Nextbase 312GW dashcam
26th September 2018
1080P | GPS | WiFi | £99 | High definition
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£99 motoring camera gets a thumbs-up
Easy to use, simple to set-up, reliable in operation
Dashcams are divisive devices. Whilst thousands of drivers use them and feel better for their presence, thousands of others take a different view.
Some guys and girls, for instance, believe that in the modern world, a dashcam is an essential independent witness to a driving incident or accident, meaning that when the crunch comes there won't be much argument about who was at fault, and who wasn't (although most accidents are contributory, note).
Others, meanwhile, feel that dashcams effectively victimise the user, the thinking being that these devices fuel your natural (or unnatural) paranoia and force you onto the defensive, mentally speaking, thereby taking away whatever enjoyment you might otherwise have had. Moreover, a dashcam can turn around and bite the user if and when an accident happens and the cops seize the device and find evidence of some of the dodgy stuff you've been up to over the past few minutes or so.
We've been using dashcams and helmet cams for maybe a decade, and we're firmly in the former camp. Three times we've been hit by other road users; once on a motorcycle, and twice whilst at the wheel—and on all three occasions it was the other guy who paid up without further argument (one of those guys, note, had hit us deliberately and was also looking at a possible criminal conviction).
Fact is, people don't always behave themselves, least of all on the road. They lie, cheat, connive, obfuscate and will do almost anything to avoid taking responsibility for a motoring incident (or anything else). And given the fact that there are hardly any coppers left on British highways or byways, something needs to be done to protect your interests whilst on the move.
Well, on Sump's August Classic Bike News page we carried a one liner about Nextbase—one of the market leaders in dashcam technology—which had just launched a direct-to-police footage upload scheme. So we figured we'd check out one of their cameras and see if the tech has improved over our existing VIO POV-1 systems (as used by special forces, etc).
▲ The VIO POV-1 system. Bought 10 years ago for around £500, this was one of the most sophisticated and toughest dash/helmet cameras on the market. It served us well. But the cables are prone to fracture, and the resolution and functionality has long been superseded.
The device we were freely sent is the Nextbase 312GW. It arrived a couple of weeks ago and we've been using it daily. The bottom line is that this is a great little electronic witness, and we think it's well worth the money—which is £99.
The key issue here is simplicity. Stick the rubber sucker on the windscreen (ideally immediately behind the rear view mirror), attach the camera via that magnetic power point/clip, plug the power lead into the cigarette lighter, and you're ready to go.
The operating buttons and set-up is fairly intuitive, but you'll need to spend 15 minutes to half an hour before you get to grips with the options. Once understood, the camera gives you three recording modes; a two minute loop, a three minute loop, or a five minute loop. What that means, in case you're confused or unsure, is that the camera records over the last loop with a fresh segment—unless, that is, you manually lock/save the segment, or find yourself in a shunt/accident.
This "shunt" feature is handled by a G-sensor; G for G-force. You can manually switch that button off, but most drivers will want it active. That sensor, incidentally, is also part of a "Parking" feature. So if you switch that on and leave the car unattended, the camera will automatically sense a shunt and boot up and record. Yes, it will miss the actually incident, but it will capture the image of the other vehicle provided that vehicle is in the camera's line of sight.
The viewing angle is 140-degrees. The image resolution is, at the top end, 1080 pixels at 30fps (frames per second). But if you want to lower that, perhaps to save memory on the 32GB card (not included), that's your privilege. And note that 1080 is pretty much the standard high definition resolution these days, and it's considerably better than our 720 pixel VIO POV-1 rig (image below). You can store as many segments as you like on the 312GW until the card is full (and that could take a very long time).
The LCD screen is 2.7-inches. Not huge, but acceptable (and it reduces the dashcam's overall dimensions thereby making it less intrusive on the windscreen). The recorded images are clear and reasonably crisp, even in low light. There a GPS feature (selectable for MPH or KPH) which constantly logs and updates your position thereby noting the location of a shunt. You can also connect the dashcam via WiFi when you want to review footage on a computer—and editing software is included. And you can imprint the time and date on segments.
