Best Dash Cam of 2021
$169.99 at Amazon
|$100 List||$300 List|
$299.99 at Amazon
$158.89 at Amazon
|Pros||Great video quality, second cab-facing camera||Very good video quality, relatively inexpensive, very slim profile||Low profile, 180-degree field of view, exterior and interior cameras||Stellar video quality, low profile||User-friendly, inexpensive|
|Cons||Pricey, relatively bulky||No built-in Wi-Fi, no rear or interior camera||Video quality suffers in the dark, no screen, low-quality interior video||Video quality suffers in the dark, small screen||Average video quality|
|Bottom Line||Currently the best rideshare model due to its great video quality and second camera||The best performance and value for those who only want to record the road in front of them and don't need a second, rear-facing camera||A dash cam that offers great video quality, a low profile, and will record both inside and outside your vehicle||A powerful dash cam with excellent video quality and a low profile that will quickly become your favorite road trip buddy||This user-friendly model features a nice interface and a reasonable price tag|
|Rating Categories||Vantrue N2 Pro Uber...||AUKEY DR02||Garmin Tandem||Garmin 56||Roav A1|
|Video Quality (40%)|
|Video Capture (25%)|
|Visual Footprint (10%)|
|Specs||Vantrue N2 Pro Uber...||AUKEY DR02||Garmin Tandem||Garmin 56||Roav A1|
|Field of View||170 degrees||170 degrees||180 degrees||140 degrees||140 degrees|
|Event Detection G Sensor||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Camera Dimensions||3.8" x 1.5" x 1.5"||3" x 2" x 1.5"||2.2" x 1.6" x .8"||2.2" x 1.6" x .8"||3.3" x 2.2" x 1.3"|
Best for Most Drivers
The majority of users don't require a rear-facing camera for their dash cam, and those users will find the AUKEY DR02 to be an excellent pick. The high-definition front-facing camera on this model boasts a wide 170˚ viewing field, all at a fairly good cost. That wide-angle will provide an ideal view and record useful footage if there happens to be an accident — or make sure you capture that once-in-a-lifetime event on your drive. One of the top features of the DR02 is its compact size, the biggest side being just 2.2 inches. You can place it on the edge of your dashboard and stow the wire away, and you'll hardly notice it's there. If you want to maintain a sleek look across your windshield's silhouette with minimal obstructions, we think you'll like this camera.
That said, a couple of little things bother us about the design. Since there isn't any Wi-Fi included, you have to take the SD card out of the camera and plug it into a computer to download and save the recordings. It isn't the best process but, generally speaking, you won't need to pull footage off of the device daily. There is one thing that might be a no-go for some users, which is the adhesive mount that sticks to the windshield. The mount helps keep the silhouette thin, but not everyone will want a semi-fixed mount on their vehicle window. Overall, the setbacks to the AUKEY DR02 aren't major, and it is sure to be a great choice for most dash cam users.
Read review: AUKEY DR02
Best for Rideshare Drivers
Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual
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 is a great choice if you need photo or video proof of rough and rowdy guests or experience any unwanted damage in your vehicle. 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.
Read Review: Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual
Best Bang for Your Buck
If you're looking for the peace of mind offered by a dash cam at a bargain price, look no further than the Roav A1. While this model didn't score highly across all our metrics, it still measures up in a few. The slim profile leaves your view unobstructed and the intuitive interface makes using this puppy a breeze. Not to mention the built-in Wi-Fi offers quick clip sharing and saving.
The video quality on this affordable model was noticeably subpar compared to other cameras in our review — this was the biggest downside of the unit. However, while the video of the A1 is a bit grainy when compared to that of our other awards winners, it is certainly good enough to catch a good view of the action or capture a license place if you happen to get into an accident.
Read review: Roav A1
Documents Inside and Out
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 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 does not ring true for most bulky dual-cammed devices.
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 worth noting. 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.
Read review: Garmin Dash Cam Tandem
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is brought to you by a talented and thorough testing team. Steven Tata and Max Mutter have tested and reviewed more than 200 smart and video capture devices over the years. They 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. Additionally, the two have become experts in analyzing the quality of video footage, having now reviewed more than 100 camera drones, projectors, home security cameras, and Chromebooks.
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. She brings a detailed, methodical, and exhaustive approach to the table. Furthermore, she has spent countless weeks on the road and has a keen understanding of what is truly important in real-world applications of dash cams. Whether you simply want to document a beautiful drive or need a camera to accurately record incident information, she has you in mind. Hayley Thomas, makes up the fourth 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.
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.
Related: How We Tested Dash Cams
Analysis and Test Results
Most dash cams have somewhat similar levels of functionality and performance, so you'll likely end up choosing 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.
Related: Buying Advice for Dash Cams
Dash cameras differ in price mainly as a function of how many features any given model has. The AUKEY DR02 hits the sweet spot, offering all of the performance and features the vast majority of people will want or need for a relatively low price. The higher-priced Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual is the best option we've tested if you are looking for additional features, like a cabin-facing camera and infrared night vision, but it will also set you back quite a bit more. If you're looking to spend as little as possible, then the bare-bones experience of the Roav A1 will satisfy most people's needs, though its video isn't quite as crisp as that of the more expensive AUKEY DR02.
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.
The footage that all of our cameras produced during our hands-on testing, was visible, though some offered a bit more clarity. 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 a clear, crisp video with reasonable color accuracy. However, there are some differences worth noting between them. The Rexing V1 video quality seems sharper than most of the other 1080p models we tested, and the 170° field of view covers a wide viewing area. We did have some difficulty reading license plates at night when cars were moving fast or when there were odd lighting conditions. The AUKEY DR02 is similarly crisp, also sports a 170° field of view, and in night conditions, it offers a clearer look at license plates. During the day, however, it is more prone to blurring license plates than the Rexing.
