17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
QUICK SUMMARY: I setup this surveillance system (not really a security system) with minimal trouble. It's doing what it's supposed to do WITHOUT having to call Tech Support, without reading the owner's manual, and without scouring the Internet for solutions to problems -- I didn't encounter any serious issues, and the few minor installation bumps I encountered were easily remedied. Don't expect much from the "color" cameras - the default colors from them are abysmal (but for an inexpensive surveillance system, I'm willing to put up with lousy color). I'll wait a month before deciding whether or not recommend this system, but overall, I'm pleased with what I've seen so far.
What I LIKE:
- Well packaged and complete. It comes with a Quick Start guide and an owner's manual which is only slightly more informative. You can do the installation just from the Quick Start guide, and refer to the owner's manual only if you need to.
- It worked! It does what it says it will do -- without having to call Tech Support for assistance. Yea!!
- The color "high-res" cameras (which are NOT "high definition") are really quite small and unobstrusive.
- The cameras can be installed indoors or outdoors (but if outdoors, they must not be directly exposed to the elements, so says the owner's manual).
- Lots of configuration settings let you decide which cameras to turn on/off, how many frames-per-second they'll record (from 1 fps to 30 fps), resolution quality, when to record, and more. I haven't tried many of the features yet, like connecting to my home network, or recording only when the camera's sensor indicates something is moving within its narrow field-of-vision.
- If I really want to have this system professionally installed in my home, there's an option the manufacture provides to do just that. But I don't know what the cost of that would be.
- The "night vision" feature (for darkly lit rooms or outside at night within ~15 feet of the camera) works pretty good! I've never used "night vision" electronics before, and it's startling how clear someone's face can be seen using this feature.
- At night using available streetlight, you won't be able to read a license plate from the video that's recorded, but you will be able to see the model of a vehicle driving by.
What I Did **NOT** Like:
- The default colors from these "color" cameras are awful. The color green -- leaves on trees and the color of grass -- show up grayish-brownish-purpleish, NOT green, on both the live video feed and the corresponding recorded video. Strangely, the only time grass and leaves show up green is during a torrential downpour of rain. White and black show up well, orange shows up okay, but most other colors seem way, way off. You can improve the colors by manually adjusting the hue setting for each camera.
- Using the remote, sometimes pressing the "Menu" button (which should exit a screen and return to the main menu) instead caused the toggling of the configuration setting which was highlighted on the screen.
- The 1st camera I connected to the DVR did not work until I connected the 2nd camera, and then both cameras worked. I swapped the camera inputs on the DVR and still had an issue with one of the cameras. I suspect a suprisingly loose connection between the video cable and the DVR to be at fault. I stopped debugging the problem, though, once both cameras began working.
- There is no chart that explains what types of settings will lead to what kind of disk usage within the DVR. The retail box says it can record up to 2 years of video, but the fine print explains that is at the lowest frames-per-second (that is, 1 fps) and at the lowest video resolution possible. In other words, you're not going to get 2 years of recorded video from this unit! After a few days living with this system, I found that I could record a total of 20fps (among all 3 cameras combined, where all cameras are set to the highest quality resolution), and that uses about 7%/day of the hard disk space. So, in my installation, I'll get about two weeks' worth of recorded images before I begin overlaying the oldest images with newer images.
What Could Be BETTER:
- The camera's field-of-vision is very narrow, and there's no adjusting that. On the camera I installed outdoors, the field-of-vision 30 feet away is about the width of my double-wide driveway plus the mailbox.
- The zinc-plated hardware (wood screws) used to install the cameras will rust quickly outside, even if they're not directly exposed to the elements.
- There is no glitz when it comes to the menu user interface. It's like something out of 1980. Just white, block text...no icons, no graphics, no media bling at all.
- The tightening screw on the installed cameras (that applies pressure to the ball-and-joint of the stand) tends to keep the cameras from moving vertically out of place, but it still seems too easy to move the camera horizontally with a very light touch. I need to investigate this some more to ensure it's not "user error" though. The cameras themselves aren't moving out of place, but with a strong wind outside, I'll bet they would.
BACKGROUND: I already have a home monitoring system -- that is a much better deterrant than a 4-camera surveillance system. If all you're relying on is this system to protect your home or business, a burglar can easily haul off the Defender's DVR unit, leaving you empty-handed and without any video proof of the crime! But a surveillance system has many other uses and benefits. It's a great compliment to the measures you're already taking to secure your property. For instance, what ARE my kids doing while I'm not at home and they're home alone?!
INSTALLATION: As I said already, it really was easy. I mistakenly assumed I could connect the DVR to my computer and use my computer to do the setups. Afterall, the DVR has an Ethernet jack and it comes with an Ethernet cable. But you can't configure this DVR using your computer -- you *must* use either a TV or a monitor with an RCA-type video input. So, I moved the DVR from my computer desk over to the home theater armoire in the family room, and quickly connected it to my Samsung LCD TV. Right now, I've connected one camera atop my armoire, and another two outside my home overlooking my driveway, street, and walkway up to our front door.
Note for Northerners: The operating range for these cameras is 14°F ~ 140°F, so if you live in a part of the country that gets very cold in the wintertime (I don't!), this may be of concern to you if you plan on installing any of these cameras outdoors.
CONFIGURATION: Simple to do. Hit "Menu" on the remote control, and walk through each menu choice to make your selections. Hit "Menu" again after you make a configuration setting change, and "Menu" once more to update the settings on the DVR.
