Customer Review

23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They swung me from disliking the system to loving it, July 28, 2011
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This review is from: Logitech Alert 700e Outdoor Add-On HD Quality Security Camera with Night Vision (961-000338) (Discontinued by Manufacturer) (Electronics)
I started out back in the end of April trying to find some security camera to monitor problems I had with some neighbors. My first one was the Logitech indoor one, figuring I'd just hang it in the window on that side of the house and that would be sufficient. But my initial attempts met with failure, and disappointment on a number of levels. I wrote a 2 star review of the indoor master system because of the things that just didn't work. I tried three other systems after that, all ending even worse. About the time I was trying the fourth system, I received an email from the guy in charge of their quality division saying he had seen my review and wanted to know if I was willing to try again, since they wanted to use the problems I had to help them tweak things and deliver a better product. The fact that he contacted me simply because of the review I wrote intrigued me, and since I was not at all satisfied with any of the other systems I tried, I gratefully accepted the offer of help. So I picked up another system, this one their External master system. I went through the setup the same way I did the first time, and hit almost all of the same problems. Errors about updates and unable to get to the internet from the software, problems with the iPhone and iPad apps not connecting right, and the fact that I use my media center computer as the "master" that gets all the recordings, but still wanted to view it from another PC that ended up mucking up some things. But they helped walk me through the issues one by one, and got the system up the way I wanted it. The update problem turned out to be something they heard about from a few other people, and said that just renaming the folder for now that had the update program in it would alleviate the errors, and that they were working on a resolution for it for the next software version. They then walked me through some changes to the INI file on my second PC so that I could use it to view things without having it interfere with anything, since the cameras get their settings, download the video files, and everything based on the PC that touches them. I tried to minimize the problem by basically duplicating everything exactly with my second computer but that actually caused as many issues as it prevented. By basically nulling out everything I could in the INI file now, I can connect to the system without it causing the problems it was.
They didn't do anything specific for the iPhone issues I had, but over the course of a few days, eventually it started working more often than not, and the troubles I had were enough for them to graciously put me into their beta testing for the next version, which I am running now and is night and day compared to the old version, both in options as well as in reliability.

One trick I ended up learning - when adding a second PC, don't set up as a site, even a site with the same name. You can cancel that part and just view then. If you don't, like I didn't the first time, you'll end up with a second "site" on the logitech alert website when you view your cameras. I was seeing two sites, both named the same, but only one with cameras. It took a bit of beating up but finally I was able to remove that second null site.

I had a problem with the base module that plugs into the switch actually causing a broadcast storm or something since after it was running for 18 hours or so, everything on my home network would no longer work, although my VOIP phone system did. That was the only thing going straight into the router though, not into the switch everything else collapses into. As soon as I unplugged the network cable from the switch, everything started working again and a quick power cycle of the network piece of the Logitech setup would let it work again for another 18 or so hours. They promptly sent me a replacement and had me ship mine back to them for testing, and it has not happened again.

The cameras run a bit more toasty than I would've been comfortable with normally, but even the three I have outside now, in the 100 degree weather we've had recently, have had no problems. I'm even thinking it might help me in the winters, if the heat is enough to dissipate any snow that ends up on them... :)

The night vision is quite impressive, although the detail isn't as good as it is during the day. But it's easy to see and recognize people even from 30 feet away as they walk down the sidewalk here, although that recognition is mostly from size, shape, and movement recognition, not face. But close up the faces are easily visible and recognizable. The problem with night vision for me is bugs. Seems a lot of insects love the little red emitting spots on the front of the cameras, so they play havoc with the motion detection. If you leave it set to record during the night, you'll see a lot of bug activity. But i've also got some great shots now of lightning strikes nearby that I pulled from the recordings the cameras have made during storms at night, so it's not all negative. :)

Motion detection overall is really the biggest weakness it has I think. The majority of my recordings are things like bees flying past, or birds. There is an option for sensitivity, but it's never made any difference for my setup. The one thing I'm hoping for in a future upgraded software version is a way to specify the size of something to trigger the recording, so that the birds hopping slowly across my front lawn doesn't get the recording going every time, but the person does. Also, rain storms, headlights flashing across the lawn, or lightning all will trigger the recording. Even the reflection of a car on the wet sidewalk as it drives past will be recorded if it's in a motion zone.

