Testing Cisco-Linksys IP Home Monitoring Camera (WVC80N)

Author: Benros Emata, Published on Jun 19, 2010

How well can a $120 camera from Cisco work? Is it good (and simple enough) for your home? Does it make sense to integrate with a VMS system?

In this report, we examine our test results of the Cisco-Linksys home monitoring camera (WVC80N). Quite a number of people are using it as evidenced by the camera being the top selling 'home security system' on Amazon. We tested the camera with its own included software and with Luxriot's VMS. Also compare to our test of Cisco's SMB software and PTZ camera (PVC300).

As is standard with all of our camera tests, we recorded performance during daytime, nighttime, indoors, outdoors, wide dynamic range and at controlled lux levels (.3 and 1 lux). In addition, because the camera offers a remote access/managed video feature, we tested those capabilities (for a broader comparison of managed/hosted video options, review our VSaaS comparison report).

This is the first test in a new series examining 'budget' IP cameras. We bought a number of the top selling cameras on Amazon (also including D-Link, Panasonic, Trendnet) and will be systematically going through them in the next 2 months.

Key Findings

Setup: Using the setup wizard included in the CD reported mixed results for ease of use.  All PCs that were used in this test were configured in the same fashion: Windows 7 OS, firewall disabled, and anti-virus disabled.  Although each PC had the same baseline, the setup wizard did not find the Cisco camera on the network in every instance. That could be a problem, especially if the individual does not know how to access the DHCP client list on their router to manually find the camera's IP address.

Monitoring Software: No instructions or manual was included in the CD or hard copy for the monitoring software. The software is simply called, Wireless-N Internet Home Monitoring Camera - Monitor. The software has basic live monitoring features like changing layouts, digital zoom, image quality control, screen snapshot, and microphone level controls.  Although the software could pull up recorded video on a timeline, we could not find any method to export the recorded video from the interface.  One final note: back in the setup process, when the setup wizard did not find the camera on the network, we used the Settings option on the monitoring software, and it was able to find the camera and identify its IP address.

Bandwidth: During our tests, we observed the Cisco camera's bandwidth consumption at 1.5Mbps during the day, and during the night, it jumped to 3Mbps.

Wireless Connectivity: We tested the wireless in and around a two story residential home, and we did not experience any problems in terms of dropped connections, video quality, or performance. Keep in mind, results may vary depending on the amount of wireless interference in your area. The camera does have 802.11n support, but it only supports access points broadcasting at the 2.4GHz wireless band. Since wireless home routers (that broadcast at 2.4GHz) are readily available in residential areas, interference is a real possibility. The camera does not support the newer routers / access points that broadcast on the 5GHz wireless band.

Details of subjects: Since this camera has a fixed lens, the field of view will generally be too wide to get crisp facial details, but good enough for human identification. 

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Nighttime performance: At 0.3 lux, the image will be too dark for practical use, but at 1 lux, image was surprisingly bright; Details of subject could be identified (within an indoor environment).

Third Party VMS Support: We tested camera compatibility with Luxriot DVR software. The VMS did support the camera and the features of changing resolution, setting frame quality, and brightness adjustment.  There was no support for the camera's integrated microphone and the VMS only supported the MPEG-4 stream.

Most of the 'professional' VMS systems do not list support for this camera (for example, none listed for even companies offering some of the broadest 3rd party support in the market such as Milestone, NUUO and Digifort).

Remote access and monitoring:  This product may be a low cost alternative to current SaaS offerings.

The process goes as follows: The setup wizard automatically performs port forwarding tasks on your router, then as part of the setup process, the TZO DDNS service associates your public IP address to a URL. However, if you have more than one camera, it requires you to remember and input the specific port of each camera except for the first one. This can be confusing for the non-technical user (and also difficult to remember and monitor multiple cameras simultaneously).The recurring cost is from the TZO DDNS service, in which a yearly subscription is $19.95 USD.  

Recommendations

For home owners looking for a system that provides "peace of mind" security with a single camera, the Cisco / Linksys WVC80N may be useful because of its relative ease of setup for remote monitoring and the portability in the placement of the unit that the wireless connectivity provides.

In the case for a small business that needs multiple cameras with recording functionality, the WVC80N does provide recording (via NAS device); However, remote monitoring through the TZO service + web interface does not easily accommodate for multiple cameras. In addition, the video monitoring software included with the camera will not be much value for a business other than direct live monitoring because of the software's limited functionality (software not able to export recorded video from interface).

