Today’s most advanced dash cams come with a feature called cloud connectivity. This is one of the more complicated dash cam setups. For beginners, it can be confusing to get an overview of what’s needed to connect your camera to the cloud.
Don’t despair though, this article will sort you out! For starters, let’s have a quick look of why you would want to connect your dash cam to the internet in the first place.
Advantages Of Connecting Your Dash Cam To The Cloud
Would you like to receive a notification to your phone when someone bumps into your parked car?
How about checking the video feed from your dash cam while you’re away?
If this sounds appealing, then this article is for you. All the dashboard cameras featured here support:
- Viewing live video from your car on your smart phone
- Receiving alerts when an impact to your car is detected
- Backing up dash cam footage to the cloud
Additionally, the more high-end models also offer features such as geo-fencing, fleet management for business owners, voice communication, and more (see below).
Which Dash Cams Can Do This?
Only three dash cam manufacturers currently have a cloud infrastructure in place that lets you check your car’s video feed remotely. These three are the American company Garmin (well-known for their sat-nav devices), as well as the high-end Korean dash cam brands, BlackVue and Thinkware.
NOTE: Some dash cam brands (Nexar, Nextbase) promote their cameras as being cloud capable, but this refers to cloud storage only. They do indeed offer you some free or paid storage space, but they don’t support live streaming video over the internet.
Our Favorite Cloud Dash Cams For Live Streaming
|Garmin Mini 2
Scroll right if the table is wider than your screen. Links to vendors are affiliate links.
We will have a more detailed look at each of these dashboard cameras toward the end of this article. But first, let’s see what else is required (apart form the dash cam itself) to stream video from your car:
You need a permanent internet connection in your car to connect a dash cam to the cloud. So, you want to have a portable Wi-Fi hot spot in the car.
You will also need a power supply for the dash camera, so that it can record while the car’s engine is off. This can be either a hard-wiring kit (with low-voltage cutoff), or a battery pack.
Our article about parking mode goes into more detail about using a hard-wiring kit vs. a battery pack. The gist of it is that a battery pack is a more expensive solution, but it also protects your car’s battery better.
Let’s do an estimate how much connecting your dash cam to the cloud will cost in total:
How much do you need to invest to connect your dash cam to the cloud?
Here’s an overview, with approximate prices:
- The dash cam itself (price: $110-$500+)
- Power supply: hard-wiring kit (about $20) or battery pack ($150-$400)
- Portable Wi-Fi hot spot ($30+)
- A cloud account (available free from all 3 providers. Paid plans go from $4-16 per month.)
- SIM card for the hot spot (data plans start around $5/gigabyte)
Of course, all data that you put on the internet can potentially get hacked. So if you’re very privacy conscious, you might want to take this into consideration before connecting your dash cam to the cloud.
Comparison Of Cloud Accounts By Each Brand
BlackVue’s cloud has been around the longest, and consequently, it supports more features than its competitors.
A free BlackVue account lets you use the following cloud features:
Up to 10 minutes of live streaming per day; one camera supported; 5 GB cloud storage; event notifications; two-way voice communication; live GPS; live event auto upload.
If you want to stream more than 10 minutes per day, or you’re going to use multiple dash cams, you will need a paid account. Paid accounts are available from $4/month upwards. They give you additional features such as unlimited live streaming, GPS tracking, geo-fencing, and even fleet management for up to 999 dash cams (click here for full details).
Thinkware’s cloud account is free. There is no paid version (hooray!).
They will let you live stream 300 minutes of video per month. This averages to 10 minutes per day, so it’s similar to BlackVue’s free quota.
There’s no limit to the number of dash cams you can connect to the free Thinkware cloud account.
Other features on the free Thinkware account: Event notifications; live GPS; 520MB of cloud storage; geo-fencing (receive an alert when the vehicle leaves a pre-determined area).
Garmin’s cloud account is called “Garmin Vault”. The free version gives you unlimited live-streaming, event notifications, and cloud storage.
Free storage of video files is limited to 24 hours. To store video for longer, you need a paid subscription: $5 per month gets you 7 days of storage, and for $10 per month, you can store your video for 30 days.
UPDATE: Garmin have released the Garmin Dash Cam Live, which comes with built-in LTE connectivity. So in theory, it doesn’t need an extra access point. In practice though, this camera seems to be quite unreliable. Many users have complained about its cloud connectivity not working. Considering its high price and monthly recurring fees, we cannot recommend the Garmin Live until these issues are addressed.
For the sake of completeness, we are including the Nextbase cloud here, even though they don’t allow remote video streaming. Nextbase’s free cloud account gives you unlimited storage during 30 days, and the option to share your files (e.g. with your insurance company).
