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Nextbase 512GW Review

A review of the Nextbase 512GW dash cam, plus the optional rear camera.

Should I Buy The Nextbase 512GW?
The 512GW is an excellent dash cam that’s easy to install and use. Video quality is very good and it has some nifty features such as the automatic parking mode, plus the auto-dimming screen and the polariser which improves clarity in sunny conditions. There's also the optional rear camera.

Price When Reviewed
  • £149.99
We originally reviewed the 512GW in mid-2017. At that point we praised it for offering great quality video and the possibility of adding a rear camera in the future. Well, that future has arrived after a longer-than-expected wait, so we've updated our original review to include the £49 rear camera.

Price & Availability
You can buy the 512GW for £149.99 from Halfords which makes it £20 more expensive than the 412GW. Halfords also sells the new rear cam for £49.99, and it doesn't take an able mathematician to work out that this brings the total to as near as makes no difference £200.

However, a current offer means that if you buy the two together you get the rear camera for half price, which is a great deal. Not helpful if you already own a 512GW though.

Even the full price isn't bad for a front + rear setup, as rivals, such as the DDPai X2 Pro cost even more.

You'll find more alternatives in our roundup of the best dash cams.

Features And Design
Like the 412GW, the 512 has a 3in screen with a resolution of 960x240 and uses touch-sensitive rather than physical buttons. Although they work well enough, we still prefer the 312GW’s real buttons that are easier to use.

Fortunately, you won’t have to use them much as Nextbase recommends you don’t change the out-of-box settings, and the time and date are set automatically by GPS.

The 512GW uses the Click & Go mount. It’s a quick-release system that holds the camera in place with magnets, and also supplies power so you don’t have to unplug a USB cable if you prefer to remove your dash cam from view when you park.

In the box are both adhesive and suction mounts. I prefer the former as it’s smaller and means the camera sits closer to the windscreen. The disadvantage is that it doesn't allow for quite as much movement and so the angle shown in the video and images below is the lowest it's possible to tilt the lens.

Compared to designs from Thinkware and DDPai which hug the windscreen and don't obstruct the sun visors, the 512GW is hard to hide away behind a rear view mirror - at least in a standard hatchback. Larger cars may be more forgiving.

Of course, unlike Thinkware and similar designs, the 512GW has a screen so you don't have to resort to an app to change settings and review footage.

Rubber covers protect the USB and mini HDMI ports, and there's a new connector: R-CAM. This is a microUSB port for the rear camera which allows you to record both front and rear views.

There’s one other small but significant upgrade from the 412GW: microSD cards up to 128GB are supported so you’re not limited to storing only a couple of hours’ worth of video before it starts getting overwritten.

At the default settings, each three-minute loop uses just over 600MB, and a low-res clip is also stored that takes up 70MB. This fills up a 32GB card in around 2 hours, 15 minutes.

A 128GB card will therefore hold around nine hours of video. See our roundup of the best microSD cards for our recommendations.

There’s also an auto-dimming feature which lowers the screen brightness at night (or in low light) and another new one: time-lapse. You should only use this for special trips, not normal driving, and there’s a choice of either three minutes or two hours, with a three-minute duration creating a 30 second video.

While driving, the screen displays your current speed, which is less distracting and more useful than the video being recorded.

Rear Camera
The rear camera is a pretty small little thing and attaches to the rear window with 3M adhesive. A spare pad is included in the box. The hinge allows the camera to be tilted up and down but also left and right, something a lot of rear cameras don't allow for. This is handy since if your rear screen is curved and you don't want to mount it in the middle, you can angle it to capture the right view.

A 6m cable is bundled with the camera, but it's annoyingly chunky. It's difficult to hide under rubber door and boot seals, and is also hard to manipulate around corners. Other cables we've seen have been significantly thinner, and it's hard to conclude Nextbase chose this because if offered better quality. Also, in a standard hatchback, 6m is way too long, so you'll have to find somewhere to 'lose' around 2m of it.

Nextbase sensibly recommends you install it within the rear wiper's path so the view isn't obscured by dirt or rain, but doing so in many cars would also partially obscure your view out of the back and leave that cable trailing across the glass.

