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Dashcams are more accessible than ever before and the latest top-tier devices have the clearest and sharpest footage yet thanks to the addition of 4k. In this guide I’ve chosen my top 4K dashcam picks and shared the best features for each, along with the pros and cons to consider.
What is a 4k Dashcam?
I originally set out to make a guide with only 4k dashcams, but quickly realised that 4k means different things to different people so let’s make sure we’re clear before we begin.
4K vs UHD vs QHD
Officially, 4K means a resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels, but as this was developed for cinema it has an odd aspect ratio that isn’t suited to our phones, cameras and TVs which generally have an aspect ratio of 16:9, that’s where UHD came in as it’s slightly narrower.
In the end, I opted to include QHD, UHD and 4K dashcams. These are often used interchangeable, and for the most part, you won’t notice the difference for the purpose of monitoring your car. However, in the interest of full transparency, let’s just have a quick recap:
- Quad HD or 1440p (2560 x 1440) – this has 4x the number of pixels in 720p HD
- Ultra HD or 2160p (3840 x 2160) – this has 4x the number of pixels in 1080p HD
- 4K (4096 x 2160)
The Fake 4K Phenomenon
Now that we have a grasp of what 4K and its iterations are, I need to tell you about the fake 4k dashcams that are common in the market.
A fake 4k dashcam will record in standard 1080p but quadruple the video output so that the output resolution is similar to 4K or UHD dashcams. But, the quality of these will be poor, think of it as the equivalent of zooming in on a quarter of a photo before printing it, as opposed to printing the original – you will lose a lot of quality.
This is not specific to dashcams and happens will all electronic devices so you shouldn’t feel threatened.
Unfortunately, there is no real way to tell if a dashcam is real 4k or fake 4k until you’ve bought it when it will be obvious. But these are the tell-tale signs:
- Price – If you’re paying under £100 for a 4K dashcam, it’s probably not 4k
- Brand – If you’ve not already heard of the brand, some simple online research will reveal if they can be trusted
- Reviews – Everything in this review is a true representation of the products
What to Look for in a 4K Dashcam?
We’re going to assume that if you’re buying a genuine 4K dashcam that it has all of the basic features you’d expect such as loop recording, G-sensor, parking monitor, etc. Instead, I’ll run through some of the key things to look for when choosing between premium high resolution dashcams:
Transfer speeds – If it doesn’t have a screen, you’ll likely be connecting to your phone for reviewing footage. With such large file sizes, you’ll want to look for dashcams with 5Ghz Wi-Fi connection as opposed to the typical 2.5Ghz. Most on this list have dual band, meaning both 2.5 and 5ghz.
Compression – Such large resolutions need to be compressed so that you can use them and transfer them with ease, the minimum compression you need is called h.264, but ideally you want a device with h.265 encoding.
Frame rate – Resolution isn’t the only video quality factor. The frame rate is measured in frames per second (Fps), this is the number of frames that the device captures every single second. The higher the fps, the smoother the footage. Obviously capturing 4k resolutions at high frame rates requires a lot of processing power so most high spec dashcams will stick to a standard 30fps.
Features – At the top end of the market, it’s the additional features that can make a device stand out. Look for GPS tracking, night vision, additional cameras, wide angle lenses and more. We’ve covered all the best features for each of our top 4k dashcams below.
Best 4k Dashcams
Here are our top recommended 4k dashcams to get your hands on right now:
- Best Overall 4k Dashcam: Blackvue DR900s-2CH
- Best Value for Money: Nextbase 622GW
- Best Video Quality: VIOFO A129 Pro Duo
- Most Feature Heavy Dashcam: Thinkware U1000
Below, you’ll find details reviews and comparison to help you understand more about each dashcam and inform your buying decision.
OUR TAKE ON THIS CAMERA:
As well as being a long time player in the 4k space, this was the first product to have cloud functions which took dashcams to a whole new level.
Compact design at the expense of a screen
I’ll start off with a clear observations that it doesn’t have a screen so in my view it’s not perfect, however this allows a compact design so it fit snuggly behind the rear view mirror which some people will prefer.
Although you can’t play back recordings on the device itself, it does have highly efficient video compression and fast dual band 5ghz Wi-Fi so the videos will download to your phone in no time at all.
Top of the line cloud tech
The Blackvue app and desktop player have all the features you’d expect from a decent dashcam, but if you have a Wi-Fi connection in your car, this can be seriously enhanced with the Blackvue DR900’s cloud connectivity features. This includes remote viewing of saved footage, live view of the camera and two-way interface between your phone and the camera.
Good video quality in both directions
The front camera has the best viewing angle of all the dashcams listed here at 162-degrees and records at 30fps. The 2CH version comes with a 1080p rear camera included which also films at 30fps and with a viewing angle of 140-degrees.
