/ Motoring, Technology

Life with a dashboard camera – my first impressions

Dashcam

We’ve heard that many of you would consider buying a dashboard camera to protect yourselves against scams on the road. So we bought our own to see what life with a ‘dashcam’ is like.

If you’ve ever spent any time on Youtube, chances are you’ve stumbled upon videos where unhinged drivers slew across the road causing chaos and destruction, felling lampposts and forcing pedestrians to dive out of the way. These are all filmed on dashboard cameras.

The reason so many people are resorting to dashcams is not to become Youtube tycoons, but to protect themselves from scams on the roads. In our poll, 59% of you said that you would consider buying a dashboard camera, so we thought we’d buy our own and see how we got on.

Easy to use, but prices are high

I went for a NextBase In-Car Cam 402G Professional as it offers full high definition recording, GPS logging, a wide angle lens plus motion detection and a G-force sensor.

And the price for all this? Just short of £150. That may sound expensive for a potential defence against scams, but a number of dashboard cameras cost over £300, so this NextBase represents a typical mid-range model. Add in the fact that several car insurers offer discounts of up to 15% if you own a dashcam and the price seems much more palatable.

Fitting the NextBase is simple with a satnav style suction cup that attaches to the windscreen and a long power cable that plugs into a cigarette lighter. Press the on button and the dashboard camera records until you switch it off.

However, even in the week I’ve had with it, sometimes it felt like an effort to fish out the camera, plug it in and arrange the long power cable so that it wasn’t dangling down in front of me. I ended up looping the power cord over the passenger sun visor. Although, if you plan to keep the mount in the car, you could feed the wire around the windscreen more discreetly.

Image quality could be better

NextBase In-Car Cam 402G Professional

NextBase In-Car Cam 402G Professional software (click to enlarge)

The main reason to buy a dashcam is so you can provide evidence that you’re not to blame for an insurance claim. So, image quality is paramount. If you can’t make out number plates in all conditions then your dashcam isn’t really fit for purpose.

Based on our first few outings the NextBase seems to provide reasonable footage, apart from in darker conditions where number plates were often illegible. However, this may be down to my car’s heated windscreen, which gives night images a speckled quality.

If you already own a dashcam, how are you finding it? And if you’re considering buying one, tell us why.

Comments
Raymond Morris says:
9 March 2015

I cannot get my recent aquired 204g to operate at all , I paid short of £150.00
Had it set up on I Pad no avail.
Have just had Heart attack now ok.
But too late to get my money back

Mike hardyQ4 says:
10 March 2015

I’m looking for incar cctv night camera in case of break in can you get camera for the purpose…?? If so which one, may be some one can point me in the right direction 🙂
Thanks
Mike

Hi Mike, thanks for your comments. The closest we’ve tested are dash cams – you can read all our reviews here:

http://www.which.co.uk/technology/computing/reviews/dash-cams-and-in-car-cameras/

All dashboard cameras should be capable of filming at night. However, even the top-performing model in our tests left room for improvement with its night-time image quality.

Ian Dick says:
18 March 2015

I am putting off buying a dash camera for a while as this idea of a camera and screen is far too clumsy. What is the point of having all that and trying to hide it behind the rear view mirror.
What is required is a small HD camera behind the mirror and the screen equipment that can be viewed if required tucked away some where in the car, there is absolutely no point in having one on your windscreen if it comes to that it’s a distraction and looks terrible. I think there is only one on the Market just now at a reasonable price that is like stated. So to sum up small HD camera only behind mirror really thin cable ( easy to hide ) going to the main screen box that can be hidden in car. ARE YOU LISTENING MANUFACTURERS. IAN. JHK1V

liam barrett says:
29 March 2015

i bought a dash cam today, all be it basic, but its £25 with good quality sound and video, i know the reasoning behind these and believe it or not 5 minutes after buying it i had some idiot drive into my car n try and blame me, roll on the insurance lol.

I bought the NextBase 402G solely on the “Which” best buy recommendation, there is so much “choice” out there, it gives me a head-ache.

“Which” : I am far from delighted.

1) The 402G is not recognised as a USB device and I cannot find any Win7 drivers to enable that.
THis means I have to fiddle the sd card out and into a card reader then vice-versa when I want to view any footage.

