Logitech Digital Video Security System

After the break-in at the family home a couple of years ago, I’ve been keeping my eye on home surveillance equipment but haven’t seen anything that can offer comprehensive surveillance. But then came the offer to review a range of products from Logitech which promises to offer the complete package for home video surveillance.

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Logitech has designed their product range to be easy to use and simple to setup. The equipment is mostly plug and play and the cameras can either sit standalone or fitted to a wall with some basic DIY. The range includes three core products, two indoor surveillance cameras and one outdoor camera. The two I tested as part of this review are the indoor security camera and the clock camera add-on. A third option of an outdoor weather-proof camera is also available.

Using ethernet-over-power technology, both camera systems communicate with your computer using your home’s internal power cabling – so there’s no need to trail Ethernet cables around the house or rely on a wireless connection. Connection to your computer requires the included USB adapter that plugs straight into your power socket.

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The great thing about this method of connectivity is there’s minimal setup involved. All of the equipment is plug-and-play and with no network configuration. A software suite comes with the main camera system which provides you with a one-stop-shop for viewing the live video feed, managing the camera settings and viewing archive footage.

The Master System, in this case, the Indoor Video Camera comes in three parts. There’s a table-stand, the camera, USB adapter, and the power/data connector. Included in the box are the fittings for attaching the camera to a socket wall mount that allows you to adjust the angle of view and tilt.

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A clock camera also came with the review kit which has a cleverly hidden camera inside a fully functioning desktop clock. Unless you knew this was a security camera from the start, you wouldn’t ever be able to tell that it has a camera built-in because there’s no markings and at the back there’s just a power cable.

Software installation takes just a few minutes and can auto-detect the cameras in your setup. In my testing, I used two cameras which displayed a flawless image in daylight conditions and reasonable quality at night. The software can support up to six cameras of any mixture (indoor, clock, outdoor), each with its own recording channel. You can view these cameras at the same time in a grid view format with the ability to enlarge one for close-up view. A timeline playback facility also allows you to view when recordings took place for each camera so you can instantly see when activity took place for any period of time.

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By default, the cameras have a flashing LED signifying the cameras are active and acting as a deterrent to any would-be thieves. However, if you wish to be more discrete, there is the option to have these activity lights turned off. One of the features that I came to appreciate was the ability to adjust the camera lens through the software to enhance the image. Settings like brightness can be adjusted manually, or you can use the automatic mode which adjusts the settings according to the lighting conditions.

As part of the Logitech package, you also get free access to your camera-feed through the Logitech website. The software also has an e-mail facility that sends you alerts when motion has been detected on a per-camera basis. This is very useful feature if you have mobile e-mail, because the Logitech WiLife website is compatible with Windows-based mobile phones – so you can view the live feed of the alert right from your phone.

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Despite this rich set of functionality, there is one issue that needs to be considered before you invest in this multi-camera setup. The camera system is only active if your computer is switched on and the same goes for the online access. Should the thieves decide to smash up the computer or steal the system used for recording, then the whole purpose of a security system becomes moot. However, the software can attach video clips or stills in WMV format with its email alerts – so chances are the intruder will have been captured and the e-mail sent before the thief can get to your system.

Logitech offers a £49/year subscription which gives you extra features to its online component – such as video uploading and remote playback of recordings. But all of this relies on your system being intact, switched on, and connected to the internet. The video upload feature doesn’t automatically upload the clips to the Logitech server which would have made the subscription cost a no-brainer.

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This is one of the most comprehensive systems I’ve seen that delivers on what it says it does. Yes there are some issues that need to be considered before you invest, but Logitech offers as close to the perfect home surveillance kit that I’ve yet to see. At around £240 for the ‘master system’, it is quite expensive to get started but it does come with the software and all the kit you need, including the free online access. And since it’s all modular, Logitech does make it easy for you to add more cameras at a later date which come in slightly cheaper with prices of around the £200 mark.

2009-09-19 Onwah Tsang

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