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The best dash-cams - reviewed and rated

  • We test a selection of the latest dash cams
  • Find out how each one performed
  • Which one should you buy?

With more drivers relying on dash-cams to provide vital information in the event of an incident, we’ve tested some of the newest models on the market to help you decide which one is best for you. 

Which dash-cam should you buy? 

We reviewed the following dash-cams: 

  • Cobra CDR835 Drive HD dash-cam
  • Snooper DVR-4HD dash-cam
  • Cobra CDR 875 G Drive dash-cam
  • Thinkware F770 dash-cam

We tested each dash-cam on at least two commuter journeys to and from the Parkers office, at daytime and night-time. Our reviews rate the dash-cams based on quality of materials and build, and the resulting footage - how easy it is to use, and how visible are number plates on the recording. 

Cobra CDR835 Drive HD dash-cam: £65.95; available from amazon.co.uk

Cobra’s drive HD dash-cam – full name CDR835 – is a high-definition dash-cam that records in 1080p quality for any incidents you may come across while on the road. 

What’s in the box?

The dash-cam, a USB cable used to both power it and connect to a PC, an 8GB MicroSD memory card and a windscreen fixing attachment.

How easy is it to set up?

It’s an easy camera to set-up once you’re in the car, but it’s not the prettiest to look at once it’s installed. It looks quite a cumbersome set-up – taking up a lot of space on the windscreen once the camera is attached to the suction cup, which itself features all kind of screws and adjustment options. It would be fine if it worked, but over an hour journey it fell off the windscreen a total of five times. What’s good is that you can plug it in just using a regular USB socket in the car, as opposed to a 12V socket. However, a 12V adaptor does also come in the box.

Cobra drive HD dash cam review

What’s the camera quality like?

Very good. Viewing recordings on the 2.0-inch screen reveals a high-quality picture from the 160-degree wide angle lens. Said wide angle lens slightly distorts the image in that the footage looks like you’re driving much faster than you really are (there’s no GPS meaning speed isn’t recorded), but it covers a wide section of the road ahead which is beneficial in providing as much coverage as possible, if you need to explain or show evidence of any problems you may encounter on the road.

What if I need to save a recording?

There’s a G-sensor which automatically saves a file if it thinks you’ve been in an accident, with a Parking Mode which uses the same motion sensor in case there’s an impact when the car is stationary. There’s also a clear emergency button above the screen that you can press if you want to save the latest ‘loop’ of recording.

Cobra drive HD dash cam review

Anything else worth knowing?

With the regular 8GB memory card, a total of 1.7 hours of footage at 1080p quality can be saved. Several loops of recordings are saved as you go, but the oldest gets overwritten as time goes on if it’s not saved as an emergency one. There’s also a built-in microphone and speaker for audio playback, and you can choose to switch this on or off. You can also add a watermark with the date and time for evidence purposes, plus you can take quick photos or snapshots with a dedicated button below the screen. What we found slightly confusing is that the screen display goes dark after a few minutes, and it’s unclear as to whether it’s still recording or not. Pressing a button to illuminate the screen again revealed the timer to still be running, so it may be a way of reducing distraction and glare from the screen. Finally, if you want to view your recordings on the dash-cam itself, it’s slow to load and play the videos – so be prepared for lengthy screen transitions. At least the menus are easy to navigate thanks to clear icons.

Verdict

The Cobra drive HD dash-cam boasts clear visuals with a great camera quality for a relatively low price – its wide angle lens providing a good view of the road ahead, too. However, it’s not the prettiest when attached to the windscreen, plus it’s slow to respond when you’re looking to view footage back on the screen. 

Snooper DVR-4HD dash-cam; £248.99; available from amazon.co.uk

This Snooper dash-cam not only films the road ahead – in full HD quality – but it also logs any bumps thanks to its G-force sensor, protecting this footage from being overwritten. An added bonus is that it can alert you to any fixed speed cameras ahead, too.

What’s in the box?

You get the dash-cam with a suction mount for sticking to your windscreen, a 16GB MicroSD memory card and a long charging cable. This cable has a 12V connector rather than a USB connection, which is bulkier and may be phased out in new cars in the future, as USBs replace cigarette lighters and 12V sockets. As it lacks a cable for connecting the device to a computer you have to either buy one separately, get a card reader or take advantage of WiFi connectivity to transfer files. 

