The dash cam industry has seen a few updates since CES 2020 with several new model launches yet to come this year. Some of our favourites and best-sellers have moved down in terms of pricepoint which is great news for our customers. These models that may have been around for a year or two typically offer 1080P (Full HD) recording which is good enough for most users. Of course more and more 1440P (2K) and 2160P (4K) options are becoming available with companies like VIOFO leading the charge in offering high resolution at a very reasonable price.
The Thinkware U1000 and VIOFO A129 Pro Duo are newer models that offer 4K recording
For those that aren't sure what to look for in a dash cam, there's a few key criteria we recommend considering to get you started:
- Recording channels (1CH/2CH): This describes whether a camera is 1-channel (front only) or 2-channel (front and rear). 1-channel dash cams provide the essentials in a car camera for insurance purposes and in many cases is often enough to prove fault. Adding a rear camera gives you more evidence such as the license plate of a vehicle behind you. With some vehicles like convertibles or large trucks and vans, a 2-channel system may not be practical and a 1-channel system might be sufficient. Multi-channel setups can be done but as with any system, the more channels, the higher the cost for both the camera and installation.
- Parking Mode: Most dash cams claim to have parking mode but when we refer to a parking mode dash cam, we're talking about ones with pre-buffered recording. This means the dash cam actually gives you 5-10 seconds before a triggering event. Meaning you'll see someone about to hit you, hit you, and leave in the event of a hit and run. With some of the fake parking mode options on the market, you'll only see them leave! If you aren't concerned about parking mode, then things like power consumption, memory partitioning would not be a deal breaker.
- Camera Resolution: Nowadays the minimum on dash cams is generally 1080P (FHD) with QHD and 4K making their way onto the market. The best thing to do is check out sample videos and comparisons to see if the dash cam video quality is sufficient for you. Generally speaking, the more you pay, the better the video quality. Keep in mind that better quality videos will take up more space, so your memory card will loop sooner and files will get deleted earlier. What this means for the end user is that if something happened a few days ago, you're more likely to still be able to find that clip on the same size memory card of a lower resolution camera. We've gone ahead and included larger memory cards for many of our premium 4K dash cams for a better user experience and safer operation.
Entry Level Dash Cams (Under $300)
Our best-sellers in this category all have true buffered parking mode recording. Thinkware's FA200 offers the best in terms of file management (memory partitioning) and a really intuitive WiFi app to configure the parking mode feature, however it is the lowest resolution of the bunch and only offers a 720P rear camera. The Thinkware lineup has been the best in terms of reliability for a few years now with an incredibly low defective rate, they also offer excellent alerts should there be any issues (e.g., memory card error). Blackvue's DR590W excels as a 1CH dash cam with 60FPS, Sony Sensor, and a fast and friendly wifi app. However, as a 2CH dash cam the price point is a lot higher than the FA200 and closer to the higher end Thinkware F800 Pro which offers better video quality and more features. Lastly, for a no-frills dash cam, the VIOFO A119 V3 will offer noticeably better video quality than both the FA200 and DR590W but without a WiFi feature.
These dash cams start at around $150 without installation and are the cheapest we'd recommend if you're looking for reliable performance and acceptable video quality. They all come from reputable companies with proven track records and are widely tested cameras.
Mid-Tier Dash Cams ($300-$600)
Stepping up to this pricepoint you can expect Sony (or equivalent) premium CMOS sensors for both front and rear cameras, faster WiFi, built-in GPS, and more. Thinkware's F800 Pro has been our best-seller for about 2 years now and is the refinement of the F750 and F770 that preceded it. You may notice that the pricepoint is not much lower than the Q800 Pro which is the same system but with a 2K front camera. We find that the Q800 offers only a marginal increase in video performance but the larger file sizes and higher price make it an unnecessary compromise. Another camera to consider is the VIOFO A129 Pro Duo, a new model which offers exceptional 4K quality at a mid-grade price point. The difference here is that file sizes are very big so it may not be the best parking mode camera but otherwise it is a value leader that's very highly reviewed.
We do not recommend the iRoad X9 which is the direct competitor to the F800 Pro or A129 Pro Duo for a few reasons. Firstly, the proprietary JDR file format is not user-friendly compared to the .MP4 type format which is supported by virtually all devices. Also, the camera does not offer a buffered parking mode recording function so it isn't capable of capturing the full event in some cases. We like this camera's small form factor and high heat rating but it lags behind in key areas. Unfortunately the 4K iRoad X10 carries on with the same tradition.
Flagship Dash Cams
The Blackvue DR900S-2CH has been around for about 2 years now but remains very popular. A replacement is scheduled soon but with the only real added feature of an LTE sim slot, they aren't doing much to re-imagine this camera. The WiFi is exceptionally fast in 5GHz mode and can transfer a 4K file quickly, in fact it is better than the newer Thinkware U1000 in terms of transfer speeds. That being said, most users are not downloading and sharing that many videos so this isn't a deal breaker. The Thinkware has a low profile design that we prefer although looks are subjective. The rear camera on the Thinkware U1000 is also better offering 2K instead of the 1080P rear camera on the DR900S-2CH. Considering the similar pricepoint, the U1000 is the better way to go with more advanced memory partitioning and higher resolution recording. We can't wait to see what's next from Blackvue and other manufacturers though!
If you're still not sure which model to go with, contact us for a free consultation! Let us know what car you have, what your needs and budget are, and we'll work towards finding a solution for you. You can e-mail, text, or call us with any questions you may have. We also have a price match program, so if you do see a lower advertised price, let us know and we'll try our best to match or even beat it!