2021-06-23 Security Camera Saga Part 2: Testing 🎥

To recap, I’ve been tasked with selecting a new security camera system for our household and previously did a deep dive into the analysis of it all. Part 1 ended with Jim and I discussing the systems that landed at the top of our list and pulling the trigger on purchasing not 1 but 2 cameras to try out. Thus began my testing phase. 

The two cameras we bought were the Wyze Cam V3 and Blink Outdoor Cam. 

The testing I planned was meant to both validate the findings of my analysis and put them head to head to see if one emerged as a clear winner. They are quite different in some ways so it was also important which one would fit our needs the best. Following is a short breakdown of each.

Wyze Cam V3:Wired (as in plug in an outlet for power), WiFi data transfer, no base station required and an unlimited number of devices on the network, 1080P, clear night vision, weather resistant, two way talk feature, person/pet/package detection, push notifications, and compatible with Alexa. All of this for an unbelievable $35 price tag per camera (sans SD card). 

Blink Outdoor: Wireless (advertised 2 year battery life), WiFi data transfer, base station/receiver required (max 5 cameras on one base), 1080P, clear night vision, weather resistant, two way talk feature, person/pet/package detection, push notifications, and compatible with Alexa. These cameras are $90 each but can be purchased for as low as $72 each if you buy a bundle of 5. 

We were initially interested in traditionally powered cameras only because we have the outlets to support this but the 2 year battery life of the blink made us think outside the box on where we could place cameras so we decided to try it out. 

The short story that sums up my testing phase is that you truly can’t know what you are getting until you test. It’s so revealing. The other spoiler alert is that within about a half a day we made our decision and after more rigorous testing actually considered returning the $90 blink to get our money back.

Here’s why: 

  1. Setup with Blink was not super intuitive and the “QuickStart” card included in the package was missing several key steps that may not be easily figured out by someone without tech understanding. If I think my parents could not figure it out, then it’s not good enough for the gen pop.
  2. The motion detection/smart sensing is ok but it detects and throws notifications for everything (as far as I can tell) and doesn’t have a way to filter out and not get motion alerts from random inanimate things like tree branches swaying in the wind. It seems to sense when the motion is a person because the icon on those events in the app is a person instead of a camera, but again, no way to obviously filter. I also turned the sensitivity way down and still get lots of false positives.
  3. The night vision is supposed to be excellent but it doesn’t seem to be true. It was very blurry and When I googled it it said that it may have something to do with other objects which are in the field of you for the camera. However even after trying a couple of different spots outside it wasn’t much better. I have since moved the camera inside and the night vision inside seems to be much better but we intend for most of these cameras to be outside so that’s a no-go.
  4. The claim of a two year battery life may also be a bit of a stretch. Out of the box maybe, but changing any of the settings about clip length, sensitivity, data retention… All result in warnings that it will reduce the battery life.
  5. Last but not least, the overall price. The camera cost is average all things considered (at least compared to most models on the market today), but in order to store and playback motion triggered events you have to have a subscription plan. 30 bucks a year for 1 camera or 100 bucks a year for up to 10 cameras. Without that, you’d never be able to see recorded video of a potential intruder, only get notification and see the live camera feed. No bueno!

Even without the “head to head” testing where we positioned both cameras in the same area to compare them, the Wyze camera exceeded our expectations. 

Here’s why: 

  1. The setup was a snap and I’m fairly certain that even my parents could do this without my help. For one thing, there’s no base unit that has to be installed first, so it’s just the camera that a person is dealing with. Then it’s a matter of plugging in and connecting to WiFi which the camera itself talks you through. Since the camera has 2 way audio capability, utilizing this in the setup was really smart. I might even go so far as to say it was Wyze. Ha! 😜
  2. After the initial setup I had the camera sitting on a table next to me in my living room. I tested the person detection and recording capabilities. In the same session I also inadvertently tested motion detection when one of my cats crossed the field of view and laid on the coffee table. The app alerted me almost instantly that a pet was detected! So impressive that it differentiates between general motion, people, pets, and packages. And supposedly smart detection of cars is coming soon.
  3. The night vision is excellent and this is one area that’s very important to us. We placed the two cameras side by side in our backyard and while the blink was super blurry, the Wyze was clear as day. It did detect the branches and ivy swaying but the notifications can be turned off for general motion so I was not spammed with alerts like I was with Blink.
  4. The two way talk and alarm feature worked fine, but I can’t see this being important for our daily uses. I also think that these are pretty standard for security cameras today and the Blink did just as well with this when tested.
  5. The integration with Alexa was also fairly straightforward and the device was added in a snap. I turned the Alexa audible alert on and now when a person is detected it announces on all our echos and echo dots. I also splurged for an echo show so I can also see the live feed in the living room if I want to. Super cool. The blink was equally as easy and had the exact same integration, however because the camera does not filter motion events, it was spamming my echos so I had to turn that off and just continue to test with notifications to my phone.
  6. The price tag of the Wyze camera is impressive! These cameras cost about $35 each ($45 if you bundle with a micro SD card) and that’s about ½ to ⅓ the cost of the Blink. But this does not, of course, include a subscription plan. The question then becomes.. do you need one??….

Like most systems I researched, you can get an optional subscription. In many cases this is for cloud storage and playback of events. The Wyze cam can operate without this subscription and unlike the Blink you can get 14 days of recording and playback without shelling out extra cash. That’s incredible!! But for us there IS a catch.

Wyze has a plan called “Cam Plus” that you would need if you wanted to store more than 14 days of events, longer than 12 second clips, not have 5 minute gaps between recorded events, OR (and this is big for us), utilize the AI to distinguish motion events between people, pets, packages, and just general motion. That means if we want to keep that awesomeness we’d have to subscribe. And the price is PER CAMERA… yikes!! 😱 

It’s not terrible, $20 per year per camera (on sale today for $15) but take that times the number of cameras and it adds up.

Both cameras I tested come with a free trial of their sub plan, so you know what you are missing when it goes away. 

Like I said, Wyze has an SD card slot so you can still capture recordings locally and the Blink has a Port for a similar local capture option.

For us, the Wyze was the clear winner of the test and we’ve already purchased the additional cameras for our household. The remaining question will be how many cameras will need the “Cam Plus” option. I suppose we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. No way I want to be alerted in the wee hours of the night that the camera has detected motion every time the wind blows the trees!! 

For all intents and purposes that purchase (and my documenting test results in this post) effectively end the testing phase. Next up… implementation??? 

The actual installation and configuration of the cameras is not a question. What’s in question is if I’m actually going to write about it. I started this “Saga” and wanted to see it through yet have very much lost interest in writing about it. Even this post was painful to get through and I’m pretty sure nobody cares.

If I’m only doing it to satisfy my own desire, and I lost the desire, then what’s the point?!! 

In the last couple weeks I’ve had a few other topics that have come up that would have been good to write through, but this stupid post was hanging over my head and so I attended to it instead. 

On that note, it’s time to cut and run. 

If you found this post interesting AT ALL.. pretty please like or leave a comment. 

With Peace and Love Until Next Time, 

~Miss SugarCookie

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