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The Best Wireless IP Camera, 137, Minh Thiện, XeTaiHyunDai.Com, 19/04/2016 14:49:40
The Best Wireless IP Camera
The Nest Cam provides a clear high-definition video stream with a field of view wide enough to encompass almost any room (larger than most competitors). Video is crisp and clear, with fine detail across a variety of lighting conditions; the Nest Cam performs as well or better than the other models we tested. It also sports an easy-to-use, frequently updated mobile app.
IP cameras stream live video from your local network to the Internet and let you watch that video on a computer, smartphone, or tablet. The ones we examined also let you play back recorded video and alert you when they’re triggered by motion or sound. You might want one to check on whether the kids have returned home from school, see if a pet’s behaving, or alert you to intruders—and provide the police with the incriminating video.
The Nest Cam comes from Alphabet’s (formerly Google’s) Nest division and is the latest evolution of a long-running product line (its predecessor, the Dropcam Pro, was our previous pick). The Nest Cam adds higher-resolution 1080p video output (the Dropcam Pro captured 720p video) but removes a much-liked feature for geofencing that is promised to return in a future software update.
If you need a multiple-camera setup or to place cameras far away from a power outlet, Netgear’s Arlo offers an affordable but radically different approach, comprising a flexible system of wireless camera pods (powered by lithium batteries that can last for many months) that route through a special Ethernet-connected hub.
ArcSoft’s Simplicam is nearly as good as the Nest Cam, but the narrower field of view will be a dealbreaker for many people. For smaller spaces, however, its lower cost per unit (and per year for cloud storage) may fit the bill. The initial and annual savings add up with multiple cameras.
By themselves, IP cameras don’t offer the kind of comprehensive monitoring offered by complete home-security systems, which feature door and window sensors, a siren, and always-on professional monitoring. Two IP camera systems we tested—Canary Connect’s Canary and Icontrol’s Piper—incorporate some home-security system features, but both products have limitations that keep us so far from wholeheartedly recommending either.
Why you should trust us
Jason Snell was the lead editor at Macworld for more than a decade and has been reviewing technology products for two decades. He’s been toying with live Internet cameras since the ’90s, when Connectix released the QuickCam, a grayscale camera that could snap stills or jerky video when attached to a Mac, and he bought the original Dropcam when it first arrived on the scene.
Who should get this?
If you want an easy-to-use way to watch what’s happening in or around your house while you’re elsewhere or access video footage after something happens in your home—whether it’s your kids dropping a dish or a burglar breaking in—an IP camera with a cloud-storage option can do the job.
These cameras allow you to watch live video of your house on a computer, phone, or tablet over an Internet connection from wherever you are. The ones we considered all provide recording services that let you watch and listen to what’s happened from a few hours to a month ago, with recording often triggered by motion-detection features. Most also can send alerts to your phone if they detect motion or sound when they’re not supposed to.
But an IP camera is not a replacement for a comprehensive home security system with sensors on all your doors and windows, an arming/disarming keypad, a siren, battery-operated or battery-backed sensors, and a direct connection to a monitoring service. Such systems may also detect temperature changes, water leaks, glass breaking, and other conditions.
Most of the cloud-connected IP cameras we tested are easy to set up and use and have great image quality. However, they have two big weaknesses: they don’t have local video storage, so they’re useless if your Internet connection goes down, and most don’t have batteries, so they’re useless if your power goes out. There are IP cameras without these weaknesses, but they’re generally much harder to set up and use and have much worse image quality. We plan to test IP cameras with local storage in a future guide. Despite these weaknesses, however, we still think an IP camera like a Nest Cam is better for most people because of its ease of use and great image quality—just don’t rely on it to replace a security system.
If you’re suspicious about something, the cameras we recommend will let you review previously recorded video to see what actually happened—and if someone did break into your house, you can see who did it and show that video to the cops. But they won’t contact a monitoring company, who can send police or a security guard if something does go wrong. Each service has different options for how long they store video and what you’ll pay for the privilege. The default included with most plans is usually several days’ worth, but some services allow you to pay more to store up to a month. Some cameras will only save video when they detect motion or sound, while others record everything that happens in front of their little lenses. We recommend cloud storage, because local-only storage in a memory card could be stolen or destroyed in a burglary, fire, or natural disaster for which you need evidence. Cloud archives are persistent.
