Need a dashcam for your car? Apparently, you do.
The AA says on its website: “In the heat of the moment, even when you think you had a full view of the road, there are still times when we miss what really happened in an accident. A dashcam could be the answer in settling insurance disputes and claims, and may help you to improve the way you drive.”
There is little doubt that dashcams are an increasingly popular automotive gadget and we thought we would have a look at two recently-launched models, the Mio MiVue 766 WiFi and the Garmin Dash Cam 55 Plus, along with a number of others we’ve tried over the course of this year.
Before we look at individual models, let’s deal with the negatives and get them out of the way.
The instructions/user manuals for both, and their associated websites, are not helpful or particularly clear. If you are an electrical engineer with a side-line in coding or similar you will find them a breeze. Most people are not, and won’t.
Second, to supply the devices with power you need to plug them into the car wherever it has a power outlet. This leaves loose wires on which handbags, briefcases and similar will snag, as will feet and hands. And if you want to charge your phone… in other words, they are not the most convenient in use.
Which leads to the third issue: with more and more cars coming with surround cameras as standard, it is only a matter of time before manufacturers add a recording function and these will start down the slow road to obsolescence.
If you believe the AA and want a dashcam, any of these will certainly do the job. The real question, though, is do you need one?
Mio MiVue 766 WiFi
This is, excuse the pun, a middle-of-the-road model that includes the functions most users will want and leaves out the unnecessary. One very useful addition is that it includes WiFi, so you can connect to your phone and download pictures of your most recent RTA (Road Transport Accident) either as evidence to your insurer or a police person.
Social etiquette point here: other than those folk, people who were there saw it; people who weren’t don’t care. Just like other peoples’ golf stories.
- The Mio has a 1080p Full HD sensor which is all that is required, so long as the lens is clean.
- Mio’s 2.7-inch screen is also a touchscreen, which is better for initial setup.
- It also has GPS, so your location data is saved with your footage and you can prove where you were, or at least where your car was, at a particular time.
- It’s a caring device and alerts you when senses that you are drifting out of your lane or anticipates a forward collision.
- It’s a good, solid and dependable piece of kit.
Garmin Dash Cam 55 Plus
This is a well-designed and attractive unit, with endless functions including speed camera warnings (illegal in some countries), GPS and Wi-Fi. There is voice control, which is handy if you have no-one to talk to, though you can also command it to save and ensure what’s just happened isn’t recorded over when the memory card is full.
This version is an update on an earlier model, now with polariser and lifetime safety camera updates (seriously; be careful, especially in France where your whole car can be confiscated if you use a camera detector).
- The Garmin is one of the smallest dash cams around and has a two-inch screen plus a small magnetic mount, which stops it annoying an easily annoyed passenger who insists on an unobstructed view of the road ahead.
- It’s really simple to remove when you park because all that’s left on the screen is a stuck- on magnet.
- It uses buttons which are placed for left-hand drive cars. New muscle memory needs to be formed if you lob it behind your rear-view mirror.
- The menu system follows the theme of the manual though, to be fair, if you think like a primary school child, and at the same speed, you’ll be fine.
- The supplied memory card is 8GB which is sufficient for around one hour of footage. It supports cards of up to 64GB.
- The power cable is very long so that you can tuck it behind trim panels where it will probably rattle. You can buy a hard-wiring kit which is better on many counts, though clocks in at just under £30.
- It has a lane-departure and forward collision warning and a useful ‘Go’ alert which tells you that traffic has moved away in front you and you haven’t noticed. Why haven’t you noticed? Are you on your phone?
- There is a safety camera database you can access for free via the Garmin Express app.
- Voice recognition is also included, which will save video and even take pictures.
- It’s only available from Halfords
The Car Expert has tested a number of other dashboard cameras over the course of this year. Here’s our take on them, from Cat Dow:
Ring RBGDC15 Onboard cam
This Ring camera is incredibly small. If you’re looking for something that will sit neatly behind the rear-view mirror, this is the one. At around £30, Ring RBGDC15 is the cheapest dashcam we’ve tested. It comes with a suction mount and, surprisingly, a rear screen. Some users might struggle with this 1.5-inch display, which hasn’t the greatest playback—and perhaps the menu buttons.
Yet, for the price point, the footage, obtained by connecting the camera directly to your computer, is pretty impressive. You’ll need to buy a micro SD card, however, since one isn’t supplied.
Transcend DrivePro 230
Transcend’s 230 dashcam is great value at around £100. Not only does it come with a 16GB memory card, but it records in full high definition (HD), has enhanced night view—great for dusk and after-dark recording—and additional features include traffic sign recognition, lane keep assist and speed camera assist.
The size of the device itself is modest, but it’s big enough to have a well-sized rear display. If you’re looking to view and share footage more easily, the companion app is available to download on iOS and Android handsets.
Nextbase’s plug-and-play approach, using top-of-the-range polarised lenses—to mitigate against glare—has made it one of the most popular manufacturers for good quality, reliable dashcams in the UK. Its partnership with Halfords means its good value if you’re looking to hard wire a dashcam in.
Pitched under £100, the 312G has a wide 140-degree angle of vision, easy-to-use companion app and large rear display. Disappointingly, it doesn’t come with a memory card and the recording quality isn’t as good as others we’ve tested.
Silent Witness SW224
The SW224 is THE luxury dashcam. Pricey at almost £200, this unusually-shaped device has the benefit of looking nothing like a dashcam (if you wanted something a little more subtle). There’s no rear display, but image capture is excellent, with great definition and good recording in low light conditions.
The SW224 also features GPS tracking, driver behaviour monitoring and a companion app, which is the only way to view footage. Thoughtfully, the practical 12-volt plug has a dual-USB adaptor, so the camera isn’t hogging the power supply. The magnetic mount is fitted with a sticker and a memory card is included.
Ring’s RBGDC200 is a slightly larger dashcam, with buttons that would suit drivers with less dexterity. The rear screen is adequate and there’s a certain familiarity with the RBGDC200. Buttons are located in a similar place to a personal camera and menus are very easy to navigate.
What the RBGDC200 lacks in style, it makes up for in functionality. It has a start/stop feature, which means as soon as the ignition is turned over, it starts recording. For under £100, the integrated GPS and 1080p resolution make this dash cam a great choice for those looking for a simple vehicle incident recorder.
Thinkware’s F770 is a bit of a fiddle to attach to the windscreen, since it uses 3M stickers. The plastic backing was troublesome and once it’s on, it’s there forever (unless you have a pickaxe to get it back off again).
Once attached, this sleek dashcam sports a low, less conspicuous profile and a lens that can swivel to suit your windshield angle. There’s no rear display, so playback is only available via the companion app.
The 1080p high-definition resolution was top performing and the super night vision feature made easy work of footage captured at night. Packed with expensive components, the £200+ price tag is sort of understandable, but really only justified if aesthetics are really important to you.
Additional reporting by Cat Dow.