Dropcam HD – Review


Cameras such as Linksys, Logitech, and Dlink have been a staple for home security and monitoring. There are other possibly cheaper solutions, however, these cameras are normally easily mounted and accessed via a variety of methods right out of the box.

The Dropcam HD adds further advantages and disadvantages to the line-up.

The benefits include:

Talk Back Feature - Hear and respond with two way audio
Night Vision
Notifications via phone text or email
Simple Setup
Cloud recording features - Available for additional cost

Our criteria for a camera was good video/audio quality and something that would universally accessible no matter what device we use or where we want to view it.

The downside of a product like this is that it is not locally supported. Literally every captured frame is uploaded to the Internet where you can access the near-live feed using the website or the phone App (for iPhone or Android devices).

Opening the box:

The packaging for this box is nice. Very similar to what you might find with a Apple product. The base for the unit seems very solid. We were surprised at how big the base and camera was. It's not excessively large of course, however, compared to pictures on the website we just expected it to be smaller.

The three step process is connecting the Dropcam to your computers USB port. Lanching the setup application and then following installation instructions.

In practice, we connected the camera to our USB slot. Our PC runs Windows 7 which notified us it was installing drivers for the newly recognized equipment. The camera continued to flash an amber light every second during this process. The menu did not pop-up automatically, but we did receive the standard Windows dialog box to open the newly connected storage devices to view files. Once in the camera's drive letter within Windows, we were able to launch the "Setup Dropcam (Windows).exe" file. Then nothing happened. After waiting 10 minutes, we attempted to launch the file again... still nothing. At this point we decided to reboot the PC just to make sure it wasn't a Windows issue.

Upon reboot into Windows we noticed the Dropcam drive was still available. Launching the .exe still did not change the status.

At this point we decided that it's probably related to a default browser setting. Going into our Chrome browser setting. We set it to be the default browser... and voila! Launching the .exe brings up a webpage instantly within Chrome.

The setup page is a simple "Begin Setup" button and it appears the serial number of the camera is listed at the bottom. Dropcam directs you to create an account.

After creating an account using a username, password, and email address - the next screen is for setting up the wireless connection. Immediately we are presented with an error message, "This Dropcam has encountered an error. Please reconnect the camera and begin the setup process again."

Clicking on the "other networks" button gives us an opportunity to enter in our wireless SSID and password. Even after entering this message we are presented with the same error. We decide to disconnect the camera and try again.

We launch the .exe file from earlier and the webpage loads. It recognizes our username from the previous attempt and we continue the setup. Right away it acknowledges are wireless AP. We select it off the list and it asks us for the password. Then it quickly presents a notification that the Dropcam is connected to the wi-fi and it utilizes an encrypted connection.

The next screen advises we can connect the camera anywhere and begin using it. We choose to attempt to connect using an iPhone 4 App. Upon login it advises the camera is off. We are unable to reset the on/off setting to get it to turn on, but in all fairness the setup did ask us to disconnect it from our computer.

We disconnect connect the camera from the USB and picking it up notice the camera is HOT! Not painfully hot, but just surprisingly.

After connecting using it's USB to AC power supply and connecting it to the wall. We wait about 10 seconds and attempt to use the iPhone App again. The message has now changed to "This Dropcam is not connected." About 30 seconds later the My Dropcams section of the App indicates that "Your New Dropcam" status is on and displays a small thumbnail of the video footage. It works!

The video quality appears decent and the push to talk works, although the audio from the camera's small speaker is very quiet even a few feet away on the floor.

Time for it's debut in a real-world test...

We set it up in the room of choice in the dark. After about 30 seconds it shows as "On" again in the My Dropcam view of the App. Night vision has kicked in automatically and the quality looks great (Don't forget to take the plastic film off of the front of the camera ;) )

Over-all this is a great product. The audio/video quality is solid and it's extremely portable. We expect to move this around from room to room and use it for outdoor alerting/security purposes (consider adding a battery pack like you would for an iPad-like device?). The two-way feature is a bonus. The only feature lacking is the ability to keep the video only on the LAN, but the rest of the product makes it worthwhile and the cloud services are available if needed for DVR purposes.

Make sure you have a solid Internet connection and try it out!

Dropcam states it requires about 200-400kbps of upload capacity. Right now our ISP limits our upload to 900kbps on a good day so this is something to keep in mind depending on your needs. Our real testing showed it between 158kbps and 350kbps upload speed. Download speeds to the App were between 100-200kbps.