Snooper DVR-4HD dash cam review

How easy is it to set up?

Simply plug the DVR-4HD in, stick the mount to the windscreen, feed the power cable around the windscreen and you’re good to go. If should start recording automatically when you turn the car on and aside from entering the date, you don’t have to do anything. The camera is small and the mount unobtrusive on the windscreen. It’s also easy to fit and adjust on the glass. The WiFi connectivity makes it simple to connect the dash-cam to your phone for viewing footage, while software that comes with it displays footage alongside your location and speed – although we couldn’t get these elements to work.

What’s the camera quality like?

Snooper DVR-4HD dash cam review

Mediocre. It doesn’t matter whether it’s light, dark, dry or raining, video quality isn’t as sharp as you would hope. Even in broad daylight number plates aren’t always legible – meaning that if you need to use footage to identify a passing car and prove you’re not to blame for a crash, it may not be up to scratch. The lens captures a wide view of the road ahead, however the level of detail is not great, falling further in bright sunshine or when it gets darker. As a result you can’t guarantee that you can identify an offending car should an incident occur, reducing the DVR-4HD’s usefulness. At night footage becomes more grainy and hard to decipher. Similarly rain and gloomy weather reduces quality markedly. Most dash-cams struggle in these conditions, but we’d expect more from a £150 model. Worse than this our model completely froze more than half a dozen times, needing to be switched off and on again.

What if I need to save a recording?

Thanks to its G-sensor this dash-cam logs moments of heavy braking and any bumps, making sure that these don’t get overwritten so you can refer to them later – recording 15 seconds before and after the incident. You can also press an onscreen emergency button to manual prevent a certain bit of footage from being overwritten.

Anything else worth knowing?

The 16GB memory card looks to be able to take around 100 minutes of Full HD footage before filling and automatically records over the oldest footage if it runs out of space. As any bumps are automatically logged this should be sufficient, but if you need to refer back to footage from several hours ago it’s likely to have been deleted. Audio is also recorded, though you can switch this function off and the date and location are stamped on footage, should you need to provide these as evidence.

Verdict 

Quality from the DVR-4HD lags behind models that are available for much less and you may not be able to rely on it working as expected, as our test model froze numerous times. As a result, this dash-cam is very hard to recommend. It’s nicely unobtrusive and daylight footage is mostly acceptable, but we don’t think video quality is at the level you should expect for the price and may not be good enough to use as evidence if needed.

Cobra drive HD CDR 875 G Drive HD dash-cam; £149.99; available from amazon.co.uk

The Cobra CDR 875 G Drive HD dash-cam – a more expensive version of the CDR835 we’ve also tested – is a dash-cam packed with features.

What makes it packed with features?

While it records in 1080p HD quality like the other Cobra dash-cam we’ve tested, the CDR 875 G also packs a G-sensor to pick up on any incidents on the move, it comes with an 8GB SD card to store any videos and a smartphone app to go with it. Called iRadar, the app incorporates red light and speed camera alerts, as well as community alerts – an online forum of other users. It also accesses map functions on your smartphone if you’re using the sat-nav.

This dash-cam also uses GPS (there’s no missing the unit attached to the top of the camera) which means you can record the speed and location of the car in the event of an accident.

How easy is it to install?

Cobra drive HD CDR 875 G Drive HD dash cam review

Fitting the dash-cam to the windscreen is a simple task thanks to a strong suction clip. However, putting it all together in the first place is the most time-consuming part. There are various pieces to attach – including the GPS receiver – and several bits to adjust for the ideal angle on the screen. That’s good in that there’s plenty of adjustment, but it adds up to an incredibly clunky look once it’s in place. The only good thing is that the car we tested it in had a large set of safety equipment and sensors located at the top of the windscreen, so the camera was shielded behind the rear-view mirror. However, it’s not something that looks particularly attractive if there isn’t much to disguise it on the screen.

What about camera quality?

Cobra drive HD CDR 875 G Drive HD dash cam review

This Cobra camera claws it back when you look any footage you’ve captured. It’s easy to view on the camera itself, and it’s easy to make out details when viewing on larger screens, such as number plates and road signs thanks to the 160-degree wide-angle lens. You’re able to press an emergency button to save a recorded clip (otherwise loop recording will overwrite it to save memory card space), while a G-sensor will detect an impact and save a clip automatically. Sound quality is pretty good, too.

