It’s pricey and not quite perfect, but the Nextbase iQ delivers new levels of protection through good software and innovative features
- High-quality footage
- Real-time alerts and cloud uploads
- Inventive and genuinely useful features
- Big and tricky to position
- Subscription-locked features
- Some features not available yet
Over the last few years, the humble dash cam has become both more connected and more sophisticated, going beyond the basic job of recording video through your windscreen to include safety features, cloud backups, parking protection, voice control and more.
The Nextbase iQ takes the smart dash cam concept to a whole new level, integrating 4G connectivity and a range of new features to create a product that’s as much about protecting yourself and your vehicle as safeguarding your no-claims bonus. While it’s far from the first smart dash cam, the Nextbase iQ is arguably the most ambitious – and in many ways the most polished and successful.
Nextbase iQ review: What do you get for the money?
The Nextbase iQ is a next-generation smart dash cam, available in a choice of 1K, 2K and 4K flavours, with 1080p, 1440p and 4K resolutions. The cheapest model will set you back £349, the mid-tier option £399, while the 4K model costs £449. You can also incorporate a rear camera into the setup if desired – this is sold separately for £149.
The 4K model reviewed here combines windscreen and cockpit cameras with proximity sensors to not just record what’s going on while you’re driving or you’re parked, but work more proactively to detect threats to your car, send alerts and capture video. To do so, it has a permanent 4G connection through its own internal IoT SIM, along with Wi-Fi connectivity to view and transfer data while you’re in the car.
It comes as a single unit with a chunky windscreen mount, which includes external antennae to ensure a strong connection along with a glowing LED strip running around the circumference, to provide visual feedback and alerts. Above the cockpit camera, there’s a miniscule LCD screen, though this doesn’t show real-time footage, just notifications and configuration info. At the bottom of the camera, there’s a secondary LED. The optional rear-view camera and the power cable connect at the top of the mount.
To make sure you maintain constant power and connectivity, the iQ doesn’t plug into the USB socket or your 12V power socket, but to the universal OBD diagnostics connector that you’ll find in every car built since 1996. You’ll probably need a quick Internet search to find out where this is lurking on your motor, but Nextbase includes a 4m cable and a series of cable ties to help you hook up your dash cam while keeping any wiring out of the way. If you’re unlucky enough to have it in a really awkward place, Nextbase also bundles in adaptors for a direct connection to your fusebox, though as these take more research and work to fit, that’s more of a last resort.
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Nextbase iQ review: What does it do well?
First of all, the iQ is easy to set up. You install the app on your phone, connect the dash cam (preferably before you plug it in), scan a QR code from the LCD screen, then follow the step-by-step instructions through connecting your Wi-Fi, positioning the hardware and setting up your iQ subscription and Nextbase account.
Secondly, the captured footage is up to Nextbase’s usual high standard. We tested the 4K model, and while the Thinkware U3000 and Miofive 4K Dash Cam offer slightly crisper picture quality in bright conditions, the iQ comes very close while offering more detail on darker and more gloomy winter days. You can read the number plates of cars coming towards you, not just when you’re travelling behind them, and the sensor and software do an impressive job of handling bright headlights without blowing the exposure when capturing video at night. The cockpit footage is also particularly good, both in daylight hours and – through monochrome infrared capture – after dark.
The real reason to invest in the iQ system, though, is the extra features. Plenty of dash-cams offer some form of parking protection, but the iQ’s Smart Sense features continually assess what’s going on around your vehicle and capture footage just in case, only saving it permanently and sending an alert if there’s some more direct interaction with your car. As a result, you get plenty of alerts – you can entertain yourself later by watching clips of family members unlocking and getting in the car – but not so many false positives that you feel the need to turn the feature off.
What’s more, the alerts you get come to you in real-time, and are accompanied by a flashing red warning light from the dash cam’s LED strip. 480p resolution clips are uploaded automatically to the cloud for viewing, and you can download them to the phone app for viewing and sharing, or access and share them through a unique link.
