UCam247-HDO1080 full review
At last: an affordable, easy to use security camera that offers excellent image quality. Here's our review of the UCam247-HDO1080
There haven’t been many advances in the last decade or so, with most IP cameras requiring a Computer Science degree to configure and delivering poor-quality footage.
Today, things are improving thanks to smartphone and tablet apps which make not only the setup process a breeze, but also allow you to view live footage and even change settings wherever you are.
The UCam247-HDO1080 is particularly good as in addition to iOS and Android apps, it’s a full HD camera which can be mounted outdoors and has a ring of infrared LEDs for a good-quality image at night.
UCam247-HDO1080 review: setup
The setup process is similar to many existing IP cameras, but it feels easier thanks to the app. You need to first hook up the camera to your router using a network cable. The free app then discovers the camera on the network and you can immediately view the video feed.
You’ll need to choose a new password, but then it’s up to you whether you adjust any other settings. Most people will want to use the camera via Wi-Fi and the app allows you to choose a Wi-Fi network and enter its password. Once the settings are saved you can disconnect the camera from your router and unplug its power supply. When you power it up again, it will automatically connect to Wi-Fi.
It supports 802.11n as well as the older 802.11g standard.
Similarly, you’ll probably want to enable motion detection and alerts (you’ll see a “motion detected” notification on your lock screen) as well as “Alarm recording” which means a short video clip is recorded when motion is detected.
The easiest way to record clips is to unscrew the front of the camera and insert a microSD card (up to 64GB). Alternatively you can set the camera to record clips to a NAS drive, such as a Synology DiskStation. You can also set the camera to record straight to your PC or laptop by using any one of many NVR (network video recorder) apps, but you'll have to leave your computer on whenever you want the camera to record. You can't record to an iPad or iPhone, though.
Through the app you can choose the video quality for the primary and secondary streams. It’s best to use the highest quality (1920x1080 at 20 frames per second and a 4Mbps bit rate) for the primary stream as this can be saved to the SD card or NAS.
In order to view (not record) the footage on your smartphone remotely, you’ll want a much lower quality secondary stream. We found the default 512x288 at 10fps and 256Kbps. This works well with a 3G connection.
You can also set a pre-record buffer of 3, 5 or 10 seconds. This means you’ll get up to 10 seconds of footage before the point where motion is detected, and the recording will continue until there’s no more movement.
Via the traditional web-based management interface (similar to a router’s) you get a whole load of extra options, such as the ability to turn off the flashing red LED on the front of the camera – for more stealthy operation – and define the motion detection area.
If you use the toggle switch in the app, you’re merely enabling motion detection on the entire image. That could lead to a lot of unwanted alerts and recordings, but in the web interface you can resize the detection window and it’s possible to have up to three small rectangles detecting motion in separate areas. For each you can adjust the sensitivity and threshold sliders which will help avoid ‘false positive’ such as trees swaying in the wind.
You can set a schedule which determines when motion is detected, opt to have a JPG emailed to you when motion is detected, browse the SD card contents and download individual videos and photos.
UCam247-HDO1080 review: how well does it work?
Once we’d honed the detection area(s) and sensitivity, we were impressed with the system. Motion alerts were almost instant and as we’d set up the camera above a front door, we could use it to see who was at the door within a few seconds.
Video quality is very good, especially compared to VGA cameras of a few years back. Detail levels are comparable with action cameras such as a GoPro, but frame rates of both live and recorded clips were a bit choppy – not as smooth as the 20fps claim would suggest.
However, the important factor is that both faces and number plates can be recognised and read, so any footage would be useful in the event of a crime.
At night, due to the use of infrared LEDs you’ll get a black-and-white image, but it’s still nice and sharp and you can see people and objects up to around 15m from the camera.
We mainly tested the iOS app and found it was a little buggy. UCam247 told us the app is being constantly improved and to quit and relaunch the app after changing any settings.
Live footage is shown along with the video resolution in portrait mode, but you can rotate the phone to landscape mode to see a much bigger version.
In portrait mode are a series of icons along the bottom. The first takes you to a gallery of snapshots – still images you capture by tapping the second icon. The third allows you to turn audio on or off. Recorded audio is again on a par with a GoPro, which is to say fairly low quality.
One area for improvement is the list of recorded videos, both within the app and web-based interface. It would be much nicer to see a calendar view and be able to drill down to the time of day. Instead, you get a basic list view in chronological order, but it’s hard to decipher the date and time from the filenames.
UCam247-HDO1080 review: bottom line
The UCam247-HDO1080 is a big step forward, both in usability and video quality. Because of this, the relatively high price is easy to justify and will be well worth the investment if it, for example, catches a thief in the act.
It might be overkill for keeping tabs on your pets, but to protect an expensive possession such as a car, it’s ideal.
- IP camera
- 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
- 1920x1080 resolution
- Weatherproof design for outdoor mounting
- Android, iOS app support
- microSD card slot (up to 64GB)
- motion detection and event triggering
- infra-red night vision