Reviewed by Louise Totton
Technology is constantly improving – it seems that as soon as you have bought a new gadget or gizmo, there is a ‘new’ and ‘improved’ option available. I got my first Nextbase dash cam, the 412GW, over 2 years ago, when dash cams were brand new and a bit of a novelty. Now, of course, they are not unusual at all and are even regarded as a bit of a must have for most motorists. My 412GW has been fantastic and I didn’t actually feel like I NEEDED to upgrade, but with Nextbase launching their new series, dubbed ‘the 2 series’, and seeing the impressive array of additional features on offer, I thought I would give it a go.
This time, I went for the Nextbase 322GW, which is the middle of the range camera at £99. The 322GW promises to do everything that most users would ever want from a dash cam, offering a whole host of new features compared to the previous 1-series of dash cams. The first of these new features which is most noticeable at the point of purchase is that they have the ability to support plug-in modules, which are £49 each. There are currently three on offer – a rear-view cam which connects to the side of the dash cam and films backwards through the cabin of the car, the cabin-view camera which also connects to the dash cam and allows you to film the back of the car, as well as the rear-window cam which sits in the back window and films the rearward journey. These modules are compatible with the 322GW and up, so can’t be used with the 122GW or 222GW. I opted to try out the rear-window camera with my dash cam.
First thing’s first – opening the box and installation. Contained in the box is the dash cam unit itself, the Click&Go Pro mount, suction mount, 4m long power cable, USB cable, cable fitting tool and a spare adhesive pad as well as a comprehensive user manual. All you need to do is add a microSD card and you’re good to go! I will be honest now – I have fitted a dash cam before. They are not difficult to install, and they will function perfectly and be very safe and do the job. But my car has curtain airbags all the way around the windscreen, which makes it impossible for me to get a tidy install as I have always ended up having sticky pads around the edge and can’t get the cable right into the corners. In addition, the 12v charger in my car is in a very awkward place, so this time I decided that I would get the dash cam professionally fitted at Halfords. This means that there are no trailing wires at all as the cables all sit behind the trim of the car and there is no need to use the 12v charging port either, so no hogging the charge point or having to remember to unplug and re-plug every journey.
The 322GW is capable of recording in full 1080p HD and 60fps, meaning the quality of any video produced on this device is second to none, and it can record driving at full motorway speeds without juddering or blurring. The screen is a 2.5” touch screen, which is plenty big enough to see easily – the screen size is especially important if you decide to go for one of the extra modules as the images that they record are shown as a screen in screen video. The new, more secure Click&Go mount is a big improvement on the one on the previous series. The connection is stronger and more secure, and because the camera now connects from the front of the device rather than the top, even less of the windscreen is taken up with the device. It is, however, still a doddle to remove from the car when you want to.
On first power-on, the dash cam will walk you through the set-up process. This includes setting the time and date and pairing your dash cam to the app on your iOS or Android device. The app, whilst not essential, will allow you to access some of the additional features of the dash cam such as Emergency SOS and managing dash cam footage videos. The footage videos can also be managed via a piece of software downloaded to your Windows PC/laptop.
The menu system, just like my previous Nextbase dash cam is a doddle to navigate through and is super intuitive and easy to use. One of the things I really love about this camera is how easy it is to transfer the videos from the unit to your phone or laptop; it features both Bluetooth and WiFi for simple connection to your mobile device, and you can either use the included data cable to connect to your laptop or just pop the SD card into your card reader if you have one. The dash cam shoots its videos in short, 60s bursts which are over-written on a loop – that is unless you either press a button to ‘protect’ the video, or the dash cam detects a collision or bump and automatically write-protects it. This makes it far easier to isolate the bit of footage that you would actually need than if you had to manually trawl though hours of linear driving footage.
One of the massive new additions to this range (322 model and up) is the Emergency SOS mode (your dash cam has to be paired to your mobile and has to have mobile signal for this to work). The Emergency SOS is a fantastic idea, whereby the dash cam can contact the emergency services should it detect that the car has been involved in a serious collision. It is worth pointing out that there are a large number of protocols and checks in place to stop it contacting them erroneously, and as the user, you are given a number of warnings and opportunities to stop this process from reaching the conclusion that an ambulance is required. Having said that, if it does detect an accident and the service cannot contact you to verify that you are safe and well, a data packet is sent to the emergency services informing them of your location (obtained via the GPS on the dash cam), as well as your direction of travel, so they can be quickly and efficiently dispatched and can easily locate you.
In the same vein, the 322GW also features intelligent parking mode, which immediately powers up the dash cam should it detect movement of or a shunt to the car whilst it is parked. Given as I live in a small village with very narrow roads and the car is parked on the street, this gives me significant piece of mind. I have lost count of the number of my neighbours who have had their cars pranged or scraped overnight whilst parked, and this will at least offer the opportunity to catch the perpetrator and their number plate.
The last thing that I want to mention, and one of my favourite features, is the add-on modules. One thing that front-facing dash cams can’t really do is record bad driving from behind. Tailgating is dangerous and seemingly on the increase, so having the ability to record it, as well as the potential for it acting as a deterrent (the module is very visible from behind) is very useful. I was hit in the rear by a van recently on a quiet road, and what I hadn’t reckoned on when I got out to swap insurance details was a couple of local thugs who decided that any opportunity for a bit of an altercation should be grabbed. So when I got out to swap details, instead of having a civilised conversation, they decided to be abusive and intimidating – not ideal when you are on your own with two young children in the car. I felt I had no option but to drive off, but had I had one of these modules, the whole incident as well as a reg number would have been recorded and I could have gone to the police. In the end, I just had drive away and hope there was no significant damage to the car.
I loved this dash cam – it is simple to use, the extra features genuinely justify the cost of the upgrade and the recording quality is excellent, even when driving in the dark. As you move up the range, there are more and more features including Alexa integration, super wide-angle viewing lenses and larger screens. At £99, I think it’s great value for money and I’m delighted I upgraded.
I am equally pleased I decided to have it fitted at Halfords. It costs just £30 for a dash cam fit (plus £20 for the extra modules) and that includes the fit-kit too. It was booked in really easily over the phone and when I turned up, I just had to leave the car with them for an hour, vanish off for a coffee and when I returned, it was tidily and professionally installed. They had sited it perfectly – hidden behind the rearview mirror so not in line of sight and not distracting, and had even performed a full vehicle check and topped up my screen wash fluid. The service was super friendly and they made everything so easy, from start to finish so I am over the moon with both the dash cam itself and how it is installed into the car.
RRP: £99 (322GW Dash Cam) / £49 (Rear Window Cam)