The 522GW isn’t the smallest dash cam around, and shares the same overall aesthetic as the rest of the Nextbase range. It’s a design language that is starting to date when compared to far more compact offerings from the likes of Garmin. That said, it isn’t ugly, and its size is partly owing to the large display on its rear.
There are just two physical buttons on the Nextbase 522GW. There’s a power button on the left corner and a red button mounted centrally below the screen. This is used to manually record a section of footage – handy when you have seen an incident ahead but weren’t directly involved, so the camera’s g-sensor didn’t sense a collision and save the video for you.
Everything else is controlled via the touchscreen, or by speaking to Alexa. Once set up, the Amazon voice assistant can be asked to stop and start recording, turn the microphone on or off, and carry out other simple actions. We feel this is more of a gimmick than a useful feature, as dash cams tend to be devices that are set up once and left to do their thing without any further interaction, not least via Alexa.
The dash cam is set up and controlled using the MyNextbase app, which is free for iOS and Android. It all works just fine, but is a little clunky and not the most attractive – then again, this is common for dash cam apps, which often prioritise function over form.
The app is used to change video resolution (we prefer the extra pixels of 2K at 30 frames per second, but 1080p Full HD at a smoother 60fps is also available), and decide what information you want included in your recordings, such as GPS coordinates, speed and a time stamp. Recordings also include a map and telemetry to show movement on the camera’s X, Y and Z axis; such fine detail could well prove useful when trying to determine the cause of a collision.
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Nextbase includes a USB cable and a 12V light socket adapter for powering the dash cam, along with a suction cup and a windscreen mount with an adhesive back, so you can decide whether to have an easily removable or more permanent solution. There’s also a tool for tucking the cable behind the interior panels and headlining of your car.
The 522GW has a parking mode, which uses its own battery to keep the g-sensor alive while your car is parked and turned off. Then, when a collision is detected, the camera springs into life and records footage for three minutes, in a bid to capture the aftermath of a parking prang or attempted theft.
As for video footage itself, the Nextbase 522GW does a pretty good job, and is one of the better dash cams we have used in recent years. Exposure is handled well to ensure good detail across both shadows and highlights, while the integrated polarising lens helps reduce windscreen glare on sunny days. The lens rotates so you can adjust how effective it is.
The 140-degree lens isn’t as wide as some other options, such as 180-degree dash cams from Garmin. But we still found the Nextbase’s view to be wide enough, providing a complete view across the front of our car, and without distortion.
Our only concern is with how the camera’s image stabilization works. We have previously used other Nextbase dash cams with no issue, but testing this 522GW with our (admittedly firm-riding) car, a Mazda MX-5, caused the footage to shimmy from side to side, as the image stabilization fought against the vibrations of our car. This was especially apparent while stationary with the engine running, but the footage smoothed out again once driving.
We should stress that this is to do with the firm ride of the car used in our test, rather than the camera itself.
A feature that helps make the 522GW stand out from some rivals is emergency SOS response. If a particularly heavy impact is detected, the dash cam will first seek to get a response from the driver. If this does not happen, it will use your Bluetooth-connected smartphone to call the emergency services and use the dash cam’s integrated GPS to share your location. It can also share medical data such as blood type, allergies and medical history, as long as you have added those to the Nextbase app beforehand.