Trying to choose the best dash cam for you can be a complicated process. Not only are there several different types, from mini dash cams to front and rear options and even dash cam mirrors, there's also a surprising range of features, including sensors, parking modes, and different video resolutions.

So it's no surprise that many buyers are looking to keep things simple with a mini dash cam. These are ideal if you don't have a lot of room to play with and they also tend to be cheaper than their more complete counterparts. But what are the pros and cons of these smaller dash cams? And which are the best out there? We have prepared this guide to help you decide.

What is a mini dash cam?

The mini dash cam is a smaller, more compact version of a standard dash cam that takes up less space and is also generally less obtrusive. Some of the more conventional dash cam designs can be quite bulky and are not always as attractive to drivers with confined cabins. A mini dash cam is just the opposite.

While any dash cam should be mounted in a way that it doesn't interfere with your driving or obstruct your view through the windshield, the benefit of a mini dash cam means there's even less to worry about.

The Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2 mounted inside a windshield

(Image credit: future)

Whichever model you choose, they mount the same way as larger dash cams, usually using a self-adhesive pad or suction cup mount. The small dimensions of a mini dash cam mean that they can also be perfectly hidden behind the rear view mirror.

But of course there are some drawbacks. From the lack of included accessories and features to the lack of a screen, you'll need to consider whether that added convenience is worth the limitations of mini dash cams.

What are the disadvantages of mini dash cams?

Most mini dash cams have enough features and power for the average driver, but their smaller designs have some compromises. In general, there are three main drawbacks to be aware of.

First, there is the common lack of a rear window. Some models have one (like the Garmin Dash Cam 67W below), but it's likely to be a bit small. Fortunately, this is not a problem for most drivers, as they will not need to review the images on the device. Instead, there is always a companion app that offers the ability to view images on your smartphone, as well as configure the dash cam. This is likely to prove to be a more pleasant experience in the long run.

A major limitation of mini dash cams is often video quality. Because your lenses were installed in a smaller space, you may experience some degree of fisheye distortion in the resulting video. If the camera has a less impressive resolution (another common limitation of small dash cams), this could combine with distortion to make it hard to distinguish details in your videos.

Garmin 67W dash cam

Some mini dash cams, like the Garmin Dash Cam 67W, have a small screen on the back. (Image credit: Future)

That said, an HDR (high dynamic range) mode can help compensate for daytime sunlight, as can buying a cheap polarizing filter to remove glare. Both are possible on mini dash cams and this can have as big an impact on image quality as resolution and lens quality. Ultimately, the better the quality of the images, the more likely you will be able to use them in an insurance claim.

A third drawback is often a lack of features, compared to larger dash cams. For example, our top pick, the Garmin Mini Dash Cam Mini 2, doesn't come with GPS (so it can't track your vehicle's speed), a wiring kit, or even a microSD card. That said, you can sync it up with a Garmin dash cam that has GPS, via the Drive app.

Not all mini dash cams lack GPS: A good middle ground is the Garmin Dash Cam 67W, which has 1440p video recording, a wide 180-degree field of view, a GPS and voice command, as well as a 2 - inch LCD screen. There's even lane departure warning and forward collision warning.

So, if you've looked at standard sized dash cams and think they're too big and bulky, looking into a mini dash cam might be the way to go. This is especially the case if you drive a sports car with a small windshield. As we've found, there are some compromises to be made in terms of performance and functionality, but if saving space is the primary consideration, then a mini dash cam makes a lot of sense.

What are the best mini dash cams?

The Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2 mounted inside a windshield

(Image credit: future)

The best mini dash cam for fans of simplicity

Features

Video quality: 1080p

View angle: 140 degrees

GPS Tracker: Yes

Memory: MicroSD card (not included)

Reasons to buy

+

Easy to install and use

+

Full HD video with HDR

Reasons to avoid

-

a screen is missing

-

No battery

-

no gps

If you need a basic dash cam that does just the basics and hides discreetly behind your rearview mirror, then the Dash Cam Mini 2 is our current top pick.

