Top positive review
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Very good picture quality, easy to set up, one flaw, possibly fatal
on February 13, 2013
Let me start with the summary, since the review is a very long one. This is an indoor camera. Great picture quality (non HD), very easy to set up and operate, works well with Android tablet (I don't have any iOS device to test with, but I'd imagine it works just as well, or better) and you can let any number of friends view the camera - they don't need to own a camera. But there is one potential security issue with the camera.
The flaw with this camera could be a deal breaker for some people, so I will mention it first. You need to create an account with Belkin, and anyone with access to the account will be able able access your camera.
There is no way around that if you want to use this camera. You cannot operate it in "local only" mode (connect to the camera directly). There should be a way, but Belkin is not telling us what it is. If I find out through reverse engineering, I will update this review.
Why is this important? If someone manages to guess your password, or if Belkin's security is compromised, you have no way of preventing people from looking into your house unless you turn it off. With other IP cameras, the password is only stored locally on the device, and is much less prone to being hacked. With some network expertise, you can create VPN tunnels that you need to connect to before you can view those type of cameras. You don't have such a choice with this one.
This won't be an issue if the camera is being set up in a public area (for example, a restaurant). At home, however, I feel uncomfortable knowing that a stranger could be peering into my house.
OK, now that this is out of the way, let us go on to the other features of this camera.
Build quality : The camera is nicely constructed, smooth plastic shell that fits nicely together. The base is weighed down by a heavy metal washer at the base, so it will not topple over easily. The power supply cord is long - 10 feet (I measured). The stated output is 5V, 1.5A.
Setup : the camera is very easy to configure, as long as you have an Android or iOS smartphone or a tablet. There is a little switch at the back of the camera - the only switch there, in fact. In the "up" position, it is in setup mode. In the "down" position, it is in camera mode. You should have received it in setup mode.
When in setup mode, the camera powers up (by plugging in the power cable) and presents a wireless access point for your device to connect to. Use your phone or tablet's wifi setup to connect to it. There's no password. After you're connected, launch the app, which will guide you through the rest of the setup. If you messed something up, exit the app and launch it again. It will guide you through the steps all over again - connect to your home wifi router and register an account with Belkin - or log in to an existing account.
Operation : Using the camera only requires you to flip the switch over to camera mode after you're done with the setup. Run the app, log in, and you're presented with a list of your cameras. Click on it and you can view it. You can also view the camera through your computer's browser by going to netcam dot belkin dot com (sorry for the minor obfuscation - Amazon seems to block most URLs I type in). In Firefox I'm prompted to install the iSecurity+ plugin, but I can use it with the old video player.
(Edit 3/26 : n let me know in the comments below that it seems no longer possible to create an account from the login page. Not sure if this is temporary - I will check with Belkin and see what they say. For the moment - the following paragraph is no longer valid)
You can create an account on a browser and view cameras that other people share with you even if you don't own a Netcam. Anyone you share the camera with will need to do this. There are also public cameras available. At the time of this writing, there are two public netcams listed - both from the Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority.
(Edit 3/26 : above paragraph is currently invalid - I need to find out from Belkin if it is permanently disabled)
From the app or the browser, you can view your own cameras, your friends' cameras, and invite friends (by sending them an email) to view your cameras, and to revoke access to your camera. You can also set your own camera to "private" mode (meaning you're the only account that can view it).
Infra-red works well, but in auto mode, the IR comes on whenever light level drops low enough, even when the camera is not being viewed. Alternatively you can set IR explicitly on or off (need to go into setup screen to do this). You cannot control the IR that someone shares with you, and motion detection will not work in the dark if IR is off. The IR LEDs gives off a faint reddish glow when in operation that's visible when it is very dark.
There is no local (in-camera) recording capability. Recording is done by your phone using the app.
Email motion detection alerts appear to work OK. You get an email with two photos when motion is detected. There doesn't appear to be a way to throttle the number of emails sent, so if you happen to have the camera pointed at a busy scene, be prepared for a flood of emails. A slowly changing scene will not trigger motion detection - for example, shadows cast by the sun moving slowly across the room will not trip it.
Performance : The camera has a very clear picture and sound is decent. There is a small delay in video (about 0.25 seconds) and a much longer one in the audio (about 2 seconds). I was able to connect from outside my home network to the camera without needing to configure anything on my home router. In fact, I had the camera connected to a wireless router, that's connected to another wireless router (two layers of NAT), both with uPNP and port forwarding disabled. This suggests that the camera is connecting to Belkin's servers instead of the other way around.
Power consumption : I measured this with a Kill-a-Watt. Power consumption is very low. I measured it at 2W when the IR is off, and 3W when IR is on. Changing frame rate, picture quality, and other parameters didn't affect power consumption in any way that can be measured by the Kill-a-Watt. I left it on for 24 hours and it reported a total energy consumption of 0.05 kWh. Assuming IR is left on auto, this device will consume under 2 kWh in a month - less than 50 cents for the typical user.
The power plug can take 100-240V @ 50-60Hz. The output is 5V 1.5A.
So, again, in summary - has great image quality (640 x 480), has sound, really easy to set up, it just works without having to configure anything with your home router, but the password is stored at Belkin's server.