(Pocket-lint) - Think of a leading smart home device and most will mention the connected thermostat. For us, however, the smart home security camera has become just as successful – and as if to prove it there are at least 10 or 20 decent models out there, each worthy of your purchase.
Indeed, the home security camera sector has become so successful that companies like Netatmo are branching out beyond the home and into more specialised areas. That's where the Netatmo Presence fits in: it's the French company's answer to outdoor security.
The Presence might not be as pretty or slick as the Nest IQ Outdoor, nor is it cheap. But with Netatmo you don't need to pay for a subscription to run it and harvest all your important recordings. That got your attention, didn't it?
Design and setup
- Mains power installation required
- Built-in 12W LED floodlight panel
- 100-degree field of view
- Weather-resistance (-20C to 50C operation)
- 50 x 200 x 110mm
The Netatmo Presence isn't a looker. It's a big, grey/black rectangular prism in aluminium with the large quadrilateral face of floodlight and sensor on the front. It most certainly missed the memo on smart home product touchy-feeliness and definitely bunked off charm school. But don't let its looks deter you; after all, you won't have it inside your home.
The chunky camera comes with a mounting bracket, which allows you to point it pretty much wherever you like. This sees the Presence stand proud from the wall, making it look larger still. We can see where the product name came from.
Setup is a bit more involved than with an internal camera, but that comes with the territory. You're unlikely to have a ready-made surface for it to sit on, nor a plug socket where you want to put it either. What you need instead is to replace an existing outside light that you might already own and use the wires left sticking out of the wall for the camera. Do a little lining up, some drilling, a little connecting of wires to the included junction box – trust us, this is all easier than it sounds – and you're away. If you don't have anything like this, well, er, you'd better call an electrician.
All the bits required for installation are in the packaging and the instructions are very clear. The only part that is totally awful is the screw that allows you to adjust the bracket is an absolute pig to get to with an alum key. Getting that little thing done up and undone again, you'll be coming up with expletives that have never before existed.
Once the Presence is on the wall and facing where you want, it's just a case of downloading the app and hoping that you set the Presence up within range of your wireless router. On second thoughts, you probably should have checked that out before you bought it. There is no Ethernet option.
Settings and modes
- Daylight and infrared (IR) motion detection triggers recording
- Alert Zones can be set to ignore motion detection
- Car, people and animal detection
- Geofencing via GPS
The Presence only uses motion (including infrared for night-time) to detect and trigger recording, keeping things nice and simple. Sound would be a bit pointless given it's an outdoor cameras because, unless you live in a desert, the outdoors is a pretty noisy place. It does record audio but audio will not set it off to record.
There's no motion detection sensitivity that you can change per se, but the Presence claims it can tell the difference between a car, an animal and person. You can decide what you want it to do when it senses any of them – either ignore, record or record and notify.
We have no idea how good it is with cars because – out of contractual necessity – we had our Presence trained on our back yard where there are no vehicles ever. In terms of people versus animals, though, it certainly knew the difference between a bipedal family member and a bird or squirrel.
At what point it struggles, is hard to say. We didn't have a dog to try it out on, nor do we live in a country with big enough wild mammals for the distinction between man and beast to get much trickier. We'd hope any fool AI system could differentiate between a six-foot person and a three-inch blue-tit. We'd be interested to see if Presence could clock a wild horse as an animal, or a gorilla or a short giraffe, but we digress. The point is that for our situation and, yes, likely for yours too, the Presence knows its onions. Or at least its onions from its cars, animals and people.
The other big feature on this very big device is the LED floodlight panel, which you can set to spring into action when it detects motion. In other words, if you'd rather not terrify a hedgehog with a full blast beam, then you can toggle off the light for animal alerts. Other tricks include dimming the floodlight – we're not sure why you'd want to – or just turning the thing on from the app as you please, which was handy when we wanted to play a little late night football in the garden.
Like all good smart security cams, you can set alert zones (up to four) for where the Presence should take specific note. It's all pretty simple stuff done with your finger in the app, like you're cropping a photo on Facebook or such. These zones really work, too. The wide-angle view from our Presence also happened to include a spot on the edge of the frame where it could see through the window into the kitchen. If we hadn't zoned this out, there'd have been notifications all over the place whenever someone went to make a cup of tea.
