Need a dash cam for some extra peace of mind? We bought 11 of the best dash cams and took them on the road for more than 500 miles of driving. After reviewing the footage, installing and uninstalling each model in various cars, and tinkering with every available setting and feature, we've found the best camera for every purpose. Maybe you want evidence to ensure a minor driving incident doesn't turn into an extended legal battle, or you're a rideshare driver needing to record inside and outside of your car. Or perhaps you simply want to capture your sunset cruises — we'll help you find the perfect dashboard companion.
The Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual is one of the best cameras you will find on the market today. It includes just about every option you could look for in a dash cam. The front-facing camera can record in crystal-clear 2.5k resolution with a wide (but not distorted) 170˚ field of view. The secondary cabin-facing camera records in 1080p HD with a 140˚ field of view. If you are a rideshare driver, the secondary camera on the N2 Pro can be an essential tool if you need photo or video proof of rough and rowdy guests, experience any unwanted damage in your vehicle, or can be a way to help you feel safe. The camera also has a microphone to capture any verbal interactions. On top of this great video quality and nearly 310˚ of coverage, the N2 Pro's rear-facing camera has infrared sensors that enable it to capture usable images even in complete darkness.
A definite downside to the N2 is its price. It is almost twice the price of some other single-camera models that can also produce impressively clear footage. That extra cost is only really worth it if you need the second cab-facing camera. The unit itself is also a bit on the bulky side, but we honestly prefer having one larger unit over other dual-camera models with separate units connected by a mess of wires. Finally, this model lacks wireless video sharing, so you must plug in the camera (or the micro SD card) to a computer to download its video. These things aside, this is the best camera we've found for rideshare drivers or anyone that wants a cab-facing camera with high-quality video capture.
The Vantrue N1 Pro is a low-profile camera that performs well and won't break the bank. It has a wide 160-degree field of view with 1080p resolution. That said, its video quality is somewhat grainy, but license plates and street signs are still legible. The Vantrue includes a G-Sensor, which triggers the camera to lock in videos after a sudden stop or accident. When hardwired, the N1 has a 24-hour parking mode, which will automatically begin recording when nearby movement is detected. Though if you don't want to hardwire this cam, it has a 130mAh 3.7V Polymer Li-ion battery, which will keep things rolling on long drives.
Though the Vantrue N1 has decent daytime video quality, it's lacking at nighttime. License plates become almost impossible to read with its large, washed-out glare. Additionally, it doesn't have WiFi connection access and completely relies on one camera to capture everything. All in all, this is still a great option that won't empty your pockets.
With its dual, or tandem, cameras, the Garmin Tandem offers visibility outside and inside your vehicle. Both cameras offer a whopping 180° field of view, with little to no distortion. This level of visibility on a cab-facing camera is a rare feature that ensures you'll catch everything you may need. The camera's quality is no joke either. The exterior cam offers 1440p vision during the day and 720p in the dark, and the interior camera offers 720p vision across the board. The voice commands and app make this dash cam easy to use and the slim body leaves your driving view unobstructed, which is something that most bulky dual-cammed devices do not offer.
While the app and voice commands are very user-friendly, the interface on the device itself is rather minimal and less intuitive. The Tandem is also devoid of a screen. Because the device is so small, a screen would be somewhat useless anyways, but it is a feature worth noting, especially for its higher price tag. These issues will only burden the user if they do not have a smartphone or would prefer not to use the app. Overall the Tandem is a great option for anyone who needs to record inside and outside their vehicle.
The Nextbass 622GW comes equipped with a massive screen when compared to the average dash cam. This three-inch LCD touch screen is accurate and easy to see. The 622GW offers a number of safety features like parking mode, SOS services, and Alexa support, all easily navigated by a clearly labeled and intuitive menu. The video quality and reliability are great, ensuring you don't miss a beat.
Our biggest gripe with the Nextbass 622GW is its price. While there is no denying that it is a high-performing option, others in our test suite almost match its performance for a fraction of the price. If you are looking for an intuitive dash cam with a large touch screen and do not mind spending the money, the 622GW is an option you should explore further.
