A tiny home security camera
Cameras that watch your home while you’re out have been around since the dawn of video tape, but they’ve become a lot easier and cheaper in recent years. In that time, the ‘internet of things’ concept – the idea of every gadget being connected to the web – has brought a number of advanced but affordable surveillance cameras, such as the Netgear Arlo, Nest Cam, Canary and Netatmo Welcome. Unlike these relative newcomers, the Y-cam Evo is from a company that’s been selling internet-connected security cameras for years. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t make such a song and dance about it. Instead of a glowing cylinder or futuristic pedestal, the Evo is a plain silver box, so small you could hide it in your hand.
Hiding it from would-be intruders is of course a good idea, and the Evo can be placed discreetly on a bookshelf or peeking out from behind a plant. An optional hinged ‘foot’ is supplied, with a magnet and a tripod screw mount, which you could fix almost anywhere. It does need mains power, via microUSB (unlike the rechargeable Arlo), so you’ll want to choose somewhere near a socket that has a good view of your room. Bear in mind, the lens’ 100-degree field of view isn’t as wide as some.
It took us less than five minutes to connect an Evo to our Wi-Fi network, set up a Y-cam account to monitor it, and get it all up and running. The 1280×720-pixel HD video isn’t as sharp as the Nest Cam’s 1920×1080 Full HD, but we could see clearly in good light. After dark, with only the Evo’s single LED for illumination, things got grainy.
Recording is triggered by motion within a defined area, and the camera constantly ‘buffers’ what it can see, so the ‘live’ feed is always a few seconds behind the recording. Audio is captured too, from a built-in mic, but you can’t use sounds as a trigger.
You’ll need an Apple or Android phone or tablet with Bluetooth 4.1 (not a PC) to set up the Y-cam, watch live footage and play back recordings. The presence of your smartphone can be used to indicate that you’re home, so that the camera ignores any motion triggers, but only one phone can be registered, which doesn’t make much sense if several people live in your house. We found the Evo was sometimes slow to respond, taking a minute or so to start giving us a live feed.
A hidden cost of cameras like these is the fee for storing video, which is kept ‘in the cloud’ for you by the manufacturer (the Netatmo Welcome stores it on a microSD card, but this carries the risk of an intruder removing it). Nest, for example, charges a minimum of £8 a month to keep 10 days of rolling footage. Canary limits you to what was captured in the past 12 hours unless you pay extra.
Y-cam gives you a more generous seven-day limit.
So if you go away for a week you can keep the camera on, although this applies to motion-triggered clips, not continuous recording. You can download everything from that period at no cost (Canary limits you to five clips) to keep permanently, and watching live is also free, with the option to record up to five minutes at any time. This can be upgraded to 30 days of unlimited storage for a reasonable £3.99 if necessary .
720p camera with passive motion detection and LED lamp • 802.11n Wi-Fi • 52x52x12.8mm (HxWxD without stand) • Requires 0.5Mbps or faster internet
At a relatively low price, this unobtrusive camera will do what most users need without any fuss
Netgear Arlo £160
This 720p wireless camera (sold with a Wi-Fi base station) works well, and a week’s storage is free