Remote Surveillance Camera REVIEW Cool Gadget but needs rework
We may think that we are an advanced society, but we still deal with many of the issues of antiquity, to include dishonesty and theft. When I became an adult and started to have a castle of my own to defend, I had to rid myself of many of my juvenile/childlike visions. Instead, I found myself becoming pessimistic and quasi-paranoid about stuff and the need to protect. I wish these feelings were unjustified, but they are not. If you turn to any news station on any television, radio or look to any newspaper, you will find innumerable examples of darkness. Over time we have advanced our key/lock technology, have added home alarms, cameras, body cams, dashcams, nannycams and countless other hidden sources of surveillance. Many people may feel that they are remote enough to be unaffected by theft. Up until about four years ago, I was in that same camp. One morning I went out to my SUV to find my manual strewn in my yard, my passenger door open and contents rummaged through, iPod missing and numerous contents in my driveway. Now, Vivint guards my home and family 24/7. You can learn more about Vivint by reading my Part 1 and Part 2 reviews.
With indoor and outdoor monitoring, I have become accustomed to checking my smartphone notifications. I have tested numerous types of hidden camera and was excited to hear about an alarm clock camera. The Remote Surveillance Camera arrived in a 5 1/8 inches long by 3 7/8 inches wide by 2 1/2 inches thick retail package. The top, front, and back panels all shared the same design template. The first thing that I noticed was a crisp, clear, lifelike image of an alarm clock along the middle of each of the panels. Along the top left, the company provided a rather generic title, “Remote Surveillance Camera,” and along the top right, “Full HD 1080.” At the base of the panels, the company provided eight icons, which detailed the features of the device. You can expect built-in WiFi, Multi-device access, night vision, MJPEG, Full HD 1080P, Video Capture, motion detection, and temperature display. Turning my attention to the right side panel, I liked the six picturesque images showcased on the surface. I thought that it was odd to have images of an outside of a home, a racing bicyclist, two images relating to an office meeting, yellow motorcycle police, and an underwater scuba diving adventure. I questioned the choice of the imagery for a device designed to rest atop your nightstand. Examining the opposite side panel, I was pleased to see a list of the specifications: 5MP, 1080P, 120 degree viewing angle, night vision, 1LUX illumination minimum, 2400mAh internal battery providing 24 hours continuous shooting time, iOS/Android Mobile support, Windows/Mac OS X, 32 GB max size for memory card.
Opening the top flap, I found a 4 1/16 inches long by 2 1/4 inches tall by 1 1/4 inches thick black alarm clock, wrapped in semi-opaque plastic. The front of the device had a 3 7/16 inches wide by 29/32 inches tall silver oval along the mid-section. Above and below the bar, there were eleven domes. The central 1/4 inch diameter dome was flanked by 7/32 inch diameter domes, then 1/8 inch diameter domes, then three more 3/32 inch domes. The top panel had a single 1 5/32 inches long by 11/32 inches wide button and a silver QR code sticker. The back panel had five symmetrical triangular buttons for mode, set, up, down, music. Located below the music button, there was a Mini-USB, which I found to be odd, considering micro-USB or USB-C would be more modern solutions. Beneath the buttons/Mini-USB port, I found the battery panel with lower support arms. Slide the panel down, remove the plastic battery guard and the device will beep once and then turn on. Within the panel, there is a slot for a micro-USB (not included), a reset button, and an on-off toggle. I replaced the battery panel and accidentally pressed the top button and was started when a female voice noted “twelve oh three.” I set the device aside and returned to the box.
Beneath the white cardboard tray, I found a type B wall plug that looked a lot like my wife’s old Samsung wall charger. The 2 21/32 inches tall by 1 3/8 inches wide by 7/8 inches thick charger had a USB-A output port from the side of the charger. The back of the charger displayed the product specifications and typical product labels in micro print. It will accept 100–240V/50–60Hz/0.5A input and will provide 5V/2A output to the device. In addition to the charger, I found a 77 3/4 inches long USB-A to USB-Mini cable and a twenty-seven-page bilingual instruction manual. Pages 1–13 appeared to be written in a Chinese language and pages 14–27 were provided in English. The “Guide of Easy-Use” started with a “Catalogue” page and provided information about the products and components, start to use, installment of hardware, installation and use of the mobile app, installation of the video camera, setting of WiFi network, Point to Point mode and FAQ. The manual recommended that you navigate to the iOS App or Google Play store and download the BVCAM app. You can personally navigate to the App Store and search for it, or you can scan the included QR code, which did not work. Since the QR codes did not work, I navigated to the iOS App Store and searched for BVCAM and downloaded the 2* App. The remainder of the instruction manual proved to be difficult to utilize as the majority of it was not translated.
