Review: Dropcam HD wifi video camera
Whether you're security paranoid, want to keep an eye on the nanny, have a summer or winter home you'd like to peek in on occasionally, or just want to be able to see who comes up to your front door while you're away, wireless web cameras have become digital commodities, with live streams of cameras attached to light poles, traffic lights and rooftops commonplace in metropolitan areas.
But getting them to work and work well, with a high quality image, has been a challenge, and it's only the very recent devices that are small enough you can imagine slipping them behind a book on the bookshelf or in an attic window, pointing at your yard.
Enter the slick, self-contained Dropcam HD. At $149 with everything you need to not only set up a live video streaming surveillance system, but be able to watch it from anywhere in the world and share it with your friends or the public at large, it's a slick solution with just a few design hiccups.
The first step in getting started with the Dropcam HD is to unpack it and plug it in to the computer via the included MicroUSB to USB cable. It's a long, thick cable, however, and that proves to be one of its design limitations: a flat ribbon-style cable or more flexible USB wire would be a great addition to the product, and since this is also the cable that plugs the camera into the wall adapter for power (and wifi), one that's a bit longer would have been greatly appreciated for my installation, at least.
The other design issue I had with the device is also related to the cable: the microUSB connector is on the bottom of the small, round camera device, but it's not angled outward. Instead, the wire ends up having to go straight down which means it ends up bumping into the mounting base in some configurations. And since the cable's not flexible, it means that the camera is constantly being pushed out of level. Not a big deal, but a 90-degree flex in the connector or a wire that, again, is more flexible would have been greatly appreciated.
Still, it's a beautiful piece of engineering otherwise, and the tiny camera, no more than 4" across, transmits full 720p HD video and bidirectional audio. Yes, you read that right: you can talk to someone through the Dropcam if they're close enough. Think "voice of God".
Let's go through the super-easy installation and then I'll show you a bit about how it works, including a link to the live video stream from our home office facility in Boulder, Colorado.
Plug the device into your computer and double-click the icon...
Click "Begin Setup" and you'll set up an account on their server, connect the device to your own wifi network and, well, that's really all there is to it.
The account setup's easy: enter your name and email address, agree to their terms of service and you're good to go.
To enter your wifi network, let the device search for available networks...
Once it's found yours, chose it, enter your password (you do have a secure password on your wifi network, right?) and give it a few seconds to connect:
This last step is optional, but if you are going to have more than one in use or are planning on sharing it with the public at large, give your device a name, probably your facility name, geographic location, or even street address:
Now you need to decide. By default, the device operates as a streaming video camera. No more, no less. You can, however, have Dropcam record the stream so you can go back and view specific dates or times of day, save clips, etc. It's not a cheap service, however, running $99/yr for the capability. Learn more on their DVR plans page.
You do get to have a few days to try it, however:
It's always easy to change your mind later, so just click on "Remind me in 7 days" and you can proceed, because the next step is to see the live stream from your Dropcam!
Yeah, as I learned, if you put it in a window with a screen, it'll focus on the screen, not the distant view of houses or landscape. Oops.
Still, notice the timeline along the bottom, the "Talk" button to let you use it as a sort of one-way video, two way audio conferencing system, and the "Settings" button, which offers lots of useful features, including the ability to allow the general public to view the stream, if you're so inclined.
I've done just that, and here's our live stream (click play to activate it):
Try it in full screen mode. It's just a suburban street, so it's not too thrilling, but it's still nice to peek at the weather, righ? Oh, and if it's nighttime, you'll see the night-view filtering kick in, so it won't just be a black screen. Check it out!
As I said earlier, there are a few minor design flaws in the Dropcam HD, but at a sub-$150 price including mounting gear and everything you need, it's hard to complain. If you're looking for a way to keep an eye on things distant or even around the corner, check it out!
Dropcam HD, $149 direct from the company. Recommended.
More Useful Articles and Reviews Articles:
✔ Review: Verticus for iPad
iOS gamers everywhere are familiar with the genre of infinite forward progress apps - Mega Jump, Canabalt, and a host of other run/jump/fly-until-you-die...✔ Review: Clear Spot Voyager 4G wifi hotspot
Clear Voyager 4g HotspotI'm constantly on the go and with just about every site I visit available via secure SSL connection, I typically...✔ Review: Dropcam HD wifi video camera
Whether you're security paranoid, want to keep an eye on the nanny, have a summer or winter home you'd like to peek in...✔ Audiovox Car Connection Review
I have the smartest house on the block with a wifi-enabled thermostat and garage door opener, along with a complex web of wireless...✔ Review: Slingbox 500
I should start with a candid admission: I'm not a huge television watcher. I catch soccer matches on Fox Soccer Channel, and watch...
Let's stay in touch!
Sign up for my weekly AskDaveTaylor Newsletter and you'll receive even more tech and gadget help right to your inbox, along with exclusive news and industry updates. It's good stuff. I promise!
I do have a comment, now that you mention it!
Check This Out Too...
Look for Answers
All Our Categories
Apple iPad Help
Articles and Reviews
Auctions and Online Shopping
Blogs and Blogging
Building Web Site Traffic
Business and Management
Computer and Internet Basics
d) None of the Above
Google Gmail Help
Google Plus Help
Industry News and Trade Shows
iPhone and Cell Phone Help
iPod, Sony PSP and MP3 Player Help
Kindle Fire Help
Mac OS X Help
Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Shell Script Programming
Tech Support Video Help
The Writing Business
Twitter, LinkedIn and Social Network Help
Unix and Linux Help
Video Game Tips and Help
Windows PC Help
Find Me on Google+
ADT on G+