Another nice bonus I hadn't known when I started was that the system will backfill a bit when recording is triggered, so when something crosses the motion detection zone, it'l actually also add to the recording about 5 seconds or so of the cache prior to the trigger activity. That way you can see what "lead up" to whatever happened within the motion zones, and it also does the same for after, giving a few more seconds after the motion zones have been left.

Since I have it running on my media center PC, one feature I like is that when it's open on the desktop, if you're using a camera with sound enabled, you hear the sound, but if you minimize it, it stops playback of the sound through your system - which is nice for someone like me that is using the system on the same thing they use to control their TV. Little touches like that really help show how much effort they've put into polishing this system. And the fact that I could email them saying "this is happening," and get a reply saying they've found whatever it is to be an issue, and are already addressing it for the next release...

In fact, the system has impressed me so much that I now have a total of four cameras on my system, three external and one internal. And it is amazing how much of a deterrent they are for the stupid actions of my neighbors. After getting the first two cameras installed, my life here has become much more enjoyable just for that factor alone.

In the back and forth email correspondences I've had with two of the people involved with the product now, the things that aren't present or not quite what I would have preferred I've found are at least on the table for changes, if not already actively being changed. One of their big requests is an easy way to stop recordings. It's simple to stop the alerts and emails, but recordings you have to go and set the sensitivity all the way to Zero individually on each camera to disable them from recording motion. I was originally doing that every night just so I didn't have to watch the bugs when I went through the videos, but I'm hoping that since it's such a popular request that one of the feature enhancements in the future will be an easy way to set a schedule, so that, say, from 12 to 3 on Saturdays when I cut the grass it knows not to be throwing hundreds of files on my hard drive of me doing so. Another thing I would love to see is a way for another computer to view directly the feed without causing some of the issues I've hit because of the commander software trying to update settings in the firmware of the cameras. Although even better than that, would be a way for an iPhone or iPad to directly access it to view realtime, since with either the software or just a web browser, you're seeing a delayed feed due to the fact that the traffic has to pass from your site to the logitech servers, then to your device you are viewing with. So there's anywhere form a 5 to 10 second delay to as long as 35 seconds I hit one weekend. They've told me that the direct view from an iPad or iPhone is something they're considering. I hope that one becomes a reality since I think that would be a great feature. Another possibility they're talking about is a Mac version of the software, which I would like as well since I run the system on a Mac Mini that is running Windows 7 boot camp for my Media center, but I also have a new 15" Macbook Pro that I'd like to use more than just the web version on.

I spent about 2 1/2 months using the system and the default free web service, but I got on the $79 program a week or so ago, and have to say that I wish I had done so sooner. It made it so much better to be able to control everything from anywhere else. One of the nice things with the iPhone and iPad is that the software doesn't change, so you don't have to download another version. it simply offers the extra features if you subscribed to it, no new app needed. And even from a web page, you have pretty much all the control and settings options that you have from the commander software. It's very well done and certainly something I'll keep subscribing to as long as I have my system, especially if the newer versions have some of the fixes and additions I hope to see.

I love being able to see all around my house, in every direction, from the couch. And not just to see what is happening with the people and kids around here, but even for weather. We've had a lot of storms lately, and I can easily see when the bad stuff is heading this way from any compass point now through the cameras. It even helps at night when I'm laying in bed reading on my iPad and wonder if I closed the garage door or not. I just open the software on the iPad and take a look at the camera showing my driveway, since the field of view includes enough of the garage that I can see the bottom of the door if it's closed, or the seam in the garage if it's not.

And when I have it on my TV, it's easy to jump full screen for a nice shot of all four cameras at once, or just double click any of the camera views to bring that one full screen by itself. Double click again to go back to the four screen view, and pick another. Changing cameras positions in the grid display is as easy as simply clicking it and dragging it to another square.

Field of vision is very impressive, and the ability to zoom, pan, all digitally, so that people you may be monitoring aren't even aware of it, since there's no motor moving a camera around, no lens spinning as it zooms, like so many other systems out there had. I'm amazed at how much I can see to the sides, although there is the fisheye bending effect at the very edges of it.

