Freelance contributor, TechHiveJun 14, 2023 3:00 am PDT
Image: Michael Ansaldo/Foundry
At a glance
Full color night vision works without spotlights or floodlights
Works over Wi-Fi and hardwired ethernet
Saves video locally and in the cloud
Installation may require drilling to run cables through walls
Cloud subscription adds additional costs
The Tapo C325WB requires little in the way of ambient lighting to capture full color images, making it a great option for users who don’t have or want to install exterior floodlights to monitor in low-light conditions.
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TP-Link’s Tapo C325WB home security camera features color night vision, one of the newest–and one of the more desirable–features of modern cameras for home protection. Unlike the more common black-and-white night vision, color night vision can capture important forensic details, such as the color of an intruder’s clothes or the color of their car. But some kind of direct illumination has long required for the technology to work, typically in the form of floodlights installed outside your home or a spotlight integrated into the camera.
Either type of light can overexposure the video, or the video can be distorted by light reflecting from things like car windows and license plates. Outdoor lights turning on and off at night might also tick off your neighbors, especially if the light shines into any of their own homes’ windows. TP-Link’s all-new Tapo C325WB can capture clear full-color images in virtually any lighting conditions without needing any supplemental lighting at all.
The boxy, bullet-style camera is designed to be mounted to an exterior wall or eaves. Its IP66 weather resistance rating indicates complete protection from dust ingress and strong protection from strong water jets coming from any direction, such as from a hose or wind-blown rain (you’ll learn everything you need to know about IP codes at the preceding link). A bifurcated pigtail power cable extending from the camera’s mount splits into a port for its 3-meter DC power cable and an RJ45 ethernet port that allows you to connect the camera directly to your router (there is no support for power-over-ethernet). A pair of adjustable antennas on either side the camera assist with Wi-Fi connectivity.
The camera has fairly typical specs for a modern security camera, including 2K resolution and a 127-degree field of view. It also includes onboard AI that can distinguish between activity from people, pets, and vehicles, and it will push notifications to your phone or tablet whenever these events are detected. The camera is compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, and it offers two-way audio, along with a built-in siren to deter intruders.
Its signature feature, though, is its ColorPro Night Vision technology, which is enabled by a large 1/1.79-inch image sensor and F1.0 lens that allow it to capture full-color images in just 0.05 lux of brightness—the equivalent of a moonless midnight, according to TP-Link—without any artificial illumination. The C325WB does have a couple of spotlights—tiny ones on either side of the lens—although the camera’s spec sheet doesn’t provide any details about them. They can be configured in the app to automatically turn on at night when monitoring conditions below the 0.05 lux threshold.
Event-triggered video recordings can be stored locally on a microSD card (up to 512GB, not included) or in the cloud with a Tapo Care subscription, which starts at $3.49 per month or $34.99 per year. Many home security camera brands tie critical features such as AI detection and activity zones to their cloud storage plans, essentially making a paid subscription necessary to unlock the full power of the camera. Commendably, TP-Link has not followed that model and offers the camera’s advanced features free without Tapo Care. But a subscription will allow you to save video to the cloud for 30 days, making it accessible from anywhere, and add snapshots of detected persons and objects to your smart alerts. It will also enable smart sorting, which lets you classify your recorded videos with different tags. A 30-day free trial is available to take the service for a test drive.
Setting up the camera involves selecting the camera model from a list of Tapo products in the Tapo app and following the prompts to connect and configure the camera. The process is turnkey and takes just a couple of minutes. Installing the camera is considerably more involved, particularly if you need to drill holes to provide access to an indoor electrical outlet and/or your router, but the packaging includes mounting screws, anchors, a template, and some waterproof cable attachments to streamline the job.
In daily use, I found the video quality to be very good with sharp detail and accurate color. The same was true of color night vision, which was able to capture clear images—much brighter and sharper than those from conventional color night vision—of my yard and driveway without so much as a streetlight to illuminate them. If you need to use the camera’s spotlights, you can toggle them to turn on automatically at night, as mentioned, or you can manually activate them for durations of 5, 10, 15, or 30 minutes. You can also adjust the spotlight brightness using a slider in the app settings.
The Tapo app has a functional design that’s easy to navigate. Camera controls are prominently placed and clearly labeled under the live-feed pane, and various camera settings are listed in a separate menu. Of these, the AI detection and privacy zone settings warrant the most attention as they, allow you to calibrate motion detection sensitivity and the types of detection used, schedule notifications, and block out areas you don’t want the camera to monitor for activity. All of these will dramatically impact how accurate the camera is at recognizing and alerting you to the types of security events you want to know about.
Playing back cloud-stored video clips is straightforward. The three most recent video clips are displayed along the bottom of the camera’s home screen. Tapping the “more” option opens a clip library that defaults to the current day. You just need to scroll through the timestamped thumbnails to find the clip you want. Clips can be filtered further by detection type and any clip can be downloaded to your device during playback.
The camera is currently available at Amazon for $119.99. Reolink’s CX410, the only other home security camera we’ve seen so far that can capture full-color video in dark conditions without the need to turn any lights, is being sold for $94.99 (our review is in the works), so the C325WB’s price seems to be in the ballpark for a camera with this capability. Based on my experience with it, I’d say the C325WB is well worth the money if you want a camera that can monitor day and night without a drop-off in image quality.