If you own a camera that doesn’t offer high-definition video or the ability to save video to the cloud, you might want to consider an upgrade.
Despite many new products entering this category lately, we don’t find a compelling reason to update your setup if you already have a Dropcam or Dropcam Pro. While newer cameras offer improved video quality, both previous Dropcam models capture high-definition video at 720p, and the Nest Cam offers the same 130-degree field of view as the older Dropcam Pro. If you own a camera that doesn’t offer high-definition video or the ability to save video to the cloud, you might want to consider an upgrade.
>> Read more: Smart wifi camera
How we picked
This category has exploded with options since we last covered it, and numerous competitors offer different mixes of ease of use, security features, home-automation integration, and portability.
In addition to our own research, we checked out reviews from sources such as CNET and PC Mag, as well as user reviews from Amazon. After considering more than a dozen models and narrowing it down, we called in the Nest Cam, D-Link’s DCS-5020L, Belkin’s NetCam HD+, ArcSoft’s Simplicam, Icontrol’s Piper, Canary, NetGear’s Arlo, and Samsung’s SmartCam HD Pro for testing.
We searched for cameras that are easy to set up and use, with mobile apps, as well as access from Macs and PCs. We wanted cameras that provided clear and detailed images in bright light, low light, and in the dark; DVR features; and alerts if they noticed anything suspicious.
We looked for wide-angle cameras that could take in a horizontal field of view of 100 degrees or more and that shot in 720p or higher. Remote cloud storage was a decider: many IP cameras include microSD as a local storage option but offer no remote storage or too little of it, either by storage size or number of days retained. Some only store clips triggered by motion, which can omit events that don’t hit a threshold but turn out later to be important. We didn’t consider bandwidth usage for cloud storage, although it’s a concern we’ll discuss later. (We plan a future, separate guide on budget IP cameras to look at affordable options with both live remote viewing and local storage.)
IP camera makers almost always list the diagonal field of view, which overstates the horizontal dimension by about 15 percent for an HD (16:9 ratio) camera frame: the Nest Cam’s 130-degree diagonal is roughly 115 degrees horizontal, still enough to sweep in an entire room without being in a corner. For long, narrow rooms, you need a wide field of view so you can place the camera centrally and avoid losing detail at either end of space.Vertical field of view is much less important, as only an average floor-to-ceiling height needs to be captured, but it affects a camera’s placement. (Some cheaper cameras have motors for panning and even optical zoom—one even detects motion and swivels towards it—but wide-field observation makes the most sense for passive monitoring purposes.)
Some IP cameras include a built-in speaker and support an two-way audio intercom feature with one-way video. You can also scare intruders by booming out, “Who goes there!” we suppose, or communicate more gently with a child or pet. In practice, we recommend putting IP cameras in locations that are unlikely to work well for this purpose, such as near the ceiling in a corner of a room. It strikes us an extraneous feature when you could far more easily just Skype or FaceTime.
We excluded outdoor-only cameras, since these typically have different requirements, like low-voltage wiring, power-over-Ethernet, or direct wiring. Some of the cameras we did look at could be used both indoors and out, usually as part of a bundle, but the exterior-only ones had additional or targeted features—like a rugged mounting bracket—that added expense and didn’t work well inside.
How we tested
We unboxed and set up every camera on a home Wi-Fi network, except in the case of the Arlo, where we connected the included and required base station to the router via Ethernet. Each camera was set atop an upright piano against one wall in a very long room with eight-foot ceilings (measuring 40 feet by 12 feet) that acts as kitchen, dining area, and living room.
There are Wireless IP Cameras
Because the cameras communicate over Wi-Fi, we didn’t need to put them near an Ethernet jack or wire in additional Ethernet outlets. Only the Arlo requires a spare Ethernet port on a router or switch for its hub, but we didn’t have to make any changes to our existing home network in order to set it up.
We placed our test cameras where they could cover the largest possible area while keeping critical points (like doors and windows) at high enough resolution to be useful. We did need to position most cameras within a few feet of a power outlet—all of the cameras we tested other than the battery-powered Arlo included a several-foot-long power cord, which allows some flexibility but won’t let you place a camera in hard-to-reach spaces far from outlets. (Depending on the device, longer third-party USB power cords may be available at a nominal extra cost.) Mounting a camera above arm’s reach in a corner might be best, if you’re worried about it being reachable by an intruder.
