Smart home security cameras are a dime a dozen nowadays as Nest, Netgear, Ring and a slew of other manufacturers move into what used to be a costly specialist market. The shoebox-sized CCTV cameras of old have been supplanted by smarter, wireless and way more compact cameras that are a doddle to install, so it isn’t a big surprise that people are buying them by the boatload.
I was curious to see if Swann’s new weatherproof and wireless HD smart security cameras were up to the job.
There’s no getting away from it: Swann’s Smart Security Camera looks virtually identical to Netgear’s Arlo cameras. At about the same size and shape, they’re also finished in a similar white to the Arlo. One minor difference is that Swann’s offering has a vertical orientation whereas Arlo sits horizontally. But even the magnetic wall mount Swann use looks identical to Arlo’s offering.
The smart cam itself is IP65-certified, so they’re weatherproof and suitable for outdoor use. Because the cameras are equipped with rechargeable batteries and are wireless, they’re a doddle to install.
The 2MP cameras have a 120-degree field of view and 32-feet night vision, as well as two-way audio. The real star of the show, however, is what Swann calls ‘True Detect’. It consists of a passive infra-red motion sensor which, in layperson terms, translates into next to zero annoying false motion alerts from the camera.
The cameras come with a base station and are expandable with additional cameras. Footage can be stored in camera memory, as well as the free, seven-day cloud storage, so if your internet connection or power cuts out, you’ll still capture footage. With a year’s unlimited storage, Netgear’s Arlo still has it over Swann on the cloud front as Swann only offer two days of free cloud storage (you can alternatively pay for a 30-day/5 GB plan) which seems a tad stingy compared to NetGear.
The cameras also have several mounting options. There’s a screw fitting in the base and an Arlo-like magnetic mount. I found the magnets were strong enough to endure a strong Wellington southerly, so the cameras should stay put in most situations (except possibly thermonuclear war).
Before starting the installation, I had to charge the camera’s battery. This takes four to six hours, and Swann include a USB cable, to help things along. There wasn’t a power adapter included, but my phone’s charger worked fine. Battery life isn’t half bad: from what users say online, up to two months use of a single charge is possible depending on how much motion gets captured. Further helping things along is an optional solar panel that’ll continuously trickle-charge the camera, making it practically maintenance free.
Getting set up requires that the SAFE by Swann app is installed on your smartphone (iOS or Android), which guides you through the set-up process. This happens by pressing a small recessed button covered by a protective flap at the back of the camera. Next, you’re prompted to provide your home’s WI-FI network password and to then connect to the camera’s Wi-Fi connection. It seems a tad clunky compared to similar systems I’ve tested but still worked well.
One of the best parts of the SAFE By Swann app is that it hides all the complexities and confusion involved with setting up an IP camera. The simple user interface is well designed, and while you can name the camera, tweak Wi-Fi settings and adjust image quality/motion sensitivity, that’s about it. There is a lot to be said for keeping it simple. While those who want to fiddle with motion-detection zones, gamma/contrast and so on may be frustrated, but it’s perfect for most users who will more than likely want a set-and-forget option.
In use, the video from the Swann cameras looked crisp and sharp but was sometimes over-exposed, and there was also a small amount of barrel distortion. All told, the video footage from the cameras was mostly clean and its night vision was particularly clear too.
The PIR motion detection also worked flawlessly, and the 20-second clips recorded played back smoothly. By offering local SD as well as cloud storage, Swann has something few other camera makers can match, even if NetGear Arlo cloud storage provides better bang for buck value (its free).
Swann’s Smart Security Camera might not come with all the unnecessary bells and whistles of other competing brands, but it’s a significantly more affordable option and dead easy to get set up.