(Pocket-lint) - Shelling out £300 along with a big, fat subscription on smart home security is not everyone's idea of money well spent and, indeed, why should it be? Let's face it: there's a very good chance you'll never actually use the thing to catch a burglar in the act (fingers crossed!).
The Honeywell Lyric C1 is the antithesis to the pricey smart home solution; this no frills sub-£100 home camera comes wihtout the need to make monthly payments, too. Very tempting indeed. But is it too stripped down to do the job required?
- 11cm tall
- Tilting stand, or wall-mountable
- USB powered (via mains socket)
- microSD card slot for hard copy backup
We like a smart home security camera that looks as little like a security camera as possible. After all, these are internal devices and it's best not to make your guests feel like they're on CCTV all the time.
Sadly, there's no escaping that the Lyric C1 looks like a camera. It has a pretty clear lens, an LED light - which, actually, you can switch off for a more covert appearance if you choose - and no form of subterfuge or disguise whatsoever. You won't mistake it for a Bluetooth speaker like you might, say, the original Canary. And, no, it's not going to win an IF Design Award.
Looks aside, the Lyric C1 is certainly functional. It comes with a neat magnetically-attaching, plastic, tilting stand to help get the best angle on the room you wish to observe. It'll sit nicely on any shelf and or you can hang it on the wall with a screw (not included), which the C1 is happy to hang itself upon without need of any further bracket.
You will need to put it relatively close to plug socket with it powered by a USB cable but, at at very tidy 11cm in height, you're not going to struggle for a surface to stick it on.
Perhaps the one bonus piece of design is that it comes with a microSD card slot which is used as back-up storage. If your Wi-Fi fails and the Lyric can't record to its cloud servers, then it will write the evidence onto hard storage, which it will then upload when a connection is re-established. Nice idea.
Detection and video recording
- 135-degree wide-angle field of view
- 720p (1280 x 720) video resolution
- Up to 5x in-app zoom
- Night Vision
- 30-second video capture only
- 24-hour cloud storage only
Unimpressive looks aside, the Lyric C1 certainly does the job. It has a motion detector and a sound detector, both of which work as well as any other, and you can modify the sensitivity of each between low, medium and high settings. You can even turn them off entirely if, for instance, you're living next to a building site which would send your synched phone into a tizzy of sound alerts if you left the noise detection running.
Between all the options, you can get false positives down to a minimum of around three or four per day. That's going to vary depending on where and how you live but, to give you some kind of comparison, the C1 performed as well as any of the top brands and their models on this front in our setting. It's really only the likes of the Nest Cam IQ and other cameras with person detection and face recognition that could better it and, even then, that would take a fair bit of training the software to know friend from foe.
The comparatively low resolution of the Lyric C1 isn't something we're too worried about. Resolution in these devices is a bit of a red herring anyway - but it can manage 720p with a 5x digital pinch-to-zoom (accepting the quality limitations) and has a night vision mode that does the trick (but that isn't great).
If we'd set the thing up in some stately home in a grand room, then, sure, you'd probably struggle to make out the features of your subject but, in a typical UK home, it's rare that the perp is going to be far enough from the camera to really require any more pixel detail. Higher res is handy but probably only strictly necessary if your camera is one that auto-zooms in on faces - which the Lyric C1 does not.
All that said, we're not totally convinced by the lens. It covers a 135-degrees field-of-view, which is good, but it's not so good on the vertical axis. If your subject is any closer to the camera than two or three feet, then it won't capture their head. This isn't a deal-breaker, but bear that in mind when it comes to positioning.
What we're not too impressed with is that the C1 is none too clever at videos with high dynamic range (HDR). That's a problem when it comes to bright light sources and shadowy areas in the same scene. Figures were very shadowy when there was a light on in the background and we're not totally convinced that you'd get enough facial features on an intruder to make an ID.
The Lyric only records 30-second videos which, again, is a bit off, but you could probably get what you need in that time. All clips are whizzed straight up to Honeywell's cloud and are accessible both there and on your timeline for streaming and downloading for 24 hours. It's not that long but you don't necessarily need that long and, given there's no subscription to pay for the privilege, we're not complaining. If you want longer, there are other pricier options out there.
Settings and features
- iOS and Android app compatible
- Control and monitor from anywhere
- Geofencing, knows when you're home
- Motion and sound detection alerts
- Amazon Alexa compatibility
- Two-way audio
Smart home security cams really need to know whether you're home to work properly - otherwise they're going to send you alerts all the time about you intruding into your own home. The C1 only uses geofencing to do this, so when your app-installed device with GPS is within relevant range to your camera it'll know you're at home. Otherwise, it's up to you to turn the camera on and off from your app when you come and go.
Now, while the geofencing works, you can't control the range well enough. It can go as wide as you like but can only go down to about a 500m radius. For us, that's a problem, as we don't live in a 500m mansion, like most Brits.
We setup the Lyric in a small house where we spend plenty of time away from home but still less than 500m from the house. That would mean anyone could sneak in and take everything while we were down at our local for the evening and the Lyric would not record a thing. Not cool. Quite why Honeywell doesn't allow the geofence to shrink further is hard to say - but it needs sorting. Now, that would be ok if there was another option like using time scheduling or face recognition to figure out when you're away or when you're home, but this device isn't capable of that either.
In terms of bonus features, you do get the two-way, walkie-talkie radio to play with where you can speak to people near the camera through the app on your phone. It's a bit rubbish though and the audio tends to cut out a lot.
The other piece of interest is that the C1 can recognise the shrill calls of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. So, if one goes off in your house while you're out, you get an alert on your phone. We didn't have much day-to-day call for it - but it's an interesting and cheap way of making other gadgets in your home act smarter. It's also not a feature we've seen anywhere else (some, like Nest, can sync with smoke-detection Nest products, but that's a different method altogether and requires compatibility).
The app is unspectacular, but smooth and clear in operation. It didn't make us spend years while it buffered the vids, the timeline was very useable and it was obvious where everything was. You get a couple of action zones to play with to harness the motion detection a little better too.
There's no Home or HomeKit or compatibility to ge excited about, but Alexa will show you your videos if you've got her connected to a device on which you can view them.
The Honeywell Lyric C1 is a no frills home security product: it works fine enough within its feature set, but that feature set is too basic to always be of use.
The geofencing limitation is the main issue for us. You could conceivably buy a C1, set it up and completely ignore it until the terrible day that you're robbed but, even then, we're not entirely convinced it would either record in the first place or that the footage would either be long enough or of great enough quality to be able to nail the perp. And if there's no peace of mind, then why bother?
The Lyric C1 sounds hard to ignore at just £85 - but you might be better off if you did.
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