We viewed live and recorded video on each camera via mobile and web apps and took image samples from the live video from each camera at midday and after dark with all the lights out. We compared samples for image quality and also compared each camera’s field of view, which determines how wide a scene the camera can shoot–the wider the better.
The Nest Cam is the best IP camera for people who want to easily check on activity at their house while away, thanks to a combination of excellent video quality and ease of use. Its video quality is among the best in the field (the Simplicam is not far behind), with strong colors and sharp details as well as an ability to adapt well to contrast differences. The Nest Cam is the update to our previous pick, the Dropcam Pro, adding higher-definition 1080p video output (the Dropcam captured only up to 720p) and removing a geofencing feature. (The company has said that geofencing will return in a forthcoming update.) Nest Cam offered one of the widest fields of view of any of the cameras we tested: it managed to capture a full swath of a very long living room.
Nest Cam at night
The Nest Cam’s video had accurate colors in daylight and managed to keep most of our living-room scene visible even when bright daylight was shining in from the windows, neither losing information in highlights or shadows. Small details could be resolved, like the writing on a Minecraft pillow and the face of a stuffed animal. The view wasn’t distorted, and video motion was smooth. The Nest Cam’s night-vision image is clear; its strong infrared illuminator evenly lit most of its field of view, barring the extreme edges, and brought all the details of the room into focus. However, it did add the infrared equivalent of “red eye” to any people who wandered into the room in the dark.
The Nest Cam’s three-megapixel image sensor captures almost 50 percent more data than required for its maximum 1080p output, which allows a high digital zoom factor without loss of clarity, as it’s not just enlarging pixels but showing more data. You can set the Nest Cam to record a smaller area than its entire field of view, and you can “zoom in and enhance” what you’re seeing when you’re watching live video.
Setting up the Nest Cam was fast and easy. We downloaded the Nest app, scanned a QR code on the back of the IP camera, entered in the home Wi-Fi network details, and were up and running. (You can also get set up by attaching the camera to a Mac or PC via the included USB cable.) Nest will let you set up more than one camera and view them all from the Nest app.
Nest Cam comes with a couple of mounting options: a nifty mount that you can set on a table or attach to a metal object (its base is magnetic) and pivot to get just the right angle, and a wall plate, which you can attach just about anywhere. The camera itself attaches to the wall plate with double-sided sticky tape, which is less than elegant. The cam also has a threaded socket for mounting on a standard photo tripod. Also, wherever you put the Nest Cam, you’re going to need to run its included USB power cable—or a longer replacement—back to an electrical outlet.
The camera supports both 2.4GHz (802.11g/n) and 5GHz (802.11ac/n) networking, unlike our other two picks, which work over 2.4GHz networks only. That lower-frequency band can be crowded and full of interference, which can lower throughput and, with multiple cameras, potentially cause lower-quality streaming and cloud-based archiving. Having both options means the Nest should be able to keep up a higher quality video stream most of the time.
Nest Cam uses the Nest app on iOS and Android (the same one used by the company’s smart thermostat and smoke-alarm products). Nest has kept the app current, taking advantage of new native features and operating system updates, unlike some of the apps offered by other IP camera manufacturers. The Nest app lets you cycle among cameras, view live footage, or view archived footage, clearly marked at moments at which motion or sound occurs. The app can optionally alert you when there’s motion in your house—you can even be alerted based on movement in different areas of the frame. Nest’s machine learning analysis marks stuff it thinks you should see, as opposed to just presenting raw footage, and Nest claims that it learns your house over time, resulting in fewer false alarms.
On a computer, I was able to easily set up a motion zone for my front door, avoiding the floor where a cat usually roams, to avoid getting notifications when they’re not needed. If you’ve got a cloud subscription, the Nest web app lets you view live video and jump back and view your full timeline of recorded video over the past 10 or 30 days, depending on your subscription—not just clips triggered by motion alerts, as with some cameras. (Via the iOS and Android apps, you have more limited access — you can view live video or see a list of sound- or motion-triggered clips recorded within your subscription’s buffer period.)
