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4K Madness:  The Truth about 4K Dash Cams

4K Madness: The Truth about 4K Dash Cams

The most important feature on a dash cam is the camera itself as the camera lens and sensor combination will largely determine the recording quality of the device. You may have heard the terms HD, Full HD, 2K and 4K. These are all different recording qualities.

If you have been following us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or have received our recent newsletters, you will have heard about the term “4K Madness.” If you are new to dash cams, all this talk about 4K UHD might remind you of that glowing wall of flat-screen TVs at Best Buy. But, while you can see what a 4K TV looks like, what exactly is a 4K dash cam? And more importantly, should you buy into the “madness” and get one?

Blame it on BlackVue

It all started when BlackVue introduced the DR900S in late 2018. Not only did the DR900S captivate everyone with its 4K UHD clarity, but it redefined the industry standards for dash cam recording quality as well as opened up a whole new playing field for other dash cam manufacturers.

Then in 2019, Thinkware and VIOFO launched their own 4K UHD units. Thinkware and VIOFO didn't just incorporated the 4K UHD technology into their dash cams, they made it more irresistible: the Thinkware U1000 is currently the highest resolution 2-channel dash cam and the VIOFO A129 Pro is the highest resolution LCD-dash cam. IROAD, another luxury dash cam brand from Korea, unveiled their 4K UHD dash cam “IROAD X10” at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair 2019 (HKFSE 19) in April. The IROAD X10 is due for an official release in early 2020, so expect to see more and more 4K UHD dash cams coming at full force in 2020.

How is 4K UHD different from 2K QHD, Full HD or HD?

The best way to understand 4K UHD is to see it in action. Check out these sample footage we have recorded using different dash cams:

Thinkware H100 720p HD

Whoa, how did they make it so clear?

Answer: higher pixel density + smaller pixels!

Image credit: 4K.com

A snapshot taken by a 4K dash cam will contain 8 million pixels whereas the same snapshot taken with a Full HD dash cam will only contain 2 million pixels. In other words, the 4K dash cam packs 4 pixels into the space that one pixel takes up in Full HD. More pixels means a higher pixel density and smaller pixels means more accurate colour and image depth. Put it all together and you get a clearer, better defined picture. That’s why the 4K sample footage looks better than the Full HD.

At this time, 4K UHD is the highest quality possible for a dash cam.

Do I need a 4K TV or screen to watch my 4K UHD dash cam footage?

Well, to render the true 4K experience, content needs to be both recorded and delivered in 4K. But what if you don’t have a 4K TV or smartphone or computer?

This is very similar to resizing images. Have you ever tried stretching out a small, low-res image to fill a large screen? You will end up with a blurry, pixelated picture. Reverse the situation and shrink a large, high-res image to fit a small screen - you probably won’t notice any changes in the image quality.

Capturing video footage in 4K UHD is just like taking a picture with a high-res camera. You can scale the photo down without adversely affecting the quality. In fact, tests have shown that when comparing the final video quality of a 4K video who has been downscaled to 2K, the picture is noticeably more detailed than could have resulted from originally creating the recording the 2K. So, if you have a Full HD screen, you can take the original 4K video and zoom in on the details, for example on other car’s license plates when needed.

How come the ‘4K Dash Cams’ on Amazon are so much cheaper?

We currently have three different 4K UHD dash cams on BlackboxMyCar.com:

While you can buy almost everything and anything off Amazon, be careful when it comes to electronics, like 4K UHD dash cams. Here are a couple of sub-$100 "bestsellers" 4K dash cams on Amazon Really attractive pricing, indeed - you can get five of the Amazon's bestsellers for the price of one Thinkware U1000.

But, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

In order to record in true 4K UHD, a dash cam needs to have an image sensor that is at least 8MP. The VIOFO, Thinkware, and BlackVue 4K models are equipped with an 8MP image sensor. On the other hand, the Amazon bestsellers come with a 4MP and 5.1MP image sensor (5MP is what Thinkware and VIOFO use on their 2K QHD dash cams).

In other words, the two “4K” units on Amazon are not real 4K dash cams. Their lower-res image sensors are capable of 2K QHD recording at most. So in reality you will have a Full HD or 2K video resized to make it look like 4K UHD.

What about video file sizes?

Typically, recording videos in 4K will result in larger file sizes, so you will need to consider getting a larger memory card than the 32GB that comes standard with the dash cam. For instance, the Thinkware U1000 supports microSD cards up to 128GB.

