They’re not cheap: units with all the bells and whistles (figuratively and literally: many have sirens built in) can run into the hundreds of pounds and that’s before you consider subscription costs for keeping your footage safely in the cloud, far away from any intruders.
The BT Smart Home Cam, conversely, has dramatically undercut its rivals and it's done so in quite a sensible fashion that leaves the core functionality untouched.
Before I get on to what the BT Smart Home Cam does, it’s probably best to cover what it doesn’t do, because that will quickly tell you whether you need to spend more cash or not. For starters, it’s intended for indoor use only: it’s pretty flimsy, has no weather protection and only supports power via microUSB, rather than the fancy Power over Ethernet (PoE) offered by the Ring Stick Up Cam.
Nor will it record stream or record footage in 1080p. It’s 720p all the way here, meaning streaming is a little less sharp, especially in night vision mode, which could make all the difference between the police identifying an intruder or not.
While exposure and detail are pretty good, framerate is less so. Sharing the video with YouTube encodes at 15fps leading to a video that’s pretty bumpy.
Perhaps its biggest weakness, however, is how it treats cloud storage. Yes, it’s there, and it’s free which is a big plus. The downside is that video isn’t part of the package. Instead, when it detects motion, it takes a photograph and uploads it to the cloud where it can be reviewed for 30 days before it’s deleted.
If you want video of motion captured, you have two choices. First, you can start recording to your phone the second you get a motion alert. That has a fairly obvious drawback: by the time you’ve reacted, the moment you wanted to capture footage of may have gone, so the alternative is better: bung in a microSD card of up to 32GB capacity. With a microSD card in place, the Smart Home Cam will record short bursts of motion-triggered video, where it can be reviewed and downloaded using the app.
That’s all well and good, but it also has a pretty obvious drawback. If burglars enter the house and spot the camera, then removing the evidence is trivial. You still have the static shot in the cloud as a backup, of course, but it’s not the same as a video.
That’s about as negative as this review is going to get, though, because for the price it’s extremely hard to argue with what you’re getting. The 720p stream lacks a little detail compared with its 1080p rivals, of course, but it’s obviously better than nothing. And as the camera supports two-way audio, if you do spot intruders in your house you can confront them remotely.
There’s no siren but, given the general flimsiness of the camera itself, that’s probably a good thing, unless you want burglars to be convulsed in fits of laughter until the police arrive. In fact, while you can’t blast them with a siren, you can remotely play a range of lullabies and jingles, suggesting you can also use this as a baby monitor, should you be so inclined.
The BT Smart Controls app is reasonably bare bones but it gets the job done and is super easy to set up. It supports up to ten cameras, which you can label as you please, and lets you set a schedule to disable motion detections, in case the idea of being watched all the time makes you uneasy. Sometimes I found the app would take a little time to respond, mind – especially when trying to access previous days’ cloud photo snaps.
But for all of the drawbacks above, you have to consider exactly how cheap it is compared with the competition.
Compare that with some of the more sophisticated weatherproofed kit and you can see why we’d accept a few drawbacks. The Ring Stick Up Cam goes for £179 and then requires a £25 per year subscription to store video. That’s per camera, with an £80 per year subscription if you want unlimited cameras.
The D-Link DCS-2802KT is even more expensive, going for £440 for a pack of two cameras. Admittedly this is quite a bit more sophisticated, though, and includes a premium cloud storage package for video right there in the box. It’s a similar story for the £290 Arlo Pro 2 (that’s the price for just one camera), although that camera offers free seven-day cloud storage and paid options for 24/7 continuous, cloud-based recording if you’ve got the budget.
The point is that at £50, you shouldn’t expect the world from the BT Smart Home Cam, but it’s remarkable how much it can offer at such a low cost. No, the frame rate isn’t great, but then you’re looking for security, not to capture your most treasured memories.
If you live in a relatively crime-free zone, and just want a little peace of mind without breaking the bank, then the BT Smart Home Cam is well worth a look.
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