2)The play-back software works after a fashion, but its clunky and difficult to navigate. It dose not stay selected on “Protected” files, every time you change folders, you have to re-select for “Protected” or wade through the lot. Who has an hour or more to spend hunting through a half hour journey?

3) The glaring error is that, when a file is manually protected by the driver following an incident which occurs very near the end of that particular file, the incident itself and lead-up may well be lost and just the aftermath saved…too late.

Protecting one file should also protect the preceding and next file to give a full story.

4) The NextBase website is a disaster area with broken links left right and centre. Even their “Contact” form doesn’t seem to work and strange things happen. Certainly no acknowledgement or reply has come back to my eMail yet. I’m not holding my breath.

Thanks a LOT, “Which.”

Yours sincerely, disabled and low income pensioner.

Andrew says:
29 July 2015

The 302 has similar issues. It does recognise as a block device when connected by the USB lead, but is very slow! 1Mbps transfer rate 😛 . Taking the card out and using the built-in card reader, it is 16Mbps transfer rates. If you wish to play files back on a PC/laptop/whatever, copy them off the SD card to your device and play from there.

Yes, the big downside to this camera is the lack of a protect file button without using G meters, not worth enabling in places like Reading. It would be nicer to have a simpler way of recording and protecting minor shunts, road rage and the like without having to remember the time of the incident and doing maths to find the right file!

Mrhonda says:
19 April 2015

Bought the nextbase 420g last week and I found it easy to use, if you have a PC that can view HD video in .mov format (QuickTime MP4). You need a class 10 micro SD card £15 in tescos for a 32gb, which will give you over 400 mins of record time @1080p full HD. Installation disc has all instructions on and software to view journies with all stats including heavy braking/acceleration all linked to google maps. Hide the cam behind the rear view mirror and tucked up the cable along the roof lining quite neat and tidy+ I put black tape over the white lettering making it not stand out. Image and audio recording is very good crisp and clear, even at night I was surprised how good the image was
420g price 9/10 quality 9/10 easy to setup 8/10 performance 9/10
Also comes with hdmi cable to play back on your TV,nice!

J.calder says:
29 April 2015

I am totally satisfied with the research into this model and the mixed comments………I would really like to purchase a camera that fixes on or in front of the inside mirror and also one that provides me with a rear view as well………. Would someone please comment very soon… 29/4/2015…….

B J Santa Maria says:
17 July 2015

Hi
Halfords are now selling the Nextbase Dash Camera.If you still want two.

Jim lucas says:
18 May 2015

This is basically a plug and play device. Image quality is one of the best. I have used professional in car cameras with work, this unit is far better at a fraction of the cost. It has settings that can be adjusted for better view clarity, you need to read the instructions to get the best out of it. For the price it offers lots of high end technology. I would recommend this to anyone wishing to have that piece of mind whilst driving.

nik says:
18 May 2015

please where can you buy the installation CD pronextbase 402 g profesionalc

J .calder says:
5 June 2015

i want a dashboard camera that will record front vision and record rear view traffic-preferably one that will fix onto the interior mirror., somewhere in the region of £50- £100…..which one? Please comment….. Thank you……..

I’m glad to let you know that our Cars Team have reviewed plenty of dashboard cameras here:

http://www.which.co.uk/technology/computing/reviews/dash-cams-and-in-car-cameras/

I’d also have a read through our really helpful, online guide about buying the best dash cam for further information 🙂 :

http://www.which.co.uk/technology/computing/guides/how-to-buy-the-best-dash-cam/

Jimbo says:
6 June 2015

Hi
Just a thought.Why is it called a dashboard camera.It’s nearly always attached to the windscreen?
I use a mobile app camera,Such a lot less fuss involved.If nothing happens-and nothing has for 50 years- just delete it later.

Tony says:
12 June 2015

I have bought a cheap camera for myself and also for my daughters car. I just cannot believe what happened today. My daughter had her car in for MOT. It failed because she had the camera installed on the windscreen. It is fitted just slightly above where the tax disc holder used to be. I cannot believe that this is classed as an MOT failure. Does anyone else have any experience of this.

Yes. The MOT regs now require all appendages to be removed from the windscreen… cameras, mobile holders, notebook holders, etc., but I only find out when my MOT was also refused and the change was then confirmed by my garage. I would have apprecieated being told about it before they took it off for the test!

