You see them everywhere:
- At traffic lights
- Behind cashiers
- On street corners
- At ATMs
Internet Protocol (IP) cameras and recording devices have become the standard in monitoring the interior and exterior of so-called private property and are quickly finding their way into people's homes.
We had a chance to play with cameras and digital video recorders (DVRs) from Uniden and D-Link and were amazed with how easy they were to set up and monitor, even from several miles away.
The Uniden WDVR4-2 ($399.99) is actually a complete kit including a digital wireless DVR and two outdoor cameras. The cameras are paired with the DVR in the factory, so all we had to do was install them, connect the DVR to a router and download a Uniden app.
Registering the DVR with the app was also a painless procedure. It was simply a matter of naming the system and using a bar code scanner on our phones to record the registration number that was on the DVR. Once that was completed we had access to both cameras in full 740p high definition.
The DVR records videos of any motion detected by the cameras and saves them on an eight gigabyte microSD card that's included in the kit. You also have the option of adding up to a two terrabyte USB hard drive to increase capacity.
The system worked great on our wireless network, but we had to do a bit of tinkering with our modem/router to enable remote access. It seems that most routers are set up with the universal plug and play (UPnP) option disabled for security reasons. Once we enabled it, we were able to monitor activity outside the house from anywhere we had a WiFi or a smartphone signal.
Once the system is up and running the DVR constantly records all activity within range of the cameras, which brings us to our only major complaint: The fan in the DVR runs constantly and is loud. This can easily be resolved by using a long Ethernet cable so the DVR can be placed in an area where the constant whirring of the fan won't disturb anyone.
Other key features include:
- An HDMI/VGA port to connect a monitor or TV
- The cameras are weatherproof
- Infra-red night vision up to 40 feet
- It can support up to four cameras
- The cameras can transmit up to 500 feet
The D-Link system was actually pieced together using a separate mydlink Camera Recorder ($119.99), a D-Link DCS-2330L HD Outdoor WiFi Camera ($219) and two D-Link DCS-5020L Pan and Tilt WiFi Cameras ($149.99 each).
The DVR is similar to the Uniden video recorder, but not as loud. Anything saved to it can easily be accessed using a PC or a smartphone running mydlink Lite and mydlink View. You can also connect two four-terrabyte hard drives to the DVR's USB ports.
All of the D-Link cameras are compatible with the company's mydlink system, so installation was simply a process of initially connecting each device to our router and then setting them up for WiFi so the cameras could be "seen" by the DVR.
The system uses mydlink Lite and mydlink View to access the cameras remotely and are fairly simple to use, giving us access to tons of options ranging from panning and tilting the indoor cameras to indoor night vision of up to 26 feet using 10 infrared LEDs.
Setting up the outdoor camera wasn't quite as simple. We discovered that the power supply was connected to the interior of the camera, which meant we had to cut and splice it to run the power cable to a plug inside the house, which is more secure than using an exterior plug. In contrast we were able to disconnect the power supplies from the Uniden cameras.
Also, we discovered that the outdoor camera had only one IR LED, which limited its night vision range to 15 feet. This shouldn't be a problem for the average homeowner, but those with a lot of property or long driveways may want to explore other options.
Other features include:
- A 4X digital zoom lens
- Sound and motion detection
- You can save digital images or video to your smart device or the DVR
- WPS support to instantly connect to WPS routers
- You can configure the image size, quality and frame rate
- Total pan range is 340 degrees
- Cameras can be viewed using a web browser on a PC or using a smartphone
- A built-in microphone
- 1280x740p HD resolution
- Weatherproof housing
- 10X digital zoom
- A built-in microphone and microSD card slot
- WPS support
- Motion detector automatically saves video clips to the SD card or DVR
- Adjustable image quality, frame rate, image size and bit rate
- Adjustable brightness,saturation, sharpness and hue
- Accessible using a Web browser or a smartphone