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Which One Should I Get: Mirror Cam or Dash Cam?

Which One Should I Get: Mirror Cam or Dash Cam?

Every driver wants their car to be secured at its best, and an efficient way to achieve this is by installing a dashboard camera. You may have encountered mirror cams during your research. Mirror cams sound tempting as they roll a dash cam, rearview mirror, and many, a reverse backup camera into one.

But is mirror cam a suitable alternative to a dedicated dash cam like the FineVu GX300 or VIOFO A229, the two latest dash cams at BlackboxMyCar?

In this article, we will run you through some of the main differences between dash cams and mirror cams, shortlist some pros and cons of both, and finally, help you find one that best suits your needs.

What’s the Difference Between a Dash Cam and a Mirror Dash Cam?

Dash Cam

A dash camera is a video recording device typically installed on the front windshield, behind the rearview mirror.

The dash cam's purpose is to record events of the vehicle's surroundings so that in case of an accident or incident, you have video proof to back your claim with the authorities or insurance companies.

However, in states like California and Illinois, anything that can obstruct the driver’s view is considered illegal - including dash cams. In Texas and Washington, your dash cam has to follow specific rules. For instance, the dash cam and mount cannot take up more than a 7-inch square area on the passenger’s side or a 5-inch square space on the driver’s side.

Or perhaps, you don’t feel comfortable as bulky, flashy dash cams attract a certain level of attention. That’s one of the reasons why we always recommend non-screen dash cams, but we’ll leave that discussion for another day.

Mirror Dash Cam

Similar to the dash cam, a mirror camera serves as a video recording device. But instead of sitting on the windshield, mirror cams hook onto your car's rearview mirror - design-wise, its appearance is similar to your rearview mirror, boasting a larger screen and offering both front and rear video coverages. Some mirror cams, like the Auto-Vox V5PRO, even replace your rearview mirror to give you an OEM look.

Pros and Cons of a Dash Cam vs. a Mirror Dash Cam

Given the wide variety of mirror cams and dash cams available, you can find a dash cam or mirror cam at any budget level. Of course, spending a little bit more will get you a more comprehensive range of features and functionality. But just like dash cams, the top-tier models are not always the best choice - especially if they come with extra features that you won’t use.

But what about mirror cams? How do you know if a mirror cam is worth your consideration, or should you just skip it and stick to the good ol’ dash cam to keep things simple?

Placement & Position: Where it sits in your car

One of the crucial things about dash and mirror cams is that they should be discreet and not draw unwanted attention - the reason why almost all dash cams are compact and sport an all-black, minimalist design. This would make an excellent gift for Avengers fans everywhere, including the ones crowding around your vehicle, just to get a better look.

With proper placement and installation, a dash cam can be rather subtle. The dash cams often blend in well with the rest of the vehicle, and with wires and cables tucked in neatly along the headliner and ABC pillars of the car, it’s practically invisible.

Dash cams typically adhere to the windshield with adhesive tape, a suction mount, or a magnetic mount. While they all seem permanent, the dash cam could fall off over time - it’s not unheard of for sticky tape to melt, peel or even buckle after extending parking under the sun on the hottest summer days. Suction and magnetic mounts are also more susceptible to falling offer on uneven roads.

On the other hand, mirror cameras hook or clamp onto the existing rearview mirror, keeping them in place regardless of driving conditions. Some mirror cams even replace your existing rearview mirror, giving you a flushed OEM look. But remember that mirror cams are generally larger than the standard rearview mirror (they must strap onto the rearview mirror with an overlap large enough for a front-facing camera to see the road ahead). In other words, they are not as subtle or discreet as you’d think.

Installation/Setup

Don’t be fooled - dash cams are easier to install than mirror cams. With a standard dash cam, you attach it to the windshield with sticky adhesive tape, insert the memory card, connect it to a power source, and you’re done. And since you can place it practically anywhere on your windshield, installing one is flexible and versatile. Got a rear camera? It can be mounted on the rear windshield and connected to the front camera unit using the rear camera connecting cable. Or, check out Nextbase’s rear camera modules that plug straight into the dash cam with any connecting cable.  

While you can also install a mirror camera, the process is trickier thanks to the additional wiring and sensor tools. And because mirror cams double as a rearview mirror, there isn’t much flexibility in mounting them inside your car. If your mirror cam has a parking guidance feature, it must be wired to the car’s reverse light to function properly.

Design and Display

If you can get easily distracted while driving, then the regular dash cam will be your friend. Most dash cams have a black, minimalist design to keep the drivers focus on the road and not on the device. Some models may have a screen, but nowhere as wide as those of the mirror cams.

Mirror cameras are commonly 10" to 12" in size, and many offer touchscreen operation. You can easily access various information on the touchscreen display, including settings and angles, which is very handy. If you don't want to see texts or images on your mirror cam, you can turn it off and use it as a regular mirror cam - although we must admit that it is darker in shade.

Function and Flexibility

From a security standpoint, the dash cam can record incidents and events around your car. It's like having a surveillance system, especially when you leave your vehicle unattended. Being a dedicated device, dash cams won’t help you reverse into a tight spot, but they will record the many attempts you make or if you accidentally scratch the next car over.

Mirror cams do the same but offer more functionalities - mirror cams act as a rearview mirror, a dash cam, and occasionally a reverse camera. Not to mention, the 12” screen does allow you to see a lot more than the standard rearview mirror, and the touchscreen functionality makes it so much easier to switch between camera views.

