A feature-packed dash cam with SOS calling and Alexa integration
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.
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.
Should I buy the Nextbase 522GW?
Buy it if…
You want excellent video quality
The 2K resolution, 140-degree lens and polarising filter work to produce top-notch video quality. The extra resolution could prove vital when identifying details in your footage, like vehicle registration plates, street signs and road markings.
You drive multiple vehicles
The magnetic windscreen mount makes it quick and easy to switch the Nextbase between multiple vehicles. Just leave the mount and cable in place, and swap out the dash cam itself, as power and data both run through that magnetic connection.
Your car doesn’t have its own SOS calling system
Many modern cars have their own embedded SOS system for calling the emergency services after a crash. But if your car doesn’t have such a system, the Nextbase 522GW can make the call for you – just so long as you pay £2.99 a month for a subscription.
Don’t buy it if…
You are on a tight budget
The 522GW usually carries a price tag of £159 but at the time of writing is offered by Nextbase at £139 (in the UK). Either way, there are lots of cheaper dash cams around for those on a tighter budget. Like Nextbase’s own 122, which is £59 and has the same general design but records in 720p HD.
You want a compact dash cam
The 522GW is quite large for a dash cam. Yes, it has a 3in display and a protruding lens, but rivals manage to cram almost as many features into much smaller bodies. The Garmin 67W, for example, offers a similar experience but is approximately the size of a matchbox.
You want driver assistance systems
We like how the 522GW doesn’t distract with a wide range of driver safety and assistance functions. But, for those who want a dash cam with speed camera notifications and lane departure warnings, you’ll be best off looking elsewhere.