You will have to read the tiny print to navigate through the device setup. The app will ask if it can send you notifications and then you will have a blank screen with eight icons: four squares (live video), file icon, search icon, “+” icon, and then along the bottom live video, snapshots, recordings, and alarms. If you select “+” along the top right, you can set up a device WiFi connection, add new online camera or connect the phone directly to device. To start, I chose to set up a new device WiFi connection. After powering on the camera/clock, my iPhone XS Max alerted me to navigate to Settings and then to connect to the camera. The name was a six by twelve by six character string and the camera connected quickly. The App will take you to another screen, which had a camera icon in the middle and a cog icon below it. I tapped the play button on the screen and it asked me to change the password. Pressing play again, I was able to access the camera directly with my phone and I could adjust the brightness, contrast, night mode, turn on/off sounds, access microphone, take a snapshot, video, invert or flip the image. Select return and you will go back to the main panel. From the main app, select the cog icon and modify device, delete device, reconnect, device settings or cancel. Tapping device settings, the App will allow you to configure the alarm, WiFI, SD card, IR-LED, time settings, email configuration, FTP configuration, Misc settings or change the password.
Within the configuration option, I chose to set current time (day, month, year, 12-hour), time zone (central time) and to activate daylight savings. As noted above, the manual was nearly unusable and page 22/23 were not even translated from Chinese. There were no included instructions on the functions of the alarm clock, what the modes meant or how to set the clock. I was unable to set the time from my iPhone XS Max. It took about 10 minutes playing with the alarm clock to even start to figure out the modes and what they meant. I sent an email to the company asking for more information and informing them that their manual needed additional input. Within twenty-four hours, I was given a link to a similar product (not their product) detailing the functions of the buttons. If you press the set button, the device will enter into the time/date setting mode. You will first need to set the date (2010 out of the box) with the up/down buttons. Press set again to enter into the month/day, which was set to the American standard and not the European standard of day/month. You can then set the hour/minutes in military time. Press set again to exit the adjustment mode. If you press the up button, military time will convert to standard time. For example 18:58 will become 6:58. To set the alarm, press the mode button and then follow the same steps as above. Unfortunately, the setup was not as intuitive as I would have liked.
The battery lasted about 8–10 hours and when away from power, completely shut down. When you plug it back into wall power, the device will reset to 12:00, and 1/1. I wish that there was flash memory or a spare backup/alarm to alert the user to plug it back into the wall. I also wish that there was a way to know power level, amount of time to charge and the remaining power. I loved the compact size of the device and the alarm clock idea. Having tested multiple devices, I would have thought that one of the upper or lower bubbles was the camera. In fact, I was surprised when it was one of the “LED” holes to the right of the time. If I were going to make a “Remote Surveillance Camera 2.0” I would work on some key features. First, I would eliminate the twenty-two bubbles and make the upper and lower surfaces smooth. I would also increase the length of both lower support legs because the mini-USB cable pulls the device backward. There needs to be an internal memory/battery to save the day/date/time and in general, this device needs to function more like a modern alarm clock. The blue LED should be replaced with a red LED to minimize sleep disruption and the effects on melatonin. There needs to be an on/off alarm option, and the top button should do more than announce the time. This device did not function well as an alarm clock and I would not trust it to wake me up in the morning. The camera was awesome and provided vivid imagery in both light and low light conditions and the app was mediocre. I was shocked at the price of the device when I could buy an alarm clock with more advanced features for $10.38 at Walmart
If you are looking for a desk clock (not alarm) that you can also record from, capture and record motion/intruders, this device may be perfect for you. Unfortunately, I believe there are other products that will complete the task at a lesser price. I loved that I could connect directly to the device with my iPhone XS Max for point-to-point surveillance mode but you have to be within WiFi zone. Perhaps this would work in a hotel as you went down for breakfast but without WiFi setup, that feature is less helpful. Connected to WIFI, I could access the camera from anywhere, but it felt slow. I turned my iPhone XS Max to LTE and was able to connect to the camera on my home WiFi network. I had no use to plug the device up to my computer and other than my MacBook Pro, I do not have a PC at this time. I liked the look/feel of the device but I want my devices to do what they promise. To purchase a device at this price, $149.11, it needs to fully function as an alarm clock/desk clock and fulfill the surveillance role. Additionally, for the price point, it should have come with a minimum of a 2GB microSD card. If desired, the user could upgrade the memory beyond that point. It is frustrating to purchase a device, to get home and then to realize that you do not have all that you need to operate the device. I wanted a device similar to the Piper NV WiFi Security, but this device did not provide great App UI or device UI. The manual needs to be redone, the App needs an upgrade as does the product.
The App, like the product, had a generic feel which left me underwhelmed. When I pressed the reset button on the back of the camera, I had to delete the App and redownload it from the iOS App store to make it work again. This camera did not support two-way talk but the App did not know that. I was able to flip the image on my screen 180 degrees vertically or horizontally but the alarm function was mediocre at best. There was a small blue label that crossed the top of the screen when motion was detected, but this was disrupted by the notch at the top of the screen. When I navigated to the Alarms section of the App, I was able to see all of the motion captures. However, when I was out of the App, I did not receive any alerts. The camera functioned fairly well and provided a good view of the room. I was able to adjust the quality of capture up to 1080P without any decrease in connection. Alas, I cannot believe that they are using mini-USB to power the device when nearly everything is moving into USB-C and wireless charging. I never found the temperature display, as detailed on the packaging. I cannot believe that you have to re-enter all of the information if AC power was disconnected after 8 hours. There needs to be a low battery warning and the device simply needs to offer more features/usability for the listed price.
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Originally published at macsources.com on February 12, 2019.