
Magellan MiVue 538 Quick Review
The first thing people notice in the MiVue 538 would be its striking aesthetics. It has a slimmer, more streamlined and minimal look, rather than the usual boxy dash cam styles in the market today. Its price and performance is very attractive as well, as this product offers features normally found in high-end models, but priced quite reasonably at under $170. It comes equipped with the Sony CMOS image sensor which provides a higher standard in imaging.
The features that set the MiVue 538 apart, making it one of the best dash cam units in the market include:
- GPS – location and time stamp, playback
- 4 LCD screen with 1080p, F2.0 lens, 1080p full HD, and 140-degree angle
- 3-axis Impact G-sensor
- 30 FPS
- Anti-glare lens
- Allows for manual recording
- Comes with 8GB but memory is expandable to 32GB
- Compatible with Mac and Windows
- Auto recording
- Auto Power On/Off
- Parking and photo mode
- Built-in speed alerts
- Rotating mount
- 264 Compression Tech for advanced format including HDTV, AVCHD and Blue-Ray
- MiVue Manager software for file download, upload, or review
- Mini USB port and mini HDMI port
- Rechargeable lithium-ion battery (2 are required)
- Cigarette light charger cable
Another great feature is that the dash cam’s default volume is set at low. This means users don’t get startled by alerts, allowing for ample time to react and slow down, and to experience less stress while driving.
- Car Dashboard Camera
- 1080P Full HD
- Automatic Accident Protection
- Parking & Action Cam Modes
Cobra CDR-895 Quick Review
Cobra Communications started with the CB radio more than 50 years ago. Today, it is a global business specializing in navigation equipment and mobile communications. Their CDR 895D is a high-end dual-channel dash camera that offers outstanding performance and great value for money.
CDR 895D key features:
- Front and rear cameras
- Continuous loop recording
- 2-inch split LCD screen, full HD 1080p with 160-degree angles for the front camera and 720p and 130-degree angle for the rear camera
- 30 FPS
- CMOS Image Sensor
- Lane departure, collision alerts
- Automatic incident detection
- Parking and action cam modes
- Integrated microphone
- Micro SD 16GB (included)
- 20-feet rear cam extension cable
- 2 micro USB cable: one-10 feet for power and one -18 feet for data
- Available in 8 different languages
- Flexible mounting system
The Cobra 895CDR is a 2016 model and the latest under the company’s DriveHD series. Some of the best features of this unit, aside from all the aforementioned features, is the quick and easy installation and the different setup options available at your disposal. It also has a quick-release mount that eliminates the frustration many dash cam owners experience when trying to adjust the position of the dash cam.
There you have it – a list of some of the best dash cam units in the market. Each one of these dash cam units come highly-recommended. But remember that the most important thing you can do is find a camera that fits your personal criteria and needs.
Looking at technical specs for the dash cam can be confusing because of the wide and varied choices and add-ons. Here is a brief summary of the features you might want to consider when looking at dash cameras:
Auto Power On/Off – This is a standard feature found in top-of-the-line dash cam units, although you can manually disconnect/plug it in whenever you want using your vehicle’s cigarette lighter. Alternately, an adaptor may also power up the dash cam if your cigarette lighter
Parking Mode or Buffered Parking Mode – If your vehicle gets hit while parked, the dash cam will automatically turn on to record the event. However, in buffered parking mode, the dash cam does not power off when you are parked. This allows a greater chance of capturing an event as it happens.
Auto Record – This feature allows the dash cam to automatically start recording once the car starts moving.
LCD Screen and Image Correction – Most dash cams are equipped with high resolution (HD) LCD screens [1080p or 1920 x 1080 pixels, which is five times more detailed than standard definition (SD)]. An HD dash cam with a wide angle lens is able to capture a minimum of 30 frames/second (FPS) to a maximum of 60 FPS. The best dash cam is able to manipulate the lighting and correct the image while recording. Thus, you can have clear video files even under low light conditions.
Instant Playback – This feature allows quick access to recently-recorded footage.
G-Sensor – This sensor allows a dash cam to automatically save footages based on possible signs of collisions.
Motion Detection – Able to detect motion to warn and help drivers when parking rear end first or when switching lanes.
Single or Dual Channel – Single channel refers to one camera (front windshield only), while dual channel means there are two cameras (front windshield and rear interior or rear window).
Global Positioning System (GPS) – Not all dash cams come with GPS. Usually, the lower-priced and smaller units do not have this feature. That being said, there are dash cams without this feature but still allow you to connect to an external GPS device. While it is doable, having an extra device in addition to your dash cam might take up extra space that may clutter your dashboard.
Other Important Aspects About the Dash Cam
In the United States, the dash cam is a legitimate car accessory. However, there are legal aspects about installing a dash cam that car owners should be aware of:
First, it is illegal to record a conversation when passengers are not aware they are being recorded. This falls under the “surreptitious audio recording law,” also known as the Digital Media Law.
Second, the dash cam cannot and should not obscure the view of the driver or front passenger. In most states, the general rule is that the dash cam can only occupy five square inches from the driver’s side and seven square inches from the passenger’s side. To be on the safe side, do check with your local authorities.
Third, while loop recording automatically deletes footage by writing over it, it is still highly recommended to manually clean and format the memory card every two weeks using the car dash camera’s format menu option. Without doing so, dash cams may start displaying error messages, which is something that can happen whenever a memory card is close to being maxed out.
Fourth, most of the time a dash cam with a built-in screen cannot be turned on when you are driving as it can distract the driver. There are exceptions to this law, however, such as providing parking information and status of vehicle.