Integrating the WVC80N in a larger deployment of over 8 cameras using a third party VMS is a barrier. Although the camera's performance was good for its price range, the point of weakness is in the VMS support. We have tested the integration of this camera with Milestone Enterprise, Luxriot, and ExacqVision; Out of the three manufacturers, only Luxriot was able to support the camera (and not all camera features were available).

Product Overview

We tested the Cisco / Linksys WVC80N in indoor and outdoor environments during daylight, lowlight, and wide dynamic range scenes. The following key product points were verified through the duration of our testing:

  • Camera supports a maximum resolution of 640x480 and 30fps, but by default, it is set at 320x240 and 10fps
  • Fixed lens, 1/4" CMOS sensor
  • Camera supports MPEG-4 and MJPEG codecs
  • 5 foot long AC power adapter; Cable length may hinder the placement of camera unless extension cord is used
  • Setup is performed through a wizard included on CD; On some PC systems, setup wizard could not detect camera on network
  • Has integrated support for TZO DDNS, a subscription based service that can be configured through setup wizard CD
  • Monitoring software is included, but no documentation for software is available in print or CD
  • Integrated microphone built in, but audio sensitivity is lacking
  • Supports direct recording to NAS; By default, saves recordings in 120 minute clips

Price

The WVC80N may be purchased through retail outlets at an MSRP of $139.99 USD, or online for approximately $119 USD.

Physical Overview

The following screencast details the physical form factor and all of the accessories that is included with the WVC80N.

Key points include:

  • Wireless camera has an internal antenna
  • Wireless supports 802.11n
  • Supports only 2.4GHz wireless band; No 5GHz support
  • Front of unit: power indicator and integrated microphone
  • Side of unit: reset button
  • Back of unit: ethernet port, AC power port, on/off switch, WPS button
  • Stand may be placed below the camera or in back for a wall mount installation

Setup & Configuration

In the following screencast, we examine the process of using the setup wizard included on the CD for the Cisco / Linksys WVC80N.  Keeping in mind that this product is marketed for the home user, we test the ease of installation that the wizard is supposed to deliver.  In addition, we delve into the WVC80N's web interface to configure advanced settings that the setup wizard did not cover.

Key points include:

  • Setup wizard includes step-by-step illustrated instructions
  • During the process of searching for the camera on the network, on some PCs, the wizard failed to find the camera
  • Setup wizard saves your settings information to your desktop as a text file
  • The camera can join your wireless network using the Wi-Fi Protected Setup feature if supported by router, or you may manually input your wireless key
  • Setup wizard configures the camera for remote access of video over the internet
  • Camera has integrated support for the TZO dynamic DNS service, which is a subscription that has a yearly fee
  • Enter your router's username and password so the setup wizard may configure the network ports for remote access
  • Enter a descriptive name for your camera's web address (provided by TZO)
  • Type your web address in a web browser to view your live video over the internet
  • By default, for both MPEG-4 and MJPEG, the resolution is at 320x240, and max frame rate is 10fps
  • Camera supports recording directly to a NAS device
  • Only option for time sync is with local PC; No NTP support
  • No option to enter other DDNS services
  • By default, RTSP streaming to mobile devices is not enabled; Check "Enable Mobile Streaming" and define your mobile streaming settings

Image Quality Analysis

We tested the Cisco / Linksys WVC80N in daylight, lowlight, and wide dynamic range indoor environments. And although the camera is designed primarily for indoor use, we have simulated the scenario of using the camera to monitor a household driveway from an overhead porch.  In the following screencast, we discuss our findings from the exported video clips and compare the image quality to the other home network cameras we tested.

Download our sample clips (73.2MB download)

Key points include:

  • In the daytime indoor scene, the camera's frame rate did not reach its maximum of 30fps
  • Camera has no exposure settings to configure nor IR cut filter
  • At a low light indoor scene (measured at 1 lux), image was brighter than competitor cameras
  • In a wide dynamic range scene, outdoor light was washed out, and as subject walked indoors, he was difficult to see
  • In an outdoor home driveway scene (measured at 0.3 lux), image was dark and muddy, but compared to competitor cameras, image had less noise artifacts and was slightly brighter

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