Yet the iQ isn’t finished there. Using voice commands you can enable a Witness mode, where the cameras capture audio and video and live stream the footage to up to two emergency contacts, in real-time. The contact gets an SMS message with a link, and from there can stream immediately. It’s not hard to imagine how this might help out in road rage incidents or any interaction with the potential to turn nasty.
Meanwhile, the Emergency SOS feature monitors for severe crashes, and can then send an alert to emergency services with your location. They can then call you back, and if you don’t answer, respond accordingly.
Nextbase is also due to new Roadwatch AI and Guardian Mode features in the near future. The former combines video and sensor data with AI to track the speed and trajectory of vehicles and provide analysis in the event of any incident or collision.
The latter is aimed at parents of younger drivers, enabling them to set speed and location limits, and then have an alert sent to the app if either is exceeded. The exasperated parent can then get real-time footage from the cockpit cam and dash cam, and use the built-in audio link to admonish their reckless offspring. It’s a shame these features weren’t ready at the time of writing, as I suspect Guardian Mode will be a huge selling point for some users.
If there’s one thing that connects all these positives, it’s that Nextbase has done a great job with its software. The app is well laid out and intuitive, putting features within easy reach, with none of the poor UI choices, dodgy spelling and clunky menus that afflict so many dash cam companion apps. When an alert comes through to your smartphone, you can check it quickly and efficiently, with just the occasional pause while a connection is being made. It’s as much in the level of polish as in the features that the iQ pulls ahead of the smart dash cam competition.
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Nextbase iQ review: What could it do better?
For all the good stuff about the iQ, there are a couple of things I’m not so happy with. Almost inevitably, the key features depend on paying a monthly or annual subscription. For Live View, Smart Sense, Witness Mode, RoadWatch AI and Guardian Mode, you’ll need to pay £6.99/mth or £69.99 annually. This also includes 4G connectivity and cloud storage of your footage for 30 days. Pay £9.99/mth or £99.99 annually and you’ll also get Emergency SOS, multiple user accounts, automated incident back-up and cloud storage for 180 days. Frankly, if you don’t subscribe to either, the iQ isn’t worth having but for the real-time text alerts.
What’s more, this is an unusually big dash-cam with an unusually big mount. It stretches out for approximately 17cm from the top of the mount to the bottom of the camera module, depending on the camera module’s angle. If you can’t site it directly behind the rear-view mirror, it ends up taking up a chunk of windscreen space on the passenger side, which my most regular passengers found obtrusive. What’s more, the way the antennae stick out from the mount can make it difficult to fit too close to the top edge of the windscreen. Compared to compact, slimline and low-profile units like the Garmin Dash Cam 67W, Miofive 4K and Thinkware Q1000, the iQ can be tricky to position. And while it never restricted my driver visibility, it does loom large upon the glass.
Less frequent drivers should also be warned that the constant demands on power could see your battery drained over time. Nextbase is well aware of the issue and has a failsafe to power down the iQ should your battery drain below a level where core vehicle functions might no longer work. An FAQ also suggests driving regularly, while stating that the iQ shouldn’t cause your battery any problems unless your vehicle is left idle for over six days.
Most of all, the iQ is expensive, coming in at £349 for the base 1K model and going up to £449 for the 4K version. That’s not unreasonable by the standard of other advanced dash cams, but you need to use all the clever smart features to make it worth your while.
Nextbase iQ review: Should you buy one?
Possibly. With some features still missing at the time of writing, there’s a sense that the iQ is not quite living up to its full potential, even if it’s very good at what it does already. I’d also be very keen to see a Mark II version with the camera module and the mount slimmed down.
Yet it’s also clear that Nextbase has thought hard about what drivers want and need from a next-gen dash cam, and done a mostly brilliant job of making it all work. It might be pricey and a work in progress, but it’s also the most advanced connected dash cam you can buy.