Testing Lorex's Home/Baby MonitorBy John Honovich, Published Jan 18, 2011, 12:00am EST
For home surveillance, you can get really fancy and expensive but how simple and cheap can you get? Homeowners generally do not want to spend a lot of money on this and, often as important, dread having to figure out how to set up complex systems.
Last month, while at Costco, we saw a very cheap home monitoring kit, the Lorex LW32, which provides 2 wireless cameras and a hand held monitor. We picked it up for less than $100.
We've tested a lot of home/residential surveillance products like the D-Link DCS-920, Cisco WVC80N, the Lorex LNE10001, the Trendnet TV-IP110, etc.). Each of those cameras individually are essentially the price of the this entire kit.
The immediate question is: what type of quality and functionality can you get for such a low price? As we show in the test results, it's obvious that there are major limitations. However, this home monitoring kit was not junk and in some ways, it had clear advantages over the more sophisticated IP cameras.
This kit is not like any normal CCTV or IP camera. As such, it's important to be clear about the key tradeoffs and how they differ compared to traditional options.
Let's start with advantages:
- Extremely simple to use: you literally just power the cameras and monitor on and it works. There's no real configuration, software setup, programming, etc. Many non technical users will greatly appreciate the lack of headaches.
- Very cheap: For 2 cameras and a handheld monitor, the cost is hard to beat (about $100 depending on where you buy it). You might get 1 IP camera for that price and then need to spend a few hours setting it up or connecting to your PC.
- Built in Wireless: No need to run Coax or Ethernet cables plus no need to setup WiFi. The kit has its own closed wireless communication, greatly simplifying install, moving of cameras and reducing aesthetic issues.
- Built in IR: The cameras have a ring of IR LEDs which provides decent imaging in darkness. Even many of the cheap IP cube cameras lack IR LEDs.
- Simple monitoring device: The kit comes with a hand-held monitor that looks and operates like an older brick cell phone. The user can simply turn it on and see video.
- Bi-Directional Audio: You can listen and speak (half-duplex) from the monitor to the cameras. This makes for a basic intercom system.
On the other hand, there are important disadvantages:
- No recording: You can only record snapshots manually so if you want to know what happened 3 minutes ago or 2 days ago, you cannot.
- No remote / web viewing: You can only monitor on the included hand held monitor and that monitor only works in range of the cameras. If you are more than a short distance from your house or want to check on your phone, PC, you cannot.
- Low video resolution: The video is only 320 x 240 so you are not going to see much details. You can make out if a person is there and vaguely what they are doing but you cannot see any fine details of people or objects.
- Limited Wireless Range: In our tests, the wireless only worked through 2 walls at most so if you have a big house, you might find a significant portion to be out of range.
If you want something cheap and easy to view different areas of your house (or really small business), this could be useful. You have to accept that you are not going to record or be able to see remotely. However, for its price and simplicity, it may be useful as convenience tool.
Interestingly, Lorex markets this sometimes as a 'home monitoring' tool and other times as a 'baby monitoring' tool. We can see both being possible. The baby use case is quite obvious. However, we also think it could be useful for peace of mind. For example, someone wanting to check on noises or activity without having to leave their bed / room.
System Setup / Use
The screencast below demonstrates physical setup and basic system use.
Video Quality Analysis
The screencast below shows samples of video to set expectations about video quality issues (e.g., low resolution, good no light and weak WDR).
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