Nest lets you retain recordings longer than most other IP camera makers. For a 10-day video buffer, you pay $10/month or $100/year, while a 30-day buffer is $30/month or $300/year. Each additional camera adds a fee exactly half that of a single camera: $5/month or $50/year for a 10-day buffer, and $15/month or $150 year for a 30-day buffer.
If you’re also using Nest’s eponymous thermostat, the Nest Cam can automatically turn on when you set your thermostat to away, and turn itself back off when you return home. If you own a Nest Protect smoke alarm, you can set Nest Cam to automatically record video when an alarm goes off. You can see this in action in the video above, when we managed to trigger the Nest during some toaster testing at the Wirecutter/Sweethome test kitchen.
Nest has a small but growing Works With Nest program to connect all of Nest’s devices to other smart-home devices and a low-power networking system called Weave, and they recently announced a compatible smart lock called the Linus with Yale Locks. That’s encouraging, but right now Nest—like most other companies trying to build an Internet of things—hasn’t quite managed to connect its devices to home-automation products from other manufacturers.
Who else likes it
CNET gave the Nest Cam 4.5 out of five stars and praised its image quality. Recode called it “simple and reliable.” Joanna Stern of the Wall Street Journal enjoyed using it to spy on her puppy. Amazon reviewers gave the previous Dropcam Pro an average of four out of five stars, but reviews of the Nest Cam have not been as kind, mostly due to the removal of the geofencing feature.
PCMag’s Eric Griffith the Dropcam Pro 4.5 out of five and declared it “the best consumer-grade video-surveillance camera” they’d seen. Laptop Mag’s Michael A. Prospero also awarded the Pro with an Editors’ Choice badge and four of five stars. Mark Sullivan of VentureBeat praised its easy setup and ability to maintain a Wi-Fi connection. USA Today’s Ed Baig appreciated the hardware while questioning the cloud-storage subscription cost. Engadget’s Roberto Baldwin similarly liked the hardware and warned about the extra monthly cost.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Nest Cam has some minor flaws, although these are are shared by most of the products in his category.
First, you have to pay a recurring fee or you can’t access most of its best features. Nest Aware costs $10/month or $100/year with a 10-day video recording buffer ($30/month or $300/year for a 30-day buffer) for a single camera. Each additional camera on the plan adds $5/month or $50/year to a 10-day plan, or $10/month or $150/year to a 30-day plan.)
Without a subscription, the Nest still works as a live camera, but you lose access to past events, can’t record events, can’t create activity zones to watch for motion in particular areas, can’t use Nest’s machine learning to lower the rate of false alarms, can’t create and share clips from your camera like the one we embedded above, and can’t view timelapses.
However, cloud-based video storage has several drawbacks. First, if you’re concerned about privacy, you may find it disquieting that audio and video from inside your house is always being streamed to remote servers. If someone hacked into your account, they could listen in on every conversation you’ve had for a day, week, or month. (A future guide will look at budget IP cameras, which only store or optionally store video on a memory card.)
Nest Cam’s scheduling feature mitigates this since you can just set the camera to turn on when you’re usually out of the house, but if you leave the house for a vacation or anything else that’s off your usual schedule, you have to remember to change the settings or you’ll lose hours of coverage—which sort of ruins the point of the thing. The popular geofencing feature found in the Dropcam Pro (removed in the hardware and software update for the Nest Cam) turned on the camera automatically whenever you left the house and turned it off when you returned, addressing these privacy concerns and automatically reducing broadband throughput and data transfer usage when you were home. Nest says the feature is returning in a future release, but hasn’t yet given a date.
Just how much bandwidth will constantly uploading your videos use up? This information from Nest shows it could definitely slow down your Netflix streaming or chew through a bandwidth cap, especially if you’re using the high quality settings.
Cloud-service costs add up, too. Nest’s subscription rates are similar to those of its competitors, but there could be hidden costs from your broadband provider. Nest’s online documentation says that when set to 1080p recording, each camera will upload from 140 GB to 380 GB each month. Some ISPs have cutoffs between 100 GB and 300 GB and charge overage fees thereafter.