If you have a camera that ends up out of time sync for some reason, the trick is to get onto the windows machine, go to the time settings, and if it wasn't already, set it to sync with an external internet time source. Close the Logitech Commander software, then do the "sync now" option. When it shows that it successfully synced the time, reopen the Logitech Commander software, and the camera should now be in sync again.

I have to say that the people at Logitech that I've dealt with have been top notch and helpful way above and beyond the call of duty. It was their initiative that got me to try the system again, and helped me work through my issues and concerns enough to now have four cameras going. I've got several clients (I build networks and support servers and such) that have seen me checking out things remotely and are interested as well now in using these, since the ease of using the electrical system in place of running coax cables is blatantly obvious to them.

I'm ultimately very glad that I had bad experiences with the other systems I tried, so that I did end up coming back to these logitech units. None of the software or features on the other units had the power and flexibility I have now. And if Logitech ups the ante by doing some of the things I'd like to see added, then it's going to put them so far out of reach of the competition that there will no longer even be a way to compare them to the others.

Edit - My comment about the idiots next door having stopped their depredations because of the cameras doesn't seem to hold as true anymore, evidently they read the review and today decided to be even more idiotic. I finally got tired, called the police, and their "but we didn't do anything but ride around" defense fell flat when I could show the police exactly what they were doing and saying for the last few hours. So while it may not have stopped the stupid behavior, at least it helped show it when needed for law enforcement.

Edit 6/10/2012 - I'm now up to six cameras, three externals, three internals with night vision as well. Really looks great on my 55" LED TV when I have the view maxed, like a nice high tech security center.

Edit December 2012 - Now there is a "Mac Commander" program so you can use these with a Mac system. There are some really nice improvements with the Mac version - you can "pop out" each camera and size it differently and float them at different points on the desktop - the Windows version is a fixed format, can't resize, only pick what shows and how they're laid out. More control immediately from the main window as well in the Mac version - what I absolutely HATE about it though is it does *NOT* connect locally to the cameras. For some unknown lame reason, Logitech has decided to force it to go out your internet to pull the video from *THEIR* servers - so your cameras are using bandwidth sending the video signal to Logitech, then you double that by pulling it back into your system. I don't know how much bandwidth they're using outbound, but inbound it sucks about 350Kb of bandwidth for me to watch the feed - and there's a 5 to 6 second delay as well. So without an internet connection working, you may be out of luck. They claim that it will fall back to a "local" connection if your internet is down, I haven't tested that out yet but will and report back here. But the whole "send the video to Logitech then send it back to the user" is just a total waste of bandwidth. I'd rather direct connect to the cameras with the Mac the way the Windows version does. Their plan is to move the Windows version to be like the Mac version so at some point, if you stay current, even the Windows version is going to waste bandwidth and force you to watch everything time shifted as well... I'll be sure I don't upgrade my Windows side that controls everything when they make that boneheaded move... Meanwhile the system is still working great and I absolutely love it.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 10, 2012 4:05:37 PM PDT
B says:
Which other systems did you try?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 10, 2012 4:14:18 PM PDT
John S. Dean says:
dropcam, dlink dcs-932l, and a panasonic one (don't remember details, been over a year now)

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 10, 2012 4:15:23 PM PDT
B says:
Thanks for the quick response. Your review was very helpful so we're going to try it out.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 10, 2012 4:20:24 PM PDT
John S. Dean says:
No problem, glad it helped. I'm up to 6 of these on my system now, three externals and three internals looking out windows where I can't get an external, so clearly I was taken in by them. ;)

Posted on Nov 29, 2012 11:08:42 AM PST
Do you just have the TV hooked directly to the computer or did you find another way to view it remotely?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 11:16:04 AM PST
John S. Dean says:
The computer I use is my media center PC, so the TV is the monitor. I can also view it from my Mac (there's now a Mac Commander software that didn't exist before that's brand new) or from any web browser, or my iPads or iPhone. Definitely a number of ways to get at them.
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Location: Sturtevant, WI United States

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