Link-U 4G LTE Smartcam REVIEW the first of its kind.
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Over the past seven years, I have relied upon Vivint Smart Home to guard my perimeter, my doors, my windows and lately my thermostat. I have enjoyed the reassurance of checking-in on my home, at a distance, while away, or when home and feeling the need to screen my surroundings. Having experienced an overnight car break-in, while parked in my own driveway, security became one of my needs. Prior to this event, I had no cameras. After the event, I added 3 perimeter cameras, each pointed at one of my entrances and one at my driveway. I have added the Vivint Ping to my home and have truly enjoyed the technology. With two-way communication and motion detection, my children can reach me at work and I can feel more secure about their safety. I was excited to hear about the LInk-U, the ability to move my camera around and the ability to take it with me when I travel. Whether my family and I are spending the night in a hotel room or inside of our camper, I would love to have the option to take my camera with me.
For some, a monitored system is ideal. You do not have to worry as much about networks, or with gear compatibilities. It can be a convenience to have the fully integrated tech, provided by a single source and monitored offsite. These systems rely on a stationary HUB and peripherals to secure and monitor your environment. Whether you are home or away, it is a serious benefit to your safety, to have extra eyes watching. To add to the protection, some alarm systems utilize indoor sensors or indoor cameras. Overall, a monitored system may not be ideal for everyone. Perhaps you are not allowed to install cameras/tech in your residence or you do not have regular access to a WiFi network. There may be a variety of reasons someone would choose a stand alone camera over a monitored/subscription service. Monthly premiums, lack of personal control and inability to install the product are a just a few reasons.
I was contacted by Link-U to review their security camera/hub. The product arrived in a very clean and attractive retail package. The white packaging reminded me of an Apple device, with the glossy white finish. The cover shows a very detailed photographic quality image of the Link-U camera, the worlds first 4G LTE SMARTCAM. Along the bottom, you will see WiFi, Bluetooth, HD and 4GLTE capabilities. The sides of the packaging are very informational and do a great job at detailing the product specifications. As a consumer, I love that you can utilize the packaging to decide about the pros/cons of the device. The camera has an included 4G/LTE modem and is also able to be used via LAN(Ethernet port or WiFi). You can control other devices through Bluetooth, power the device through POE (power over ethernet) or if needed you can rely on the internal battery for a few hours. I love that the device has an included 3700 mAh battery and for your convenience comes with an included 35 watt PoE injector accessory. The listed device specifications seemed to be more than reasonable (1080p, 130-degree wide angle lens, MPEG-4 H264 image compression, night vision, WiFi B/G/N, microSD support up to 32GB (not included), IOS 8.0 or greater and Android 4.0 or greater.
The camera measures 5 3/4″ tall by 3 1/8″ wide and 3/4″ thick. With the stand, the device is 6″ tall and the stand base measures 3 1/2″ diameter. Setup is incredibly easy. Simply download the app and login/register. You will see “Your Cameras” across the top, a reset button across the top right and a + icon along the top left. After I pressed the + icon, there were 2 cameras found in the network. You can also add cameras via UID or QR code. There is a QR code on the back of the camera and you can scan this with your phone. Once you have the camera online/plugged in, you can press the “cog” icon along the bottom right. From this screen, you can change the name, set up the WiFi, change the password (PLEASE CHANGE THE PASSWORD), select system and turn on/off the WiFI, 4G Modem (T-Mobile), APN mode. You can also add sensors, evaluate the SD card and turn on/off the Night IR and LED indicators. If you select the calendar you can search for events based on sound, movement, and proximity. Tap the search icon along the bottom and you can access the recordings that are stored securely on the device.