Video Quality

Thanks to the latest advancements in video technology, the video quality will be comparable whether you use a dash cam or a mirror cam. Are you looking for the best video quality? There is the Thinkware U1000, and then there’s also the Wolfbox G900, both 4K Front + 2K Rear, and both support loop recording and night vision.

The Vantrue Mirror Cam 3 uses the same 5.14MP Sony STARVIS IMX335 image sensor as many of the 2K QHD dash cams, including the Thinkware Q1000, VIOFO A229, and FineVu GX300. In other words, you’re not limited to just dash cams for 4K UHD video recording. The technology behind the video specs is similar, and you can get clean, sharp images from either. One thing, though, while it’s pretty straightforward to add a CPL filter to a dash cam, we have yet to find a CPL filter for a mirror cam.

Wi-Fi Connectivity

Nowadays, everyone is always on their phone. Everything can be done on a smartphone, from banking to ordering dinner and catching up with friends, so it’s only logical that there is a growing need for footage files playback and sharing straight from the phone. That’s why many of the recent dash cams come with built-in WiFi - so you can review your footage and control camera settings using a dedicated dash cam app.

Because mirror cameras are usually all-in-one devices, manufacturers had to compress a lot of features and functions into a small space. As a result, mirror cameras frequently lack a WiFi system. You will need to use the built-in screen or insert the microSD card into your computer for video playback. The WiFi connectivity feature may exist in premium mirror cameras but is rarely found in mid-range mirror cameras.

Which one should I get - Best Mirror Dash Cam vs. Best Traditional Dash Cam

Say you’re in the market for a 3-Channel 2K QHD dash cam, and you’re wondering if you should go with the VIOFO T130 or the Vantrue Mirror Cam 3.

Let’s break it down.

As you can see, other than the fact that one’s a dash cam and the other a mirror cam, the difference between the VIOFO T130 and the Vantrue M3:

  • Interior (infrared) camera
  • WiFi
  • Placement of cameras

Interior Infrared Camera

The interior IR camera of the VIOFO T130 features the Full HD image sensor OmniVision OS02C10, which uses Nyxel® NIR technology. The image sensor is tested to perform 2 to 4 times better than other image sensors when used with IR LEDs for nighttime recording. But what we love about this IR camera is that you can rotate it 60-degree up and down and 90-degree left to right, giving you Full HD recordings at a 165-degree view from the driver’s side window in a single movement.  

The interior IR camera in the Vantrue M3 is a 360-degree rotatable camera, giving you the highest level of flexibility to capture all the angles you need. Just like the VIOFO T130, the Vantrue M3’s interior camera is a Full HD infrared camera and can capture clear images even in pitch-black environments.

Built-in WiFi

The VIOFO T130 comes with built-in WiFi and offers a free mobile app viewer so you can change camera settings, playback videos, and even download and share right from your smartphone. But, VIOFO doesn’t offer any desktop player tool, so if you want to view your footage on your computer, you will need to use a 3rd party software, like DashCam Viewer.

The Vantrue M3 doesn’t support a WiFi connection and the only way to playback your footage is using the 12” touchscreen display or the free Vantrue Dash Cam Player on your computer.

Need to update camera settings on the fly? Both the VIOFO and the Vantrue allow you to do that right on the dash cam using the built-in display. But changing settings will be a lot easier on a 12” screen compared to a 2.4” one.

Installation and Camera Placement

Both the Vantrue and the VIOFO offer multiple installation options: plug-and-play with the 12V power cable, hardwired parking mode installation, and a dedicated battery pack for extended parking capabilities.

The Vantrue M3 is a mirror cam, so the front camera/mirror unit hooks onto your existing rear view mirror. While you can adjust the recording angle, you won’t be able to change its placement unless you have more than one rearview mirror in your car.

On the other hand, the VIOFO T130 offers more flexibility regarding where it sits on your front windshield. However, unlike the Vantrue M3, the VIOFO T130’s interior camera is built into the front camera unit, so while it is one less camera you need to mount, it also limits placement options.

The rear cameras are also built differently. The Vantrue’s rear camera is IP67-rated and can be mounted inside the vehicle as a rear-view camera or outside to double as a reverse camera. The VIOFO T130’s rear camera is not waterproof, so we do not recommend mounting it anywhere other than inside your vehicle.

Conclusion

Choosing between a mirror cam and a dash cam depends on your needs. A dash cam wins hands down when it comes to parking surveillance and driver focus. On the other hand, Mirror cams are known for their tech innovation, flexibility, useful features and function. You're in for more treats if it’s a three-channel mirror cam.

Suppose you want a multifunctional, high-definition quality camera that can prioritize your full coverage while having the convenience of an all-in-one screen that you can easily manipulate, we recommend you use the mirror camera.

And if you're looking for a mid-range but generously featured mirror camera, the Vantrue Mirror Cam 3 makes a good choice. Its three-channel system is suitable for enhancing the security of ridesharing like Uber and Lyft, and the built-in BeiDou3 GPS of the Vantrue M3 provides accuracy and peace of mind for fleet managers - making the overall system a useful companion for business solutions.

The Vantrue Mirror Cam 3 is now available for pre-order exclusive at BlackboxMyCar. Product shipping will be by the end of November, and if you pre-order a Vantrue Mirror Cam 3, you’ll get a bonus 32GB MicroSD all for FREE.

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