Why You Should Trust Us
In completing this review, we captured more than 50 hours of footage, driving more than 500 miles, day and night. We became familiar with the installation process of each camera in multiple cars and carefully noted the impact that each product setup has on peripheral vision. Once we got a feel for how to operate each of these cameras, we then offloaded all the video, using both memory cards and each camera's associated app, onto a computer. Then we compared both day and nighttime footage from each camera side-by-side, paying special attention to things like how each model captured license plate numbers and the impact that travel, speed, and light conditions have on video clarity.
This review is brought to you by a talented and thorough testing team. We have tested and reviewed more than 200 smart and video capture devices over the years. Our testers have a very good idea of the features that can make gadgets like these integrate well into your daily life and the kinds of drawbacks that may make them more trouble than they're worth.
In her tenure with GearLab, Michelle Powell has designed and implemented testing for hundreds of products, including dozens of audio, video, and security-related items. Whether you simply want to document a beautiful drive or need a camera to accurately record incident information, she has you in mind. Becca Glades is a software developer and well-versed in tinkering with gadgets of all kinds. Through this, she brings her analytical skills and technical knowledge to the table. Matt Spencer is no stranger to the tech world, as he is an avid gamer. Since a young age, science and analytics have intrigued him, ensuring our testing team is lush with those who pay special attention to detail. Hayley Thomas makes up the sixth and final part of this stellar testing team. She lives in her converted Sprinter van and travels wherever her wheels will take her, exploring windy mountain roads, busy cities, and long stretches of the wide-open country. Considering her home is also her vehicle, she must take every safety precaution she can, helping to bring this review a true user perspective.
Analysis and Test Results
Most dash cams have similar levels of functionality and performance, so you'll likely choose one based on a specific feature or price point. We designed our tests to identify and amplify those small differences. After spending over 100 hours driving and sorting through the resulting footage, we graded each camera on its video quality, reliability, convenience in capturing and offloading video, interface design, and how much space the units take up on a windshield.
Dash cameras differ in price mainly as a function of how many features any given model has. The Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual is reasonably priced and has some of the best features, like a cabin-facing camera and infrared night vision. If you're looking to spend as little as possible, then the minimalistic experience of the Vantrue N1 Pro will satisfy most people's needs, though its video isn't quite as crisp as that of the pricey Garmin Dash Cam Tandem.
Is Your Dash Cam Legal?
Dash cams are completely legal in most areas as long as they don't obscure more than a seven-inch square of the windshield on the passenger side or more than a five-inch square on the driver's side. Some government agencies do not allow mounting anything on the windshield, in which case you'll have to get a dashboard mount to make it legal. Be sure to research your state's specific laws.
We compared the footage from each of the cameras we tested to determine which models rose to the top. Every camera provided visible footage, though some offered a bit more clarity and quality. An area where video quality differs is in low-light situations. We analyzed all of the videos from both a practical perspective (e.g., the ability to read license plates) and a recreational perspective (e.g., sharing scenery on social media). We conducted all of these tests in various daytime lighting conditions and at night to cover the full range of potential driving scenarios.
The best performer in our video testing was the Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual. Its 2.5K resolution produces very crisp footage, and the wide 170° field of view covers a lot of area without making the video look distorted. In daylight footage, we had no problem with reading license plate numbers, even in swift-moving traffic. This model is also one of the only cameras on the market with infrared sensors (on the cab-facing camera only), resulting in usable images even in the complete dark. However, it is worth noting that the video quality is slightly lower on the cab-facing cam, and it has a narrower field of view than the front-facing camera. Occasionally at night, we had a bit of trouble making out license plates on moving cars, which was the only reason this model missed out on a perfect score.
A handful of other models fell just behind the Vantrue N2 Pro in our video quality tests. All of these cameras produce clear, crisp video with reasonable color accuracy. However, some had performances worth mentioning. The Miofive 4K has an astonishing 4K resolution with 140° field of view. During the day, it had clear video quality, and we had no trouble reading license plates. However, at night, we had more trouble making out those characters as headlights can wash out the video.
The Tandem field of view comes in at an impressive 180°. We were pleasantly surprised with the lack of distortion we experienced on such a wide angle. The cab-facing camera on the Tandem is of lower quality at 720p, and the external-facing camera drops down to the same resolution in the dark. Still, overall we were very impressed with the Tandem's image quality.
The Garmin 57 offers 1440 pixel resolution and a 180-degree field of view, but the lens flare at night makes reading license plates extremely difficult. The Nextbase 622GW has a similar issue but performs a little better at night than the Garmin 57. Both work okay during the day with vibrant colors and a mostly clear image.
