We previously reviewed the D-Link DCS-2630 HD Wi-Fi Camera, which you can read here. Today we’re taking a look at another entry in that category, the Belkin NetCam HD+ Wi-Fi Camera.
Apple Tech Talk Scorecard
|Easy Set-up||Only 720p resolution|
|Record Video and Take Still Photos Remotely||25fps shows some lag|
|Cloud Storage Available||Can’t zoom in on the image|
Belkin NetCam HD+ Wi-Fi Camera Hardware
Belkin is no stranger to the connected home and has been offering products under the WeMo brand name for a long time. In fact, we have been using a WeMo Wi-Fi receptacle to control lighting for several years and have found it to be a very reliable and easy to use system. Over time, the list of WeMo products has grown steadily and now includes switches, lighting, small appliance and of course, Wi-Fi cameras. You can see the full line of WeMo products at the dedicated WeMo web site.
The Belkin NetCam HD+ Wi-Fi Camera (Model # F7D7606) measures 3.3 x 2.6 x 4.9 inches and weighs 5.1 oz. It is encased in a white plastic housing and is mounted to its matching white plastic base by a metal ball and socket connection which provides for setting the camera in just about any position. A plastic collar at the top of the mounting stand can be tightened to lock the ball in place. Although light weight, it is well balanced and sits firmly on a table or shelf and we didn’t have any concern about it falling over. The bottom of the base also has two (2) slots for mounting of the camera on a wall or ceiling but the actual position may be limited due to the fact that the camera requires being plugged into a standard AC outlet.
The camera has a 3.37mm, F2.4 glass lens and captures still photos at 720P. The camera records video in the H.264 format at up to 25fps and gives the user a choice of resolutions at 1280×720, 640×360 and 320×180. It is compatible with 802.11 b/g/n networks.
The Belkin NetCam HD+ Wi-Fi Camera has a viewing angle of 76o Horizontal, 57 o Vertical and 95 o Diagonal, with minimal distortion at the edges. The camera has four (4) IR LEDs for night vision with 8 meter illumination distance. Color rendition was very accurate, even in low light situations and the night vision was clear and easy to make out details.
The camera also has a small built-in speaker and microphone for two-way remote communication as well as automatic motion detection.
Belkin NetCam HD+ Wi-Fi Camera Set-Up
In the box is the Belkin NetCam HD+ Wi-Fi Camera, the power supply, some screws and anchors for wall mounting and a Quick Start Guide. Since the set-up is done completely from your iPhone or other iOS device, you’ll need to download the free Belkin Netcam app from the iTunes App Store and requires user registration. There is also a very detailed 46 page User Guide available from the Belkin Support Page (here) and while it will probably answer all of your questions, the latest version we could find appears to be slightly out of date as it refers to an older version of the camera (Model # 7FD7602).
Set-up of the camera was quick and easy and follows what has become a somewhat routine process for these types of devices. After plugging the camera into an AC power outlet, make sure the switch on the back of the camera is in the “up” position. This puts the camera into the set-up mode. Open the Netcam app and follow the step-by-step instructions. It will prompt you to open the settings on your iPhone, select the Netcam Network SSID, and join the camera to your home network then, change you phone back to the regular network. Once that is done, you move the switch on the back of the camera to the down position to start using it. Belkin has a short video reviewing the steps which you can see below.
Belkin NetCam HD+ Wi-Fi Camera Test Results
Once set-up, the NetCam HD+ Wi-Fi Camera takes care of itself. And everything is monitored through the Netcam app which we found to be robust and easy to use.
As expected, the Netcam app allows you to view the camera in real time from anywhere you can connect to the Internet either via Wi-Fi or a cellular connection. Our initial impression of the image quality was acceptable but not nearly as clear as the D-Link camera which provided full 1080P, but after spending a little time with the Netcam app, we discovered that it was set in the default Auto mode which was viewing at 640×360 and a “Quality” setting of “3” out of “5” and also at 15fps. Boosting the quality to “5” gave us some improvement but changing the resolution to the highest 1280×720 setting gave us an extremely clear picture that comes very close to the D-Link’s 1080P view. In addition, the app allows you to record whatever you are looking at as a video and/or take a still photo of what is on the screen. Both the video and stills are automatically saved to the Photos app on your iPhone and can be viewed off line and shared through the normal iOS sharing function.