Some dash cam manufacturers have also brought in advanced video compression technologies as a solution to reduce the large file sizes. For example, the Thinkware U1000, the BlackVue DR900S and VIOFO A129 Pro all supports H.265 HEVC, or High Efficiency Video Coding. H.265 was designed to compress high definition video into the same size as that of HD 1080p without affecting the image quality level. The downside of H.265 is difficulties on playback since many devices (especially older computers) will struggle with high bitrate 4K encoded in H.265.

So, our recommendation remains to opt for the standard compression technology H.264 and purchase a larger capacity memory card.

Does 4K dash cams consume more power?

Yes, they do. If you are worried about power usage during parking mode coverage, we recommend using an external battery pack.

An external battery pack will allow your 4K dash cam to keep recording even when your vehicle is parked and powered down. The Cellink NEO and the BlackVue B-124X are two of our most favourite external battery packs because they are expandable - you can daisy-chain as many expansion batteries to the main battery pack as you need to double (even triple and more) the power capacity for a longer parking mode coverage.

Conclusion

In comparison to Full HD or 2K QHD, a 4K UHD dash cam can capture higher quality images and clear-cut recordings of vehicle license plates. This is especially useful when providing recordings as evidence in the event of a road incident or accident.

Other benefits include:

  • Improved contrast and color range
  • Clearly zoom on road signs and license plates further away
  • Greater ability to record passenger & driver details

And because most 4K dash cams are the highest-tier model within their companies, you can trust that the manufacturers would load it up on the best premium features the company offers: advanced parking mode, road safety systems, GPS tracking, dual-band WiFi connectivity, and more.

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Based on 4276 reviews
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Easiest way

This plug is the easiest way to plug in your dash cam.
Shipped fast and was a good deal.

Hi Colin, thank you for leaving a review! Glad to hear that you love your purchase.
First Dash Cam purchase

After searching the internet for dash cam retailers, I settled on BlackBoxMyCar and I am very happy I chose them. I'm very pleased with my Viofo A129 Duo. I was able to have several questions answered on-line and that was a key factor in selecting my dash cam and BlackBoxMyCar. They will be my go to vendor for my next dash cam.

Hi John, thanks for purchasing from BlackboxMyCar. We're glad to have you as a happy customer :) Let us know at any time if you have any questions in the future.

VIOFO A119 V3 QHD+ Dash Cam

Hi Laenard, thanks for leaving a review!
Great item

Getting installed Monday 1/20/2020

Hi John, thanks for leaving a review!
Very Satisfied

I purchased the suction cup mount to allow me to transfer my Viofo A119V3 between vehicles.

The A119 V3 fits very securely onto the suction cup mount. This mount is superior to those I have used with other devices e.g. GPS in that it offers adjustment in both tilting and rotating, both of which can be locked in position, and when coupled with the titling lens it is very easy to get the best position for the Dashcam.

I found it very easy to secure the mount to my windshield.

Recommended if you intend to move the Dashcam between vehicles or to rental cars.

Hi David, thanks for leaving a review! Glad to hear that the suction cup mount was exactly what you were looking for.
Right fit

I ordered a part for my new car , It all worked out thank you.

Hi Spencer, thanks for leaving a review. Glad to hear that it all worked out for you. Let us know if you have any questions!
Awesome Rideshare Setup!

First of all! Very nice and knowledgeable people at blackboxmycar! Second very nice setup with power magic pro wiring kit! Also very discrete design! Love the video quality! Especially at night with the Sony Starvis! Overall good setup! Can barely see the cams. Thanks again Blackboxmycar.com/BlackVue!!! 👍👍👍

Hi Eric, thanks for purchasing from BlackboxMyCar. Glad to hear that your dash cam worked out for you! Thanks for including pictures as well :) Looks great!
Very Good - not yet great. But getting there.

I purchased the BlackVue DR900S 2 channel with interior facing IR after an attempted theft of my 2019 F-150 Lariat. It was already a purchase I had been considering in order to add a layer of security during both active and passive vehicle usage and I didn't hesitate to go with BMC given the number of positive reviews.

After a fast and painless exchange via email, BMC matched a lower price point offer for the kit that I had found on the internet. BMC even included a slightly larger storage card. Shipping and receipt went smoothly.