The Presence also offers location technology. Like all good smart home products, the Netatmo Presence knows where its users are through asking permission to access your GPS location on your phone's app. As always, it works better if you've got your Wi-Fi switched on but, actually, the Presence was better than most at minimising the alarms when you're in the house. During our testing it never made an error in this field.
Video, storage and subscriptions
- 8GB microSD card included
- Auto-upload to Dropbox or FTP
- No subscription fees, ever
Now let's just say this again because it just might be the best feature of the Netatmo Presence: there's no subscription to pay! Ever! You buy it and then you don't pay more.
That's because there's no Netatmo cloud storage. Instead, videos are recorded onto an 8GB microSD card, which slots in under the chassis. The Presence then auto uploads each video either to Dropbox or whatever FTP server you might have access to. You can instruct the device to hang onto each clip for one week, one month, one year or with no limit. Sure, that can fill up you your folders if there are lots of recordings, but you can set it to upload to a lower resolution for the sake of space and it really doesn't take much to delete them by hand.
The video recorded through the app is decent and clear, and you can pinch-to-zoom as you'd hope. It optimises the resolution according to the connection, but you'll get Full HD (1920 x 1080).
The camera boasts a 20 metre detection distance. Our little yard can't be more than five metres, but we're certainly not going to cry foul. The view using infrared (IR) can reach further than the floodlight view, so you might want to consider switching the light off. That said, the floodlight is an excellent burglar deterrent.
You're not going to get robbed most days, though, so to keep you entertained the app allows you to download a minute-long time-lapse digest of the day. Yep, watch vegetation getting blown around, people putting the rubbish out each day, squirrels eating the garden nuts. Pets tend to increase the likelihood of it picking up the odd gem for social media.
App and HomeKit
- Android and iOS app compatibility
- Multiple family members can sign-up
- Apple HomeKit compatible, Siri voice control
- Google Assistant compatible
The Netatmo app looks a bit like they got the intern to come up with the user interface (UI). That said, it's hard to knock the functionality.
There's a timeline, as you'd expect; all the sliders and settings we mentioned above and even a place where you can manage guest access by adding email addresses to which instructions can be sent regarding installing the app. You can also download videos direct to your mobile as often as you like.
The Presence is one of the few smart home security cameras to be compatible with Apple HomeKit. You can toggle the floodlight on and off, or check out the camera's live view, all using voice-control via Siri. It's also compatible with Google Assistant, so if you have a Nest Hub or Nest Hub Max, for example, you can ask Google to show you your back yard and the Netatmo camera will stream onto the display.
If you really want to get involved in some pointless smart home nonsense, then you can use Netamo's Smart Home Bot. Chat on Facebook Messenger with the bot and it will livestream and operate the floodlight. Full credit to the Netatmo devs for getting it to work. Less credit to the person who came up with the idea in the first place.
Although the Netatmo Presence is exactly what a smart home product shouldn't look like – both in the software and in the metal itself, plus we'll be having nightmares about that bracket screw for weeks – it's still a great outdoor security camera.
Why? Because the functionality is ace. All the alerts and notifications are spot on, the addition of a floodlight adds functionality like few competitors, it'll keep your home safe, while making itself useful on all those other occasions when you're not getting robbed.
Sure, all that weatherproofing doesn't come cheap, but with no subscription fee to ever pay the Presence soon covers its costs. And compared to its Ring and Nest competition it seems like a relative bargain.
Alternatives to consider
Ring Floodlight Cam
A company owned by Amazon, Ring is a name that has, er, presence in the smart home space. From its well known doorbell to this, the Floodlight Cam, which is big and bright and every bit the main Netatmo competitor.
Nest Cam IQ Outdoor
Another big name in the smart home space, Nest, which is owned by Google, offers an outdoor version of its well-known Nest Cam. It's an impressive bit of kit, but its subscription fees for the cloud make it a pricier choice when compared to the Netatmo considering there's no floodlight.