If you need something more robust, the Belkin NetCam HD+ connects to iSecurity+. This is a third party service that allows you to automatically record motion triggered events and store them in the iSecurity+ cloud for a period of 14 days. The Belkin NetCamHD+ comes with a free 30 trial of the service and then it is $9.99 per month or $99.99 for an entire year but note that the fee is per camera. For anyone using one or two Belkin NetCam HD+ Wi-Fi cameras as a build-your-own security system, this seems like a valuable addition although it could get to be expensive if you have more than a couple of cameras.
Even if you don’t want or need the iSecurity+ service, you can view your camera and adjust all of the settings from any computer at the dedicated website http://www.belkin.com/netcam.
The Netcam app also has a Settings screen that allows you to name the camera to better describe its location, control email notifications of activity, set the camera’s sensitivity to motion, set the Infrared status, turn the built-in microphone on and adjust the speaker volume. That may sound like a lot to be managed on a single screen but it is laid out well and is easy to follow.
When we first set up the Belkin NetCam HD+ Wi-Fi Camera we turned on the motion detection notification feature and turned the sensitivity up fairly high. It didn’t take long before we started to get inundated with emails due to what seemed to be very minor, if any, real motion. The email included two still images to try and show what motion activated the camera. In some cases, we suspect that whatever triggered the camera may have been just outside the field of vision as we didn’t really see any difference in the pictured but this would certainly be a nice way to be warned of some unexpected activity in an area and would allow you to open the NetCam app and start recording. Even turning the sensitivity setting down by 75% seemed to generate a lot of false positives. It will probably take some trial an error to find the best sensitivity setting for the app so as not to get overwhelmed with emails but also not miss something important.
We initially found the video to be a little choppy but that was at the 15fps setting. When we changed the setting to the full 25fps, it improved but motion on the screen was still blurred and it would be hard to identify a person unless they stopped for a short period of time, but we had the ability to record it directly to our iPhone, which we could not do with the D-Link. Given the choice, we would prefer the slightly poorer picture quality for the ability to record the videos directly to our iPhone on demand.
The two-way audio on the Belkin Netcam HD+ Camera gave us mixed results. It took us a couple of minutes to realize that the control on the mobile app was a push-to-talk set up and that you have to hold the small microphone icon to be heard and it appears that you can hear or talk on both ends, but not at the same time. As a result, we seemed to talk over each other a lot. When we were able to hear each other, the audio coming out of the camera was clear with sufficient volume and the same was true on the iPhone end of the conversation. Perhaps it would be helpful to have a small LED on the front of the camera that lights up when the camera microphone is active or some other signal to help facilitate a smoother conversation between the parties.
The one feature that was missing from the Belkin NetCam HD+ Wi-Fi- Camera was the ability to use standard iOS gestures to zoom in on the image although we were able to zoom in on the recorded video once it was saved to the Photos app. While certainly not a “deal-breaker” this would be a nice addition to a future update.
In addition to the Netcam app, we also have the WeMo app on our iPhone to control the previously mentioned WeMo switch. The Belkin NetCam HD+ Wi-Fi Camera was automatically added to the WeMo app but selecting it just brought us back to the Netcam app already on our phone. We also know from experience that Belkin integrates many of the WeMo products with ifttt.com and we did locate one Belkin Netcam recipe on the ifttt.com site to send an email when motion was detected. Belkin also says that the NetCam HD+ will integrate with other WeMo products so you could, for example, have a light turn on when the camera detects motion.
The Bottom Line
Overall we were satisfied with the Belkin NetCam HD+ Wi-Fi Camera and it will probably appeal to a wide range of users. The adjustable resolution gives you the ability to get extremely sharp images while the lower resolutions will save a lot of space if you need to record and save your videos and still images. We particularly like the ability to record the camera’s activity directly to your iPhone or iPad Photos app and the ability to save up to 14 days of records using the optional iSecurity+ service makes this an affordable entry into a real DIY security system.
Pricing for Wi-Fi cameras has a wide range and while the Belkin Netcam HD+ Wi-Fi Camera is in the upper end of the price range it is far from the most expensive and provides a reasonable feature set to warrant the cost. If your application demands razor sharp images, especially when in motion, this may not be your best alternative. For everyone else, this is a solid performer at a reasonable price.
The Belkin NetCam HD+ Wi-Fi Camera is available from Amazon.
We wish to thank our friends at Belkin for providing a NetCam HD+ camera for our evaluation.
Are you interested in setting up your own security system? What are some of the things you would use a Wi-Fi camera for? Why not join the conversation by adding your comments below.
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