Y-cam HomeMonitor HDS Wi-Fi Camera Review
Great new features, but ageing hardware
IntroductionWith fast, wireless internet available in most places these days, access to low cost security camera systems has never been easier. Gone are the days of traditional wired CCTV systems which have now been replaced with wireless multifunctional systems that can also be accessed by Smartphones. Meaning you can keep an eye on your house wherever you are and be instantly alerted if your cat has decided to throw up in your living room whilst you are out.
Back in March 2014 we reviewed the HomeMonitor HD from Y-Cam. We found it to be an excellent device, doing exactly what it should, and in some areas really excelling. Fast forward to 2015 and Y-Cam have updated their excellent HomeMonitor HDS with two great new additions. Firstly the ability to instantly record and a geo-location option, meaning you don't even need to set anything up, you just walk out the house and the motion recording is turned on. The price remains the same at £149.99 and no hardware changes appear to have made but, even so, the two new features should only improve what was an already great product. Read on to see how we get on....
Design and ConnectionsThe HomeMonitor HDS comes in an all white design which is square shaped with a small plastic antenna. It isn't the smallest camera you will find but it doesn't have a separate base station and the size allows for excellent night vision due to the 30 infrared LEDs. Measuring 85mm x 85mm x 30mm and weighting just 294g with the mounting bracket attached, physically, nothing has changed from the previous model we reviewed, including being available in an alternative colour as we really would have preferred something less obtrusive - such as black.
To the rear of the device you'll find the power and Ethernet connections along with the air vents. It does get fairly warm but not to any levels that would cause concern. The camera is full colour HD 720P with a 1MP 1/4" CMOS sensor and uses H.264 compression. To the front we also find the microphone, light sensor and the status LED to indicate the unit has been connected to the wireless network.
Setup and FeaturesGiven no major changes have been made here compared to the unit reviewed last year, we expected the setup and installation to be as simple as it was then and we weren't disappointed. A very easy to follow guide is provided in the box, but ignoring that the online process is very simple and setup was completed within just a few minutes.
To setup the HomeMonitor HDS, you initially have to connect it to your router via Ethernet, then connect to the Homemonitor website, create your account and follow the simple guide to connect the camera to your WiFi network. Once that has been completed you disconnect from the router, place the camera in your desired location and continue with the online setup which allows you to change the camera name, setup the motion detection and the alert notification options. Once that is done the system is live.
The accessibility of the HomeMonitor HDS is really impressive, you'll be hard pressed to find a Smartphone or device that it won't work with. Apps are available for iOS, Android and even poor old Windows Phone. It works with Mac, Windows and also on the Roku platform. Unchanged again from the previous model is the superb motion detection system. You can setup two zones on the camera with different detection sensitivity and there is a full 7 day, hour by hour schedule that you can configure for when you need the motion detection to be active. If setting that up is too much work then one of the new features in this latest model, the geo-location recording, will save you doing even that. With the app loaded on your Smartphone, turn the geo-location on and as soon as you leave the house the motion recording will start.
Having a good quality wireless camera is all well and good, providing the notification system is up to scratch and here it most certainly is. In fact. it's one of the best we have come across so far. With the motion recording active, we triggered the detector and within just a few seconds our Smartphone had received a notification. We also had an email alerting us to the detection with an attached image that triggered it, along with a link to view the recorded clip. You can configure the notification options to just send an email, push notification or both and disable the image attachment in the email. You can also add up to 3 additional email addresses that will also receive the notifications.
As we found with our review last year and thankfully Y-Cam have not changed with this new model is the free storage of recorded clips. Several other Cloud camera providers charge you for this, but here Y-Cam give you 7 days free online storage, which can be extended to 30 days for just £30 per year, but given that you can download the clips easily, there really is no need to pay unless you are going away for a long time with no access to a computer. The downloaded recordings are in MP4 format and take up very little space with a 25 second clip coming in at just 1.6MB.
Performance and TestingAs far as the hardware is concerned, it's perhaps slightly disappointing that it has remained the same in this new model. We'd have thought upgrading to a 1080P camera would have been the bare minimum for a quality product such as the HomeMonitor HDS and given it a real edge against the competition. Granted you aren't going to be watching this for hours like you would a movie, but the full colour 1 Megapixel 1/4” CMOS sensor at 720P (1280 x 720) resolution is barely what you could call HD these days.
Despite the unchanged 720P specification, the image quality was still very good and the resolution is high enough to identify a face and see sufficient enough detail to catch your cat doing a sneaky pee in the corner. The night vision is again superb thanks to the 30 infared LEDs (which are invisible to the naked eye) and with our testing in complete darkness we received very clear video. The audio quality is of a similarly good level and as such the HomeMonitor HDS would work well for other uses such as a baby monitor.
The Wi-Fi is 802.11 b/g/n and during our testing appeared to have a decent enough range to cover most areas of the house, certainly on par with our Smartphone's wireless reception. It is definitely recommended that you place the camera where you have a strong wireless signal. Excluding the other new feature which is the ability to instantly record, when in motion detection mode the camera is always recording on about a 10 second buffer. When the detection is triggered the camera will upload the clip to the cloud, including the previous 10 seconds until the motion has stopped. To minimise the time it takes for the clip to be ready to view, you need to ensure it has a strong wireless signal.
Our issue mentioned earlier with the camera's colour being white - and therefore it stands out - is highlighted with possibly the only real problem we had with the HomeMonitor HDS. If the camera is found quickly enough and unplugged or disabled, the clip will fail to send to the cloud. Now this might sound obvious as it has no power, but even the recording prior to disabling will fail to send properly. During testing, we triggered the motion detection, waited 10 seconds then unplugged it. We received an instant notification and email with an image but only a few seconds from the buffer prior to detection was available to view, the rest of the clip failed to send despite a very fast wireless connection. We do hope Y-Cam will one day offer this in black.
- Simple setup and installation
- Good night vision quality
- Decent audio quality
- Excellent notification system
- Hardware hasn't moved on
- Only available in white
Y-cam HomeMonitor HDS Wi-Fi Camera ReviewThe previous model we reviewed in March 2014 received a solid 8/10. Despite the two new features, that being the excellent geo-location recording and the ability to instant record, we still feel it warrants the same score due to no improvement of any kind in the hardware side of things and also that the price remains the same.
The HomeMonitor HDS from Y-Cam is a superb piece of kit with a very simple setup and installation and a motion detection and notification system that works perfectly and is one of the best we have come across. The 720p video quality, whilst not cutting edge, still provides a good quality image in both day and night modes and the camera can be accessed from a wide range of devices. The wireless reception is good and a stable connection is highly recommended due to the way the camera works.
Back in March 2014 the HomeMonitor HD didn't really have a lot of competitors, but unfortunately for Y-Cam, the competition appears to have moved on whilst they have not. For around £110 you can get the very well received UCam247i-1080HD, a Full HD 1080P camera with a built in SD card with cloud access and a similar notification system. Then there are a multitude of other devices starting at just £29 for a basic wireless cloud camera.
It's not really ideal for those wanting a multi-camera system either. Yes, you can add multiple cameras, but it involves buying the whole unit again, so the costs will quickly add up. The HomeMonitor HDS is still an excellent product with the free 7 day online storage and the other features previously mentioned but it's just that now there are far more alternatives available at a similar, or cheaper, price.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £149.99
Ease of Use10
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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