Logitech adds Mac support for Alert security systems (November 26th, 2012)
Product Manufacturer: Logitech
-Lots of installation equipment
-Custom motion zones
-Alert via email or text
-Access from mobile, web or desktop apps
-Onboard microSD storage
-HomePlug Powerline via outlets
-Terminal tweaks required for OS X
-No easy NAS configurations
-Dropbox requires desktop client up and running
-960x720 falls short of true HD
-Remote management costs $80 per year
Logitech is better known for its computer peripherals, but the company has also been in the home-security business for several years. Logitech Alert security systems offer a wide range of surveillance and remote-monitoring features, and the company has finally introduced a desktop management utility for Macs. In our full review, we try out the indoor master system and Alert Commander for OS X.
The 700n indoor camera and 700e outdoor camera serve as at the backbone for Logitech's security systems. The company refers to its master systems as the 750n or 750e, respectively, and we have focused on the indoor variant.
We were surprised to find all of the conceivable mounting accessories included in the 750n package. Users can place the camera on a desktop cradle, stick it to a window using a suction cup mount, or attach it to a traditional post mount with three-axis manual adjustments.
The post mount includes all of the necessary hardware to attach the base to a wood structure or directly onto drywall. A Phillips-head screwdriver and drill were the only tools required for our drywall attachment—the most complicated option. This was successfully completed without referencing the setup guide.
We do not recommend attempting to use the suction-cup mount to place the camera against a window and attempt to monitor outdoor activity. Although the mounting kit includes the necessary components, the camera's infrared illumination creates reflections in the glass at night. Rather than viewing the outdoor scene, the video feed is dominated by images of the camera's own lens reflecting off the window glass. The setup seems to work during the day, but is essentially useless at night if the outdoor viewing area is not illuminated by other lights.
We assumed the 750n system utilized Wi-Fi to connect the camera feed to a home network, however it actually takes advantage of HomePlug communication via home electrical wiring. A single cord connects the 700n camera to its A/C adapter, which sends the video to a second HomePlug adapter near a wireless router.
The HomePlug approach eliminates the need to manually configure any network settings, since the system essentially plugs directly into a router's RJ45 ports. The software then automatically detects any cameras connected to the home network.
We placed the camera in the same room as our router, without adding any additional cameras beyond the single unit included in the kit. In large or old homes with Wi-Fi reception issues, or with several cameras connected to the system, the HomePlug feature may prove beneficial to simplify setup and avoid quality issues. The system supports up to 200Mbps data dates, secured by 128-bit AES encryption, without detracting from Wi-Fi bandwidth.
The 700n camera is capable of recording 960x720 video at up to 15 frames per second, while infrared illumination enables night recording with a claimed range of up to 50 feet. The camera sensor is paired with a wide-angle lens that views a 130-degree spread.
Logitech advertises its cameras as "720 HD," but the marketing claim is a bit of a misnomer. The generally accepted minimum for "HD" equipment is 1280x720 resolution, or 1920x1080 for "Full HD," due to the wider aspect ratio. Security cameras primarily serve as a deterrent, but when a building is burglarized, every extra pixel can help identify the criminals. Obviously 960x720 is better than 640x480, however the prevalence of 1080p cameras leaves us disappointed by the lack of a higher resolution.
Despite our wish for 1080p video, the 700n performs well in a wide range of lighting conditions. The camera easily provided a full view of our living room, whether at 4am in full darkness or 2pm with bright sunlight entering through the windows. The wide-angle lens was also effective in covering nearly the full length of two walls, including two doors and five windows in our test room.
When motion is detected in the viewing area, the camera begins recording the scene to an onboard microSD card. The company includes a 2GB card, though users can add their own card to expand the storage capacity.
The software can also be configured to automatically save recordings to a local hard drive, or upload the content to the cloud via Dropbox. The local-recording option seems practical if someone does not rely on a notebook computer that will be away from home at the same time, and if the desktop computer is not stolen in a burglary.
We feel that cloud storage is the best option for storing surveillance videos. If a feed is uploaded to remote servers, criminals cannot simply steal the camera or local computers to destroy evidence. Unfortunately, using Dropbox with the Logitech system has a few drawbacks. With most consumer-level Internet connections, the upload speed is throttled and necessitates long upload times. The system also requires a home computer constantly connected to the Interent, with Alert Commander and Dropbox clients continuously running. Consequently, if a burglar steals the computer that is uploading the surveillance feed, the upload may be interrupted before any helpful evidence is placed in the cloud.
The OS X client replicates the same functionality that has been available for Windows machines. Users can view live feeds on the home network, access previous recordings, and configure a range of settings. Previously, Mac users would have had to pay for the $80/year Web Commander service to access the same management options without a PC.
We encountered problems getting Alert Commander to work with a Late 2011 15-inch MacBook Pro running OS X 10.8.2. Initial installation worked fine, but we were unable to view live feeds from the desktop utility without first changing port settings via Terminal. The workaround process was explained effectively in the company's support forums, and we expect the issue to be quickly resolved in a software update, but initial buyers should be aware of this potential problem.
Any modern security-camera setup should have motion alerts, and the Logitech Alert system is no exception. Users can manually choose particular zones for monitoring, reducing false alerts and saving storage space, while notifications can be sent via e-mail or text message.
The OS X utility provides a "pan, tilt, zoom" feature, however it simply crops the video feed to focus on a particular area. This is another misleading claim, which implies that the camera actually has the ability to pan, tilt or zoom to view different areas. Some security cameras have this "PTZ" capability, enabling advanced features such as motion tracking, however the Logitech cameras are fixed.
We like the LED controls in the software, which can be used to turn off the red light that otherwise shines constantly when connected and blinks when detecting motion. Users can also turn off the lights on the HomePlug adapters by sliding a manual switch on each unit, fully concealing the system in a dark room.
The 750n indoor master system is hard to beat, especially if easy setup and remote access top the priority list. The system is not very flexible, however, making it difficult or impossible to configure local NAS storage, third-party cameras, or alternative cloud-based upload options.
Users can remotely view the feeds for free, either from smartphone apps or web browsers, however remote management is part of a premium package that costs an additional $80/year. The mobile apps are available for all popular platforms, including Android and iOS.
The indoor master system carries a retail price of $300, while the water-resistant outdoor variant brings the price up to $350. Each indoor add-on camera costs $230, while the outdoor cameras costs $280. If buyers are attempting to manage the maximum of six cameras, they should anticipate at least $1400 for indoor cameras, or over $1500 if a few outdoor cameras are thrown into the mix.