Y-cam HomeMonitor HD Pro Camera Review
Can Y-cam's outdoor HomeMonitor system live up to expectations?
IntroductionThe modern home is a great place to live these days with massive TVs, streaming services for more programmes than you could ever wish to see, games consoles and a huge array of portable gadgets from iPads to laptops. But unfortunately with this increase in expensive technology in an average household, particularly with those easy to grab items such as tablets, games consoles and laptops, it means home security is also high on a lot of people's lists of concerns. Thankfully the modern home will also probably have a fast internet access with most rooms covered by speedy wired or wireless connection via routers or Homeplugs.
Ready to exploit this are the IP Cameras. Far cheaper and more versatile than the old style CCTV systems, they are available from many manufacturers with a wide range of options such as motion detection and night vision. The HomeMonitor HD Pro from Y-Cam Solutions Ltd is an outdoor, fully water and weatherproof camera, with 720P HD video and a range of connection options from Wi-Fi, Ethernet and even Power Over Ethernet. When we reviewed their £150 HomeMonitor HD system, we found a very easy to install and use system with an excellent notification system and free 7 day video storage. Let's see if their £200 outdoor 'Pro' version of this system can keep up the good work...
Design and ConnectionsWith an all white finish, the HomeMonitor HD Pro continues the same quality look and feel that we saw with the non-Pro indoor version. The unit feels solid and well built with all metal components and a clever way of storing the connections safely inside the camera mount with fully weatherproof seals and design. With a weight of 410g and an overall size of 125mm x 57mm (excluding the 195mm Wi-Fi antenna) it's not the smallest of cameras and if you plan on any covert surveillance this system probably isn't for you, but then there are also far larger external cameras available from the competition. As with our review of the non-Pro camera we would have preferred a black version because the white colour can really stand out. Although if a visual deterrent is your goal then that's probably no bad thing!
The connection options are one of the HD Pro's big selling points. The basics are covered here with the power connection and Ethernet port, but this port is also Power over Ethernet compatible, meaning if you have compatible hardware it would remove the need for using the power connection at all. In addition to this you also have the built in Wi-Fi. The camera itself has a wide angle HD lens, 24 infrared LEDs, microphone and a small reset button. Lastly a small light on the front of the camera will light up green when a network connection has been established.
Setup and FeaturesAs we saw when we reviewed the non-Pro version the installation and setup was as easy and quick as you could ever hope to see and that follows again here. We'll put the external physical installation aside for one moment and start with the effortless setup which was just 60 seconds from start to finish. Similar to the non-Pro version, you firstly connect the camera to the power and then to your router via the supplied Ethernet cable. Once the connection has been established, via a web browser on any device, connect to www.homemonitor.me to create your account and follow the simple steps for connecting the HomeMonitor to your home network. Once this has been completed and the status LED on the front of the camera is green the system will be fully configured and working. You can then unplug the camera and proceed to the external installation or position it indoors in your desired location.
As for the physical installation, this did take a little longer but was still a reasonably simple process to complete. The instructions provided are easy to follow and the overall design of the camera mount and unit certainly assisted in a quick installation. With the connections stored inside the camera mount itself you only need to allow for two cables (or just one if you are using the Power over Ethernet or WiFi option) coming from the unit directly to your power and network connection without having to worry about connecting them somewhere in between. The camera is fixed to the mount via a ball joint which can be adjusted using the provided Allen key to any angle to help in capturing the desired view.
The software features of the HD Pro are another big selling point for this system and the online setup gives you many options, starting with the excellent motion detection and setup. This can be configured to a high degree with a current view from the camera provided along with two available detection zones which can then be individually adjusted for the desired sensitivity. Very handy if you need a particular area of the view to have a low detection sensitivity such as close to the ground for pets but a much higher detection sensitivity elsewhere for larger movements. There is also a 7 day hour by hour schedule you can configure for when you require the motion detection to be active.
As for the notification system, once the motion detection has been activated within just a few seconds you will receive an email alerting you to the detection along with an image attached. After about 10 seconds or so, the video will then be available to view via a quick link in the email. The camera appears to be constantly looping about 5-10 seconds of video as when viewing back a recording the motion doesn't occur until that far into the clip. Up to 4 email addresses can be configured to receive this notification and should you be using the apps available for iPhone, iPad, Android or Windows Phone you will also receive a instant notification on these devices too. The system can also be viewed via AirPlay and there is a dedicated app available for the Roku platform too.
Y-Cam are still the only Cloud camera provider to include free storage of your recordings. The free period is only for 7 days, but the recorded clips can be easily downloaded to a PC or you can extend this free period to 30 days for just £30 per year. The recordings are in MP4 format and a 1 minute clip is roughly 6MB in size.