The Thinkware X1000 is a dual camera system with 156° field of view in both front and back. The daytime video quality is particularly impressive, with no graininess and excellent viewing of license plates. Unfortunately, we can't say as much about its nighttime quality. We couldn't make out any license plates due to graininess and glare.
All dash cams capture video using a technique called loop recording, where many video clips of a specified length get saved to a memory card (in this case, a micro SD card). When the memory card fills up, the oldest clips get deleted to make way for the new ones. If a dash cam's G-sensor senses an incident (like a car accident), it will protect the current clip from being deleted until you physically delete it, ensuring the most important footage is not lost. All dash cams in our review come with a feature that automatically starts recording when the car is started, and evidence that its G-sensor is effective. Beyond that, we assessed the loop recording options offered by each camera. Shorter loop recording clips, say one minute, prevent the memory card from filling up with clips from every time you brake hard, but it also increases the likelihood that an event could occur towards the very end of a clip, with most of the action occurring in the next, unprotected clip. Longer clips take up much more space but are protected against this possibility. Finally, we assessed footage management in this metric, giving higher scores to models that have built-in WiFi networks that allow you to beam clips directly to your phone instead of removing a memory card and plugging it into a computer.
The Rexing V2 earned top marks in this metric. It has a sensitive G-sensor and records in one, three, and five-minute clips. This three-camera option has collision warnings, lane departure warnings, and a parking monitor. The parking monitor feature turns on the camera automatically when it detects movement, even if the car is parked and off. The internal camera has infrared (IR) night vision and accurately records the cabin in low light.
Also earning high marks in this metric is the Nextbase 622GW. It includes various advanced safety features made possible by built-in WiFi and GPS. Although the WiFi is not particularly unique, the 622GW offers emergency SOS response, intelligent parking mode, and built-in voice control. Most of the devices in our test suite offer Event Detection G Sensor, but not all of them work as well as the Garmin 57. The 57 is triggered by a hard break, ensuring every potential accident is caught on video.
Vantrue N2 Pro. It offers loop recording clip settings of one, three, and five minutes. This is more than most cameras provide, but it does lack the 10-minute option that some offer. The unique cab-facing camera also captures audio, which is great for rideshare drivers, as you can record any verbal interactions that might occur with one of your passengers. You will need to disclose that your passenger is being recorded in most states.
Another top performer is the Miofive 4K, which connects through a mobile app and includes GPS location. Though it only records one-minute clips, its G-sensor was sensitive enough to start recording with an abrupt stop. Like most others, this includes WiFi connectivity, which helps free up the Bluetooth bandwidth for your phone.
The Rove R2-4K earns a notable mention in our video capture category because of the built-in WiFi, 3-minute clips, and constant video saving. Unlike most of the other models in our test suit, the Rove does not require a verbal command, clicking of any buttons, or a hard stop or crash that triggers a G-force sensor to save footage. It is saving everything that happens in three-minute clips all the time. Once the storage is full, it simply deletes the oldest clip to make room for the newest one. This gives it a huge leg up in recording liability.
The Vantrue N1 Pro and Vantrue 4 are two more options worth mentioning. Both have WiFi, auto-on, and Event Detection G Sensor, but V1 has a leg up in its ability to offer reliability via its long battery life, ensuring you never miss a beat, even on cross-country road trips. They both have one, three, and five-minute clip lengths but the Vantrue 4 comes equipped with an interior camera, while the N1 does not.
The Garmin Tandem is another model with built-in WiFi, which makes it easy to offload footage. The fixed, one-minute loop recording clip length can go both ways. This relatively short amount of time is fine if you're looking to be economical with the space on your memory card, but some people may want a slightly longer clip. That being said, if the Tandem senses an accident it will save the clip in which the impact was detected, as well as the minute before and the minute after. This ensures that you will more than likely catch the entire accident on camera. The Tandem also offers audio recording in the cab, which is great for rideshare drivers.
Many of the dash cams in our lineup have a small LCD screen that lets you see what the camera is seeing and displays settings menus and some controls to navigate those menus. This interface allows you to position the camera correctly, select specific video capture settings, and review and manage the camera's footage. In our testing, we used the LCD screen to position and reposition the cameras in multiple cars, and extensively used each control panel to change settings and manage footage. For those that do not have an on-camera view screen, we simply used the associated smartphone app. We were able to get a very good feel for the annoyances and benefits inherent in each camera's interface after choosing every setting possible and sorting through over a hundred hours of video.
