- Loud speaker
- Great video quality
- Attractive design
- Excellent app with ample features
- MicroSD card storage option
- Streaming video hesitates sometimes despite high-speed Internet
Every home should have a security camera even if it’s just for peace of mind. There’s no shortage of options on the market, and just about every budget range is covered. The lower one goes on the budget scale, though, the higher one’s odds of picking up a low-quality, inferior product. Such concerns have been expressed about Chinese company Yi’s wireless Home Camera, but are those concerns valid? Read our review to find out!
The Yi Home Camera is shipped in a small, compact box with attractive and succinct packaging. Upon removing it from the box, the camera feels slightly cheap to the touch (due to thin, lightweight plastic), but doesn’t appear cheap visually. The base to which the camera is permanently affixed is dense and heavy with a non-slip rubber gasket on the bottom. Though my particular camera is white with a black center piece (the camera itself versus the housing), Yi also offers an all-black model.
Though the camera sits flat on a surface, the camera component itself can be rotated without the housing to change the angle of the picture. The housing, meanwhile, is attached to the base with a plastic (but sturdy) hinge that can be adjusted so that the camera is facing fully upward or downward or any angle between the two.
The back of the camera module, meanwhile, features a speaker through which the owner can talk with someone nearby. There’s also a discreet microSD card slot for saving physical copies of photos and videos. The physical attributes are rounded out by a (very bright) blue LED light on the front of the camera. This light is starkly apparent in full daylight and especially at night; it can be turned off using the app if you’re wanting the camera for stealthy recording sessions.
The included power cable, meanwhile, is several feet in length, a welcomed change over the typically short cords many competing companies include with their indoor camera models. The cord is an ordinary micro USB offering that connects to a standard USB wall plug — any Android phone charger will work.
The Yi Home Camera is not my first security camera from China, and based on my past experiences, I expected this model to have a difficult setup process. That wasn’t the case. Yi’s camera was incredibly easy to set up, and the entire process took about three minutes. Voice prompts from the camera itself guided the process, which simply involved installing the app, entering the WiFi password, and then pointing the security camera at a QR code that appears in the app.
Once set up, the camera feed can be accessed over the Internet any time by tapping the camera listed within the app. Both standard definition (SD) and high-definition (HD) video quality options are presented. Users can control whether the camera’s microphone is active, and can also speak through the camera’s speaker by pressing and holding the app’s microphone button. The camera’s speaker is quite loud and more than capable of being heard in a room.
The camera itself captures wide-angle content, but when using the app normally (that is, holding your phone vertically), the visible camera footage is cropped to about a 4:3 ratio. To get around this viewing limitation, the app provides a sort of automatic panning feature that moves the on-screen footage toward the left or right when the phone is rotated.
As expected, the Yi Home Camera supports both continuous recording and motion-based recording, the latter of which means the camera will only record videos when it detects motion. The sensitivity of this motion detection is controllable in the camera’s settings, with users being given a trio of options: low, medium, and high. An active monitoring zone can also be enabled, meaning you’ll only get alerts if motion is detected in one particular area of the footage.
Finally, as far as recording features go, the camera has built-in IR lights for recording footage at night. These lights are enabled by default and will turn on when the camera’s light sensor detects that it is dark. These lights can be disabled using the camera’s app, however.
Unlike some cameras, such as the Funlux we reviewed in November, the Yi Home Camera includes a slot for a microSD card. With this card inserted (and formatted using the app’s prompt), the app makes it possibly to quickly scrub through collected footage using a swiping motion across a timeline. If you don’t want to use (or solely use) a microSD card, there’s also an optional cloud subscription service.
That service offers a free 30-day trial, and offers 15-day loop recordings, 24/7 monitoring, remote access to the saved content through the app, and support for up to five cameras on an account. The service is priced at $14.99/month or $149/year, depending on whether you want monthly or yearly access.
I have low expectations for $40 security cameras, and for good reason: many of them aren’t very good. The setup process is usually sketchy and difficult, the apps are often buggy and crash frequently, and the network reliability can be less than stellar.
Thankfully, none of this is true for the Yi Home Camera. Despite the price, this security camera works exactly the way it is advertised to work, offering a mixture of fast setup, excellent video quality, reliable connectivity, and a fully functional mobile app. The robust array of features — active zones, sensitivity controls, etc — round out the device, and the included microSD slot is a welcomed deviation from typical indoor security cam designs.
The model is available now from Yi for about $40 USD.