Stuff We Use: What’s the Best Dash Cam?
On our never-ending quest to improve this place by listening to feedback from the B&B, we are taking a new tack with these product posts, choosing instead to focus on items we use and may have purchased with our own meager income. After all, if we’re giving you the truth about cars, we ought to give you the truth about car accessories.
There are many good reasons to stick a dash cam in yer car – not the least of which is the potential for capturing the bonkers behavior of other drivers and then posting it to YouTube for all eternity. Practical reasons such as being able to prove you weren’t the one who ran that red light are also top-of-mind, naturally.
In which camp does your author reside? As it turns out: both.
Attached to the sprawling dashboard of our Challenger is a NextBase branded dash cam, one bearing the 322 model name. While the brand itself sounds like it was simply made up after a misguided marketing jam session, NextBase has emerged as one of the more popular makers of these electronics; if you’ve been in a taxi or Uber, there’s a decent chance some sort of device from NextBase has been along for the ride.
This particular unit is one of the brand’s most popular, thanks to its easily digestible price. The cam’s 1080p HD video quality is what one would expect, no better or worse than others in its price range, and its 140-degree viewing angle is not far off what most humans see whilst looking forward. Footage is recorded on a micro SD card which, once full, starts recording over the oldest videos unless a lock has been activated to prevent that function.
Video files are automatically set to a minute in length and a 1080p HD setting seemed to consume the space on a 32GB card in a matter of a couple of hours, enough for most daily commutes. Reducing image quality to 720p increases recording time commensurably. An associated smartphone app can be deployed to mirror the recordings to a cloud service, though we managed to get the camera to work just fine without giving up digital real estate on our phones. The small touchscreen on the back of this 322 was adequate for initial setup, though the app is surely more user-friendly and likely part of the allure of using it and transferring files from the SD card to a computer was no trouble at all.
A so-called ‘intelligent parking mode’ is designed to wake the camera and automatically start recording if your vehicle is bumped whilst stationary. We had no desire to nudge the Challenger with another car, making me pine for the old days when I usually had at least one demolition derby car parked in my backyard, instead choosing to nudge the Dodge as if an inattentive passerby walked into the car while filming a TikTok video. The cam activated on the second try, suggesting any knock by another driver who’s doing a poor job of parking their car will reliably trigger the NextBase.
The cam comes with a very long power cord, though we do pine for the fictional day in which electricity can somehow be beamed to a device without wires. If you can’t guess, I absolutely detest having a rat’s nest of wires anywhere in my life, whether in cars or an office desk at home. Until that day arrives from the Jetsons, we’ll have to make do with a power cord; with this product, at least said cord is more than long enough to tuck into vehicle trim whilst snaking its way to a 12V power outlet – and honestly, I wouldn’t trust myself to remember to daily recharge a dash cam that’s solely powered by a battery anyway. Options exist to hardwire the thing, as well.
In comparison, our old Charger utilized a dash cam from a different brand, one which was cylindrical in shape. It may be a matter of personal preference but I’ve found this rectangular NextBase unit to blend far more seamlessly behind the car’s rearview mirror, thanks not only to its smaller overall dimensions but also because most objects in the car are of a matching shape. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. Whatever you select, it is a decent idea to mount forward-facing cams like this out of yer sightlines (that’s why we also campaign against mirror hangers and the like).
The price of this 322 model is reasonable, checking in at a couple of hundred bucks, though a cursory glance at websites for big box stores reveals it’s often on sale for $50 off. We feel that’s cheap insurance against the dude in that brodozer who swears he didn’t run the light. NextBase offers more expensive options but unless you’re protecting high-value targets or something, it’s difficult to understand why one would upgrade.
There are add-ons available, priced around $70, including a cabin view camera that’d be ideal for drivers who toil at ride-sharing services. We did sample a matching rear window cam, pairing it with the forward-facing 322 and finding the installation to be needlessly fussy since it is also a wired unit. It didn’t suit our needs but may be a good solution for someone who seeks to cover multiple viewing angles outside the car, especially if they’re concerned about parking lot bumps and wish to take advantage of the automatic wake-up function described earlier.
Sticking with just the main camera will provide great forward-looking protection without blowing yer budget. The 322 was dead simple to set up and captured videos that were easy to view. For an affordable dash cam, we couldn’t ask for much more than that.
As planned, this series of posts will continue to focus on items we’ve actually used. In this case, the unit was provided for testing and we will either be sending it back or donating it to a charity for silent auction at the end of this summer’s driving season. We hope you found this post to be helpful.
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