Updated: January 16, 2017
After three odd years, 100,000 km of driving and car reviews across three continents and through a dozen countries, it is finally time to retire my old DVD-027 dash cam. It's done exceptionally well, but the physical parts were starting to come apart. The wear and tear and the years of constant sun and heat beating through the windscreen have left an irreparable mark on the little gadget.
The dash cam is dead, long live the dash cam. I have a new model, Nextbase 101, a 720p HD camera with a 120-degree angle, tiny, snug and ready for action. This is my new purchase, and it is priced roughly the same as DVR-027. About USD60. Let us.
Nextbase 101 specifications & usage
The official name of the device is NextBase InCarCam 101. It has a 120-degeree viewing angle, motion detection and crash detection, which will automatically save files as future evidence. The device is small and compact, with a fixed 2-inch screen on the backside. This design is superior to the folding cigarette pack one used by the DVR-027, as you do not need to fiddle with the device, potentially loosening the suction cup mounting. On the other hand, some people may be distracted by the little screen. My testing shows that Nextbase 101 is small enough to tuck behind most rear-view mirrors, and it does not really draw your attention.
The build quality is fairly good, with sturdy parts that seem designed for endurance and heavy use. The camera is very light, and the suction cup is quite robust, so you can probably just attach it once and forget about it.
On the technical side of things, InCarCam 101 records 720p 30FPS video footage in 2-3-5 min intervals with continuous rotation. Data goes onto a micro-SD card, up to 32 GB in size, which is not provided with the product. For USD60, you also do not get any fancy GPS, Wi-Fi connectivity, or high-quality night vision. This ain't no GoPro, but then you probably don't want to use something like a HERO camera for day-to-day commuting.
The initial setup was fairly easy. Almost identical to DVR-027. In-menu navigation is simple and straightforward, with self-explanatory actions. You will need to set the time and date. The overlay marker is positioned on the bottom of the footage with an ever so annoying offset to the right. It's not perfectly aligned in the center for some reason, and this really bugs me. OCD demons unite.
I had this camera available for my road trip in the UK. This means the recording is all inverted, no not the actual picture, like duh, 'tis left and right where the things go wonky. The Brits drive on the wrong side, hence my anguish. But the lighting conditions in the UK are pretty good when it comes to camera testing - low sun angles, frequent cloud cover.
So, here's the deal. Daytime quality recording is okay - the screenshots do not necessary show the full sharpness of detail, be it as it may, as the camera only records 30 FPS, and when you take a snapshot of a running video, the footage may look blurred. The less clear the skies become, be it early morning or rain or whatever, the less clear the video clips become. The quality is proportional to lighting levels. There are no miracles, and this is not a high quality device in any way, shape or form. Similar or comparable to DVR-027.
My bigger problem was with how the camera behaved. After a few days, for some odd reason, it completely changed the date & time, and keep rotating a small number of would-be days over and over again. It was literally showing a random future date by a good few months. No idea why this happened. Eventually, it sorted itself out - after I had the card formatted internally by the device and not on a computer. Since, the stamp has been correct, and we're talking several months of use. Still, quite baffling.
Searching online, I could not find anything to point out as to why, and this particular model also does not have any firmware updates. This would not be a big issue on its own, but then I also struggled actually playing the video clips off the SD card.
Neither Fedora nor Ubuntu were able to read the files off the card, finding them corrupt. But if I copied them locally, they would play just fine. Windows 10 did complain about filesystem inconsistencies, but then found nothing, and it was able to easily play and copy the files without any errors. Not being able to try a new version of firmware to address this is a bit of a pain. To wit, some lovely evidence.
Nextbase 101 HD in-car dash camera is a decent product with a reasonable and quite expected average quality of video in less than ideal conditions, and a relatively good footage when it's bright and clear. It's small and robust, but the time & date functionality seems a bit wonky, plus handling the recorded videos can be a pain, depending on your operating system of choice. Not quite the trivial FAT32 whatever you need.
Overall, for the cheap asking price, Nextbase 101 seems to be an okay offering. The interface is simple and relatively fast, the video quality is acceptable, the audio is good and possibly even better than DVR-027, and the packaging is also superior to my previous model. But it is less plug & play when it comes to setup and post-processing. All in all, if you need something more serious, you also need more money. There's no magical way of dodging the fundamental laws of monetary conservation. I will keep on testing, and for now I think I'm going to keep this one. If you're into driving and recording your activities, this low-budget gadget is a fine compromise between quality and cost. 7.5/10. Take care, my automotive readers.