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HomeMonitor, Simplicam, and Netcam HD: Can any of them beat Dropcam?

Michael Simon | Nov. 4, 2014
While Simplicam offers a good design, the Dropcam package is just too good, offering good looks and reliable video feeds with little fuss, says Michael Simon.

I was up and running in just a few minutes, but setup using the mobile app was a bit convoluted, requiring me to connect to the camera's unique wireless network on my phone in order to complete the process. The website offers live streaming and archiving, but a smartphone or tablet is integral to the setup process. Unfortunately, it seems Belkin put about as much effort into the app as it did the camera case. Even overlooking the stale design, the app was consistently slow and unresponsive.

Based on my opinion of the case and app, I didn't expect much from the actual camera, but I was pleasantly surprised. Images were smooth and crisp, and when viewing the live feeds, the lag was as little as Dropcam. Like the HomeMonitor, angles weren't quite as wide, but the picture quality was sharp, with accurate colors and excellent night vision. And while the rotating arm made it easy to make fine adjustments in any direction, I found myself questioning whether it'll stay in place over time.

When it came to detecting motion, Netcam worked a bit too well. Whenever I was in range, I received dozens of emails per hour that picked up even the slightest movement (like when I shook my foot involuntarily on the couch). Sensitivity adjustments can be made right inside the app, but there was a negligible decrease in incoming notifications even after putting it on the lowest possible setting. However, since it is the only camera with the WeMo line of home automation products, perhaps its hair trigger could be useful in some instances.

Belkin offers two weeks of storage through its Cloud+ Premium service that'll cost you $10 a month or $99 a year, though all new accounts get a free two-week trial. It automatically splits clips by the motion it detects, but since it's so sensitive, there will be quite a lot of them--my camera often collected more than 300 a day. But chronological time stamps and thumbnail pictures allow you to quickly identify recent trouble spots. Weak organization makes it difficult to find clips beyond a day or so, however.

Simplicam: Small and mighty
From the moment I took Simplicam ($150, or $200 with a year of 24-hour cloud storage) out of its packaging, I was impressed with ArcSoft's attention to detail. Its body is sculpted from aluminum and its footprint is impressively low-profile while still allowing for a wider range of movement than its competitors. It has its own personality, and it was the only camera I tested that felt as premium as Dropcam did.

Though not quite as simple as Dropcam's Bluetooth method, setup via the companion app was a breeze, with the most difficult step requiring a QR code scan (though the guided beeps were initially startling). Like Belkin's Netcam, lag was on par with Dropcam, but picture quality wasn't quite as sharp as either. Also, I saw a fair amount of fish-eying around the edges of the images, which made the feeds seem more distorted than other cameras.


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