The average upstream rate for 1080p video is 450 kbps, Nest says, but the peak rate is 1.2 Mbps. For those with common 1Mbps-to-5Mbps upstream bandwidth caps, this could have a real impact on uploading files while also increasing latency (the round-trip time for network tasks). With three cameras streaming high-resolution video, you could end up using close to your upstream bandwidth limit all the time and uploading anywhere from 300 GB to nearly one terabyte per month. You can drop to a lower resolution like 720p, but that gives up some of the finest detail, one of the reasons to buy this model in the first place.
Keep in mind that Nest, like most IP cameras, relies on your home infrastructure. Nest Cam doesn’t have a battery backup, so if you lose power, you’ll lose camera coverage. But of course, even if it did offer a backup, that wouldn’t help if your Wi-Fi router and cable modem weren’t also set to use some kind of reserve power. Basically, these cameras assume that your power and network connection are stable. (If you want the most reliable connection, you would have to attach your broadband modem, any Wi-Fi routers and Ethernet hubs, and each camera to uninterruptible power supplies, which is possible but complicated, or install a backup home generator.)
Nest Cam is intended for indoor use. You can point it out a window, but it’s not rated for exposure to the elements.
About Nest Cam’s “off” mode
In November 2015, a security site posted news that setting a Nest Cam to “off” via its mobile app doesn’t actually stop the unit from capturing audio and video. If you read the headline, you might be worried about whether Nest honors your privacy.
The site reported that when turned “off,” a Nest Cam only slightly reduces its power use, which suggests that the audio/video components remain active. Nest confirmed this, but told the site that in this standby mode no audio or video is processed, no motion events are monitored, and no multimedia is streamed either to apps or to its cloud.
If Nest Cams were recording and streaming video when you thought they were turned off, this would be a reason for concern, because it would mean you were being monitored when you chose not to be, even if you, your family, or your office has sole control of the Nest account.
About Nest Cam’s “off” mode
However, a separate issue was mentioned: the Nest app lets you turn off the green “active” LED even when the unit is recording (you may, for instance, want a room to be completely dark). That does leave room for confusion—those particularly worried about privacy might imagine a situation in which a third party obtained your account info, turned off the LED, and observed you, while you assumed the unit was powered down. Nest should consider modifying the software to put units into a deeper state of slumber so that the video camera and microphone aren’t technically active at any time an owner might think the camera is actually turned off, or use different LED colors or dimmable LEDs for different levels of wakefulness.
Internet-based services that store archives in the cloud present a privacy risk if someone hacks into your account. If you’re extremely concerned about privacy, you could follow our reviewer Jason Snell’s example: he unplugs his wireless IP cameras when not in use, and plugs them back in when he leaves. He says he’d consider using an outlet timer switch if he wanted to have them in use at fixed, regular times.
If you need to put a camera outside or in a place where you just can’t run a power cable, or want to more affordably install many cameras, look to Netgear’s Arlo, which (at the time of writing) starts at $180 for one camera and the hub; $160 per extra camera. Unlike any of the other cameras we looked at in this review, Arlo’s cameras are powered by lithium photo batteries and communicate with the Internet via an included wireless hub that you attach to your home network. Each Arlo camera is small and magnetic, so you can stick them anywhere—including outside. Its 110-degree field of view doesn’t quite match the Nest’s 130 degrees, but is wide enough for most situations. However, since Arlo only records when its motion sensor is triggered, you may miss out on key events that our pick would capture.
The downside to the lower per-camera cost and greater convenience is that Arlo cameras aggressively conserve battery usage by remaining on standby until motion is detected, at which point they fire up. This means they miss the first few seconds following the triggering action. Some sort of creature roamed through our front walkway one night and knocked an Arlo over, but we ended up with no video of the offender—just the aftermath. Arlo also records only video, not audio, which may be a concern depending on the kind of behavior you’re trying to capture.
If you’re concerned about having to change camera batteries all the time, don’t be: it took several months for one of the units we tested to give any warning that it was starting to run out of juice. We’ve heard from Arlo users that batteries may drain faster in high-traffic areas due to more triggers activating the cameras. This can mean having to replace batteries after only a month or two. (And presumably if you leave them outside in cold climates, the batteries will die much more rapidly, as lithium-ion batteries can produce substantially less power as the temperature approaches freezing.)
