Reviewed by Louise Totton
I like gadgets. I like gadgets a lot, and I like to think that I have a pretty good awareness of what is out there and the major manufacturers for most tech stuff. So I was pretty surprised when I was asked to review a dash cam from a company who claimed to own around 80% of the dash cam market, yet I had actually not heard of them. Pretty lax of me, given that when I investigated Nextbase further, I found that as well as dash cams, they also make in-car DVD entertainment systems and also commercial dash cam products too.
I would imagine that most people who are interested enough to be reading a dash cam review already have a pretty good idea of what one is. In simple terms, it is a windscreen mounted video camera that records your journey. In the event of any accident, the footage can be used to prove or disprove fault in the event of an insurance claim. The more fully featured cameras can offer a wealth of additional functionality, including touchscreen, WiFi for simple sharing of videos and full HD recording.
This particular dash cam stacks up pretty well spec-wise, boasting WiFi connectivity, a touch screen display, Quad HD 1440p recording, with a 140 degree wide angle lens and a smartphone app (Cam Viewer) to instantly view footage via WiFi. The camera can record at 1440p at 30 frames per second, or at 1080p and 60fps.
The box contains the camera, along with two mounting options – a standard sucker mount as well as an adhesive mount. The 12v car power cable, USB cable, software and instructions on a CD, as well as a quick start guide and car window sticker. The camera itself feels solid and good quality, and the quick start instructions are basic but enough to get you moving.
When I initially install things like this, I tend to try to get it working before I worry about tidying up the cables etc. I used the sucker mount and installed it behind the rear-view mirror as the instructions suggested. This mean that it was unintrusive and not distracting when in use. The supplied power cables so plenty long enough to wire around the windscreen, through the passenger footwell and into the rear 12v power supply of my Volvo XC60. One of the things that I instantly liked about this camera is the quick release, powered mounting system. Attaching and unattaching the camera from the mount is a simple case of clicking it on and off. No fiddling with wires or having to remove the mount after each journey – the mount stays there and the camera clicks off.
In order to use the camera, an SD card is required. As seems pretty standard, this is not included in the box and has to be purchased separately. The 412GW supports SD cards up to 32gb, so there is no need to buy an expensive one for it.
Once I was happy that the device worked, I attempted to tidy up the cabling. I was a little disappointed that in spite of providing two excellent quality mounts for the camera, there was nothing supplied to keep the installation tidy on the wiring. I can’t tuck the cables into the trim on the windscreen pillars because my car has curtain airbags. I did order some clips from eBay, but they don’t work wonderfully and I think it would be pretty simple for dash cam manufacturers to include something for this purpose. I understand that you can avoid this issue all together by spending £30-£40 extra and having the device hard-wired into the car fuse box, although I’m not sure how it would work as the cable would still need to get to the top of the windscreen.
As far as using the camera is concerned, I am impressed. It automatically starts recording when the ignition is switched on, so you don’t need to remember anything. The menus are easy to navigate as the device has an intuitive menu system and touch sensitive buttons. As well as recording automatically when moving, it also has a parking mode, so if you’re leaving your car and are concerned about it being bumped, this can be enabled and you would have footage to pass on to your insurance company. It also has a neat little function whereby if the G-sensor detects a bump or jerk, it will automatically mark the footage as important, and it will be protected from being deleted.
The camera has GPS and time stamps, as well as a log of your speed, so all of the footage is tagged with the exact time and location, making it invaluable in the event of an insurance claim or dispute. Viewing the footage is simple and can be done three ways – on the device itself, via a smartphone on the free app, or on a computer with the software supplied on the CD. Connecting it to the app on a smartphone is really simple and is probably the way I would choose to do it. The video library is searchable from the app, and the clips can be viewed through the WiFi connection or can be downloaded to your phone. Viewing through the WiFi was pretty jerky, but once downloaded to the phone, it was smooth and glitch free. The PC software is more fully featured, allowing routes to be plotted on a map and a fuller visual representation of the data, but I rarely have my laptop out, so find the smartphone option handier. Although I have no doubt that in the event of a bump or if there was something I wanted a closer look at, I would make the effort to get the laptop out.
The quality of the recordings is great; number plates are clearly visible in both light and darker conditions, and the device doesn’t seem to suffer too much from the glare of headlamps or traffic lights. The speed, GPS coordinates, time and date are all visible on the footage, and when viewed in landscape mode, the playback quality is as good as streaming a film from Netflix.
This is a great quality camera – the software is good and it’s simple to use. There are, however some little niggles that do detract from the usability of the device. I find the lack of fittings to complete a tidy installation very annoying, as I find visible wiring very irritating. It would also cost next to nothing for manufacturers to address this. I did also find the touch sensitive buttons rather too sensitive, and the device would regularly switch itself on and off just by being attached to the mount or being removed from my handbag. Having a physical power button would have been a massive improvement. Having said all that, the quick mounting clip is fantastic and so easy to use, and the main reason anyone would buy one of these devices is for the quality of the recordings. On this score, the product can’t be faulted and really does provide top quality playback.
On top of this, you can even get a discount on your car insurance by using this device, so it could potentially pay for itself in a year or two of insurance premium discounts.
I do like the 412GW, but I am still searching for a way to get a decent looking install with it. I am going to try some different cable tidies, and if that fails, I’ll look at hardwiring it into the car.
At £129.99, it is expensive but I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the quality of the product.
For more information or to buy visit www.nextbase.co.uk.