So what's the downside? Well not much actually. But the parking mode feature can be a nuisance. If you slam the car door as you're walking away from the vehicle, the camera will detect that as a possible shunt and will boot up, drawing power. And even if you close the door softly, that can still be enough to "sense" a shunt. On our camera, we switched off the parking mode. But it's worth checking if this feature works for you.
Also, you need to charge the camera for a couple of hours before first usage. After that, you draw power from the car's battery via the cigarette lighter—or you can hardwire it onto the battery if (a) you prefer, (b) have no cigarette lighter, or (c) are already using that socket). However, if for any reason you've let the camera's internal battery run down, a blue charging light (normally red) winks on. That's no problem in daylight, but it's distracting/dazzling at night. We checked with Nextbase support, and apparently it's something you'll have to live with. It shouldn't be a deal-breaker, mind. It wouldn't be for us. But we'd rather have a manual switch or an LED that glows a little dimmer in darkness.
A couple of other points:
1. The camera is quickly detachable via the aforementioned magnetic mount. That will benefit both you and the thief who spots it.
2. The screen automatically switches off after 10 or 20 seconds to prevent you staring at it on the move (blanking the screen is a legal requirement, note).
3. You'll need to work out your own method of hiding the power cable (perhaps by stuffing it behind interior trim).
4. There's a Smartphone App included for Android and Apple phones.
5. It will work with a 24-volt system (as well as a more common 12-volt).
6. You wouldn't want this on a motorcycle (and Nextbase has abandoned helmet cams and now produces only dashcams).
7. You can replay a video in the car on the camera, and you can fast-forward or fast-rewind).
8. The unit is supplied with power and USB cable.
9. The in-car sound can be turned off.
10, You can take snapshots on the move.
11. We have no personal or business connection with Nextbase.
Actually, there is one other feature that we'd like to have. On our VIO POV-1 systems, you can let the cameras run for an hour or more (at the risk of an occasional crash). But the Nextbase 312GW has a maximum recording time of 5 minutes, remember. So you probably won't be using this to make lengthy YouTube videos or record a single journey of any longer duration.
Again, it's not a deal-breaker. But longer recording times would be an extra selling point (and no doubt Nextbase has its own reasons for not including this feature).
▲ Witness for the defence, or the prosecution? On balance, we think dashcams are a timely piece of motoring technology. Dangerous drivers largely have a free ride on British roads, and bikers are frequently at the sharp end of it. Nextbase thinks it's got at least part of the solution with its National Dashcam Safety Portal. We agree, albeit with reservations.
Overall, we like the device and we'll continue testing it to see how it lasts. It's been totally reliable so far—and far from victimising us, this dashcam is quickly forgettable, until you need it. On most modern cars, it will boot up with the ignition system, so you don't even need to switch it on and off.
Until you hear otherwise from us, we'd be happy to recommend the 312GW. Halfords have them in stock for £99, and Nextbase tells us that it's a best seller. Alternately, check the others in the range.
They're also available elsewhere on the market. Tip: avoid the twenty quid cheapo generic dashcams occasionally on offer at petrol stations. They won't last, they break easily, and they have fewer features.
As a bonus feature, as if you need it, the 312GW dashcam (like all dashcams) compels us drive a little more cautiously, more thoughtfully and therefore more sensibly. After all, we wouldn't want the police to stop us for speeding or similar, and then discover that we've just been airborne over three humped back bridges, passed a traffic island on the wrong side, and have been terrorising pedestrians in the high street.
Not that we'd ever do such things, you understand...
UPDATE: That bright blue recharging LED really is a nuisance. We suggest you blank it off with a piece of electrical tape or chewing gum or something. We've just driven 30 miles with that light in our eyes because, for some reason, the camera decided it wanted a charge.
Nextbase National Dashcam Safety Portal
Camera Not Very Obscura - Sump comment
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