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Best Dash Cams 2020: reviews and all you need to know

As dash cam sales continue to boom, we test the latest and greatest to find the very best

A dash cam remains one of the most popular aftermarket purchases for motorists. The footage they capture can prove essential in processing an insurance claim, while some providers now discount policies by more than 20 per cent for drivers who have a camera installed.

The latest units feature crystal-clear 4K Ultra HD quality footage, ensuring every detail is captured and stored. Many of the cameras now also include WiFi, allowing users to download footage directly to their phone, as well as to change settings via bespoke apps. Some dash cams can even record while the car is parked on your driveway or in the street. To find out which is the best one to spend your money on, we put nine to the test.

How we tested them

Clarity of footage was key in our test. We wanted models that captured clear images in all possible driving conditions. Ease of use was another priority, and we looked for dash cams that could be operated swiftly and easily. Price from a range of sources was also taken into account.

Verdict

It's a Nextbase one-two podium as the Nextbase 612GW retains its crown again, while the newer 522GW grabs second. Neither Nextbase can quite match the image quality from the Kenwood, but they place higher due to its cheaper price.

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  1. Nextbase 612GW
  2. Nextbase 522GW
  3. Kenwood DRV A601W

Reviews

Nextbase 612GW

  • Price: around £250
  • Rating: 5 stars

Overall, the Nextbase 612GW remains the best dash cam we’ve tested, its 150-degree lens captures footage in 4K Ultra HD quality. Number plates were easy to pick out, road signs were recognisable from a long way off, and pedestrians could still be seen in low light conditions. The polarizing filter on the camera adds depth to the colours that most rivals struggled to match, a and we liked how easy it was to change settings on the move thanks to the responsive touchscreen. 

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Nextbase 522GW

  • Price: Around £154 (including 64GB SD card)
  • Rating: 4.5 stars

We are big fans of Nextbase cameras, because they are so well thought out. Neat magnetic mounts make them easy to remove for security or to swap between cars, and they use really simple apps for your phone and computer to download, analyse and edit footage. All of the data you need, including GPS location, speed and timings is recorded.

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With a 140-degree lens the footage is usefully wide, too, and even though it ‘only’ records at 1,440p resolution, the quality is excellent in all light conditions. We had some trouble setting up the Alexa feature, but once working it offers the ability to protect footage using voice recognition rather than searching for a button. It will even call the emergency services and tell them your location if you are in an accident.

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Kenwood DRV A601W

  • Price: Around £235
  • Rating: 4.5 stars

When Kenwood asked us to test the DRV A601W, its boffins were confident the cam had all of the features needed to topple the Nextbase, such as a magnetic mount, slick viewing apps and 4K footage capability.

The reality is almost as good as the spec, because it works brilliantly and is intuitive to use. The apps are slick, with the smartphone platform being just as clever as Nextbase's 522GW. Neither unit is very easy to connect; often it’s just easier to download away from the car.

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Daytime video is exceptional, as you’d expect from a 4K camera. It’s not quite as wide as the Nextbase but it is detailed, with number plates legible from quite a distance. The Kenwood is a great choice if quality of footage is your priority, but the 522GW isn’t far behind and has Alexa, plus a lower price.

BlackVue DR900S-1CH

  • Price: around £400
  • Rating: 4 stars

The BlackVue is the most costly dash cam that Auto Express has ever tested. But there is a good reason for this: the 4K Ultra HD footage at 30 frames per second that it produces is incredibly clear. That imagery is captured through an ultra-wide 162-degree lens and gives a better field of vision. 

The BlackVue also responds quickly to changing light conditions, with an eight-megapixel sensor. That means we could pick out important detail like street names and number plates in low light conditions, or when driving through heavily shadowed areas. The cam has no screen, but its settings can be adjusted via the BlackVue app. 

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Thinkware Q800 Pro

  • Price: around £269
  • Rating: 4.5 stars

You only get a hardwire lead with the Thinkware Q800 Pro, although it can be powered by a plug-and-play 12V unit. Its sleek design means there’s no screen, and footage is accessed via the Thinkware app. The Q800 Pro comes with a Sony Exmor R Starvis sensor to record 1440p Quad HD-quality footage at 30 frames per second; it’s good, but the Nextbase and BlackVue are better. Low light conditions have always been a Thinkware strength, and the Q800 Pro’s Super Night Vision 2.0 is excellent. The driver-assistance features proved annoying, though, with the system alerting us when going over speed bumps and potholes.

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Philips ADR820

  • Price: around £140
  • Rating: 4 stars

This remains one of the best-value-for-money dash cams you can buy. For such a competitive price, the Philips ADR820 delivers clear and detailed footage. The 140-degree lens records 1296p Super HD footage, and still surprises us with the quality of the images it can produce. Details such as number plates were easy to pick out, while the CMOS sensor on board is great at adding depth and colour to recordings. The menus are also easy to access thanks to the simple screen. However, in low light conditions, rivals such as the Thinkware Q800 Pro proved better, while the Philips also feels cheaper to hold than the top performers in our test.

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Garmin 55

  • Price: around £150
  • Rating: 3.5 stars

Garmin's 55 Dash Cam is one of the best designs in our test, and continues to impress with its small proportions and solid build quality. We like the clear and easy-to-use menus, as well as how sleek the camera is – it takes up very little space on the windscreen. The 1440p recording captured plenty of detail, with number plates clear and easy to spot from far away, although the Nextbase and BlackVue scored better. But we didn’t like the driving-assistance systems, which often alerted us unnecessarily. 

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Thinkware X700

  • Price: around £159 
  • Rating: 3 stars

Another new dash cam from Thinkware. Unlike the Q800 Pro (opposite), the X700 features a 142.7-degree lens, recording in 1080p Full HD quality. The quality of footage couldn’t match our top performers’, as number plates were softer, shadows more pronounced and details such as street names less visible. The X700’s screen makes viewing footage and changing settings easy. But less appealing were the safety warnings when going over speed bumps and potholes.

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Halfords HDC400

  • Price: around £90 
  • Rating: 3 stars

Halfords' HDC400 features a very wide 180-degree lens, which gave the camera the largest field of vision here. Its extra capacity was helpful, although the 1440p footage could have been better. We saw key details like number plates and pedestrians, but the HDC400 couldn’t match the clarity of the best. Low light conditions affected the camera, too. Shadows were more pronounced, and in the evening there was more glare than in rivals like the Q800 Pro. The sleek design means it has no screen, but Halfords’ MyHDC app lets users view the footage.

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Mio J60

  • Price: around £120
  • Rating: 3 stars

This is a new camera from Mio. The 1080p footage at 30 frames per second is captured via a 150-degree lens. We could read number plates on parked cars, and road signs, but plates on passing vehicles were often too blurred. In low light conditions, the footage remained consistent: license plates could still be read, although rivals scored better. The sleek cam doesn’t take up much room, and footage is accessed via the MiVue app, but the driver-assistance features often chimed in during our test. 

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Going on a road trip? Then read our guide on choosing the best Roof Tents here...

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