Once you set up the WiFi, you no longer need to have the device plugged into the router or modem. What separates this from all of the other cameras is the ability to utilize an LTE network (T-Mobile SIM card was used for testing). I had originally thought about this as a motorhome option, but LTE signals are very poor in the main cabin of my motorhome. I do not get a cell signal inside of the motorhome either, which is a big let down. I do not want to ding the camera as this can work outdoors and can work in the front of the motorhome, with windows down. A cell repeater would also work to help to boost the signal. Again, this is not a problem of the camera, rather a problem with metal motor homes. This product is perfect for indoor and outdoor use, for renters and for people who want to be able to move the camera around. If it is plugged into your router, it will use the ethernet cable. If it is not plugged into a router, it will first try to use the WiFi and then try to use the LTE signal. I really like that the video streaming only occurs when you access it through the app. The camera records and will alert you via notification to access the app. The benefit is huge for your data consumption. I am really pleased with this feature as you use your data when you want to use it. You do not need a computer, you do not need to keep the camera at home, it will go wherever you want.
When you access the camera, you will notice HD along the top right. If you select this, you can change between low (640×360 12–15FPS), mid (1280×720 20FPS), high (1920×1080 27FPS) and Auto. I love the 2-way communication. If you press and hold the microphone icon, you can talk through the camera. When you let it go, you can hear the person talking back to you. If you press the circle along the bottom left, you can adjust the record options for 5, 15, 30, 60 seconds. If your phone is in vertical mode there is a small video across the top. If your phone is in landscape mode, the image will fill the screen. You can zoom in on the screen with simple pinch movements. It is important to note that there are no pan/tilt features with this camera. It will only capture what you have it pointed at. The app is reported to support and control up to 10 cameras, however, I only have a single camera to utilize. As another huge perk, the camera is able to act as a hub controlling ECASA devices. If you navigate to the Link U Website, you can see the EDOOR/WINDOW sensor, ELIGHT bulb, EMOTION Bluetooth LE smart motion sensor, EPLUG, ESHOCK window break sensor, ESMOKE and Weather sensor.
Security is important to me. I love that the recordings are stored on the device, inside of a microSD card and not on the cloud/internet. Only you can access them through the app, and they are not stored on your phone. I also like that the data is on demand and not continuous. The camera is capable of recording on sound, on motion and by human heat (PIR). When you search the events, you will see an icon that informs you of how the recording was initiated. I like that you can add the additional sensors and truly utilize the device as a hub. Having a multi-access system is incredibly handy for keeping control of your environment. I will say that I had quite a bit of issue setting up the camera initially. The Link-U App would say “Your Link-U is not Ready.” Additionally, I was unable to install the EPlug and Eshock that were sent to review. I reached out to the company and talked with Eric, multiple times. He noted that there seemed to be an App issue and he took this back to the developer. I had relatively regular contact with the team through versions 3.5–4.1 (4/17/17, 5/1/17, 5/17/17, 6/20/17, 7/4/17, 7/18/17, and ultimately 8/6/17). Each of these upgrades provided app improvements and stability. Now the camera seems to work fine.
To add to the benefits of the camera, I was able to easily install the ECasa Plug and Eshock devices. Simply touch the COG icon in the initial camera selection screen. You can then touch sensors “Edit” to enter into the sensors menu. From there, you will be able to add devices. You will be asked to enter the PIN, which is located on the bottom of the EPlug and along the top of the Shock sensor. Complete these steps one at a time. The sensor turns one of your wall outlets into a smart outlet. You can press the small triangular button along the bottom right to turn on the device. That is essentially all you need to do. To control the outlet, access your Link-U app and go to login. You will see the camera across the top of the screen and the plug icon near the bottom. Repeat the steps above for the glass break sensor and you are finished.
As stated above, I was pleased with the customer service, they really wanted to work with me to get through the product. The app felt a little basic, but through numerous enhancements is much more stable and robust. I have tested a few other similar style devices and I found that the camera did okay. The live streaming may be a little choppy and fuzzy, but the recorded video looks good. The sound quality is good, the two-way speaking feature is very convenient. After testing a few other devices, such as the PIPER device, I would love to set IFTTT statements and to set separate Home and Away settings. You can set separate sensor sensitivities, turn on/off the Night IR, LED indicators and the best aspect of the device is the ability to add a SIM card and take the camera with you. I have been torn about the rating of this device. Back in April to May of this year, I would have given it 2/5 stars. Again, the customer service, the willingness to listen has proven to be very admirable. They want to produce quality gear and this portable system now gets a 4/5 star rating. It does what it says it will do, but could still have more features. I expect great things from the Link-U team.
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