TP-LINK NC250 HD Day/Night Cloud Camera Review

Not perfect, but at this price who cares!

by Greg Hook
Tech Review

Recommended
TP-LINK NC250 HD Day/Night Cloud Camera Review
SRP: £57.99

Introduction

With all the gadgets, valuable tech and expensive TVs that most homes have these days, keeping those items safe and having peace of mind with your home security is likely to be high up on a lot of people’s lists of priorities. Whilst most have a traditional home alarm system, the next best thing to keep out the hordes of White Walkers are security cameras. Whether that be a wired CCTV system, or thanks to the modern smartphone and availability of WiFi access in the home, wireless enabled cameras that can be accessed online and via your smartphone. This enables you to keep an eye on your home from anywhere in the world to ensure all is ok.

Our last camera review was the HomeMonitor HDS with 720P, cloud recording and motion detection, which whilst performing very well was a little pricey at £149.99. TP-LINK have now got in on the action and for review we have their NC250 HD Day/Night Cloud Camera with 300Mbps Wi-Fi. Offering 720P HD recording, remote access via PC and Smartphone and motion detection, all available from various retailers from just £57.99. With the addition of a wireless range extender, too, this product sounds like a steal but read on to see if it performs well in our tests….

Design and Connections

The TP-LINK NC250 is all white, save for the black lens area with a hard white plastic shell common to a lot of devices of this type. Available only in white, it isn’t the smallest or most discreet item you will come across. It depends if you are looking for a device that can clearly be seen or not. A version in all black would have been nice for those wanting something that could be used more covertly. It measures 137mm high x 76mm wide x 69mm deep and weighs just 121g.
TP-LINK NC250
The device promises good night vision, which we will get to later in this review, thanks to the array of infrared LEDs. The camera is full colour HD 720P with a 1MP 1/4" progressive scan CMOS lens and it uses H.264 compression. The lens has a 64° viewing angle, F: 2.8, f: 3.85 mm and has 4 x digital zoom. The power connection and Ethernet port are found on the rear at the top of the camera, with the single status LED, to the front, along with the microphone and light sensor. The camera can be positioned at almost any angle you choose thanks to the ball joint design and the bracket can be either screwed or stuck into place with some - stick once and never remove without taking the wall with you - high bond 3M tape included in the box.

Setup and Features

The initial setup of the camera is very easy to accomplish. Not quite in the same easy league as Powerline Adapters but it isn’t far off. To begin with, the camera needs connecting directly to your router via Ethernet, then via your smart device you download the free tpCamera app and follow the simple instructions to create a TP-LINK account, add the camera to that account and then add the camera to your wireless network. Once this is done you remove the Ethernet cable and reposition the camera wherever you like, power outlets permitting of course, which shouldn’t be too much of a problem as the power cable length is a generous 3mtrs.

As far as the basic operations of the camera go, that’s all you need to do. The camera can be accessed via your smartphone and either still or video recordings can be taken. Unlike the HomeMonitor camera and other similar Cloud cameras, TP-LINK do not offer any cloud storage so any videos or pictures you take are kept on whichever device you took them on. This isn’t ideal if you want to access the recordings from your PC that you took on your phone for example, although via the app recordings and photos can be easily shared and emailed if required.
TP-LINK NC250
The tpCamera app, itself, is available on iOS and Android devices and is very easy to use if perhaps a little too basic, plus it is a smartphone designed app only, it does work on tablets but either zoomed-in which reduces the quality or you just get a tiny display in the middle of your screen. You can record images and video via the app which can be accessed via the archive section, plus you can rename the camera, turn off the LED and also update the firmware. That’s about it unfortunately, further configuration or setting up of the motion detection has to be done via a web browser.