If I can fault BMC it is in the install and "commissioning" of the dash cam. Though I had done a fair bit of research and certainly am not one to shy away from peeling off some trim or crimping some wires, there was no step-by-step guide to installation that would have given an illustrated and comprehensive explanation of the process; now, this information exists and I was able to access it, but it was still a bit of a patchwork construction and an installation that I thought might take one hour took 2 days.

All said, though, the system is now up and running, so far flawlessly, in my vehicle. There has been a lot of trial and error, but the dash cam community is helpful and all of the information is available. You just need to look for it.

I will post a video review of my installation shortly - including hardwired battery installation.

Hi Alexander, thank you for leaving a review! We're glad to hear that we were able to help you with your order. You brought up some great points, and we will definitely take your feedback to heart for the future. We hope that the dash cam works out for you. Please let us know if you have any questions in the future.

BlackboxMyCar Add-A-Fuse Kit

Hi Brian, thanks for leaving a review!
VIOFO A119 12V Auto Hardwire Kit

Quality hardwire kit with reasonable length to the A119 and to the 12V battery source. Voltage reducer is small enough to fit in small spaces with rounded corners for ease of fishing into place. Fuse holder streamlined but difficult to open at first, 2nd time ok.

Hi Chester, thanks for leaving a review! Glad to hear that you were able to figure it out and install your VIOFO. Let us know if you have any questions. Thanks!
the ONLY place I can find this replacement part online

Blackboxmycar is the only place I could find that sells the cigarette socket power output cable for the Cellink Neo.
Fast shipping. Item as described.

Hi J. Kim, we're glad to hear you were able to find what you were looking for at our store. Thanks for shopping at BlackboxMyCar!
Great Kit- Everything you need

Our techs were able to install the dash camera and the Power Magic Pro with no problem by using this Essential Kit. We've bought 13 units so far. Very pleased.

Hi Jennifer, thanks for leaving a review. We're glad to hear that you have found everything you need in our Essential Installation Kits. Thanks!
Suction Cup add-on

I bought this suction cup mount to move and use quickly my A119 V3 from vehicle to vehicle.
After receiving I must say its smaller and lighter than expected compared to the picture but still functional and we will see how long the suction cup lasts over time.
I also saw a video of using this suction cup to turn the A119 around and take video of driver with commentary about area or something else which I plan to edit into my video at a later time.
So its a nice feature for the video I plan to make while on vacation.
Cool!

Hi John, thanks for your feedback. Let us know if the suction cup mount doesn't work well for you over time and we'll try our best to help. Thanks!
Blackbox My Car is the Best!

Sorry BB team for taking so long before writing a review, but the 2 Viofo a129 duo dashs were xmas gifts and I wanted to wait for your professional installations to be done first.
I have purchased dascams from BB before and have had nothing but a great experience for both service and products.

Both Viofo cams are working great and the installation service was the best. The team was awesome and answered all my questions without hesitation. Your waiting area and amenities are first class. Most car dealerships could learned a thing or 2 from how you operate!

Thank you again!

Hi Ken, appreciate your compliments and thank you for leaving a review! We're glad to hear that you enjoyed our facilities and that the installation and the dash cams worked out for you. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out at any time in the future!
Very pleased with the A119V3 and with customer service

After researching a number affordable dash cams I settled on the Viofo A119V3 and Blackboxmycar as the vendor. I chose Blackboxmycar because of its customer service. This is my first Dashcam and I had a number of questions all of which were answered promptly and to my satisfaction by Katrina. Other vendors offered a slightly less expensive final cost but Katrina's service swayed my decision.

As to the camera itself I am very happy. In the last few days I have used it in temperatures of about -28ºC and it has performed flawlessly. The video quality is excellent with the CPL: clear, sharp and with good colours and contrast. Files are around 1.15 GB for 5 mins using 2560x1440 @30 fps H.264 or around 950 MB using H.265. The audio quality is quite acceptable.

Once you get the hang of using the Menu system it is quite easy to choose or change settings.

Also impressed with Viofo in that they seem to have thought of everything. The item included everything I could possibly need to mount and operate the camera even down to string to help remove the mounts in future if necessary.

Presently I am powering the camera via the cigarette lighter but am seriously considering hardwiring or using a portable power bank. I will then try the parking modes.

We have two cars and I had thought of moving the camera from one to the other so I purchased an additional GPS mount, that I have not yet tested. However I am now leaning towards buying 2nd A119V3 to avoid the hassle and to have a permanent neat installation in both cars.