The daytime video quality is excellent and you can make out all details. It doesn’t have any of the low light features that some of these other devices have such as infrared, so it doesn’t have the best night-time recording.
With the powermagic pro hardwire kit installed (sold separately), you can take advantage of it’s parking mode which is very sensitive. I’m a bit of a tech nerd so I always love voice activation features, the Blackvue’s will speak to tell you what they are doing and will alert you if they recorded any footage to be reviewed while the car was parked.
The Nextbase 622GW is their new flagship 4K device with all the top tier features. It’s not the best 4k video quality and it doesn’t have the best feature set, but it’s an all round great device and in my opinion offers the best value for money.
OUR TAKE ON THIS CAMERA:
The 622GW sites right at the top of Nextbase’s Series 2 dashcams range and is the most recent of the models listed here to hit the market. The footage is crisp and sharper than their previous 612GW which was a bit of a let-down.
Super great value for money
With no cloud connectivity, the Nextbase doesn’t have the very best features and the video quality certainly doesn’t top the VIOFO, but they have done an extremely good job of putting together an all-round great device and compared to other devices listed here, offers superb value.
I also like that it has a screen, this is a big issue for me as I hate relying on my smartphone which is prone to running out of battery or could break during any collision.
Top features include Alexa and SOS emergency response
The device has all the features available in the lower priced devices including built in Alexa, combined Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connection to their mobile phone app for easy downloading of footage, SOS emergency response and more. The device will also connect to the rear or cabin view cameras which are sold separately.
But some of the features specific to this high-end device include 4k footage from the main camera at 30fps and the option to upgrade the frame rate to 60fps at 2k or a whopping 120fps at 1080p. This high frame rate allows for slow motion playback so there will be no doubts in an accident. The camera also has image stabilisation and is the first dashcam to do so.
It also has what3words technology, this is a geolocation technology that converts your location to 3 everyday words which is helpful when contacting emergency services. They have also improved the night vision (although still no infrared) and there is free cloud storage on any video for 30 days to help you transfer the files to insurers with ease.
WHERE TO BUY:
In the UK, this camera is currently only available to buy in Halfords, other Nextbase devices are on Amazon so we hope this makes it there soon.
The VIOFO A129 has my overall vote as best video quality, which in a review of 4k and QHD dashcams is a big deal. It’s not as feature heavy as some rivals but it has a screen and the price tag also gives a great reason to buy.
OUR TAKE ON THIS CAMERA:
There is no denying that all of the cameras shared here have excellent viewing quality, but if I had to put one ahead of the others it would be the VIOFO A129 Pro Duo 4K dashcam (even if it is a bit of a mouthful to say).
Capable of 120fps, but bit of a gimmick
In 4k the camera can record at 30fps, but when you reduce the resolution you can get a higher frame rate with the option of 2k at 60fps or 1080p at 120fps which will give an extraordinarily smooth recording.
Unfortunately, the frame rate is limited to 30fps if you have the rear camera recording, which makes the high frame rate more of a gimmick in a dual camera. Another downside is the 130-degree viewing angle from the front camera which is the smallest field of view out all the 4K dashcams reviewed here.
Good night time capabilities
The night-time recording is good with their super night vision mode and WDR, however there is no infrared cameras as some of the models have.
It has a built in 2” HD screen or you can view the footage on the VIOFO app via dual band Wi-Fi and the GPS will tag recordings with time and location.
When it comes to the latest innovations and top of the line technology, Korean has always been leading the way and it’s no different with dashcams. The Thinkware U1000 is their premium device and is easily the most feature heavy dashcam on the market. However, what’s good on paper doesn’t always translate in to products and some users have reported needing replacement devices due to bugs.
OUR TAKE ON THIS CAMERA:
The Thinkware is easily the most feature-heavy device on the market so if you’re looking for top of the range tech then this is perfect. The device has huge potential and should be number one, however in reality there have been reports of users needing replacement devices which is holding me back from placing it as the top recommendation.
Crisp and clear UHD footage
The front camera is UHD with a decent 150 degree viewing angle and 30fps recording, it has exceptional viewing quality with crisp and clear footage. You can reduce the resolution to 2k and get a frame rate of 60fps which I would advise for an even smoother viewing experience.
The included rear camera is 2k and also has a 150-degree viewing angle.
Latest cloud technology including alerts sent to your phone from parking mode
Its cloud enabled so you can connect to it anytime, however this does rely on your car having its own Wi-Fi network which isn’t as common here in the UK as in Korea where Thinkware are based.
The cloud connectivity adds some great features:
- Geofencing – get notifications if the car leaves a certain area that you define on the app
- Vehicle tracking – Makes the camera very suitable for fleet management and business use
- Live view – See the cameras view from anywhere in the world
Radar parking technology
The parking sensor is already quite good with options to change the sensitivity and view time lapse recordings and get an immediate notification with video when an incident is detected.