Moving onto the main setup and this is done by entering the IP of the camera into a web browser, preferably Internet Explorer on a PC as it doesn’t work fully either using Chrome or a web browser on a smartphone. Once logged in you have access to all the details and options of the camera such as changing the wireless network it is connected to, giving it a static IP, turning the LED off and more. Within the advanced settings you can also setup up the wireless range extender function which can either mirror the host network name or be different. The video settings can also be configured here such as changing the frame rate, image quality and even adding a time stamp to the recorded images.
TP-LINK NC250
Having a camera is all well and good, but without decent motion detection and notification options to alert you to that motion, you may as well not have the camera in the first place. TP-LINK gives you a reasonably advanced system here that allows you to setup both motion and sound detection. The sound detection can be configured to a variety of sensitivities and thresholds and the motion detection lets you choose from three sensitivity levels, plus you can select an area on the camera that the motion detection is enabled within.
TP-LINK NC250
The notification options are either via FTP or email, no Smartphone app notifications unfortunately. With the email option you just need to enter your email account settings including SMTP information and once correct it lets you test them and confirms if all is OK. When motion is detected you get an email almost instantly with four screenshots from the first few seconds of the detection. Unlike with the HomeMonitor camera, no video is recorded which, given that the notification is email only, if you don’t it in time to log on and record the video yourself, it may be too late. The downloaded recordings are in MP4 format and take up very little space with a 62 second clip coming in at just over 3MB.

Performance and Testing

At just £57.99 we can’t really complain too much that the camera is just 720P. 1080P would have been great, but 720P is sufficient enough to make out faces and detail in recordings. The 1280 x 720 resolution at up to 30FPS with the 1MP ¼” CMOS lens does the job enough at this price point. In daylight the video recordings are reasonable although a lot of pixelation is apparent.




As for night vision, the image quality is reduced and the pixelation is even more obvious than with the daylight recordings but there is still enough quality there to make out faces and detail, or a pair of demon kittens for example. The infrared LEDs do a good enough job here of making even the darkest of scenes viewable. As for the audio, we found the microphone to be very sensitive picking up even the quietest of noises, the quality is very slightly lacking but we don’t need 5.1 surround sound with a security camera!

TP-LINK NC250
The WiFi is 802.11 b/g/n, up to 300Mbps on the 2.4Ghz band. During our testing we found no issues with getting the camera to obtain a wireless signal, it was on par with our iPad for example. The wireless extender function also works very well given that it is a feature that is not mentioned anywhere on the packaging! We carried out several tests and received an average of 17.22Mbps download and 9.17Mbps upload, whilst this isn’t the full speed our internet connection can manage it does give a fast enough connection for streaming.

Verdict

Pros

  • Great value
  • Decent features
  • Reasonable quality
  • Wireless extender function

Cons

  • No app notifications for motion detection
  • Recordings not kept in Cloud
  • Only 720P HD

TP-LINK NC250 HD Day/Night Cloud Camera Review

Is the TP-LINK NC250 HD Day/Night Cloud Camera worth buying?

At £57.99, the TP-LINK NC250 offers excellent value for money with a good level of quality and a range of useful features. Compared to the HomeMonitor HDS we reviewed in November 2015, it’s almost a third of the price whilst still giving the same 720P HD recording. It doesn’t quite have the finesse of the HomeMonitor system but at this price you can’t really complain too much. The installation and setup is very easy and you can view and record images and video on PC, Android and iOS devices thanks to the tpCamera app and the web browser direct connection. The wireless extender function, which TP-LINK appear to be keeping a secret on the packaging, works very well and is a great bonus feature.

The motion and audio detection system is very good, although the notifications are restricted to FTP or email only. Whilst the emails are instant you don’t get any app notifications, plus when motion is detected the camera does not start to record, meaning if you miss the email and can’t logon then any chance of recording an intrusion may have passed. Also, whilst it is called a Cloud Camera, no recordings are kept in the cloud, they are only on whichever device recorded them.

What are the alternatives?

The wireless camera market is now very crowded with products available from the usual networking manufacturers such as Netgear and Devolo plus many more. At a similar price to this TP-LINK camera, there are products from various Chinese manufacturers such as the Keekon KK002 which has very similar specifications and even includes a pan/tilt function for just £46.99 or the Maisi Network IP Camera at £49.95. From more well-known manufacturers there aren’t really too many options without increasing the budget significantly. Whilst it isn’t perfect, at £57.99 with the ease of use, features and quality, the TP-LINK NC250 is a product that we would definitely recommend for those looking for a cost effective way of increasing their home security. As such, we are happy to award this the AVForums Recommended badge.
Recommended

Scores

Build Quality

.
.
8

Connectivity

.
.
8

Ease of Use

.
9

Video Quality

.
.
.
.
6

Connection Speed

.
.
8

Value for Money

.
9

Verdict

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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