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Category: Hardware Published on Friday, 05 August 2016

Being a one-man reviewing machine and a septuagenarian geek has its limitations, but also allows me to amass large piles of "stuff." These piles eventually become hills and then mountains of routers, speakers, headphones, computers, printers, cameras etc. that I often stare at and then quietly back out of the office to read a good book or watch a movie.

Eventually I have to give in and pull a few completely unrelated items from the piles and string words together convincing you, dear reader, that I know what I'm talking about.

This is one of those times!

 

I've been playing with the new MantelMount ($399). the EZVIZ Mini security camera ($75) and the eero home WIFI system ($499).

When was first introduced to the MantelMount, I thought to myself: "Great, another TV wall mounting system that gives me access to connections behind the TV." Boy, did I underestimate this moveable marvel!

Anchoring the MantelMount to the wall was the same process I've used for many flat-screen TVs - - - find the wall studs, sink anchors and then drive a few screws. But the result is being able to move my flat screen to several positions in addition to bringing it out from the wall.

Once assembled, I was able to:

  • Move the screen down to "eye level" (up to 24 inches down from the mount)
  • Swivel it left or right
  • Easily get behind the TV to add or remove devices

You can also paint it the same color as your wall to make it almost invisible. In addition, there are heat sensors built into the handles that turn red if the temperature around it exceeds 110 degrees F.

The only problem we have with the system is that it can't handle TVs under 48 inches or over 80 inches. This probably won't be a problem for most people who tend to buy TV sets in the 48-to-80-inch range, but it is a concern for those of us that believe bigger is better or have limited wall space that can only accommodate a smaller screen.

The first thing you notice when unpacking the EZVIZ Mini is how much smaller it is than other indoor security cameras. It's suction grip and magnetic base allowed us to mount it in areas of the house where its larger brethren either wouldn't fit or became too obvious to intruders. It just has to be near a wall plug.

Installation was very easy. All we had to do was install the camera's app on our mobile device, scan the camera's QR code and we were up and running. The app discovers your WIFI network, which eliminates the need to hook it up to a router using an Ethernet cable.

The camera records video in 740p, at 25 frames per second, which is just as good as many of its higher-priced competitors. It also sends alerts to your mobile device once motion is detected. Also its infra-red filter allows you to see images clearly in the dark.

Images are stored on the 16 megabyte MIcroSD card that comes with the camera or you can use the company's Cloud storage service, which is free for the first year and then $10 per month. You can also use up to a 128 megabyte Micro SD card for additional storage.

The range of the IR sensor is also very good, allowing you to see everything clearly within 33 feet of the camera with a horizontal view of 115 degrees.

All of these features make the EZVIZ Mini a good choice, but there are a few minor problems.

The motion detection alerts can become annoying. There were several so-called "phantom" alerts, where we would get a notification and the camera hadn't recorded anything. We also discovered that turning this on would result in an endless stream of alerts triggered by ANY movement in the house (this is a constant problem if you have pets). We solved this problem by simply disabling the alert function.

It also tends not to play nice with other security devices. Many of the more expensive security cameras can communicate with each other using an IFTTT Channel. But this really isn't necessary if you're using the Mini as a stand-alone device. It will, however, work with other Minis and with a hub that's available for an additional $70.

The eero WIFI expansion system uses a wireless mesh network to expand the range of your modem/router. Mesh networks basically consist of a string of devices linked together to provide a more reliable signal throughout a house or large building. A WIFI connection isn’t required, which means it can also work with private networks, but our primary aim was to extend WIFI reliability on three floors of a house.

We simply installed the eero app on our mobile device and connected one of three square eero devices to our router. Once the first device was connected, we were able to add two more of these square boxes to other locations throughout the house, using the app to make sure they were connected to the network.

The eero system sets up its own network, which means you can choose the eero network to connect to some devices and not others, eliminating the possibility of installing too many devices on one network, which can sometimes result in conflicts or slowdowns.  Most wireless networks tend to lose a ton of speed depending on how far the device you're connecting is from your router. We've had instances where a 100 mbps service was reduced to as slow as seven or eight mbps.

This didn't happen when we connected to the eero boxes. Our WIFI signal was a constant 45 mbps throughout the house on every floor. The key for maximum performance is to make sure each of the boxes are within 40 feet of each other and they can "see" each other, which means there should be no obstructions between each box. We were able to set up three boxes on separate floors (where they couldn't see each other) and still maintained a 45 mbps connection.

 

 

 

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