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Samsung SmartCam HD Plus review: This Nest Cam clone is more than a knock-off

Michael Ansaldo | Jan. 12, 2016
Over the past couple of years, many home security cameras have taken their cues from the popular Dropcam, now Nest Cam. But none have done so quite as literally as Samsung’s SmartCam HD plus ($190).

Getting the camera to stay put on a flat surface proved more challenging. The power port is in front of the unit beneath the lens. This requires you to thread the USB power cable through the two prongs of its stand. The tension this created in the cable made it hard to set the camera straight and sometimes would even cause it to teeter over. This can be frustrating when you’re trying to get a particular viewing angle.

There was no question the SmartCam HD Plus was ready for duty, though. Within moments of setting it up I was inundated with with motion and audio notifications. A quick adjusting of the sensitivity settings in the SmartCam app stemmed the tide. I also used the Motion Zone Select feature when I was away, so the camera could monitor the front door without picking up our dog’s motion. This involves drawing a square with your finger around a portion of the camera image. It gives you a little more flexibility in defining detection areas than the grid method used by some other cameras.

Video was crisp and clear in both day and night mode and in all resolutions, though, not surprisingly, I got the most detail in 1080p. The medium resolution (720p) seemed to be the sweet spot that would give the best quality while not quickly eating up storage space. Video streaming was also clean and responsive with no pixelation.

The SmartCam HD Plus can can be accessed through the SmartCam web portal or app. For convenience, I primarily used the the latter which, is loaded with features. In fact, it’s a bit overwhelming.

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Thanks to some odd icon choices, SmartCam app functions aren’t always intuitive.

Each camera you add to the SmartCam app has its own menu that you access via an icon next to its name. This menu gives you quick access to the live feed, time-stamped activity logs and clips, and settings for everything from the camera to your network to the microSD card.

When you open the live-streaming page, you’re presented with even more options on a horizontally scrolling toolbar across the bottom. From here you can record a 30-second video clip to your phone, take a screenshot of the feed, toggle resolution (low, medium, and high), and more. One unique feature is the ability to trigger the sound of an alarm, a police siren, or a dog barking. Presumably these are there to scare off an intruder you catch in the act, but I found the last also amused my dog when I was away.

While the breadth of controls the app provides is impressive, the icons used to identify them don’t always make sense. The Resolution toggle is denoted by a checkerboard and beamed quarter-notes—which have become synonymous with iTunes—are used for the siren/alarm/dog-bark feature. Other icons—like Motion Zone Select’s, which resembles the walk signal at a pedestrian crossing—are just as baffling. A little experimenting got me oriented, but it’s a shame such a rich app isn’t more intuitive.

 

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