First-time dashcam buyer? With the sheer number of choices currently available on the market, the decision is not an easy one. We’ve prepared a list that will help you choose a dashcam tailored for you! What features should you pay attention to? What are the most important things to consider when choosing a dashcam? This article will explain that.
Basic (and less basic) features
Make sure to check what features the dashcam you’re considering has. Loop recording should come as the most basic requirement for a dashcam. It refers to the ability to record over old footage when it runs out of space on the microSD card/memory. GPS comes as a close second, as it will be able to add geographical and speed data to your videos. While premium dashcams usually come with built-in GPS, entry models may require a GPS receiver sold separately. Next, some sort of format-free recording technology should be a must as well. Without diving too deep into the details, this means your dashcam’s memory storage will stay stable over time without requiring frequent formatting, by keeping your files organized in a tidier way.
If you’re looking for something extra, consider a Cloud-connected dashcam. With your dashcam connected to the Internet and automatically uploading the most important videos to the Cloud, you can work (or sleep, or enjoy your outing) without worrying about your car.
There is a great number of dashcams available on the market right now. And quite a big chunk of them claim to be 4K – which is often not true. We call that “fake 4K”, meaning that in reality some of these dashcams are really full HD (1080p) upscaled (or simply, stretched) to look like 4K. There are also models that claim 2160p resolution, referring to the vertical resolution, but omitting the fact that they do not meet the horizontal resolution requirements of Ultra HD (3840 pixels). There are a few ways to tell if a dashcam is a “fake 4K” – low frame rate, resolution that is anything other than 3840 x 2160 pixels, image sensor and chipsets.
Looking for a 4K UHD dashcam? BlackVue DR900X series offers true 4K UHD image quality.
Sometimes, it is not all about resolution, though, and what holds true for conventional cameras also holds true for dashcam sensors: sometimes, a lower resolution model might offer better ISO sensitivity. A Full HD model could record at a higher frame rate than a higher-resolution model as well. Different dashcams might also be more or less good at capturing details in contrasted scenes, whether in daylight or at night.
Built-in battery? Supercapacitor?
Next thing to consider is the built-in battery. We recommend picking a model with a supercapacitor. While a first-time dashcam buyer might be enticed by a dashcam with a built-in lithium battery, we strongly recommend against it. Indeed, a lithium ion battery might sound handy at first, as a way to power the dashcam in Parking Mode or use it as an action cam, even. However, there is a good reason why most premium dashcam brands feature a supercapacitor instead of a lithium ion battery. A supercapacitor is a short-term battery that is designed to let the dashcam shut down safely. The supercapacitor generally provides just enough power to save the video in progress without corrupting the file, and then shut down. Why is a supercapacitor one of the common characteristics of “premium” dashcams, if it cannot provide more than a few seconds of power, then? That’s because supercapacitors are designed to function in extreme temperatures, as opposed to power-dense lithium batteries, which are actually fire hazards in a vehicle, where temperatures can easily raise above 60 or 70 degrees Celsius (140-158F). Then you might wonder how to power the dashcam in Parking Mode. You can do that with Parking Mode kits and batteries.
Beside recording while you are driving, a dashcam with Parking Mode can also protect your vehicle while you are away. Parking Mode might operate a bit differently from model to model but the bottom line is that Parking Mode is a crucial feature of a good dashcam. So much so that we could have as well listed it as part of the “basic features”. What it does is generally operate in a sort of standby mode, so as to save storage space while still recording critical incidents. Some models will trigger recordings based on motion detected by the lens, as well as impacts detected by the built-in accelerometer (G-sensor).
Some models may also provide a time lapse mode which allows recording for tens of hours without filling up the microSD card. A good Parking Mode dashcam will then be able provide you with video evidence in case of a hit-and-run on your parked vehicle. Parking Mode is a great feature that gets even better when combined with Cloud capability for maximum peace of mind while away from your car.
Generally, dashcams come with two types of mounts which help you attach it to the windshield: sticky pads and suction cups. Sticky pads are not meant to be repositioned frequently – once you install it, you should be able forget about it for a long time. They also limit vibrations and allow for a more discreet mount design. They usually have a stronger hold than suction cups. Suction cups can be repositioned and removed at will, but they can also be more prone to vibrations, which can cause a shaky image. The hold of the suction cup is weaker compared to a sticky pad. In case of a collision, a suction cup is more likely to fly off or simply fall off over time. The mount design is also bulkier and less stealthy than the one dashcams using sticky pads provide.
Screen or no screen?
Another important point is the form factor of the dashcam. You might have noticed that many come with a built-in screen. But is it really necessary? A dashcam with a screen has its pros, of course, such as the ease of installation of angling it properly.
On the other hand, dashcams without a screen are on the rise nowadays. Stealthy and unobtrusive, they provide safety and security advantages a screen dashcam cannot. You can find more on the screen vs. no-screen problem in this article.
Here’s the thing – it’s easy to find cheap dashcam for as low as $20 on Ebay. But you’re generally getting what you’re paying for. From bad image quality to unreliable recording, you never know what you’re getting. Consider it an investment – dashcam may be a considerable upfront cost, but it often pays for itself over time when it’s used as evidence in case of accidents or for insurance claim purposes.
We know it’s not an easy decision, and we hope this article made it a little less complicated for you. Take a while and think about what you need as a driver and what your driving habits are. Do you commute to work every day and then leave your car parked on the curb for hours? You should consider a LTE dashcam dashcam that will let you keep an eye on your vehicle at all times, and a Parking Mode accessory that will let your dashcam record even when your engine is off (without worrying about killing your car’s battery). Do you prefer something simpler, that will just record your weekend drives? There’s a wide range of simple yet sturdy dashcams, such as the BlackVue DR590X Series, to choose from. If you’d like to take a look at the entire BlackVue line-up of dashcam models and compare the features, you can take a look at this article. Safe driving!