Logitech's latest set of home-surveillance cameras lack any weather-proofing and are therefore intended for indoor use only, although the company's indoor and outdoor systems are entirely compatible on the software end. This enables you to mix and match them, with up to six cameras on one network. Overall, the system offers an easy way to see what's going on at home when you're not there, even in the dark of night.
Design and software
Thanks to the supplied mounting hardware, which even includes a suction cup option, you can put the cameras just about anywhere, from wall to ceiling. However, Alert cameras use HomePlug Powerline technology to access your home network, so a nearby power outlet is required.
You also need to connect your router to the power lines so the camera can be seen by computers as well as for any Internet functions (like watching a live feed from the cameras on your mobile phone). So make sure your home router also has a spare outlet nearby.
The full view of the Alert Commander software provides camera view and controls on the right for zoom, volume, and access to other cameras on the system.
The Alert camera is somewhat bulky, measuring approximately 7.1 x 11.2 x 4.6cm (W x H x D). If you choose not to mount it, it sits in a cradle that doesn't allow position adjustment - there's no tilt, for example. But the wide-angle (130-degree) lens has a viewing area wide enough to cover most room sizes, so this isn't a huge problem. The HomePlug adapter for each camera is almost the same size. Both sport an array of LEDs to provide insight on network traffic (you can turn them off for added stealth).
Change the amount of disk space you assign to saving video clips in the settings.
In a nice touch, each Alert camera has a microSD card inside, which can store up to 2GB of video. According to Logitech, that's enough for one week of recordings in a typical home. The company also promotes a free Dropbox account, so that you can back up and store your security videos in Dropbox's 2GB of free online storage. If you go over the 2GB provided by the supplied microSD card on the camera, you can use your PC's hard drive for additional storage. You can specify in the Alert Commander software how much disk space to use.
You could pay for the Logitech Alert cameras and that's it - local DVR recordings cost you nothing. If you're on the go and have an Android, iOS, or BlackBerry device, real-time viewing is always free with an app download. However, you can subscribe to the optional Logitech Web and Mobile Commander service for £49.99 a year to watch recorded video on your phone or a remote PC. You can also manage the entire system this way, or even share clips and control multiple sites that have the Alert software installed.
Features and performance
At the core of the system is the Logitech Alert Commander software, which runs on a Windows system on your network. There's no Mac version. You can control up to six Alert cameras at a time and playback is very good, with no buffering problems. However, it's only 960 x 720-pixel video, running at 15 frames per second - not exactly full motion, but sufficient nonetheless.
The motion detection of Logitech Alert cameras is not limited to the whole image; you can create motion zones for the software to monitor.
Email alerts can be sent by the software whenever motion is detected. Luckily, you can throttle down both the sensitivity and the timing, so you're not inundated with messages. You can also set up zones of view to monitor for motion, so you don't get an alert just because a ceiling fan is spinning. In this case, only motion video is captured, which saves on disk space. You can also sit and watch the real-time video feed, or use Playback mode to skip through to the captured sections whenever motion was detected. Fortunately, you can fast-forward at up to 8x speed if there's a lot to see.
Even in total darkness at 2am, the Logitech Alert 750n camera detected motion and recorded movement.
The 750n camera ‘sees' very well in the dark. Even in what humans would perceive as pure darkness, the lens can witness plenty. There's a microphone on the camera so you can listen to what you see, but no speaker, so there's no talking back to whoever you're spying on.
I tested with an iPhone 4 and the app worked flawlessly, streaming video from the security camera to the router and out to the Internet and to the phone. The video was subject to a lot of buffering delay when the handset wasn't on Wi-Fi.
The Alert system's cameras might be a little too big for stealthy installations, and the use of HomePlug rather than Wi-Fi makes camera placement less flexible. However, the Logitech Alert cameras use the power lines incredibly well and feature a quick, slick setup procedure. Adding Wi-Fi to a future generation of Alert cameras will only make the range better.
Logitech addresses cloud storage with the Dropbox solution, but more storage could be expensive if you need to backup months of footage. The optional £49.99 Web and Mobile Commander service is versatile, so the truly security conscious should make the upgrade so they can manage, view, and monitor the system on the go or via the web.
Pros: Each camera records to 2GB microSD (supplied), night vision, excellent motion detection, mobile apps for remote viewing.
Cons: Pricey, Windows PC required, not true HD, no automatic video backup to the cloud (relies on Dropbox).