REVIEWED: Belkin NetCam HD+
Keep an eye on your home with this excellent cloud camera with a glass lens and WeMo for smart home control
The cliches of the smart home are still super-rich features like home cinemas, motion-detected lighting and automatically opening doors, but in practice there are myriad products being touted for travellers wanting to keep an eye on their house while away. The Belkin NetCam HD+ lets you watch a live feed on any smartphone.
Measuring 125x65x85mm and weighing 148g, the NetCam HD+’s desktop stand doubles as a wall mount, with the ball-and-socket joint easy to attach to a wall (there are even screws and fittings in the box). An L-shaped power adaptor has a cable that stretches a handy 240cm.
Sadly, there’s no app for tablets, so viewing the HD-quality (1280×720 pixel) results NetCam HD+ is sadly only a small-screen affair. Set-up is fairly simple, though it takes five minutes; it’s necessary to attach your phone to the camera’s own Wi-Fi Direct network, then create an account, then enter your home’s Wi-Fi network, then re-enter your account details, then download some firmware … though it’s all fairly straightforward, and well explained.
When the NetCam HD+ senses motion and/or sound, it send alerts not though the app, but via email. That’s sure to get any traveller’s attention, but it’s little dominating. Returning home from a trip to hundred of emails is one thing. When they’ve been sent by your house, it’s bordering on the insane. This option can be turned off, though in our test the annoyance continued.
It does HD (as well as 640×360 and 320×180 pixels) in up to 25 frames per second, and has excellent infra-red night vision, too. Unlike most cloud cameras, it doesn’t flash lights while it’s filming or photographing, so it’s a lot more stealthy than most.
Hold to Talk
Most cloud camera’s have pretty awful audio exchange, but on the NetCam HD+ it’s both great quality, instant, and easy to use. A speech button on the main live camera feed page must be held down while you talk, with utterances reaching the camera in less than a second. Part of the NetCam Cloud+ service includes the ability to share your NetCam HD+’s live feed with others, with feeds shared with you available in a Feeds section of the app.
That main live feed page in the app lets you record both video clips and still images, but the Clips tab on the Home page informs us that to access them means signing-up to Belkin’s NetCam Cloud+ service. However, at the time of writing the service was in beta testing, with the only option being a free trial. We were sent an email informing us that we could now ‘find value in the added features of push notifications and cloud storage for images and video clips’ until promoted to register with NetCam Cloud+ in 30 days, and the app hence allowed us to inspect and view motion detection-prompted videos from a list. However, be warned that even a slightly moving cat/dog/baby triggers a 30-second video; it doesn’t take long to build up quite a collection of trivial rubbish.
WeMo & the connected home
However, a key reason to buy the NetCam HD+ is its compatibility with Belkin’s WeMo switches and IFTTT; it’s theoretically possible to get your lights to automatically witch-on, or flash, or even begin a baffling sequence, if there’s an intruder.
Easy to use
With good quality video and a nice option for stills, the Belkin NetCam HD+ has an easy to use app with plenty of functionality. Simple to set-up and to understand and navigate, the microphone is great and the camera is discreet. However, since its NetCam Cloud+ charges aren’t yet clear, it’s difficult to judge it against the competition, though the free 30-day trial is a definite plus. It’s just a shame about that lack of iPad app.