There’s various reasons why one may desire a wireless security video camera. Checking in on your abode when traveling, keeping an eye on your pets, your kids and home improvement projects when you can’t be home to supervise or even checking the front door to see if a package arrived (or who swiped it, if it is missing!) are but a few reasons that people use video cameras in addition to the added feeling of peace of mind. Yet there is often a catch when exploring different camera options.
While Wi-Fi wireless cameras have improved leaps and bounds over the last several years – most still have serious drawbacks including quality of video, lack of sound, overall cost, ease of setup and use and lack of features that actually make the camera useful. HomeMonitor by Y-Cam attempts to answer all of the limitations and make a security camera that is dead simple to setup, provides top quality video and audio from anywhere on any device with a slew of features including online storage. If you’ve ever contemplated a WiFi camera for your home or apartment, read on to learn more about this best in class device.
In a nutshell This is a small (about 3″ square and an inch thick) stand-alone camera that does not need to be connected to a computer but connects to the internet and streams video anywhere in the world to smartphones, tablets or PCs via WiFi or an ethernet connection. The camera records and streams up to 640×480 resolution along with sound and an ability to record in the complete darkness up to approximately 45′ with infrared LEDs. Included with the $199 purchase price is 7 days of unlimited cloud storage and e-mail notifications when motion is detected.
Price and Overall Cost The HomeMonitor retails for $199 which is $50 or so more than some competitor cameras like the popular Dropcam. However, because HomeMonitor includes lifetime cloud storage it’s overall cost of ownership is dramatically cheaper. Seven days of online storage runs $100/year with Dropcam and even more from other providers. So, for example, five year ownership cost can run you $650 with a competitor, yet HomeMonitor is still simply $199. You can increase your storage allotment from seven-days to 30-days for $40/year if you need more than the included week.
Set Up Your grandma can set this up. Seriously. Well…almost. She’ll need to know what a router is and how to open a browser, but that’s about it. Many WiFi cameras require complicated setup procedures including installing software, drivers from an installation disc, port-forwarding with your router, knowledge of your IP address and other Byzantine steps. HomeMonitor can be up and running in a minute. Simply plug an ethernet cord from your camera into an open port on your router and then navigate to HomeMonitor’s website, create an account and you are good to go. No software needs to be installed and no router configuration needs to take place. After the initial setup, you can place your camera anywhere and connect to the internet via WiFi or ethernet. Keep in mind though: access to your router is a must. If you can’t plug into your router, you will not be able to setup the camera.
Use From your browser, you can set-up motion detection zones very easily by simply dragging a re-sizable box around the area that you want to monitor- perhaps a door or room entrance. (Or the entire room if you want). Multiple zones from the same camera can also be added. A scheduling feature can be toggled on and off and allows you to activate sensors only during specific times or days. You can even set up email notifications if motion has been detected. Once your motions zones and schedule is set up (if so desired), you are ready to use both the live view and archive views.
You can access your camera listen to a live stream from Android or iOS apps or any web browser. Both the apps (Android tested only) and the website are neat, crisp and well organized for intuitive use. Recorded clips are neatly arranged by date and time and play back quickly with very little pause or buffering. In a neat feature, the camera has a bit of internal memory that is constantly recording. So when motion is detected, it will upload several seconds PRIOR to the camera being triggered offering a very fluid and full history of any motion without the beginning being clipped off.
[HomeMonitor Web Portal to easily view live camera or archival footage as well as settings]
Quality The video is very good quality and comparable to the video output of a pocket point-and-shoot camera. It is not 1080 high-def but its resolution make it easy enough to see fine detail from far away and clearly see whatever it is you are monitoring. Fortunately, the camera also works well in low-light conditions where other cameras sometimes fail. Infrared LEDs even allow the camera to operate in the dark up to a distance of about 45′ which should be plenty for most rooms in a house. Obviously, with infrared, you’ll get a black and white image but it’s still pretty good quality. The microphone is reasonable quality and similar to having a mobile phone on speaker and picking up conversation in a room.
A few things to know
- Your live stream is “close” to live but needs to upload to cloud servers and transmit back to your PC or mobile device. It can range from a few seconds up to a minute of buffer, so it could never be used for carrying a live conversation or anything like that. (And of course given the fact that the camera only has a microphone and not a speaker).
- Infrared can’t work through glass. This isn’t a limitation per-se of the HomeMonitor but rather of infrared in general. So unfortunately you can’t monitor an outside walkway at night through a window. There’s no way (at least now) to toggle off infrared. So if your camera senses low light, the LED’s will come on and ruin your shot if it is positioned next to glass. It works great however when not next to glass and HomeMonitor does have an all-weather camera as well that can be mounted outside.
- The lens makes a noticeable “clicking” sound when turning on IR. In an really quiet environment, that could be annoying.
- Motion notification alerts are only sent via e-mail to one address. You can’t have simultaneous alerts send to you and your spouse’s email for example, nor can you set up text alerts.
- You can easily download your archived footage from the web portal if you need to save any of your recordings beyond your storage allotment. The clips are high-quality MP4 files that can be played back on most any video software or of course uploaded to video sharing sites.
- You can add multiple cameras to the same account so you’ll have all your devices on one dashboard and can easily pick and choose which one to view live or view archive footage.
- An included mounting bracket allows you to easily position the camera as either a wall-mount or stand . You can adjust for the best viewing angle and securely lock it into place.
Bottom Line The HomeMonitor is tough to beat with its combination of ease-of-use, quick set-up, video quality and free cloud storage. The notification system works great and you can instantly be alerted to potential security issues for whatever area you are monitoring. And given the fact that the camera only records and uploads when motion is detected, you are not hammering your bandwidth 24/7 needlessly. Live view and archived views both work equally well on mobile devices as well as PCs.
HomeMonitor $199 Direct
Note: Thanks for bearing with us last week as server upgrades were taking place. Still time to shop for Father’s Day. If you missed Technology Tuesday last week, we had a list of a few great gifts that you may want to check out for the music loving person in your life.
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