If you are a regular reader on this site and you haven’t read my recent update about Shorter Reviews, I’d encourage you to check that out before reading this review.
I remember about 10 years ago getting my hands on a Cisco Linksys IP camera, one of the old school ones that required both power and Ethernet, as well as a good place for mounting. It was big and clunky and heavy, and although it did support power over Ethernet, it didn’t have a cool app (this was before apps became real popular). It could be accessed on network via direct IP through a browser, and although it wasn’t the easiest setup, it was far from Cisco’s CLI interface for sure.
I was excited at the possibility of installing an IP camera somewhere in my house, but never found the use case (although nowadays, use cases aren’t as important to me with regards to playing with tech).
Since then, the smart home market exploded with home wireless cameras (Netgear’s Arlo Pro 2, for example), and the “old way” of doing security cameras became something special for small business and enterprise users.
I’ve had an Arlo Pro 2 system in my house with just two cameras for about 18 months, and I was curious how the Defender 2K camera would compare in overall user experience. The first thing that I noticed is the ability for these cameras to exist as stand alone units: with no hub required (although it is something the company offers), the smartphone app serves as a sort of “software hub,” gathering all of your connected cameras in one place. And, each stand-alone camera is only $99, which is far less than a single Arlo Pro 2 unit.
Before I go much further, I want to specify that this is not about comparing the Arlo Pro 2 to the Defender Security Camera; both of them have their target markets for sure and could be used in different applications. But, given the option to spend more money for something like the Arlo Pro 2, versus Defender’s solution which is far less expensive, it’s important to know what that lower price tag does to the feature set when compared to more mainstream wireless home camera systems.
One major difference is packaging: the Defender packaging is extremely basic and minimalistic; the box is not fancy, rather, very straight forward and simple to get to the product, manual and accessories. While I love a great unboxing experience, this was enjoyable for different reasons.
Setup was very simple, as long as you don’t mind getting your hands dirty. This requires virtually no technical know-how (pretty much anyone can download an app now), but may require some home improvement knowledge, as this is NOT a fully wireless solution. Yes, it can communicate wirelessly with your network, but it still requires an external power supply be connected to the camera at all times. This is another major difference to many mainstream wireless home camera systems, as they often times have battery packs in the units. Although, if your camera is near a power supply and cabling it is not an issue, you won’t have to worry about recharging these.
Mounting options are therefore limited due to these connected wires. The unit has a single, bundled cord that allows both an Ethernet and power connection, but there is no way to separate these if, for instance, you don’t need the Ethernet connection (not my favorite of its features). Thus, internal wiring may be required, or if installing externally, you may need to drill through external surfaces and get creative with connections to a nearby electrical outlet.
Once it’s mounted and connected, a quick scan by the companion app and it’s ready for use. The app’s wizard was a bit problematic for me, but adding the camera manually is just as straight forward. In the app itself, the interface is extremely simple with only 3 main sections: Devices, Notifications and Account Info. All added devices are listed on the main screen, allowing you to tap into the camera feed; you can also set each camera to monitoring mode (individually), which will alert you via push notification if the camera senses motion. Within the configuration of each camera, you can set activity zones (to exclude portions of the image from monitoring), record schedule and other minor customizations. I found the notifications to be largely false alarms, caused by changes in lighting in the environment and not actual motion within the camera’s viewing range. The app is extremely straight forward and easy to use.
The camera itself comes with a pre-installed 16GB microSD card, allowing for local storage of recorded clips while in monitoring mode. It captures footage in 2688×1520 resolution, has night vision range up to 100 feet, and has a very clear image.
This is otherwise a very basic package, and closer to the “old school” application of security cameras compared to more modern fully wireless systems. That’s not to say, though, that these aren’t worth considering: they are the less expensive option for sure, provide great image quality and require no charging, and are fully modular down to each individual unit. However, there are no available monitoring services, no cloud storage (at this time), the cameras require a wired connection, and are generally less “home user” friendly.
I really like the customizations available down to the individual camera, and a 4-camera installation will cost nearly half of what the Arlo 2 Pro system from Netgear will. But, if you don’t have the capability to run wires (leased spaces, apartment rentals, etc), all wiring will have to be exposed which may not be the most ideal for all users. That said, it’s hard to beat the value that the Defender 2K camera provides at a portion of the cost of more ubiquitous totally wireless systems available now.