(Pocket-lint) - If you're looking for a good indoor smart home camera but want something that ties into an ecosystem of intelligent smart home products, then there are a few different choices depending on what you're trying to achieve. One of those options includes TP-Link's Kasa Cam - a 1080p smart home camera that works alongside the company's bulbs, plugs and more to create a wonderfully automated home full of convenience and control.
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The TP-Link Cam is also interesting because of the features and specifications on offer, not least of which is two-days of free footage storage without the need for a subscription. Is that enough to make it a worthwhile purchase over and above the competition though? We installed one in our home to find out.
Design, features & connectivity
- Built-in microphone and speaker for two-way communication
- 3m-long Micro-USB power cable
- 2.4GHz and 5GHz (Band1 Band4) Wi-Fi frequency connectivity
- Wall mountable with mounting plate and screws included
The Kasa Cam boasts a stylish and snazzy design. This includes a mirror-like finish on the front of the camera which is a bit of a dust magnet, but looks pretty smart in our view.
It comes with a nicely robust stand that makes it easy to place anywhere there's a flat surface - on a shelf, on top of a cupboard or on a mantelpiece. The stand is also hinged, meaning you can tilt the camera to the perfect angle to capture just the right view of the room. It also has a mounting kit included which means you can attach it to a solid surface.
With the ability to flip the video 180-degrees in the app, you could theoretically mount it on the ceiling with a clear view of a room or area. However, we're not sure the provided power cable, at 3m/10ft, would be long enough for such things. It is a Micro-USB lead though, so you could invest in an extension.
Setup of the Kasa Cam is remarkably easy. It quickly connects to Wi-Fi via the Kasa Smart app for Android or iOS. This is the same app that's used to control other TP-Link products and thus neatly keeps everything in the same place. It also works with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi frequencies, meaning there were no issues with setup or connectivity.
The design of the camera includes an LED status light on the front (that can be turned off from within the app), a sensor to detect surrounding light and movement, and a microphone/speaker combo for push-to-talk communication and audio recording. It also has a removable backplate that gives you access to a reset button should you need it.
Another highlight to this camera is the ability to use Google Home or Amazon Alexa voice control. You can action things like turning it on and off with just your voice or stream footage to a supported display, like a Fire TV or Google Chromecast. Though we did have trouble with getting this to work smoothly during our testing.
1080p HD video snippets with a catch
- f/2.0 aperture lens with 130-degree field of view
- 1920 x 1080 max resolution with up to 30fps (H.264 compression)
- Push notification system with custom privacy and sensitivity settings
The Kasa Cam is designed to capture up to 1080p footage, but you can also switch to either 720p or 360p if your broadband isn't fast enough to cope or you're worried about fair usage internet caps.
The 130-degree wide-angle lens is capable enough to see most of the room the camera is located in with ease, capturing all the necessary angles depending on where you place it.
The way the Kasa Cam works is based solely on movement detection. As standard, if movement is noticed in the room, the camera records a snippet and notifies you on your smartphone.
We found in high-traffic times of the day, when cars drove past and were visible through the windows, this resulted in a bombardment of notifications. This is easy enough to adjust for though: it's possible to tweak the camera's sensitivity levels within the app and setup activity zones to avoid being notified about movement by a window or doorway - or for it to focus on a particular spot instead.
The fact this camera can be set with higher movement and sound sensitivity means it can be used for a variety of things. For example, you could easily use it as a baby monitor and get notified when they wake by the sound of them crying or moving around more in their crib.
However, this setup is also a small downfall of the design. Most other smart home cameras allow you to scroll through a timeline of the day - seeing what the camera has seen during the last few hours or more.
The Kasa Cam works differently in that it only gives you access to recordings that were captured when movement triggered it. You cannot see what happened before or after that point in time. This could potentially lead to issues if you didn't manage to capture the entirety of an event - whether someone breaking into the house or your young child taking their first steps.
A semi solution is to turn the camera's sensitivity up and set it to detect sound as well. This will lead to more recordings and a better representation of what's happened throughout the day, but it will also lead to more and more notifications.