Hi David, thanks for leaving a review! We're glad to hear that Katrina was able to help you out, and that the VIOFO A119 V3 was exactly what you were looking for. If you need anything else, please don't hesitate to let us know!
Easy install/ plug and play

Great product, works as it should so far. Easy installation

Hi Louie, thanks for leaving a review! Glad to hear that the Power Magic EZ worked for you :)
Cellink Neo 6

i got this battery pack recently and everything run smoothly. now i have peace of mind leaving my car on parking lot and this battery charge faster if you're using cigarette socket for charging if you chooses not to hardwired it. overall customer service was great and they will go extra mile to make sure you are getting the right product you wanted to and give you detail...

Hi whatme, thanks for the review on your Cellink NEO. We're glad to hear that it works well for you. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to let us know.
Great Product

Fast shipping, easy installation, works good. Used chat feature for recommendation to make sure it met expectations and was spot on with what I was looking for. Thanks

Hi Robert, thanks for chatting with us and leaving a review. I'm glad to hear that our team was able to help you out with what you're looking for :) If you need anything else, please don't hesitate to reach out!
Dope service!!!

Could not be happier dealing w Blackboxmycar!! Do yourself a favor and just buy from them!!

Hi Lorenzo, dope review! Thanks for leaving a review and purchasing from BlackboxMyCar :)
IROAD Power ODB-ll

Just what I was looking for,very easy to install
Just plug and play,very good product
A bit expensive though.

Hi Luis, thank you for leaving a review! We hear you - we try our best to keep our prices as competitive as possible, so we will pass your feedback to our vendors for you. Thank you for shopping at BlackboxMyCar!
My Thoughts

Good so far. Hope all works out in the future. Thank you

Hi David, thanks for leaving a review!
Best Site for the Best Dashcams Around

My 2nd purchase from Alex and 2nd Blackvue camera purchased. Blackvue is my favourite dashcam because of its sleek and unobtrusive design and extremely high quality recordings. Easy to download recordings with the app now, will continue to recommend Blackvue's to everyone.

As for blackboxmycar.ca, great selection of the best Dashcams out on the market. Extremely informative website with an abundance of information and comparisons to make the right choice. Fast shipping and great customer service, this is the way to go to buy a dashcam over the cheaper but inferior choices on Amazon or anywhere else.

Hi Wesley, thanks for your review. We're glad to hear that you're loving your BlackVue dash cam as much as we do! Hope the DR590W-1CH treats you well :) If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to our team.
Power output cable spliced for Thinkware

These cables were well made and of great quality. Shipping was fast and customer support went above and beyond to help me understand how to DIY my first dash cam. Very much value added support!

Hi Jye, thanks for leaving a review! I'm glad that this and our team was able to help you out. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact our team in the future.
Viofo A119 V3 Dash Cam

Excellent sharp video. Easy install and set up.
Used internet to find best suggested settings.

Hi John, thank you for leaving a review! Don't hesitate to reach out to our Support Team if you have any other questions.
1st time buyer from BlackBoxMyCar.com

Review Title
I have done a lot of research on finding my second dash cam and decided on a VIOFO A119 V3.
I have seen some video of reviews of the camera and compared to my 1st Dash Cam A119S V2 and figured that VIOFO was a good choice again. I have seen Alex the CEO of BlackBoxMyCar do a review video on the A119 V3 in 2019 and went to his website and decided it was very professionally designed and easy to use. Not only did I buy the camera I found some accessories.
I ordered then noticed they offered first responders and military a discount and sent an email if I could get this discount. Quick email reply from Paul who I sent documentation on proof and he who forwarded my request to get a refund on my purchase. Thank you.
Now I did order my camera knowing it was back ordered as well as this was Christmas and New Years week so I wasn’t expecting to see the camera until Jan 2020.
It did arrive in a box and was properly packed. I had numerous email from FedEx where my package was and when it would arrive and someone must be home to signature for it.
Between the initial purchase and receiving my dash cam BBMC has been above and beyond what I expected and under the leadership of Alex I see why this company is so successful.
Thank you everyone for a great purchase and plan on additional future purchase from me.
John I
Surprise, Arizona

Hi John, thank you for the kind words and the detailed review. We're glad to hear that we were able to help you find what you're looking for. We will pass on your compliments to Alex who will absolutely be delighted to read this. Thanks again, and do let us know if you have any questions.