As a single-camera kit that includes a required base station, the Arlo has somewhat worse specs than the other products in this category and at this price, such as omitting audio. But the Arlo base station supports up to 10 cameras: each subsequent camera costs, at the time of writing, $150 (purchased as part of a bundle) or $160 (purchased separately), which makes an extensive system cheaper
Netgear also includes a rolling storage limit of one gigabyte and up to seven days recording for up to five cameras and one base station per account (not per camera) as part of the purchase price. Older video is deleted when your total uploads exceed that one-GB limit over any seven-day period. Two subscription plans are available. The first supports up to 10 cameras and one base station; it grants 10 GB of cloud storage over 30 days for $10/month or $100/year. The second supports up to 15 cameras and three base stations; it gives 100 GB of cloud storage space and up to 60 days of storage for $15/month or $150/year. This can substantially reduce the total ongoing cost of ownership compared to the Nest Cam, especially for multiple cameras. Four Nest cameras with a 30-day recording buffer would, at this publish date’s prices, cost $750 per year in cloud storage fees; four Arlo cams with a 30-day buffer would only be $100 per year (though the Nest would have all 30 days’ worth of footage; the Arlo is motion-activated, so it’d only have a month’s worth of triggered clips)
An alternative for smaller rooms
ArcSoft’s Simplicam has a lower initial price and ongoing cloud fees than the Nest Cam, though a narrower field of view makes it less useful unless you have rooms that are small enough to work with its limitations. It also offers lower resolution while still using up significant upstream bandwidth per camera. However, at around three-fourths the price of the Nest Cam and with cheaper cloud storage, it’s worth considering if you’re looking for a less-expensive option or live in a smaller space.
The Simplicam has attractive industrial design and setup was easy. The Closeli app (we were confused by the fact that the product’s called Simplicam but the app and streaming service are called Closeli) has a clean, easy-to-use interface.
Simplicam’s picture quality is good both day and night and compares favorably to our top pick, though images are not quite as sharp and full of detail. However, its field of view at 107 degrees (an effective 93 degrees horizontally) is disappointingly narrow compared with a Nest Cam (130 degrees or 115 horizontally). It just can’t cover as much area, limiting its ability to monitor larger spaces—a dealbreaker for many, though not all, potential buyers. The Simplicam also records at maximum 720p instead of 1080p. Its facial detection feature didn’t provide an advantage over Nest’s motion detection, and its beta-stage facial-recognition option was confusing to set up and not particularly useful in practice.
Fees for cloud storage (at the time of writing) start at $50 a year (or $5 a month) for a one-day buffer and one hour of persistent clip storage and go up to 21 days of storage and five hours of clips for $230 a year (or $23 a month). Storage for additional cameras is available at 40 percent off those prices for each camera. Three Nest Cams on the cheapest plan total $200 a year or $20 a month, while Simplicam’s storage for a similar system would total $110 a year or $11 a month. The company says each camera requires about 1 Mbps of upstream bandwidth, a significant burden.
We only tested Wi-Fi based cameras with high-definition video that didn’t require batteries and offered access via mobile app, though the Arlo sneaked through as an oddball addition. We also required a 100-degree diagonal field of view or wider, and cloud based storage. We also didn’t want to review cameras that were part of larger security systems and couldn’t stand on their own. We scoured editorial reviews and looked at Amazon ratings and ordered in the best reviewed of all the models in the category. Only eight models made the cut.
We excluded from testing an enormous number of other IP cameras due to missing features, poor reviews, or time on the market. Models introduced this year, sometimes by startups founded exclusively to release cameras, aren’t good candidates because we don’t know how they will perform over time in real-world conditions. Our expectation is that our recommendations will work for several years, but because many cameras requires web and native apps to function, if a company abandoned a product line or went out of business, your cameras could wind up inoperable and without cloud-backed storage options. We’ll look at newer cameras in a future update.