Supported dash cams: Nextbase 322GW, 422GW, 522GW, 622GW
Side-By-Side Comparison Of Cloud Account Features
|Live Stream Video
|2-way Voice Communication
|Auto Event Upload
|Multi Live View
The 4 Best Cloud-Capable Dash Cams Of 2024
Garmin Mini 2
Video resolution: 1080p
Video quality: Fair (good at day, average at night)
Max Storage: 512 GB (about 75 hours)
Pros: Very small and stealthy, low price
Cons: Limited night video quality
Extras: Voice control, simple parking mode, overheat protection, can set up a network of up to 4 compatible Garmin dash cams
This is not only the cheapest cloud capable dash cam currently available, it is also probably the smallest dash cam that we have encountered so far. Measuring only 31 x 53 x 29mm (that’s 1.22 x 2.09 x 1.14 inches), the Garmin Mini 2 is barely noticeable behind your wind shield.
To connect to the cloud, enable Parking Guard and make sure you have a power supply and an active internet connection in your car. You can then live-stream video to your phone using the free Garmin Drive app.
Video resolution: 1440p
Video quality: Fair (good at day, average at night)
Max Storage: 512 GB
Pros: Higher resolution than Mini 2
Cons: Limited night video quality
Extras: GPS, driver alerts, voice control, simple parking mode, overheat protection, can set up a network of up to 4 compatible Garmin dash cams
At 56 x 40 x 21mm (that’s 2.21 x 1.59 x 0.84 in), the Garmin 67W is just a little bit larger than the Mini 2. It also records at a higher video resolution, and has a larger field of view (180 degrees, as compared to the Mini 2’s 140 degrees).
Its video quality is comparable to the Mini 2: Okay at day, but during the night you will be hard pressed to distinguish details such as other cars’ license plates.
Using Garmin’s networking function, you could for example set up a network with a 67W as the front camera, and a Mini 2 looking out the rear window. Up to four cameras can be conveniently managed through the Garmin Drive app.
Unlike a true front-and-rear dash cam though, you would need to power each dash cam separately.
Front resolution: 4K
Rear resolution: 1440p
Video quality: Very good (front), fair (rear)
Max Storage: 256 GB (8.3 hours)
Pros: Best forward video quality, radar-assisted parking mode, OBD-II power cable and CPL filter included
Cons: Radar parking mode incompatible with cloud
Extras: GPS, overheat protection, driver alerts, parking modes: Simple, time-lapse, buffered
The Thinkware U3000 was released in 2023. It records 4K video with the front camera, and 1440p (2K) video with the rear camera. Forward video quality is very good during the day, and good at night. Rear video quality is fair, both at day and at night.
The U3000 is the only dashboard camera on the market that comes with built-in radar. This can be used in parking mode to reduce power consumption by an order of magnitude, allowing for much longer run times when parked. (The older Thinkware U1000 also supports a radar module, but it is external and costs extra.)
When used in conjunction with a Thinkware iVolt Xtra battery pack (available separately), the U3000 can run for up to 40 days in radar-assisted parking mode.
Unfortunately, the camera’s low-power parking modes are incompatible with its cloud functions. When connected to the cloud, the U3000 supports buffered and time-lapse parking modes only.
Thinkware’s cloud account is free of charge. Its supported features include live video streaming, event notifications, geo-fencing (receive an alert when the vehicle leaves a specified area), and vehicle location.
A nice little detail: The U3000 comes with an OBD-II power cable, so you don’t need to purchase the hard-wiring kit separately. A free CPL filter is also included in the box.
Front resolution: 4K
Rear resolution: 1080p
Video quality: Very good (front), good (rear)
Max Storage: 256 GB (14.6 hours)
Pros: Elegant and stealthy design, highly reliable, most advanced cloud features
Cons: High price
Extras: GPS, time-lapse and buffered parking modes, overheat protection, optional LTE module
BlackVue have been making cloud-compatible dash cams since 2015. They were the first dash cam company ever to offer cloud connectivity. As a result, they have quite a large number of cloud-capable dash cams. The latest model is the BlackVue DR970X-2CH, which was released in mid-2023. It records 4K to the front and 1080p to the rear.
Compared to the Thinkware U3000, forward video quality is about the same, but rear video quality is noticeably better. All in all, you could say that both the front and the rear camera of the DR970X record decent video, while the U3000 has a weaker rear cam.
The DR970X supports time-lapse and buffered parking modes.
BlackVue’s cloud infrastructure is second to none. They offer all the features that Garmin and Thinkware have, plus 2-way voice calls, and (with the paid account) other options such as managing fleets of up to 999 vehicles.
There a three ways to connect the DR970X to the cloud: First, you can go the traditional way and use a third-party access point. This is probably the cheapest option.
The second option is to get BlackVue’s external LTE module, which connects to the camera’s USB port. The LTE module costs around $100 currently.
And third, there is also a version of the DR970X with an integrated LTE module. This camera is called BlackVue DR970X-2CH LTE.
If you use the second or third option, you can connect up to 4 other devices to the Wi-Fi network. The dash cam will then serve as an internet router.
So which cloud dash cam is best for you?
It really depends on your budget. If your budget is limited, you will probably be better off with a Garmin camera. But if money isn’t an issue, go for the BlackVue or Thinkware setups. They have notably better video quality. Plus, they have both been in the cloud business for years, so you can be sure that you get what you pay for.