If you are in the market for a dash cam, there are few things you need to understand about what makes a dash cam good. A lot of Chinese brands use sub-standard designs and components that make some dash cams plain paperweight. Surprisingly, the best dash cams also come from China and you need to tell the good ones apart.
- Video Resolution Isn`t Everything
A lot of people look at the video resolution and when they see 4K they automatically think that it must be a good dash cam. If you had similar beliefs, you will be disappointed by how these devices work.
The image sensor is the main driving factor of image quality. A good dash cam will pride itself on using Sony sensors. The firmware that the camera uses also dictates how the image is processed and how good the recording quality is. In real-world terms, you may find that 4K cameras have an image quality that is worst than the one of a 1080p camera.
If you want to be sure that you are getting a good camera, search for some recordings on YouTube taken with the model you are interested in. Just search the model name and number and you should find enough footage.
- 1080p is Better than 4K
Claiming that 1080p is better than 4K does not sound right but for dash cameras, it is true for a very simple reason. 1080p dash cams can have great image quality, if not, even better than a compact 4K dash cam.
The main reason why you would want to get a good camera and choose to record in 1080p is file size. 4K recordings are 3 to 4 times larger in size than a 1080p video. For example, a 60 second 30 FPS 4K video can be as large as 450MB while a 1080p one is about 150MB. This matters a lot as 4K videos will fill up your memory card very fast. Also, as video recordings are larger, the dash cam will cause more write cycles which in turn will decrease the lifespan of the memory card as they tend to fail over time.
- Battery vs Capacitor
One common issue with dash cams is that manufacturers skimp on quality and use batteries. If you think batteries in a dash cam are alright, you are mistaken.
Dash cameras require some source of power when the car is turned off. They do not need a lot. Just enough for the camera to detect that it no longer gets power from the car so that it can properly save the last video recording. If the power would have been cut suddenly, the video file would become corrupted and could not be retrieved.
To solve this problem, manufacturers use either a small battery or a capacitor. The problem with batteries is that they are sensitive to heat. The dash cam needs to sit on the windshield, exposed to sunlight and high temperatures.
Capacitors on the other hand do not have issues with heat. You want to get a dash cam with capacitors as they can do the same job as a small battery but without the risks. What you will notice is that dash cams with capacitors are more expensive.
Features can make or break a dash cam. You want a dash cam with friendly software and all the bells and whistles in terms of functionality. This means that the dash cam needs to have a dedicated mobile app, it should have parking mode, ability to transfer videos to mobile devices without removing the card, and so on. Think about features that you would consider useful and look at models that do just that.
A Few Dash Cams Worth Looking At
Since there are hundreds of dash cams on the market, you might find it challenging to settle for a particular model that does everything right. A dash cam does not have to be expensive to be good.
An example of a good dash cam is Viofo A129 Duo. It is a dual-camera setup for the front and back, with a dedicated mobile app, plenty of settings to play around with, and a wide selection of useful accessories.
Garmin Dash Cam Tandem is a simple dash cam that uses supercapacitors, a dedicated mobile app, and plenty of features and great image quality even during the night. The only downside is that it is rather expensive compared to the Viofo A129 Duo.
Rexing V1 dash cam is a budget pick with reasonable image quality, a well-designed mobile app, and supercapacitors instead of a built-in battery. It is a reliable little dash cam that does not cost a lot of money.