You may still see the Dropcam Pro (our previous top pick) for sale at some stores. Keep in mind that the Nest Cam is an update to the Dropcam Pro, with a slightly different design, an improved microphone and speaker, a better mount, and a bump from 720p to 1080p HD video output, although with the same 3-megapixel sensor. Nest has promised that 1080p mode is coming to the Dropcam Pro but aren’t offering a timeline. And the cost of cloud pricing is the same as the current Nest Cam. So if you’re looking to save money, unless you’re getting a Dropcam Pro for less than $125, you’re better off going with the Simplicam, which is cheaper to begin with, offers less expensive cloud recording, and is likely not to be refurbished or otherwise come with some sort of conditional warranty as might be the case with a closeout Dropcam. If you already own a Dropcam Pro, however, we don’t recommend upgrading, as the difference isn’t great enough except in extreme cases in which the extra resolution provides clarity to a distant portion of the field of view. Its one advantage is that it retains a geofencing option (removed in the current Nest Cam and yet to return, though Nest has said it will be enabled in a future update) that enables and disables the Dropcam automatically when you leave or return to your home.
Two products that we tested offer more security features and sensors but cost more than most standalone IP cameras (though they may represent the future direction of this type of product). The Canary Connect Canary offers temperature, humidity, and air quality monitors and a loud siren. Its iOS app is excellently designed, and its image quality is quite good. Unfortunately, Canary doesn’t currently integrate with other smart home devices in any way.
Icontrol’s Piper is quite similar to Canary in design and functionality and also has a siren and environmental sensors. Unfortunately, Piper’s camera—which offered the widest field of view of any camera we tested—was quite poor. What Piper has going for it (since it’s a Z-Wave hub) is integration with Z-Wave home security accessories such as door and window sensors.
Samsung’s SmartCam HD Pro offers good video quality and an SD card slot, so if you’re uncomfortable uploading your video to the cloud (or paying monthly fees), it provides a solid alternative. We’ll look at it more closely in our future budget IP camera guide, where cloud storage isn’t a requirement, though its price is on the high end.
Amaryllo makes several models of IP camera, including the iCam Pro FHD and the iSensor. All lack a wide field of vision, though some include both tilt and pan controls, and one has a motion sensor that pivots the camera to where the action is. Customer reviews indicate the firmware and features on some models has shifted significantly over time, at one time using Skype’s peer-to-peer mode to capture video in the Pro FHD model, and the company offers limited support.
While many owners like the Ankercam, it is new to market this year and lacks a robust cloud storage option: it only stores five hours of video total—all 20-second clips following a motion trigger. A manual trigger mode allows grabbing five-minute clips. The Y-Cam HomeMonitor HD similarly only stores clips of motion, whether using a free or paid cloud service.
Excluded for a too-narrow field of view were the D-Link Monitor HD DCS-935L, Foscam FI9826P, and Guardzilla.
What to look forward to
In a future update, we expect to look at new entrants to the market, including the Flir FX and the Foscam C1, C2W, and R2W. Several other cameras are noted as shipping in third quarter 2015 and either aren’t yet available, despite product pages saying so, or are in extremely limited quantities. We’re curious about the Logitech Logi Circle, which can operate on a battery for up to three hours and offers a daily recap video summarized by events that stand out in its cloud-based analysis. It includes one day of rolling cloud storage. And we’ll check out Samsung’s SmartCam HD Plus, an update to the company’s system that might help it keep pace with the Nest Cam.
The Netgear Arlo, our pick for a truly wireless system, has added the Arlo Q cam to its lineup. This wired camera is intended to be complementary to the wireless Arlo line, and offers features that are similar to the Nest Cam. Netgear is also offering seven days of free cloud video storage, but you’ll have to pay for a subscription fee for continuous recording instead of triggered. The Arlo Q will be available December 2015, and we’ll see how it influences our pick then.
Logitech Logi Circle
We also expect that as the Internet of things heats up, it will become more important for an IP camera to fit into an ecosystem of devices that work together and can be configured, managed, and monitored through a single app or compatible apps and services. The market isn’t yet at a point to make a decision based on ecosystem, but we plan to look closely at cameras compatible with emerging protocols including Nest’s Weave and Apple’s HomeKit.
We’re also planning to look in the future at budget models that only allow for local storage. These include the Annke, several D-Link models (DCS-2132L, DCS-5222L, and DCS-5029), HooToo HT-IP211HDP, LeFun, Lorex LNC204, Netatmo Welcome, SkyGenius, and Sundirect. (Some of these models also have a narrow field of view, and might not make the cut on those grounds.)
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