It is worth noting that you can click within the app to record footage at any time. This allows you to capture specific moments on your whim with the simple press of a button, but you do need the app open.
Schedules and Privacy
On the flipside, there are options for enhancing privacy within the app. You can simply power the camera off if you don't want it seeing everything that's happening all day long, or turn off audio recording and set it to only record video footage if you're worried about people listening in on your every word (although audio quality is somewhat muffled, which means it's often difficult to hear what people are saying).
You also have the option to set schedules for the camera. This means you can do things like set the camera to turn on or off at certain times of the day. You could use this to programme it to turn on when you're out of the house at work, but go off again when everyone is home, or only come on at night to keep an eye out while you sleep. Different times can be set for this schedule, including different periods for each day of the week.
Despite the limits to its use as outlined under the subheadings above, the quality of the footage captured by this camera is relatively good. It's clear enough to see faces and the surroundings and the lens handles changes in light with ease.
Like other cameras, the TP-Link Cam allows digital zoom, but the quality of that quickly degrades if you try to zoom in too far.
It also automatically switches to night vision mode when darkness ensues.
Two-way communication for staying in touch
- Built-in microphone and speaker for two-way communication
This camera features a push-to-talk two-way communication system so you can talk to other people at the end of the camera, whether that's family members, guests or unwanted visitors.
However, we found that the standard delay between that audio going up and down to the cloud meant that we could rarely hold a proper conversation with someone on the other side.
You need to press-and-hold the talk button in order to say your piece, then let go and give the person on the other end a chance to reply. The problem here is that person needs to wait for a brief moment before replying - otherwise the start of what they've said will be cut off and you won't get the full gist.
Not an ideal system. It's OK if you want to shout at an intruder or tell the dog to get off the sofa, but that's about all. We've certainly seen other systems perform more effectively - the Logitech Circle 2, for example.
- 48-hours of free footage access via the cloud
One highlight of the Kasa Cam is you get two days worth of recordings stored in the cloud for free. Access to 48-hours worth of footage is certainly a bonus and far more generous than the likes of Nest - which only offers access to three hours of recordings on its free plans.
It's also possible to get access to up to 30 days under subscription via the Kasa Care service. Though that subscription service is yet to launch so we don't know what the costs will be. However, after first installing the camera you'll get a taste of the full example with a 30-day free trial included for free.
TP-Link's Kasa Cam might have some niggles with regards to more intelligent and/or ongoing capture options, but its 48 hours of free footage storage is certainly a highlight - especially as top tier competitor Nest only offers clip storage in the cloud for up to three hours unless you pay more.
We think the quality of footage captured by the Kasa Cam is good enough for helping to keep an eye on the home. However, its movement-based recording system means there's no full timeline before/after events. The push-to-talk system is also fairly unreliable and audio quality is hit and miss.
That being said, the camera is fantastic at letting you know what's going on. We enjoyed the flexibility in terms of sensitivity and privacy options as well as the ability to tie-in with other devices and set schedules.
And if you want more then you can pay extra for a 30 day record time limit - although the price plan hasn't been announced yet. If you don't want to pay anything at all then you could instead opt for a camera with built-in SD card support.
Kasa Cam is one of the most affordable smart home cameras we've tried and, as such, we can forgive most of the niggles and suggest this should be added to your potential purchases list if you don't want all the bells, whistles and expense of a Nest camera or other such system.
Logitech Circle 2
The Logitech Circle 2 offers a lot of the same features as the Kasa Cam - two-way communication, night-vision mode, super-wide angle recordings and more. It also gives you access to 24-hours of footage for free. It is slightly more expensive, but it's also more versatile as it can be used indoor or outdoor thanks to an IP65 weatherproof rating.
The Hive View is certainly one of the best-looking indoor smart home cameras we've tried, but there's much more to this camera than just good looks. It's a tad more expensive than Kasa Cam but does have the benefit being able to be used temporarily off a battery rather than being permanently plugged in. It also offers access to 24-hours worth of recordings for free.