Verdict 

The Cobra CDR 875 G Drive HD boasts the same high-quality visuals as previous Cobra cameras we’ve tested, albeit with the added benefit of GPS to show location and speed to the watermark. However, it costs quite a bit more than the CDR 835, it doesn’t quite feel worth the extra outlay, especially when it looks so ungainly when attached to the screen. 

Thinkware F770 dash-cam; from £239; available from amazon.co.uk

Thinkware’s F770 dash cam isn’t cheap, at more than £200, but it’s packed with advanced features that you don’t normally find on a dash-cam, so we’re keen to find out if it works well and if you should spend the money over a more traditional, simpler dash-cam.

What’s in the box?

Packed into the box is the dash-cam, a 16gb microSD card to store the footage, plus an SD card reader to plug into your computer to view any footage you may have captured. If you don’t want to use the SD card reader, there’s a USB adaptor instead. There’s also a 12v charging cable (there’s no USB here) and extra 3M tape to fix the camera and wire to the car. If you pay a little extra, there’s also a rear-view camera that goes with the F770 to have you covered both front and rear.

Thinkware dash-cam review

First impressions

The F770 is a bulky thing to look at, but once it’s affixed in position (out of your field of vision as per legal requirements), it’s easy to forget it’s even there. We were disappointed by the lack of screen when we first took it out of the box, and the unit itself feels quite lightweight and cheap. The lack of screen means you can’t quite see what you’re filming, but a Thinkware Mobile Viewer app for your smartphone will allow you to view recorded footage that’s stored on your dash-cam. The instructions provided in the box are brief, but a more comprehensive set can be found on the memory card, which we’d recommend you look at, because it comes in so many different parts in the box.

What features does it have?

The F770 packs in a lot of features into its bulky case, including the following technology in:

  • 140-degree wide-angle lens with 1080p HD resolution
  • Road safety warning system with lane-departure warning and front collision warning system
  • Safety camera alert
  • Built-in WiFi and GPS
  • Ability to record time lapse
  • Night vision

On your recordings, the F770 automatically adjusts the level of exposure to reduce glare in bright sunlight, while automatic night-time quality correction brightens images at night so you don’t just record grainy, dark images. There are three recording modes to choose from – continuous, event and manual. Like most dash-cams, it automatically records in one-minute loops, while a sensor automatically stores videos if an incident is detected, or the driver can press the record button when they want to save or record at a particular time.

Setting up 

Unlike many cams that use a windscreen mount, the F770 fixes via double-sided tape straight to the windscreen, where you then use the mobile app to sync with the camera and check it is facing in the right direction and at the right angle.

Thinkware dash-cam review

This is all done via Wi-Fi, so you’ll need to be patient as you can’t just plug it in and go. Once this time-consuming exercise is done, though, you shouldn’t have to do anything again.

Video quality

The wide, HD lens means image quality is good. You can make out number plates on cars if you’re not driving too quickly, although some colours appear slightly dull. It’s worth noting that footage is crisper and clearer to view via the mobile app than on a computer (and also much easier). Sound quality seems good as well, but you can also switch it off if you just want to record the footage without audio.

Extra features 

To use the mobile app and make the most of its features, you’ll need to have it connected to the dash-cam via Wi-Fi. This limits its appeal somewhat, as the dash-cam needs to be plugged into power. We found it awkward that you could only view the footage sitting stationary in the car – you can’t just sit on the sofa and look at it via the mobile app, for instance. Features such as lane departure warning and forward collision warning are useful, but not always as advanced as a system you could have built in to a car, but an extra set of ‘eyes’ is never a bad thing.

Thinkware dash-cam review

As there’s no screen, you get a vocal response from the dash-cam when you make certain selections. It’s clear and makes it much easier to perform simple tasks.

Verdict 

Installing the F770 in your car and setting it all up via the app is a time-consuming exercise, but once it’s done it’s easy to operate. The plentiful features are very useful and, despite its chunky size, the way it fixes to the screen keeps it out of the way. If you can stomach the high cost then you won’t be disappointed, but if you just want a dash-cam that’ll record footage, there are examples out there that are cheaper and easier to operate.

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