It is small, with dimensions of only 3,1 x 2,9 x 5,3 cm and weighs only 35 g. But it still comes with most of the features and functionality you'll need to keep an eye on the road ahead. There's a 140-degree field of view and the video quality, while only 1080p resolution, is very good for its size.

Voice control is also part of the package, which is a nice bonus, although GPS is missing. If you want the Dash Cam Mini 2 to record video while parked, it's also worth noting that you'll need a Garmin 12V Always-On or Constant Power cable (not included). But the Garmin Drive app, where f is very neat, and that's an important part of the experience with mini dash cams.

The Thinkware F800 Pro dash cam inside a car windshield

(Image credit: Thinkware)

2. Thinkware F800 Pro

A premium yet powerful mini dash cam

Features

Video quality: 1080p

Viewing angle: 140

GPS tracker: GPS

Memory: 16GB-32GB internal, microSD

Reasons to buy

+

GPS tracking

+

Good image quality

+

Useful night mode

Reasons to avoid

-

Some features require fixed wiring

-

Expensive compared to competitors.

Another slim dash cam worth considering is the Thinkware F800 Pro. It's quite pricey, but it's packed with smart features, and it also offers a front and rear set, meaning you'll be covered in the event of a diversion from behind.

The feature set is solid, with a low-profile design, GPS tracking, and good-quality HD footage. Wi-Fi connectivity means you can connect your smartphone to the device and get a night mode for more efficient recording after dark.

You'll need to connect the camera to your car if you want to use its fancy time-lapse mode, which keeps a watchful eye on your car when you're not in it at night.

The Garmin Dash Cam 67W on a wooden table

(Image credit: Garmin)

Compact, powerful and easy to use

Features

Video quality: 1440p

View angle: 180 degrees

GPS Tracker: Yes

Memory: MicroSD card (16GB card included)

Reasons to buy

+

awesome little package

+

high quality video

+

doodle to install

Reasons to avoid

-

Some features require an additional kit

-

Wide angle distorts the edge of the frame

It's not as compact as Garmin's Dash Cam Mini 2, but the 67W is still about the size of a matchbox, and offers a few extra features for that higher price.

The main difference from Garmin's other compact dash cams is the wide 180-degree field of view (hence the 'W' in its name). This causes some fisheye distortion, but is useful if you have a larger car or want a dash cam that can see the entire front of your vehicle.

The sensor's 1440p images are sharp, while the High Dynamic Range (HDR) function ensures images remain high quality even in difficult lighting conditions. This extra resolution compared to the Dash Cam Mini 2 can also be useful for inserting images to highlight details like license plates.

Some features, like the ability to remotely check on your parked car, require the 67W to be connected to your car and connected to a Wi-Fi network. But if you want high-quality images with a wide viewing angle, this is a great mini dash cam.

The Thinkware Q800 Pro inside a car windshield

(Image credit: Thinkware)

4. Thinkware Q800 Pro

A high-end option that shoots 2K video

Features

Video quality: 2K (front), Full HD (rear)

View angle: 140 degrees

GPS Tracker: Yes

Memory: 16GB-32GB internal, microSD

Reasons to buy

+

High quality 2K video

+

GPS and Wi-Fi

Reasons to avoid

-

Not the best companion app

-

Not as small as other mini dash cams

The Thinkware Q800 Pro is a powerful and compact set of front and rear dash cameras. This one offers 2K 1440p shooting quality, GPS speed and location recording, and Super Night Vision.

There's a Sony Exmore R Starvis image sensor, so the quality is excellent. Expandable up to 128GB, there's a 32GB microSD card included, as well as access to the Thinkware Cloud for quick and easy backup.

Although Thinkware doesn't always win everyone over with its add-on, once it's up and running, the image quality and feature set are impressive. You will get the most out of connecting it too.

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