Performance and TestingThe HD Pro uses the same full colour HD 720P (1280 x 720) resolution camera as in the non-Pro HD version with a 1 Megapixel 1/4” CMOS lens using FarFocus™ technology which claims to give a 64deg
viewing angle. As this is an identical camera to the non-Pro version, our expectations were high with the image quality and on the whole we weren't disappointed. The greater viewing distance and area of an external camera will always give it a greater test than an internal camera and as you can see from the video below, the daylight capture shows a little noise evident but overall it's a very good image.
For the night vision the cameras uses 24 infrared LEDs (invisible to the naked eye) and in complete darkness does an excellent job of illuminating the area, if perhaps giving slightly too much light to the very centre of the image. The video below shows a motion detection activated capture and whilst there is a lot of grain and noise to the image, the overall quality is good given this was captured in total darkness. The microphone is another positive point to this system with the audio captured being very clear and even the smallest of noises are heard during video playback.
The Wi-Fi here uses 802.11 b/g/n and we tested in several locations throughout our home and the reception range was very good, even in areas where other devices would usually lose the signal the HD Pro still maintained a connection, granted in this instance the live view did miss every one or two seconds during playback but the quality was still there. Our review environment gives a very tough test for wireless devices and in our chosen external location we could obtain no wireless signal at all, but then neither could any other device we tried. If this also applies to your home or business, we found a very simple solution was to use a pair of Homeplugs.
Due to the way the system works, which is perhaps slightly restrictive, the video is streamed to the cloud once an activation has been detected which then becomes available to view shortly after. It is recommended if you are using the wireless connection to have a strong Wi-Fi signal to ensure you can view the video as quickly as possible. One potentially troubling flaw we found with our previous review of the non Pro HD camera system was that if the camera had been found and disabled quickly enough after a detection had been triggered, the full video would not reach the cloud. You do still receive a notification and an email with the image, but only the first few seconds of the video were there to view. This is the same with this external system, but given that the camera may be installed in a higher position and not easily accessible this flaw, whilst still a concern, is only a minor one.
- Easy to setup
- Simple to use
- Good Video and audio quality
- Excellent Motion Detection and Notification system
- 7 day free storage of videos
- Access from smartphones, tablets and Roku
- Restrictive system
- Camera only works with HomeMonitor software
Y-cam HomeMonitor HD Pro Camera ReviewThe HomeMonitor HD Pro gave us a similar positive experience to the previous HomeMonitor system we reviewed, starting with a setup that couldn't be easier. Within less than 60 seconds, the camera is configured, connected to your home network and fully available for use. The online setup is a breeze to follow with very simple instructions provided and the Quick Start guide supplied in the box echoes this theme. The external installation is slightly more time consuming due to having to allow for cables and possibly some drilling (ask a grown up for help) but the overall design of the unit with the connections housed inside the camera mount itself definitely helps keep the installation time to a minimum.
Other positives include good wireless range and decent 720P video quality with clear images even in complete darkness. We did see some grain added to the image and the centre was perhaps too bright when using night vision but the detail level was still present. The audio quality is excellent with the microphone doing a stellar job of picking up sounds and amplifying them. The wide range of devices you can access the camera on is again a huge plus, with not only access from your PC, but apps for smartphones and tablets using iOS, Android and Windows Phone and also via the Roku platform too. The online camera manager is very easy to use with an excellent motion detection and notification system sending instant emails and notifications, within a few seconds at most you will know if any movement has been detected by the camera.
Since our review back in March of the non Pro version, there are systems aplenty vying for your hard earned money now. Probably one of the closest in terms of specification to the HD Pro is D-Link's DCS-2332L. Available for £199 this camera has wireless capabilities and the same 720P quality, but lacks the Power over Ethernet option and the free 7day cloud storage of the HomeMonitor system, relying on recording to an SD card inside the camera instead. The Netgear VueZone system we reviewed back in January does offer wireless capabilities but the system is far more expensive than the HD Pro and lacks many other features too with a much lower video resolution to boot. The HomeMonitor HD Pro currently can be found for £189 on Amazon and whilst there are plenty of much cheaper generic alternatives for outdoor security, none of them offer the range of features seen here, particularly the easy setup and installation and that makes the HD Pro a particularly enticing buy.
The only negative we can see with this system is the lack of any high level system access to use the camera outside of the HomeMonitor system. You can't for example record images to a server, it's easy of course to download the motion detection video clips, but the recording system is completely cloud based and can't be set to just record for a set period. However, the HomeMonitor HD Pro is currently the only cloud camera with PoE, Wi-Fi, HD Video and free online storage in one package and with all the positives we've already mentioned, we feel this system is deserving of an AVForums Recommended award.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £199.99
Ease of Use10
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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