K.ingram says:
12 July 2015

You cannot have any obstruction or damage above 10mm in zone”a” or above 40mm on the windscreen swept area.know the mot rules and you won’t be so surprised when your car fails its mot.as an mot tester you are given the option of removing items from drivers view before the test starts.

Pete says:
17 July 2015

Is there a remote battery or power source available for the 402g? I have just bought one after my car was damaged at work by a hit and run but the built in battery only lasts for 6 minutes. Also, if i hardwire it to the car battery/fuse box how much of a drain would it be to use it for the day, every day to protect my car from damage again by hit and run?
Thanks
Pete

The 420g manual gives its consumption as 5V 600mA – so 3 Watts. If your battery is in good condition it should not be a problem. There is a lead provided to connect to a car auxiliary socket. Provided that is always live (not switched by the ignition) you could use that.

The built-in battery on the 402g model is only intended to operate the camera for 6 minutes to maintain operation in the event of temporary interruption of supply. On most modern cars, power sockets are only live when the ignition is ‘on’. Some owners do modify power sockets to provide continuous power, but it is essential that a fuse is included in the supply.

I have mine plugged to an Ignition-on socket; the camera switches itself on and off quite happily.

In spite of that, my previous observations ( 8 April 20150 still hold, but I’m stuck with this one as I can’t afford to shop around for another without the failings I mentioned.

I don’t understand the numpties who gave me thumbs down for that comment…its simply my experience and valid observation…don’t you like truth or what?

Jenny says:
22 July 2015

I have the next base 402 dash cam and now it’s decided not to turn on and I don’t know why. The blue light is on but no image any ideas and its warm to the touch

Can you get in to the settings menu?

There are different timings available for how long the screen displays after start-up. It should be on at least when it starts, then switch off after your choice of time so as not to be a distraction whilst driving.

If that doesn’t work, its probably cooked.

find and press the reset button

Andrew says:
29 July 2015

Using the 302G, I get some very loud static interference on the audio while driving, which dies down when the engine is idle. This is happening with two units, one exchanged at Maplin, which suggests a design or manufacturing fault. Has anybody else had a problem with horrible crackle on their video?

derek says:
12 February 2016

I have the same crackle interference , don’t know what to do ?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Ross says:
18 August 2015

I’m thinking of buying the Nexbase 420g pro,but know very little about these cameras any help would be appreciated. Do I need a camera with sound not sure if the 420g comes with sound or not,

A happy Bloke says:
19 August 2015

Hi

I’ve had no problems with this camera whatsoever. I’ve set it to record in 5 min loops. Someone was worried about losing the lead up files prior to a crash. Maybe a longer loop setting would help. Also, don’t just rely on having one micro sad card in the car, I have 2/3 micro sad cards, so in the event of a crash, I’d just replace the whole card. If you own a phone like a Samsung Galaxy you can also put the micro sd in there and transfer any files to the camera for safe keeping in the event of a crash.

As for transferring the the files to the PC, I have used the camera itself and connected to Win 7 pro with no problems. I have also just put the card in a card reader. I don’t use the software provided as I have my own (Cyberlink) for play back.

I’d highly recommend this camer.

Cheers
S

Dave mullis says:
27 August 2015

I just bought after a bit of research,a Garmin 10 dash cam from Messrs Halfords in Norwich today. Get the damned thing home,unpack it only to find the power cable is woefully short. In my bitter experience in order to make the the cable “invisible” and neat and tidy,you need something like 3 metres to run it up the door pillars etc…I don’t want it “hard wired” to the vehicle. It’s a GARMIN. Now I don’t know about these things,but I naturally thought with all their expertise and experience that a power cable of a suitable length would be in the pack! Well of course it isn’t!! So here I go back to Halfords. Now, nobody was especially keen to sell it to me,can you imagine how they will cope with me asking for my money back? This could be good? Am I ever gonna find out how good the device is?

I’ve had a Smartwitness for about 18 months now. Last week somebody hit my car and left no details. Went to get camera footage from SD card – guess what? Card unreadable!!!!

My advice for the future – probably to regularly pop the card out and make sure its still working. Bit of a chore frankly

I have just purchased the 202 model, spent 4 hours trying to get it set up with a brand new 32g card. I keep getting “sd format error” which my vista PC won’t rectify and the USB connection does nothing also. The camera is now stuck in “sd card error” and when trying to change any setting it has a mind of its own.
One more try tomorrow, if still having problems then it’s going back to Halfords.