Review Dropcam® HD – Wins on Simplicity, Design, and Execution

— Howard Sobel, Reviews Editor

There are lots of devices that claim to be easy to install. Dropcam has developed a Wi-Fi wireless solution that takes literally seconds to set up. That’s quite an acheivment when you pull it off correctly.

The box claims “Watch online” in 60 seconds. I didn’t have a timer going but it sure was very close to its promise. I’ve installed quite a few other Wireless IP Cam solutions which were easy to install but none were as easy as this. Having installed hundreds of hardware devices and thousands of software apps, my main flaw is that I tend to try to jump ahead anticipate the next step after scanning the directions. Sometimes I omit steps by not carefully reading the quick start until I run into trouble. Sometimes it’s a good test because many users tend to do the same.

To intall Dropcam, all you have to do is drop in the black, round, well designed camera into its silver very minimalistic looking but nicely designed housing. Then, plug in the extra long Micro USB cable into your USB port. The USB cable doubles as a power source when plugged into the micro USB compatible electric socket adapter. Very much like an iPhone or iPad or Android charger device. Next, wait for the software driver to install. On my Windows 7 machine installation was exceptionally easy because of the way they’ve chosen to implement the install using “Autoplay”. The device is seen as another drive by the PC. When the driver is installed the auto play option kicks in and opens. On the screen it clearly tells you to choose “open file”.

There among the files you will clearly see a Dropcam setup. Once you click that you’re almost done. Fill out a form with a user name and password, tell Dropcam how to connect to the wireless network and the SSID that you wish to use and give it the password if needed. That’s about all there is to setup. It is literally plug and play. Unlike the Swan Swan Smart ADS-450 software install which leaves some doubt as to exactly when you’re connected to the WiFi, Dropcam lets you know you’re now connected and can safely disconnect the USB cable. There are no other switches to flip. It then tells you that you can now move the unit anywhere within range. You can do this as many times as you want and not have to change settings. I then walked it into the next room and plugged it in. Walked back to the monitor and it was live. The only time you would need to hook back up to the computer is to change to a differant Wi-Fi network.

Now back to filling out the account. There are three subscription options. The only thing you can possibly mess up is losing the free full trial by going too fast. If you pick a subscription option like “Basic” which is free you will cancel your free full trial option. So let the trial run and then pick an option when it’s over. The first option Basic (FREE) plan includes free monitoring and two way voice but no HD/DVR recording. The second option is PlusHD ($9.95 month) which comes with free monitoring and 7 days worth of recording. The third is PROHD ($29.95 month) and comes with 30 days of recording. See chart below.

You can change settings easily through Dropcam’s site or use either the great Android or iPad apps which you can download from respective app stores. I installed the Dropcam iPad app . Instllation was simple but excellent. It took longer to download than to setup. Once I put in my login I was watching my cam and you can change settings through it which are saved on the Dropcam web site. There are several setting options and you do you have the ability to take and save a snap shot with the free/basic subscription as well as two way talk. The options include: Notifications of events/movement, live view, talk and the general settings button. The general settings will let you customize the alerts, night vision status, status light, digital zoom, flip (180 degree rotation, Microphone and time zones. You can add multiple Dropcam cameras to your profile and screens if you wish. The field of view supports 107 degrees horizontal.

NextI downloaded and installed the Android app. Again it took seconds. Again the app was simple and elegant and included similar options all easy to access. I know I am starting to drool all over this article but as someone who appreciates a good UI I can’t help but note that the Dropcam team designed both a hardware solution and software and did it with extremely well. They really know how to design and execute. Once you have one of the mobile apps set up on your device you will get a “notificaton” that there is motion on the camera if something happens to catch its attention.

I knew in advance that this solution was not a 360 pan tilt camera. They can be much more expensive and more difficult to install. The nice thing about this camera is the wide angle fish eye type view it gives you. This is extremely helpful when viewing from a fixed location. You now have a suburb solution to monitor a room in your home, pets, baby, whatever needs a third eye while you’re away!

Pros: Easiest setup and solution I’ve tested. Great mobile apps. Great design. Customer support by email and phone. Camera sharing. Unlimited live viewing in Basic. Mobile app snapshot. Night Vision. Digital Zoom. Two way talk. 720P compressed video (1280×720) 80211/b/g/n. Long micro USB /adapter. Secure data encryption.

Cons: Some other solutions give you free video capture. Pricing plans a little pricey but simplicity to install may offset this for many folks.

List: $149.99 for hardware (free to premiere pricing for service) Dropcam web site

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