If you want to secure your home, there’s an abundance of security solutions to choose from. Gone are the days of having cameras connect to a hard drive and store the footage locally, instead, users now want connected solutions that allow them to be notified of events and review footage from their smartphones, anywhere in the world.
Swann has a range of security products that enable you to achieve that, including a connected doorbell and connecting indoor and outdoor security cameras. Over the last few weeks, I’ve spent some time with them and will now walk you through their pros and cons of the following Swann products.
- Swann Outdoor Security Camera (1080p Wi-Fi series)
- Swann Indoor Security Camera (1080p Wi-Fi series)
- Swann Smart Video Doorbell Kit (W-Fi Series)
In theory if you protect the outside with enough cameras, then you’d never be in a situation where you would always capture someone breaking in. It is important to remember than having the bad guys on camera, doesn’t prevent them attempting and possibly succeeding with a forced entry. It’s for this reason that it’s best to layer security and have additional cameras inside the home. Given they are likely going to be closer to a camera inside, it’s possible these will capture the faces or detail necessary for authorities to identify the criminals.
While it’s absolutely possible to buy either product, buying the suite offers a higher level of protection and buying all from a single provider can avoid jumping between apps.
DESIGN AND FEATURES
Looks and features matter
The design of the internal camera and outside camera are surprisingly different for cameras that achieve a fairly similar task. The outdoor camera features a larger, waterproof body, with an external antenna to receive and send video over your WiFi network, given it’ll be further away from your router, this makes sense, although not particularly elegant. On the base of the camera, the stand is designed for a single method of attachment, 3 screws and this base allows for vertical, but no horizontal angle adjustment. Due to the weight of the camera (front heavy), 3M double sided tape is unlikely to work successfully. The camera’s white external shell, shields it from the elements, with the camera rated for use in temperatures between -20c up to 45c. At the time of writing it’s 40 degrees in Wodonga, but this Wednesday, the forecast is for a staggering 46c. I don’t imagine the camera stops working once it passes 45, but this hot Australian summer is indicative of how important the design of the product is, to withstand such extremes.
The front of the camera is black and this black/white combo is the only colour available. In terms of aesthetics around your home, I think a single colour, probably white, would be better, but if the idea is to stand out to potential burglars, then being less subtle is a good design choice.
Included in the front face is the camera lens, a night detection sensor a passive infrared motion sensor, a microphone (so you can listen to audio from the camera feed), as well as an LED indicator and finally Infrared LEDs to enable the camera to see in the dark. Included in the box you’ll find an extra long power extension cable, like seriously long, 18 meters in fact. This is deliberate as in designing the product, Swann understands the best mounting location, say under the eve at the corner of your home, would likely be some distance away from the nearest 240v power outlet. This important inclusion shows that Swann understand the customer and it’s great to see this included, rather than an optional extra, as a majority of customers will need it.
Amazon Echo integration
If you happen to have an Amazon Echo Show, Echo Spot or a 4K Fire TV, then you can ask Alexa to show the camera feed on your device. For those of us with smart speakers without displays this doesn’t help, but if you do have one, it’s great functionality. In an ideal world, this would work through IFTTT and you could rig it up to display on any TV through devices like Logitech’s Harmony Hub. With a Google Home Hub on the bench, I would have also love to test this feature with Google, but it only works with these 3 devices (for now at least).
The indoor camera design is a lot less industrial and much more friendlier with its curved, protracted egg look. It also has a white and black colour scheme, which again is not going to be easy to blend into a white cabinet, or on a shelf. This one has a simple micro-USB to AC cable, so it’s pretty plug and play and could easily be moved between rooms. If you’re only going to buy one of these, I guess you put it in your room with the most expensive valuables, or an entryway in the hope to capture the bad guys entering.
The good news is the internal camera is light enough to secure it with double sided tape and avoid drilling into your walls. If you are absolutely sure about the placement, you can use the drill template to insert 2 screw into the wall and clip the base onto the screws to secure it in place. Swann have designed the internal camera with a ball joint, which means you can rotate the camera horizontally and vertically to get exactly the right view of the room.
The Swann Smart Video Doorbell comes with a chime kit that means you’ll have everything you need in the box to get setup. Upgrading your doorbell to a smart, connected doorbell opens plenty of opportunities, namely talking to couriers when you’re not home and directing them to leave parcels in secure locations. The Swann unit also features motion detection, with heat sensing, so you can get alerts about people (or animals) hovering around the front of your property who would never actually press the button.