But the optional radar add on will increase its capabilities significantly, allowing the device to start recording before any incidents so you get 10 seconds of video before and after any incidents.
There are so many other great features it’s hard to list them all here, but some of them include advanced driver assistant with lane change notification, speed camera notifications energy saving parking mode and more.
The big pros come with trade offs
However, not everything is perky. It doesn’t have a screen which is something I would miss, especially in situations where your phone doesn’t work. The maximum SD card size is 128GB which is smaller than most other premium dashcams and overall, I think it is quite ugly. Other than those issues, it’s a solid buy.
The Tandem is one of the top tier Garmin dashcams and stands out for it’s 360 field of view thanks to the dual 180-degree cameras built in, this makes it a great buy for taxi, uber or other ride sharing app drivers. Other key features include voice control and infrared lights for a clear view of the cabin at night.
OUR TAKE ON THIS CAMERA:
It has a front and rear camera built in to the compact body, each with a 180 degree field of view so you can keep an eye on the front and cabin simultaneously without additional cameras.
It’s super small and compact so it doesn’t get in your way whilst driving (you can’t hide a 360-degree dashcam behind the rear-view mirror), this small size also makes it unnoticeable from the outside.
However, this small size comes at the expense of a screen so you will have to rely on the Garmin Drive app.
Voice control using ‘OK Garmin’ to start recording and capture footage. This isn’t a full voice assistant like the built in Alexa to the Nextbase, but it’s still helpful.
Generally a decent camera although sometimes glare at the front
The front camera records at 1440p and the cabin view camera at 720p, this camera isn’t a standout camera in terms of quality with lots of glare at night which is a shame when you are paying close to £300 for a device.
Conversely, the cabin view does stand out at night vision thanks to infrared lighting so you can see the cabin in dim lighting, and it has a decent microphone too. It’s a great recommendation for a taxi or ride sharing app driver.
The Vantrue is worthy of this list for having one feature that no other 4k dashcam has, three way recording and playback. This allows front, cabin and rear cameras to capture footage simultaneously for a full view of your car.
OUR TAKE ON THIS CAMERA:
The Vantrue is a standout device as it’s the only 4k device to offer 3 channel recording, meaning it will simultaneously record from the included front, cabin and rear-view cameras and sync them together.
Clear footage from 3 camera sources simultaneously
But don’t go thinking they’ve skimped on the video quality. The front camera has QHD resolution at 30fps and both the cabin and rear cameras record at 1080p, again at 30fps. The front camera footage is clear and no signs of any glare.
The cabin view camera has infrared which means you’ll be able to keep an eye on the car’s occupants, even in complete darkness. It’s a shame this didn’t extend to all of the cameras.
It’s also one of the cameras on this list to have a screen which again is a big tick, although it’s not touch screen, so you’ll have to resort to button navigation.
You can also playback from all 3 cameras simultaneously on the screen and it has a very good time-lapse function.
Unfortunately Vantrue don’t have an app to connect to, and although I believe you can connect to third party apps, this is the only cam on the list that doesn’t have a first party app which did knock them quite far down my rankings as this is a basic feature we’ve come to expect from high end devices.
The Mio MiVue is the cheapest out of all the 4K dashcams here but still packs a punch in terms of features.
OUR TAKE ON THIS CAMERA:
Let’s start off by addressing the resolution, it is marketed as a 2.5k device but nobody really knows what that means, and it appears to be somewhere between QHD and UHD, so it falls in the same category.
Slower frame rate than competitors
At the highest resolution, the frame rate is slower than the other cameras at 25fps, however if you drop the resolution to QHD it will record at 30fps. The viewing angle is 150 degrees which is about average.
The device is compatible with the 140-degree viewing angle rear camera (sold sepaately or as a bundle). When connected, the rear camera records at 1080p and 30fps.
For viewing footage, you can connect to the MiVue Pro app via Wi-Fi or use the MiVue manager on a desktop or laptop for full resolution playback and google maps GPS overlay. One thing to note is that the compression is the older h.264 format, meaning the file sizes will be larger so transfer speeds via Wi-Fi will be slower at such high video resolutions.
Smart driver assist technology including speed camera alerts
Like the U1000, it also has some advanced driver assistance features which is impressive considering its price. This includes forward collision warning if the person in front slows down and lane departure warnings. Another great feature is the speed camera warnings via GPS (as opposed to radar detection).
Kieren is the founder and editor-in-chief of Auto Adviser. Kieren created the site to share his passion of cars that began long before he passed his driving test and is now a recognised contributor in the industry. Outside of cars, Kieren loves drinking coffee and travelling to far-off lands.