The Rove R2-4K offers a whopping 2160p resolution and a generous 150° field of view. It scored highly in this category but we found that the Rove does not do well in high-contrast scenarios.
The Garmin Tandem and Garmin 56 both offer 1440p quality. The 56 provides a 140° field of view while both of the cameras on the Tandem come in at a whopping 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 one drops down to the same resolution in the dark, but overall we were very impressed with the Tandem's image quality.
The Roav A1 offers about average video quality, which is what most would probably expect from a lower-priced and compact camera. Despite the 1080p resolution, the video quality is a bit grainy. It is clear enough to identify license plates for the most part but isn't ideal for documenting a scenic drive. Speaking of license plates; in most conditions, we were able to read them easily, but the image was more likely to be washed out in bright light and near stoplights at night.
The worst video quality of any camera we tested came from the APEMAN C450A. All of its footage looks somewhat blocky and grainy, and there is an overly warm hue added to it. This camera is more prone to washing things out in bright light, especially when approaching a traffic light at night.
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 Wi-Fi networks that allow you to beam clips directly to your phone instead of removing a memory card and plugging it into a computer.
Earning one of the top scores in this metric was the Vantrue N2 Pro. It offers loop recording clip settings of 1, 3, and 5 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 Roav A1, which offers the most adjustability in loop recording settings of any camera we tested, with 1, 3, 5, and 10-minute clip options. It also sports built-in Wi-Fi for smooth video transfer to your phone.
The Rove R2-4K earns its spot as a top performer in our video capture category because of the built-in Wi-Fi, 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 Garmin Tandem has built-in Wi-Fi 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. Its close cousin, the Garmin 56 offers the same one-minute clips and G-sensor triggered recording as the Tandem, but only has an outward-facing camera. This is a non-issue for most people, as most folks don't have much use for a cab-facing camera. On the other hand, the 56 offers a feature called Travelapse, which is unique to some Garmin devices and allows you to capture a timelapse of your entire drive.
The AUKEY DR02 lets you select the length of recording clips with options of 3, 5, and 10 minutes. However, to get its footage off of the camera, you will have to plug in its memory card to a computer since it lacks any built-in Wi-Fi. Both the APEMAN C450A and the Rexing V1 share the same clip length options and lack of Wi-Fi as the AUKEY DR02.
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.
Adjusting settings and managing footage right from the camera of the Roav A1 was the easiest and most painless, which is why it is our top scorer in this category. We found it to be the most user-friendly model tested, thanks to a large three-inch screen, an intuitive set of well-labeled controls, and easily navigable menus. We also like the interfaces of the AUKEY DR02, which fell just behind the top scorer. It has somewhat large buttons, and the menus are easy to navigate, but at 1.5 inches, its screen is on the smaller side.
Not too far behind are the two Garmins, the Tandem and the 56. Both offer voice commands, which help with user-friendliness and making your driving experience safer. The 56 has a small two-inch screen equipped with decent menus. The prompt before operating is mildly annoying but clears itself after a moment. Both devices offer safety alerts, but the lane alignment is not always accurate which triggers 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, on the other hand, has no screen at all. It is controlled mostly through its smartphone app, which is where you can also view saved video footage. Unfortunately, the app takes a moment to load, so controls are not instantly at your fingertips, but the voice command helps with starting and stopping recording or snapping pictures while staying hands-free.
We liked but didn't love the interface of the Vantrue N2 Pro. It scores around the same as our Garmin devices, but for different reasons. It provides relatively intuitive menus and reliable controls for navigating those menus. This camera has more features than almost any other model on the market, which is wonderful, but the teensy 1.5-inch screen 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.
We also feel somewhat neutral overall about the interface on the APEMAN C450A. We love the large 3-inch screen, but the menus and controls take a bit more getting used to than those of the higher scoring models. For some more advanced settings, we had to consult the manual to find what we were looking for, something that we didn't have to do with any of the above models.
Our least favorite interface belongs to the Rexing V1. The relatively large 2.4-inch screen is useful, but the benefits end there. We found both of its controls and menus to be so unreliable and circuitous that we had to consult the manual, and it took several attempts to complete any task.
The worst thing one of these cameras can do is encroach on your peripheral vision and create a visual annoyance, or worse, an impediment. All of these cameras 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.
Of all the cameras we tested, the AUKEY DR02 offers the least visually obtrusive profile. Its adhesive mount is tiny, and the back of the camera measures just 2 x 3 inches. We hardly noticed this camera when it was tucked in the corner of the windshield or to the right side of the rearview mirror.
Presenting slightly larger profiles but still very compact are the Rexing V1 and both Garmin models. They still manage to mostly hide from view when driving. All three use adhesives mounts that cut down on overall bulkiness when compared to suction mounts. The Rexing V1 is somewhat larger, with its face measuring 5 x 3.4 inches, but its angular shape allows it to hide away quite well. The Garmin 56 and Tandem are impressively small, with their faces measuring just 2.2 x 1.6 inches, but with their mounts, they are still a bit more visible than the AUKEY. Regardless, we don't think any of these cameras are prominent enough to annoy or obstruct your peripheral vision.
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 A1 and the APEMAN C450A to be about even. Both 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. 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. We hope that our testing results have helped you find the best way to spend your hard-earned cash.
— Max Mutter, Michelle Powell, Steven Tata, and Hayley Thomas