This approach can also make the initial configuration of email alerts more complicated. A direct connection means that each camera acts as its own video server and has no email service of its own. Therefore, it must use yours to send you an email alert.
With the D-Link models, for example, you need to provide your email username, password, SMTP server address, port number, the type of encryption to use and the email address where you want the alerts sent. In addition, users aren't informed, for example, where to find out what the correct SMTP server name and port would be for a Gmail or Yahoo webmail account. That's unfortunate, because it's likely that many buyers of these cameras are not highly tech savvy.
Image quality, performance and more
There are other factors to consider. All of the cameras offer digital zoom rather than optical zoom, which means that images break up as you zoom in. And some cameras offer a virtual pan/tilt feature, which carves up the image from the camera's wide-angle lens into different viewing segments. This can be useful, but it offers a more limited field of view than does a true pan/tilt mechanism that actually moves the camera lens to pan the room.
Dependence on Wi-Fi may be a convenience, but it's also another potential gotcha. Although all of the cameras that use Wi-Fi also support pushbutton Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) for quickly establishing a connection to your wireless router, I found that getting the cameras and monitoring software to work wasn't always as clean and easy as it should be for a consumer device.
Two more caveats: Video streaming can require significant bandwidth, and Wi-Fi signal strength can drop off quickly as you move away from the wireless router, particularly if the signal must travel through multiple walls or around metal objects such as a kitchen full of appliances. If your cameras are several rooms away or on the other side of a laundry room or bathroom, you may need to upgrade to a high-end wireless router (I used a Cisco Linksys E4200 dual-band router with six antennas), add a range extender (some D-Link models double as range extenders) or even run a wired Ethernet connection to get enough bandwidth to use your cameras. (For some tips on how to upgrade your Wi-Fi network, check out our article Wi-Fi tweaks for speed freaks: 2013 edition.)
How we tested
I tested the cameras in my home using a MacBook Pro running Safari 5.1.7, Firefox 20 and a Linksys E4200 dual-band 802.11n router. I also tested using Windows 7 and Windows Vista laptops running Internet Explorer. I performed additional testing in a second location that used a Belkin 802.11b router and another with a Netgear WGR614 wireless router. I tested mobile apps from multiple locations using a Samsung Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.2.2, an iPhone 4 and an iPad.
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