by Brent Dirks
October 30, 2013
Company: Dropcam Product: Dropcam Pro Price: $199 Compatibility: Any iOS device Website: www.dropcam.com Date: Oct. 30, 2013
The ProductIntroduced earlier this month, Dropcam’s new Pro camera is more than just an incremental upgrade. The new camera is designed to significantly improve on pretty much every area compared to the previous generation of device from the company – Dropcam HD. And it delivers. Most importantly, the video quality has been ramped up. With a six-element, all-glass lens, the company promises two times sharper video in day mode and seven times better quality in low-light and night situations. I replaced my Dropcam HD with a new Pro a few weeks ago, and I can definitely say those claims are on the mark. My camera is mainly used as a baby monitor in my 2-year-old son’s room. And it gets a lot of work in both day and night mode as I can quickly and easily see what he’s doing while sleeping or playing. First up, the Pro has a 130-degree field of view, a 20 percent improvement over the previous model. So I can place the camera on a dresser in the middle of the room, and see from wall to wall of the fairly large room. While the improved video quality during the day is nice, I’ve mostly used the camera in low-light/night situations. And the Pro’s image quality in those situations is remarkable. With the HD, I had problems seeing specific objects in my son’s room and had to make sure the camera wasn’t moved or his bed was hard to see. But that’s all changed with the Pro. In a completely dark room, the entire scene is easily visible, and I can even see if my son’s eyes are closed when he is supposed to be sleeping. The Pro has also been upgraded to feature dual-band wireless networking. If you have a router that can take advantage of the 5 GHz spectrum, the streaming video should be even less of a drain on your bandwidth. Dropcam is positioning the Pro as an ideal hub for the growing trend of home automation with Bluetooth 4.0 capability. In the future, the camera could easily be able to integrate with other low-energy Bluetooth devices. As an example, the camera could automatically turn on when it senses that you have left the house.
The AppEven though the video feed can be accessed directly through Dropcam’s site, the free companion app is well designed and easy to navigate. A universal app for the iPad/iPad mini, it’s easily the best way to access your camera. Just after introducing the Pro, version 3.0 was released in the App Store. And just like the new camera, the app also continues to get better. Easily the biggest plus of the new app is the pinch-to-zoom capability. Dropcam CEO Greg Duffy said the company researched creating a pan-tilt-zoom camera, but eventually decided against the idea because of the large number of moving parts required. But the software solution is almost as good. In any scene, Pro users can take advantage of up to 8x zoom. And don’t worry about reduced image quality. Thanks to the enhance button on the bottom right of the screen in horizontal orientation, the zoomed image jumps off the screen. Just for fun, I played around with the feature, and was able to easily zoom in and make out the individual titles of books on my son’s dresser after enhancing the scene. The app also makes setting up the Pro a breeze. Instead of having to hook the camera into your computer, the entire setup process can be done through the app. Simply tell the app to find your camera, enter any network password information, and the camera is running. The entire process took me less than a minute. Choosing the Activity Feed tab in the portrait view of the app will bring up the cloud video recording section of the app. Users can also sign up for the option to enhance the free live video monitoring. Seven days of continuous recording is $9.95 per month while 30 days is $29.95 per month. Additional cameras can be added for 50 percent of those prices. All new Dropcam Pro units come with two free weeks of the CVR functionality, and it’s a great time to test it out and see if the extra fee is worth it. It’s especially nice with an iPad to easily swipe through an entire day’s worth of video clips. Clips can also be shared with family or friends and even downloaded to a computer. If you’re looking to use the camera as a home security tool, I think the extra fee is definitely worth it. Even if you don’t sign up for the feature, push notifications can be set to alert on a sound or motion event.
- Vastly improved video quality in both day and night/low light situations.
- Spectacular field of view covers 130 degrees of an area.
- Simple setup.
- Universal app is well designed and easy to use.
- Zoom and enhance feature works as advertised and almost replicates a PTZ camera.
- Dual-band Wi-Fi capability.
- Low-energy Bluetooth support should lead to some interesting uses down the road.
- Recorded video requires a monthly fee.
- Not weatherproof.
Our AdviceIf you’re looking for a simple to use video monitoring system to use with your iOS device, the Dropcam Pro should be your first and only stop. The new version has taken everything good about the Dropcam and made it even better. It’s highly recommended. Even though the previous generation camera, now known simply as Dropcam, can still be purchased for $50 less, save up the extra money and purchase the Pro edition. The improved video quality alone is worth the extra money, the new features are simply a bonus. And even if you currently own a Dropcam, the Pro is an upgrade worth considering.
ScoresAesthetic Appeal: ★★★★☆ Wow Factor: ★★★★★ Build Quality: ★★★★★ Value: ★★★★☆ Buy Now: $199, Dropcam.com, Best Buy, or Apple. [gallery link="file"]