Can a $20 Home Security Camera Stand Up To Its $300 Rivals?
The popularity of smart home security cameras has skyrocketed. Nest, Amazon, Netgear, Honeywell and Lighthouse — they all make models. No matter which one you buy, the great thing is that they’re all simple to use; just plug in, download an app, connect them to your home’s wi-fi… and that’s it. You can then check the camera’s live feed anytime you want, as long you’re connected to wi-fi or have a cell signal, and any of these cameras can be used as baby monitors, pet cameras or for actual home security.
Whether it’s an Amazon Cloud Cam ($120), Honeywell’s Lyric C2 ($170) or the Nest Cam IQ ($299), all these cameras have night vision, two-way audio, motion sensors, push notifications and give you 24/7 access to live camera feeds. They’re able to shoot and record 1080p videos, too. What differentiates most smart home security cameras from each other, aside from price and compatibility, is the premium features — such as facial recognition, digital zoom, object tracking — all of which require a monthly/annual subscription fee. If you opt not to be a subscriber, you’re opting to not get the best out of the camera.
Enter WyzeCam ($20). It’s a home security camera developed by Wyze Labs, a small start-up, formed by former Amazon employees, that aims to mass produce high-quality gadgets at really low prices. (To read more about the company’s business model, Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times wrote an in-depth feature.) The camera can do most everything that other smart home security cameras can do, but at a fraction of the price. And there’s no subscription option, at all. The only option additional cost is for a micro-SD card (up to 32GB, Class 10) to store all your recordings. Without a micro-SD card, you can access a seven-day rolling coverage through the app, but after that, they expire.
The first Wyzecam model was launched in October 2017, but the company replaced that original model with WyzeCam v2, as of February 2018. The updated camera has a motion tagging feature, has improved day and night vision, better audio quality and comes with a new matte finish. More importantly, the WyzeCam v2 works with Amazon’s Alexa, so you can summon a live feed on your Echo Spot, Echo Show or Amazon Fire TV.
The Good: WyzeCam offers most of the same features — and general experience — as other popular smart home security cameras for a fraction of the price. The camera can record SD and HD videos and capture photos (although you should get a micro-SD card in order to save them permanently). Two-way audio enables you to speak with whichever person, pet or perpetrator is in your house. Works with Amazon’s Alexa, meaning if you have an Echo Spot or Echo Show smart speaker or Amazon Fire TV, you can instantly summon a view of the camera’s live feed. No subscription service to worry about. The magnetic/sticker base and flexible hinge system mean that this camera is easy to install anywhere in your home and point to exactly where you want. I’ll emphasize this again — it’s only $20.
Who It’s For: Somebody looking for an entry-level home security camera to check-in periodically on their kids, pets or whatever is going on in their home. It’s a capable and super affordable camera; however, the app and commonly-used features might frustrate those who interact with the camera multiple times per day.
Watch Out For: No advanced features, such as facial recognition. It’s an indoor camera that needs to be constantly plugged into the wall to work. No micro-SD card included with the camera, so you’re going to want to purchase one; you can find 32GB micro-SD cards for around between $10 and $20. Field of view is more limited than other home security cameras. No geofencing. The app isn’t as intuitive as I’d hope for, and accessing a live feed takes longer than with other cameras.
Alternatives: In this price range, there are very few alternative smart home security cameras to choose from. Options from Amazon, Nest and Lighthouse all cost well over $100.
Review: The WyzeCam looks like toy. That’s what I thought when I first took it out of its box and is likely what most people will think. It’s small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. It’s made of plastic. And if a dog or young child are around, this is something you’d want to put on a high shelf, out of their reach. But after using the WyzeCam for the better part of two weeks, I have to admit that this little gadget undoubtedly pushes well above its weight. It’s not a toy. In fact, it’s very much a competitor to its much more expensive rivals.
Let me preface this by saying that I live in a New York apartment, and installed a Lighthouse ($299) home security camera in my parents’ home in New Jersey. It’s been there for the last few months and helps me check in periodically on my 12-year dog, as well as my parents and brother. I don’t pay for its monthly subscription service, so Lighthouse doesn’t recognize faces or allow me to set smart notification using its AI features (which is what it’s really good at), but the way I use the camera — not for security purposes and not to keep a constant parental watch — means that I don’t need those premium features. And because of that, my experiences with WyzeCam and Lighthouse have been largely similar.
The fact that a $300 camera and a $20 camera work essentially the same says a lot about WyzeCam — it really is a steal of a deal for anybody looking for a casual-use home security camera. I set motion and sound alerts on, between certain hours in the morning and evening, so the WyzeCam sent me push notifications whenever my roommate left for work or arrived at home. I could also talk with him from afar, when he was home and I wasn’t.
WyzeCam isn’t perfect. The app is intuitive enough, but the fact that when I open up the Wyze app and I don’t immediately view a live feed — in the app, I had to click on the camera, initiate the live feed and then wait for it to load — gets frustrating. It can be difficult to know the date and time of the live feed, too, as that info is displayed in a really tiny font. I noticed that were multiple occasions when the camera didn’t detect motion or sound when my roommate got home, too, so it’s probably not the safest option if you’re looking for ultra-vigilant home security.
Verdict: WyzeCam has a few little flaws when it comes to ease of use, and it’s not the best option for actual home security purposes. Instead, WyzeCam is a very good camera for casual smart home users. It’s for people just looking to check in on their pets or family members a few times a day. The picture quality and common features are pretty much identical to what you’d get in way more expensive smart home cameras, which is exceptional. Also, because WyzeCam is now compatible with Alexa, it’s a no-brainer buy for anybody hedged in Amazon’s ecosystem.
What Others Are Saying:
• “Wyze did not create a home internet camera for a tenth of the price of rivals by skimping on quality. Though the camera comes in extremely spare packaging, it otherwise offers many features you would expect in big-brand devices, including tough security.” — Farhad Manjoo, The New York Times
• “In addition to delivering 1080p video, this tiny home security camera offers many of the features that you get from cameras that cost at least five times as much, including motion and sound detection, free cloud recording, local storage, two-way audio, video on demand, and much more.” — John R. Delaney, PCMag
Video resolution: 1080p
Field of view: 110-degrees
Storage: local (SD card) and cloud
Key features: night vision, motion detection, two-way audio
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