Top positive review
820 people found this helpful
Excellent value and good customer service
on March 29, 2012
We ordered this unit on March 19, 2012. We love it! I started the installation process on March 24th, and have four of the eight cameras installed and running. The system has been running just fine for this last week. I had no problems getting things setup; most of it worked right out of the box. I am quite technical, so setting up the remote access via a web browser, and Android mobile app worked on the first try. As long as you know how to forward ports on your home router, the remote access process will be very easy.
Some things to note. Make sure you PLAN your install ahead of time. Camera location, cable runs, DVR location, and access into your house for the cabling are key. Take your time. Time and planning up front will pay off big time in the long run. I pre-planned everything I thought I would need before I started installing. I had made a trip to Home Depot the day before, and unboxed and tested the system on the kitchen table before I started installing anything. All the cameras worked just fine during the test, as did the DVR.
Make sure you measure your runs for your cameras and order extra cables before hand. I had one cable run that ended up being about four feet short. I had to order a couple extra cables so I could run cable cleanly to the cameras. The 60 foot cables may sound long when you are first installing, but as soon as you start routing cables, 60 feet runs out very quickly. It is nice to have a couple 100 foot cables on hand, and they are inexpensive to order.
I spent 8.5 hours straight installing in the first four cameras and DVR. I initially had three cameras installed in front of our house, but decided I didn't have all the coverage I wanted, so I installed a fourth on the front of our house. I took plenty of time to find the location I wanted to bring the cabling into our house from, so I didn't drill through any electrical, studs, or any other items that may block my path or damage the house.
I reviewed three different manufacturers: Swann, Q-See, and XModo. Some key items that made my decision to go with Swann where the fact that the cameras were:
* Camera lenses were 3.6mm over 6mm. 3.6mm lenses provide a wider viewing angle over 6mm.
* Camera Image sensor technology is CCD in the Swann, not CMOS (more info here for tech junkies: [...]). CCD provides for a clearer picture and is less susceptible to "noise" interference from the night vision LEDs, making for better picture quality all around (is how I understood it from the article I linked).
* Cameras were branded as Sony with the Swann system. I like Sony. I did not see any specific branding on any of the other systems.
* Customer service answered their phone. Before purchasing I called the customer service/tech support line to see what kind of experience I would have. Someone who spoke solid English answered after only one minute on hold. I since have called customer service two more times to get clarification on a couple things, and both times my hold time was only one to two minutes.
Some other things to note. Email notifications only work if you have the camera in 'scheduled' motion detection mode. Even though the cameras will sense motion triggers while 'always recording' they will not send notifications unless the camera is NOT in 'always record' mode, and is in 'scheduled' mode with "alarm" parameters set in the schedule. After messing with this, I decided I preferred the 'always record' mode.
I immediately took out the 500GB hard drive and upgraded to a 2TB drive. This was easy. The only thing I had to do was get into the DVR menu and format the hard drive from the DVR menu before the DVR would start recording again. This is not noted in the documentation for replacing the hard drive, so be aware you need to use the DVR menu to format any replacement drive you put in before the device will start recording to it. Format only took a couple minutes for the 2TB drive.
You can perform about 90% of the DVR setup and function through the web interface. Currently only Internet Explorer is supported (I prefer Chrome or Firefox), but I had no trouble using IE 7 on a Windows XP machine, or IE 9 on my Windows 7 machine after following the IE configuration changes in the Swann documentation. You must make a couple security changes (nothing that will jeopardize your computer) to make the Swann Active X plug in install and work correctly.
I used the remote a little bit. The main interface on the DVR is a little clunky with the remote. I prefer to use the web interface when at all possible. The mouse that is included is also clunky when I have used it. I will likely change out the mouse to see if something better works more smoothly, but I have not done that yet.
Night vision works great for us. We have perimeter lighting completely around our house. Our motion lights are on the 'dusk till dawn' setting and greatly enhance the night vision ability of these cameras.
Lastly, if you do enable remote access, make sure you change your passwords and document them. Be aware if you call customer service they may want to remote into your DVR using the remote web interface. You will have to give them your user name and password. Make sure you change your password afterward, and update your notes.
We are very happy with this system so far. It has all the bells and whistles we wanted, replacement parts are available for every aspect, and customer service actually answer their phone and answer questions. The remote access and Android app are very cool. We hope this system will perform for years, and hope it will for you too.
I hope this information helps others. Best of luck.