The good news is that the camera has a decent sensor and records at 1080p. The lens isn't the best: there's a fair amount of barrel distortion, but quality is the best we've seen from any rear camera. When light is good, you can easily make out number plates even if the car isn't stopped behind you, as you can see in the 1080p still below:
There is some bad news, though. With it attached, the front camera is limited to 1080p recording too, rather than its maximum 1440p. And bitrate drops from roughly 33Mb/s to just 12, matching the rear camera's recorded video. That's likely because the 512GW's processor can't handle the front camera at the highest quality plus the rear camera's feed. And there's a noticeable drop in quality, as you'd expect.

You can't have your cake and eat it, it turns out.

Note that the 512GW's firmware must be updated to recognise the rear camera, and we had to unplug and replug the USB cable a couple of times after updating before it did indeed spot that it was connected and offer us a choice of seeing the feed on the left or right of the screen as a picture-in-picture, or full screen.

There's more: with the rear camera attached, you can't opt to record high- and low-quality clips simultaneously as you can without it. Instead you'll find front and rear clips on the microSD card.

Parking Mode
Most cars cut power to the accessory socket when you turn off the ignition, so you’ll likely need to buy a hard-wire kit if you want to use the smart parking mode as this needs constant power.

After five minutes of inactivity, it auto-switches to sleep mode and uses the built-in G-sensor to detect, for example, when your car is knocked or bumped and starts recording a two-minute video at that point.

It won’t allow your battery to run flat, as it will turn off if it detects a certain voltage. Nextbase says it uses so little power in sleep mode that it will work even if you leave you car parked for several weeks.

Performance
In general, video quality is very good. You’ll get the best quality if you set the circular polariser to minimise reflections of your dashboard, but its effectiveness will depend on the angle of the sun - you can’t continually rotate the filter as you drive of course.

The polariser certainly helps to make skies nice and blue, but doesn’t affect how much detail is captured. And on that score, the 512GW is roughly on a par with the 412GW, despite the upgrade to a Sony Exmor R sensor. Colours, as you can seen from the video and screengrab below, are superb.

In daylight, you should be able to make out number plates and signs with no problems, unless they’re simply too far away.

Come dusk or night and - as with all dash cams - detail levels drop and things become much less sharp. As demonstrated by the grab below, you might be able to read a plate in low light when you’re close to the vehicle in front, but passing cars tend to be quite blurry.

It’s potentially a drawback of the polariser, which slightly reduces the amount of light entering the lens. It isn’t removable for night use, sadly.

App
The app hasn't seen a facelift since 2017, and it is not one of our favourites. First, it only works if you press and hold the bottom left button on the dash cam to enable Wi-Fi.

Once your phone is connected, you can view the feed from the camera(s) and also watch recorded clips. However, unlike DDPai's app where you can download a video while it plays on screen - you can stop once you’ve captured everything you need - you have to wait for a full three-minute clip to transfer. Given that this can be up to 800MB, you can be in for a very long wait.

It's best to remove the microSD card and use a card reader on your PC or Mac. You can drag and drop the files, or use Nextbase’s Replay 3 program. This allows you to see the video along with all the other recorded GPS and G-sensor data, plus your location on the map. It works well, and can provide extra evidence, if needed, about a collision.

Verdict
Although the app leaves much to be desired, and the rear camera forces the front one to reduce its quality, the 512GW is still a great dash cam. Once installed and any options set, you can largely forget about it and it will reliably record evidence that will be invaluable if you ever need it.

The rear camera also offers good quality video, but it's a shame this comes at the expense of quality at the front. Still, if you're buying both together, the package price is more tempting than many dual-camera setups.

Specs
  • Display Size: 3.0in
  • 140° wide-angle lens
  • GPS Logging: Yes
  • Speed Camera Alert: No
  • Micro SD Included: No
  • 32GB SD card recording time - 2.25 hours
  • 109 x 56 x 37 mm
  • Accessories: 4m car charger, suction mount, adhesive mount, mini USB cable


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