Freelance contributor, TechHiveMar 12, 2019 3:00 am PDT
At a Glance
1080p full HD video
Passive infrared motion detection triggered by body heat signatures
Records video locally with a cloud backup
No scheduling option
You must disable motion detection to turn off alerts
The Swann Indoor Camera is a great entry-level option with sharp video, reliable motion detection, and voice control capability.
As Wi-Fi home security cameras get more sophisticated and expensive, it can be tough to find products that won’t intimidate first-time DIYers. Swann’s Indoor Security Camera is exactly the kind of camera these folks need. It’s easy to use and, at just $70, it’s reasonably priced but includes all the advanced features required for solid security.
The small, capsule-shaped camera has a no-frills design that enables it to go pretty much unnoticed in any room. It attaches to its stand via a ball joint, letting you position it upright on a table, counter or shelf, or set it at an angle if mounted on a wall (hardware and a mounting template are supplied). In either case, the camera needs to be near an electrical outlet, as it runs on AC power.
It has a 110-degree viewing angle and captures video in 1080p Full HD. It detects motion at up to 32 feet via a passive infrared (PIR) sensor, which senses body heat. It also has a built-in microphone and speaker for two-way communication, and it provides up to 26 feet of night vision.
It also includes some smart home integration—surprising, given its modest price. In addition to viewing the camera’s live feed on your phone, you can use Alexa voice commands to stream it to your Echo Spot, Echo Show or 4K Fire TV. You can also stream it to your TV using Google Assistant and a Chromecast.
The camera can record both locally and to the cloud, which is also unusual for its price. Every video clip is saved to onboard memory for 7 days and to Swann’s cloud servers for 2 days, after which it’s overwritten with new recordings. You can extend the cloud video history to 30 days with a subscription to Swann’s ExtraSafe cloud recording plan for $50 a year. This allows you store up to 5GB of video in the cloud and includes ongoing premium support.
Setup and performance
Once you download the Safe by Swann app and create an account, the app guides you through the process of pairing the camera and connecting to your home network. Even with a firmware update, the camera was up and running in about four minutes.
The camera is added as a tile to the app’s dashboard. If you have multiple Swann cameras connected, you can rearrange the layout of the tiles to your preference by tapping and holding them and dragging them to new position.
Tapping on a tile opens that camera’s live screen. It’s logically laid out with the live feed in the middle and a row of buttons for activating two-way talk, recording video, capturing a screenshot, and accessing event-triggered clips running along the bottom. At the top you’ll find a mute button for the camera’s speaker and another button to access the camera’s settings.
The camera delivers sharp live video with rich, accurate color. There’s a modest amount of fish-eye distortion around objects closed to the camera, as is expected with wide-angle lenses. You can pan the image and zoom in and out using touch control. The image gets increasingly fuzzy, however, the more you blow it up, so this feature offers diminishing returns. Night vision activates automatically in low light, and it provided enough illumination and contrast for me to see my living room clearly well into the night.
The advantage of PIR sensors is that they are triggered by heat signatures, so they should ignore the motion of fans, rustling curtains, and other innocuous activity that often fools computer-vision based detection. That means fewer false alerts, and that was certainly the case here. Only movement by family members and pets was registered by the camera, and the alerts were delivered to my phone promptly.
You can adjust the sensitivity of the motion sensor on a sliding scale, with higher settings detecting motion further away from the camera. Beyond this, there are no other ways to control when or how frequently your receive alerts. A scheduling option, which is a fairly standard feature of home security features now, would allow the user to activate motion detection only when they’re at work or otherwise away from home. Even an option to just turn off alerts would be welcome.
As it is, I had to go into the camera settings to turn motion detection off whenever anyone was home, and then remember to turn it back on when we were out. Doable, but hardly efficient.
Captured video clips are logged in reverse chronological order on the app’s Activity screen. During playback you can fast forward or rewind in 5-second increments. You can also download any clip to your phone.
The Swann Indoor Security Camera won’t wow you with a bunch of high-tech features, but it’s easy to use and offers solid performance. This makes it an easy recommendation for security newbies and anyone else who just wants reliable security without having to manage a lot of complicated settings. If only there was a scheduling option, or a way to fine-tune alerts—two essential features for indoor security cameras.