Review: Dropcam Echo

When I first wrote about Dropcam I was fairly excited. Why? Because I had been looking for a simple DVR/security system for my home so I could see if the FedEx guy was at the door. Dropcam appeared, disappeared, and then was launched a few months ago. In the interim I started using a Linksys wireless cam and Vitamin D and that has worked extremely well and then Logitech came out with their Alert system which took security to a whole other level. Dropcam, it seemed, was left in the dust.

Now that I’ve tried the new Dropcam Echo, however, I find that it works well enough and the price, $279 with unlimited monitoring via the web or the attendant iPhone app, is acceptable if a little steep.

You will never be this happy.

The Echo is a small wireless webcam with built-in microphone. This means you can listen in on a space as well as see it. It includes free email alerts that notify you when something moves across the camera’s field of vision but the online DVR service costs $9 a month. What you are really buying here is the service and the camera, an OEM model, isn’t the real draw.

Setup is dead simple: you plug the device into an Ethernet port, configure it via a web interface, and then unplug it. It sits on your wireless network and all you have to do is plug it in and point it at whatever you want to guard. I have mine pointing out the upstairs window. It’s very exciting.

You can watch the camera via a web interface- you can even listen to what the camera hears. The real draw, however, is the iPhone app. It lets you view and listen to your live camera over Wi-Fi or 3G networks. If you have notifications set up the device will send you a quick note and then you can view it remotely. It’s great for rarely-trafficked places like alleys, crawlspaces, and pervert-dungeons.

The camera’s viewing angle is very good and low-light performance is acceptable although not perfect (things get murky at night, but that’s to be expected. The device is not really weatherproof so you don’t want to leave it in the bushes near your neighbor’s house.

What is this good for? Basically it’s a great home monitor for watching your cat, the babysitter, or your front door. It’s not an ideal outdoor monitor nor is it particularly useful in my case simply because I want to be notified immediately when someone is at the door and see who it is with a quick move of the mouse (which Vitamin D excels at). Dropcam’s notifications are a little to slow for this. However, for example, you are a dwarf who wants to be generally notified if someone is skulking around your gold pile, this might work.

My only concern is that there are better and more feature-rich devices out there. However, at $199 for the lower end Dropcam model and $100 extra for audio, the Dropcam is a compelling option for the budding paranoiac.

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