For those regular friends and family coming to visit, they’ll have no problems interacting with this relatively new technology, given the doorbell has a convenient silver doorbell button on it. It’s pretty straight forward, they press the button, the chime rings and you can have up to 5 chimes connected to the same doorbell. The mobile app (yes this requires a separate app, known as Swann Buzz), allows you to receive push notifications when someone is either detected form motion detection, or presses the doorbell.
When you tap the notification, you get a live video feed and can enable 2-way audio to converse with the people at your door. The design of the app is ok, however I’d much prefer to have it all integrated into the regular Swann app.
While the other 2 devices are 1080p, the doorbell is only 720p. For most use cases that’s perfectly acceptable, like talking to the kids before remotely unlocking the front door, or asking the door-to-door salesman to politely move on. You should be aware though, that if quality is high in your priority list, there are other smart doorbells on the market that do offer 1080p quality, namely the Ring Video Doorbell 2, so time to play catch up Swann.
The mobile application for Swann, allows you to add multiple cameras to dashboards (or screens) within the application. The add process is pretty straight forward (most of the time). Start by editing the Dashboard (tap icon in the top right), with the camera in connection mode, join it’s wifi network, then enter you’re home WiFi credentials. This then connects the camera directly to your WiFi, without the need for any hub or bridge. The aggregated view of the cameras is nice, however it’s not live. I would love to see a mode where all cameras were feeding live streams into the app, as other systems do offer this.
In the app, you can access the history of motion events and save images or capture video from the camera.
Room for improvement
After reviewing Swann’s wireless cameras last year, the wired solution certainly offers the big benefit of having to never worry about replacing batteries. That cabled solution also comes with downsides, namely the placement location. To capture my back yard, I was able to place a wireless camera on the retaining wall near the fence, far away from the house. Of course this location doesn’t have power and unless I was going to run the cable underground, the wireless option is best in a situation like this. If you are simply going to mount them under eaves, then you can fairly easily run them up into the roof space and connect to power (safely) in the roof.
The doorbell is quite bulky in it’s depth, particularly the top section where the camera is. This does house a very decent 5,000mAh battery, so there’s some rationale for it and there’s also the ability to wire the doorbell in, if you’ve got the cabling for it.
The mobile apps for the doorbell and cameras is different and they really should be integrated to a single solution. Actually searching the Android Store for Swann, there’s actually a crazy number of apps, which just creates confusion. The mobile app for the cameras can integrate both wireless and wired models which is great, however I found arranging these cameras on the dashboard really clumsy. You’d think it’d be as simple as dragging and dropping like you do with apps or widgets on your home screen, but it’s not and should be fixed. It is great that you can assemble dashboards of cameras, but I also would like a single page where I could scroll vertically, rather than sideways.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
How much and when can you get one ?
These cameras and doorbell are available now. They’re available at Swann’s online store directly, or from Bunnings.
- Swann Outdoor Security Camera (1080p Wi-Fi series) – A$149.95 (down from A$199.95)
- Swann Indoor Security Camera (1080p Wi-Fi series) – A$129.95
- Swann Smart Video Doorbell Kit (W-Fi Series) – A$199.95
Those prices aren’t bad in comparison to other products on the market, making it affordable to kit out a home for well under A$1,000.
While the market for IoT security products to protect your home is a crowded one, Swann is a reputable company with many years in the industry. They’ve adapted well to competitors like Ring and while the response was probably slower than some would like, the products in the market now are great options. Providing the choice between wireless and solar panel, or fixed position and wired (with crazy long power cord), the products here can form an ecosystem to protect your entire home.
Adding the all the products necessary may cost you up to a thousand dollars, but I’d suggest starting with one and adding from there. Unlike the traditional CCTV systems, you don’t have to go all-in with 4, 6 or 8 cameras from the start and there’s no real penalty for building one at a time.
While the Alexa Show integration is great, the lack of support for Google Home will make those customers consider an alternative. The product works as advertised, but it’s just one of the challenges of making connected hardware in 2018/2019, everyone wants it to work with everything.
The whole multiple apps thing is a little bizarre, not the end of the world, but if you’re loyal to the brand and buy cameras and a doorbell, you should be rewarded with a seamless experience.
All things considered I’d have no problems recommending the Swann products for securing your home and have done so already to a few friends.
- Wired means no batteries
- Lacks placement flexibility of wireless