The Nextbase 622GW stands out from the crowd with its three-inch LCD touch screen. The large screen makes the image easier to see and the menu easier to navigate. The touch screen is accurate and responsive, the buttons are labeled distinctly, and the menu is very intuitive. The visual quality is also crisp and clear. Updating the software and sharing imagery is made easy with built-in WiFi.
With a large 3.5-inch touchscreen, the Thinkware was particularly easy to use. The main menu has options for volume control, brightness, microphone settings, a parking list, and a file list. Here you can find the video gallery. The Thinkware also has quick access settings, which are easy to spot and convenient. Additionally, the device has large and well-labeled buttons, making this camera that much more user-friendly.
The Garmin 57 is not too far behind. All Garmin devices offer voice commands, which help with user-friendliness and making your driving experience safer. The 57 has a small two-inch screen equipped with decent menus. The prompt before operating is mildly annoying but clears itself after a moment. This device offers safety alerts, but the lane alignment is not always accurate, triggering false alarms while driving. Luckily you can turn this setting off rather easily, which we highly recommend because these alerts can be very distracting. The Tandem and Mini also offer these features, but the tiny screen of the mini and the lack of a screen on the Tandem make things a little less user-friendly for the lower-performing Garmins.
We like but don't love the interface of the Vantrue N2 Pro, N1, and N4. They provide relatively intuitive menus and reliable controls for navigating those menus. The cameras have more features than almost any other model on the market, which is wonderful, but the teensy 1.5-inch screen on the N2 and N1 is our biggest gripe. Navigating all the settings related to those snazzy features on such a small screen had us squinting while sifting through menus. The N4 is way bigger, at 2.5 inches, making it much easier to see.
The worst thing one of these cameras can do is encroach on your peripheral vision and create a visual annoyance or, worse, an impediment. These cameras all have different style mounts and may be affixed in different areas of the windshield (for example, some go in the corner while others hide behind the rearview mirror). Thus we evaluated each model's visual footprint subjectively, driving with each on our windshield for dozens of hours in varying conditions and noting how often we noticed the camera in our vision and how distracting it was when that happened.
The Garmin Mini offered the least visually obtrusive profile of all the cameras we tested. We hardly noticed this camera when it was tucked in the corner of the windshield or to the right side of the rearview mirror. Though it doesn't have a built-in screen, its tiny size is hard to beat.
The Garmin 57 and Tandem present slightly larger profiles but are still very compact. These use adhesive mounts that cut down on overall bulkiness compared to suction mounts, although in many applications, the suction mount is better suited. The Garmin 57 is slightly larger than the mini, but its angular shape allows it to hide away quite well.
Outside of the top models, all of the cameras we tested have large enough visual footprints to be easily noticed while driving but aren't so large as to be a constant annoyance. Bottom line, if you're the kind of person that plasters your sunglasses right up to your face because you can't stand seeing the frames in your peripheral vision, you should probably get one of the aforementioned models.
In terms of the visual footprint, we found the Roav A2, Miofive, and the Vantrue N1 to be about even. All three are undoubtedly noticeable when installed but present little enough surface area that you shouldn't have a problem ignoring the small spot they occupy in your peripheral vision.
Due to its dual cameras and an array of infrared sensors, the Vantrue N2 Pro sports a pretty hefty visual footprint. Measuring 3.8 x 1.5 inches and utilizing a large suction mount that only adds to its visual weight, this camera will likely be noticeable in your peripheral vision. That said, it is still much smaller than the five-inch square that most government agencies consider the legal maximum, and if placed right below the rearview mirror, it doesn't present too much of a visual annoyance.
Though we certainly wouldn't call dash cams a necessity for all drivers, they can provide some peace of mind for people who often drive on crowded, more accident-prone streets, or for those who offer rideshare services and would like some form of security or accountability for what is happening in their vehicle. We've found that while almost any dash cam can get the job done, specific models offer much better user experiences and video quality than others, and some might have single or dual cameras. We hope that our testing results have helped you find the best way to spend your hard-earned cash.
Michelle Powell, Hayley Thomas, and Becca Glades