Wireless cameras have always been a hit when it comes to home security, but it wasn’t always as user-friendly to layout setup in your home until brands like Ring and Arlo came along. There were plenty of wired DVR solutions for years, but that required running cables everywhere (either within view or through the walls). Then you have much easier options to work with like Foscam, which allowed the user to drop wireless cameras all over, but each one had to have access to an outlet still (and their setup process wasn’t exactly novice-friendly).
So then companies like Ring, Arlo and Amcrest come along with their systems that are incredibly easy to roll out through a home when it comes to both installing the cameras and operating the mobile interface that controls everything. Especially when you consider brands like Arlo and Amcrest, who’s cameras can be completely wireless (not even a power cable).
One of these systems is Amcrest’s latest 1080p Smart Home Wireless Home Security Camera System, which allows up to six (6) cameras to connect to their hub. This also means one single interface to control them all, and you don’t have to manually add each one to the network. You simply add the hub to the network, and then pair each camera to the hub with the touch of a button (well, two buttons really).
The specific kit we have been testing features the hub plus two cameras. You can then buy additional cameras separately to expand with if you need them–again, up to six cameras on a hub. If you need more cameras than that (for whatever reason), then you would get to get another hub (which you can add as many hubs to the app as you’d like). Although, the average person/home would only need one.
Each camera contains a removable battery that charges within the camera via a micro-USB port on the back. The port is protected by a small hatch you pop/pry open with your fingernail or a small flat tool. Charge them up and they will be ready to last you up to 6 months without a single wire connected to them.
Since they are IP65 rated, they can be placed indoors or outside and should be able to fend off most weather situations. I say most because IP65 can only take so much water, so just keep them away from any submersible situations (flooding). So wind, rain, sleet or snow, they’ll probably hold up pretty well. Since it hasn’t rained around here in a while, we hit one of them with a hose and it didn’t appear to have a single issue.
The magic though is in the fact that they are both truly wireless and weatherproofed enough to go outside. This makes for great security cameras since you aren’t limited to where you can place them outside of distance to the hub, which in a normal home scenario, we weren’t able to hit any barriers to this distance.
So, connect the hub to your router and the “Amcrest Smart Home” app (be sure to use the right one as there are multiple Amcrest apps for various products) pair the cameras to the hub. You will then see the hub pop up into the app as a device. When you click on the hub, you will see a list (text-only) of the connected cameras (to the hub). Click on the camera, and off you go.
Settings are pretty basic, so these are absolutely for novices more than anything, or intermediate users that simply don’t need a lot of options. Within the app, you can flip the image (if the camera is hanging upside down) or enable motion detection. Cloud status will kick in automatically if you have an active subscription, else you’ll have to activate (subscribe to) one. If you have a USB drive slid into the back of the hub, it will automatically begin saving files to it (no action is needed on your part outside of making sure that it is formatted as FAT32 as it won’t accept any other format). You can use a thumbdrive or an external hard drive, and anything up to 2TB in size (minimum recommended size is 32GB).
When you are viewing the image live in the app, you can trigger two-way talk, manually snap a shot or start recording video, swap between SD and HD quality (of the live stream), or add multiple cameras to the screen at once. The two-way talk works surprisingly well since some competing brands like Ring have all sorts of issues with audio. We were able to have a decent enough chat with whoever was at the door the few times we tried.
The options that are missing sadly include one of the most requested (when you browse the reviews for cameras) feature, and that’s motion zones for motion detection. You may not want everything in the image to be sensitive to motion. Maybe just a specific pathway or other portion of the image. So you are limited to all motion or no motion (for the time being). Hopefully, this is something they can add to the app at a later time without having to buy into new cameras.
Another concern we have is the quality of the video being saved to the hub (drive). For some reason, although the live stream to your phone may be 1080p, it doesn’t seem to be for the saved files. Instead, they are heavily compressed (like 480p or equivalent). There needs to be a setting where this could be adjusted, and you can choose to have the full 1080p being saved to these files.
However, if you are live streaming it to your phone, and manually choose to start recording, the file that is saved to your phone is in 1080p as long as “HD” is selected for quality in the controls, and the resulting files look great (our only beef there is that each time you’re in the app, you have to select HD as the setting doesn’t stick). So the image quality on the hub side of things might have been an oversight that someone had somewhere. So again, hopefully, this can also be added as a feature in the near future as part of a software update (to have the option to choose the quality of image/file being saved to the hub.
So the above two images show you the difference between the lower rest the hub saves in, and the manual saved to your smartphone from live-view the app gets you. Also, the files are saved to the hub as 4:3 even though the camera is 16:9 (widescreen). So the image gets squashed. Because of this, we manually stretched the hub image above to the proper resolution to make the comparison easier on the eyes. You can see more footage in the below sample video with narration.
It comes with everything you need, including an ethernet cable to run from the hub to your router, and a power cable for the hub. You also have two USB cables that are used to charge the cameras. Outside of some instructions (which will get you through everything, along with help from the app), that’s it. The only other thing you’d need is additional cameras (if you needed them).
We did notice that the wall adapter/plug for the hub emits a light hissing/whistling sound. If you weren’t close to it, you wouldn’t even know it is there. However, it is something to keep an eye on. We have seen this happen with a lot of Foscam cameras, so we can’t say it is unique in itself. However, we have seen another device with a similar situation, where the plug later had a meltdown and burned up (shorted out). So that may be nothing, but it’s worth mention nonetheless.
The price of the hub plus two cameras is around $319 (at the time of this article). The Arlo cameras were running as high as $400+ for the same equivalent not that long ago. Although, the Arlo cams right now are at a better price on Amazon than these so it’s kind of up in the air at this point depending on if this is temporary or the new set price for those cameras.
So where it is extremely easy to use, it lacks a few features that some may desire. The option to choose a better resolution to the hub, and motion zones, are big ones that could drastically improve this product. That being said, it is still a wonderful camera solution that won’t run you as much as some of the competing options that are out there. The image on the app looks great and the two-way audio (chat) doesn’t do bad at all when compared to Ring. The image of the video saved to the hub is so-so but enough to share with authorities or neighborhood apps (just not enough to get solid descriptions of people in the video). If they touched on the few points we had (including the quality of those videos), this would be an amazing product. For now, it is a good to great product for most. The only other thing weighing in is competitive pricing if brands like Arlo plan to keep the prices where they are right now. And once again, incredibly easy to set up (that is always a selling point!).
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*Average price is based on the time this article was published
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