VIDEO QUALITY: Okay, don't expect to see anything approaching HD videos here! The live video feed is probably like TV's standard definition. The cameras struggle with most colors, like green, navy or dark blue. Other colors, like honey oak on our table, look good. Indoor lighting can get screwy if you're using a combination of different lighting equipment within the same camera's field-of-vision (for instance, my kitchen with fluorescent lighting in the foreground looks okay, but the background incandescent lighting in the dining room causes the walls to look faintly purple). By default, outside colors are awful. Tree leaves and the grass outside look gray-brown-purpleish using the camera's default settings. If you change the "hue" setting for cameras placed outdoors from the factory default 64% setting down to 40-50%, tree leaves and grass obtain an acceptable green color. Most everything tends to look washed out, but the objects you'll see in this video -- people or pets, for instance -- are easily recognizable. In other words, it's "good enough" to be useful, as you won't be using these video cameras to record baby's first steps! Recording at the "Highest" resolution setting won't be quite as good as the live video streaming. Lower resolution settings just make the recorded video look that much worse. My suggestion is to take some short video samples and see which resolution you can live with. Note: There is no audio feed coming from these cameras -- you only get video.
CONCLUSION: I've only had this system for less than a week, but I like it. It can help identify the goings-on around and inside my home. I'll continue to update this review until I decide whether I'll recommend it or not.
*** APRIL 27, 2010 UPDATE
Here's how this system helped solve a mystery for me. Yesterday, I left for work in a downpour. While backing out of my driveway, I ran over our garbage can which had been emptied by the city workers just a few minutes before! Why did I run over my garbage can? Did I not look behind me, before backing up? Did the city workers place the emptied trash can directly behind my vehicle? Later in the day, I watched the video and saw that the city workers had placed the emptied can at the corner of my driveway, but yesterday's storm blew over the can and pushed it directly behind my vehicle! There was no one to blame; it was a freak incident. The video explained exactly what happened. Pretty cool!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2010
This all-in-one video surveillance kit is decent for home security. Most other kits in this price range (as of this review date) offer higher-quality CCD cameras, smartphone support, FTP/e-mail alerts, and VGA/audio connections. I learned this the hard way after making an impulse buy. Oh well. I am happy with it so far though. I've used it for a day now continuously without any problems. The included CMOS cameras display decent-quality video but the color is very washed out - it's like black and white with a smudge of color here and there. With CCD cameras, that wouldn't be an issue. I do not recommend using the cameras outdoors - I've owned weatherproof cameras in the past, and these ones aren't, despite what the manufacturer says. The night vision is really neat and shows everything even in pitch dark. However, in night vision mode, the cameras will be very sensitive and will display small particulates like dust in the air, which can trigger motion recording. The motion recording works well, and the sensitivity seems nearly perfect. Note there is 60 fps SHARED amongst all 4 cameras. Using the max 60 fps at high quality will max out the storage quickly (in under a week). At only 4 fps per camera (16 fps total), at highest quality, the video motion is still fluid and you should be able to get about a month or more of footage (using motion detection instead of continuous recording). Using lower quality for recording is a waste of time since the resulting video will be very pixelated and blurry. The DVR unit is small and compact - very easy to conceal if necessary. It lacks a VGA display port and offers only BNC connections for input/output (with RCA plug adapters included). No audio support. The buttons on the DVR unit and on the remote are a bit flimsy but will work fine if you press them gently. I had high expectations for the USB-to-PC feature but it's not much different than the network feature; in both cases, you must run a special client software program to use the DVR remotely. Windows detects the DVR as a mass storage device, which is awesome. However, since the DVR uses an oddball storage system instead of a standard FAT or Ext2/3 file system, you can't access the video files directly. Therefore, you must use the special client program - you cannot use your own automated backup program. Backing up video content using the client software is a bit tedious since you are forced to playback the footage you want to back up, and then wait for the AVI conversion (which is DivX, by the way). The DVR runs in simplex mode, not duplex or triplex; this simply means that it can only do one thing at a time instead of offering simultaneous playback and recording. The built-in configuration setup menu is simple to follow. The networking setup is pretty straightforward. You can have an administrator and a regular user account, both with seperate passwords. You can also password-protect vital DVR functions. Hard drive prep is a breeze - the DVR unit formats it very quickly. You must format the entire drive if you want to delete any video from it, however - deletion of individual video events is not supported. What's great is that you can unplug the DVR, plug it back in later, and it resumes operation seamlessly. A power button would have been nice, though (geez!). All in all, this is good for home security use. If given another opportunity to buy something else, I would. But I'm content with settling with this product since it works very well and has good support, despite some drawbacks.
UPDATE (3 months later):
Experiencing some major glitches with the DVR unit. The case gets very warm and I suspect overheating. I also had the dreaded hard drive glitch where the unit would not detect the drive. After it cooled off for awhile, it began to work normally. Also, at times the motion detection will simply revert to continuously recording from a single camera, usually when I need it the most. A lot of footage was not recorded because of this. Another issue is the unit simply malfunctions at times, showing incorrect dates like "14/16/2133" and locking up. My overall experience has changed and I'm not very happy with this surveillance package anymore. It sickens me to realize that I've spent close to $500 for something that is of mediocre quality. The unit is still under warranty but based on other reviews I've read from people experiencing the same issues, it doesn't seem worth bothering with it. I removed the case from the unit to try to prevent any further overheating and time will only tell...