Home network video cameras continue to impress

arlo q bear
Credit: NETGEAR

A few months ago I wrote how some new networked video cameras were “raising the bar for home security with better video quality, app integration and audio features. These new features are now considered “table stakes” for any device maker that wants to get into this space.

Since then, I’ve been able to try out two more cameras – from Samsung and NETGEAR – that include these features and a couple of other interesting ones that help shape future table stakes for this market.

samsungsmartcamhdplus1280 Samsung

The design of the Samsung SmartCam HD Plus camera reminds me of a Pixar character or video game character Q*bert.

The scoop: Samsung SmartCam HD Plus (model SNH-V6414BN), about $190 ($140 street).

What is it? The SmartCam HD Plus is a Wi-Fi-enabled camera clearly in the “keep an eye on your home, children and pets” space. The device includes 1080p full HD streaming, a 130-degree viewing angle, two-way audio talk, night vision (up to 32 feet away), a microSD card slot for storing photos, video and audio (up to 128GB of footage), and multi-video stream capability for up to five different streams. The design of the camera makes me think of a robot version of either Mike Wazowski (from "Monsters, Inc.") or the video game character Q*bert. The camera is sold in a plastic-and-cardboard-style package that you’d find at a wholesale club shelf – which makes sense, since it’s available at Costco Warehouse Clubs and Costco.com.

Like other cameras in this space, you set up the device with an app on your smartphone or tablet – the app also lets you monitor a live feed or watch past events when the motion sensor was triggered. You can take a static photograph or record live video on demand as well.

Why it’s cool: Samsung has added an additional layer of security for the cameras – not only do you need an account and password to login via the app, but you have to give each camera a password as well. This can be daunting if you have several cameras with different passwords, but it’s a nice feature for those concerned about security.

Another unique feature – the camera lets you trigger an audio alarm, but not just a blaring siren – you can choose to have the camera emit a “police siren” or “dog barking” – for those times when the camera may have picked up an intruder and you want them to get the heck out of Dodge. The Canary camera I wrote about in January has an alarm feature as well, but it’s so loud that it terrified my kids when I accidentally enabled it.

I also liked how you could target an area on the screen where the motion sensor would trigger – I usually point my camera to the outside and I only want to get alerts if cars or people come in the driveway, rather than vehicles that just drive by the house.

Some caveats: The two-way audio conversation is a bit awkward – you have to click the microphone button and hold it while you talk (like those old push-to-talk phones, or even-older walkie-talkies that you played with as a kid). Then you get a slight delay where you hear the end of your audio coming from the speaker on the camera.

I also wished there were a way to disarm the camera’s motion-detection more easily; I continually would get alerts on my cell phone every time I left the driveway; turning that feature on and off all the time was more tedious than I wanted (something solved by the next camera I reviewed).

Grade: 4.5 stars (out of five).

 

arlo q 1280 NETGEAR

The Arlo Q networked video camera communicates via Wi-Fi and lets you monitor your home via smartphone or tablet or web browser.

The scoop: NETGEAR Arlo Q, about $220.

What is it? NETGEAR debuted its Arlo cameras in 2015, with its “wire-free” models that could be placed anywhere due to its internal battery. The Arlo Q brings back at least one wire – a cord that connects to a power outlet. Network connectivity is still managed through a Wi-Fi network.

Features of the Arlo Q include 1080p HD streaming, a built-in microphone and speaker, night vision (up to 25 feet), and motion- and audio-detection. The Arlo Q also offers free cloud recording, where you can store and review the last 7 days of recordings (additional days and storage options are available for a monthly fee).

Why it’s cool: Picture and video quality were quite good (see below), with enough features that let you adjust the image via the app (zoom, contrast/brightness, etc.). I preferred having the AC power option, as with the wire-free Arlo cameras I never found time to replace the battery. 

arlo image cam Keith Shaw

Image taken from the Arlo Q camera - it looks even better on a smartphone screen (and if you have a nice sunny day outside).

I also liked how I could schedule the camera to be armed or disarmed on a schedule – I could tell the camera to not send me motion-detection alerts during times when I knew I was home – say from 5 pm to 11 pm, for example. If alerts become too annoying, users will end up shutting them off, eliminating their usefulness.

The cloud storage and recording options were nice to have – it made it easy to monitor the camera from my work computer via web browser instead of having to check my phone all the time (the Samsung camera doesn’t have a cloud option or service).

Bonus points given for the ability to sign into the camera via Apple's Touch ID system instead of constantly having to remember my Arlo password. Neat!

Some caveats: You have to fiddle with the motion-detection sensitivity a bit more with these cameras – even with the specific zone selected, my camera sent me an alert with blowing snow and wind (see video below).

Grade: 4.5 stars

Bottom line: With most cameras now featuring 1080p HD streaming, night vision and decent motion-detection and alerts, the differences between a lot of these cameras are small. Do you want the two-way audio feature? Do you want to be able to play a sound of a dog barking? Do you want to access the camera via a web browser? Are you monitoring a vacation home or your sleeping baby in the upstairs bedroom? Depending on those answers, you should be able to find a camera that can suit your needs. 

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