Garmin nüviCam Review: The Deceptive Dash Cam

When you think of dash cam footage you’re usually reminded of those crazy Russian YouTube videos where some idiot decides to dive into a car in order to claim personal injury damages, or some pillock who decided to pull into an intersection too early. Either way, you hardly associate them with the streets of Britain, right?

Well you wouldn’t be too far from the truth, but times are changing as more Britons are looking at getting dash cams installed into their vehicles to ensure both safety and security on the road. In fact, according to Garmin Driver Safety research, they found that  51 per cent of UK drivers are keen to install a dash cam in their car to save on their insurance premiums alone, with 66 per cent of drivers say they intend to use a dash cam in their cars in the coming year.

So if you’re one of those drivers and a little unsure as to where to start with a dash cam, Garmin have decided to give you the best of two worlds with the Garmin nüviCam, the first ever Satellite Navigation system with a built-in Dash Cam.

I’ll be honest, when we took up the opportunity to review this particular bit of kit, we were a little apprehensive as to how actually useful the dash cam side of things would be. We’ve all had sat-nav’s in our time, but never a dash cam. It was just something we thought was a bit of a gimmick, especially on Britain’s roads. We couldn’t have been more wrong.

We had this particular unit for a little over a week, and during that time the little camera was witness to many rage-inducing wrong-doings including one or two near-accidents due to poor road users, and for once, we had the evidence to back it up.

Garmin nuviCam
Yep, you can use it to check-in on FourSquare!

So let’s take a look at the Garmin nüviCam from two perspectives. First off, the sat-nav side of things:

The nüviCam as a standalone sat-nav is probably one of the best we’ve used. Granted, before using this we’ve often relied on Google Maps Navigation and Apple Maps, because this day and age, we’ve all got a sat-nav in our pockets, so to actually use a system dedicated to driving the mean streets of the UK, it was actually quite nice.

The navigation is concise and clear and gives you more than enough warning when it comes to what to do next. It even tells you which lane you should be in, instead of some systems which bark the junction or roundabout exit, leaving you to figure out which lane to be in.

Another feature, which isn’t overly revolutionary, is the roadwork updates which you’ll receive if you’re entering, or heading towards any roadworks on your travels. The device even comes with Garmin Digital Traffic DAB meaning you’ll always have the latest alerts when it comes to roadworks or accidents.

In addition to the top notch navigation, the system itself offers a number of features including bluetooth hands-free and voice commands. For the bluetooth, it’s as simple as connecting your phone to the nüviCam via Bluetooth and you can make and receive calls without touching your device, even without the bluetooth kit which comes with the nüviCam the sat-nav also responds to voice commands allowing to you ask to be directed to certain locations, get up to date information on traffic, and much more.

Now, onto the dash cam side of things, Garmin have done a fantastic job of not only packing the two together, but making sure they work hand-in-hand. And it’s super easy to set up.

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In the box, you’ll find the nüviCam, a charger and window dock, as well as a little microphone cable for the hands-free features. Once the charger and dock are installed – as simple as sticking it to your windscreen and plugging it into the 12V charger – you can get to navigating. You see, there’s no awkward clips with the nüviCam, it actually sticks to the dock using a built-in magnet / charger combo, this means you can easily seat and remove it without fear of having the dock fall from the windscreen. And because there’s no cables actually attached to the device, you can easily store it without having to fight with wires.

Once in place, you’ll be prompted to move the dash cam so that it focuses on the middle of the road – this part is important. This can be done by gently pushing the camera on its axis to ensure its in position. Once that’s done (something that’s usually only required once) you’re good to go.

Now, I talk about the two working in unison, this is done in a number of clever ways. First is through a series of “premium” features such as Lane Departure Warnings and Forward Collision Warnings. These features alert the driver if their veering to the left or right of a lane, and if they’re coming up too quickly to a vehicle in front.

Now, don’t get me wrong, these are incredibly useful features, but they can also encourage poor driving, so personally, I wouldn’t rely on these features so much as during use we did encounter a few false positives and the alerts became a little more annoying that useful – in our use cases anyway.

Other features on the nüviCam include the ability to see the destination you’re set to arrive at using Garmin Real Vision. What this basically does is, as you’re approaching your destination the dash cam pops up and shows you in real time, an arrow pointing to the house or building you’re navigating to. Though this offered a few hits and misses, it was a great way to offer a rough idea of the place you’re supposed to be visiting.

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Onto the dash cam itself, for the price (around £300), you’re actually getting a pretty high quality camera with a very wide-angled lens, meaning that no matter where you position the device, you’ll have a pretty solid view ahead and the surrounding areas.

The nüviCam has both built-in memory and support for a microSD card and as soon as you switch on the device it’ll start recording. So no matter what, you’ll have footage of all of your journeys, and in theory, it never runs out of space as it cleverly records over footage as soon as the device hits its memory limit. The good news is that this is only for the actual journey recordings as all saved footage, whether it’s video or pictures, will remain safe.

One of the more surprising features of the nüviCam was its Incident Detection G-sensor which automatically records and saves “events” which the dash-cam feels is a collision or accident. Fortunately we didn’t experience this part of the sat-nav, or at least not due to a collision. It did however activate when we ran over a pretty hefty pot-hole. This is a fantastic feature that requires no input if an accident occurs allowing you to attend to the matter at hand rather than fiddling with your dash-cam to ensure that you’ve captured the moment.

The device itself comes packed with a large 6-inch capacitive touch-screen display which, granted, doesn’t feel as high quality as the smartphones of today, but it certainly makes a difference from the resistive touch-screen devices out there which often feel clunky and sluggish. The screen is lovely and bright even in sunlight, though its glossy display was slightly too reflective at times.

Due to the device’s large size and built-in dash cam, it was fairly large and was required to be placed fairly low on the passenger side so as no to obscure the driver’s view, but even then the screen was perfectly visible and legible and the voice commands meant that there was really no need to touch the device again – in fact, if you tried to do so while driving, you’d be unable to unless you purposely chose to use the device while driving.

Overall the Garmin nüviCam is a fantastic gateway device to introduce you to the world of dash cams. It packs both a fantastic sat-nav in with a dash cam which doesn’t look overly obnoxious. It’s zero-quibble installation means that you can get up and running as quickly as possible and its plethora of features ensure that you’ll reach your destination on time, securely, and safely.

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