Freelance contributor, PCWorldDec 9, 2021 7:30 am PST
At a glance
Excellent video captures, day and night, front and back
3-inch touchscreen display
Alexa support (if you care)
2160p (4K UHD) if you want it
Rear camera isn’t removable
The SC 400D is stylish and a breeze to operate thanks to a large touchscreen display. More importantly, it takes the best captures we’ve seen from a dash cam. Throw in Alexa and it’s likely the most luxurious experience available. However, you pay for the privilege.
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Though I might’ve opted for slightly different styling, the Cobra SC 400D is experientially one of the nicest dash cams I’ve ever tested. It feels good in the hand, it has a handy magnetic mount, and it supports three cameras.
You get the front and rear cameras in the basic $400 package, but for $480 a direct-mount 1080p interior-view camera is included. That’s hardly chump change, but likely worth it, given the SC 400D’s overall high quality.
This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best dash cams. Go there for more reviews and buying advice.
Unusually, the SC 400D sports a light pewter color. Dash cams tend to be dark gray or black, and by that I mean nearly all of them. At first glance I wondered if the lighter color might be distracting, but that was not my experience in actual use. In fact, it might’ve even been less distracting than its darker-clad kin.
I truly appreciated that the SC 400D is slightly heavier than your average dash cam. It’s still light enough to manage, but it feels more substantial than most other models. The main unit uses a semi-permanent sticky mount that incorporates the GPS unit.
The front camera is a 4K (2160p) unit with a 140 degree field of view (FOV). The rear camera is 1080p with a 120 degree FOV and connects to the main body via a 3.5mm to mini-USB cable. It too uses a semi-permanent sticky mount. Semi-permanent can be a drawback for some. For example, I leave the doors of my convertible unlocked to avoid the top being slashed to break in. But then there’s that dash cam just begging to be pilfered.
The rear of the main body is home to a crisp 3-inch color touchscreen display. My only exceedingly minor complaint is that the touch icons could be larger. Beyond that, the menu system is easy to use and well thought out.
On one side of the main body you have the emergency save and SD card slot. On the other is the 3.5mm jack for the optional $80, 1080p 120-degree FOV interior camera. On top are the micro-USB power port and the 3.5mm jack for the rear camera cable. I would like to see dash cam vendors start transitioning to Type-C, but I’m guessing there are tons of the older parts still in inventory. Hopefully soon.
I do wish that the rear camera was a closer match style-wise to the main body. But the superb video quality trumps issues of style.
The Cobra is also connected up the wazoo. There’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the Drive Smarter app (of course) with tons of warnings and mapping, plus both local voice command (“front video on,” “lock video,” etc.) and Alexa. The camera must be connected to your phone and the phone to the internet for Alexa to work.
Video capture quality is where the SC 400D absolutely shines. The color is nicely balanced and the level of detail is simply exquisite. I could go on, but if you want great captures, the SC 400D should be on your short list. Scratch that. It should be the short list. Check out the screen captures and let me know if you agree.
The front daytime shot above is darn close to how I remember it really looking, with slightly richer color at any rate. Right-click and open the image in a new tab to see it full-size.
While just 1080p, the rear camera produces very nice daytime captures, as shown above. Check the detail on the license plate.
While not entirely color accurate, the front night capture shown above delivers tons of detail. Details that aren’t readily apparent at the default setting pop out if you use a brighten filter on the video or image.
Sadly, my rear window was filthy for the rear night shot (I didn’t notice until I was seated in the car), but the SC 400D captured outstanding detail anyway. Again, these captures are as good as anything I’ve seen from a dash cam.
The best video money can buy
I’m a fan of Nextbase’s 422GW’s telephoto rear camera, and I keep it in my car for that very reason. However, the sheer quality and outstanding detail of the Cobra SC 400D’s captures has me contemplating a switch. At least for the front portion. I highly recommended it if you have the cash.
Jon Jacobi is a musician, former x86/6800 programmer, and long-time computer enthusiast. He writes reviews on TVs, SSDs, dash cams, remote access software, Bluetooth speakers, and sundry other consumer-tech hardware and software.