Many folks traveling this holiday season will want to keep track of their home and belongings while away. I just want to make sure I didn’t leave the coffeemaker on! Previous generations of home surveillance systems required setup via a computer (usually a PC) and had a high cost of entry (I currently use a Logitech 750i), but a new crop of low-cost Internet-enabled cameras promise “post-PC” easy setup as well as iOS integration. I’ve tested two new players in this area: the VueZone $199 and iZon $129.
Setting up both devices requires no modifications to your router, and the should simply hop onto an existing network. VueZone uses a base station connected to your wired network and a series of battery-powered camera satellites that autoconfigure themselves. Add the base station, turn on the cameras and visit a website to check the video feed. The whole thing takes about five minutes.
iZon is a bit more complex. Setup is 100-percent iOS-based. The iZon camera is USB-powered and must be near a power outlet. On first install, it creates an ad-hoc wireless network you must connect to with your iOS device. You need to install the free iOS app to configure and view video. Once connected via its own ad-hoc network, you tell the iZon how to hop on your main wireless network, and you should be good to go.
Unfortunately, I ran into numerous glitches. The product support says the device works best with a WPA2 network, and indeed, it was unreliable on WPA. The app also was a bit unstable, and when it wouldn’t accept my password, there was no way to reset it. The setup process took about 30 minutes start to finish, though that includes resetting the network once I changed the password. The second time around, it only took me about 15 minutes.
Viewing and recording
The VueZone allows for remote viewing via their website, while the iZon allows viewing only via the iOS app and only for five minutes at a time. Both devices allow for recording upon the detection of motion, but with VueZone saving those recordings requires a $49.95 per year Premium account. iZon will directly upload private videos to YouTube. Personally, I liked the ability to view video via a website, but the additional yearly cost and initial and ongoing financial outlay for the VueZone may not be worth it depending on your needs.
Comparing the video between the two, the iZon displayed much higher quality in normal conditions. The VueZone didn’t have an infrared function, but it did have a low-light mode that worked well at night. iZon’s light settings weren’t modifiable. One key difference between the iZon and VueZone is the iZon can capture audio as well as video, while VueZone cannot. Both support activation upon motion, as mentioned, but since the iZon supports audio, it can also start recording if it hears loud noises. The motion detection in the VueZone was all or nothing: Either it detected motion in the area, or it didn’t. The iZon allowed for distinct zones and levels of audio and visual sensitivity (thought it didn’t always register movement or noise in testing even when there was some present).
Configuring the iZon via the iPhone app was really a pain. The settings didn’t always take, and the app constantly crashed. Changes to the device must be made while you are on the same wireless network as the iZon while the VueZone allows configuration from anywhere. Support for the iZon was excellent, however, and as an iOS based product, updates to increase reliability are likely.
Which is better? If you’d like to view an area where you don’t have an electrical outlet, then VueZone is clearly the way to go. Neither camera is suited for outdoor usage, though the VueZone will go in more places since it doesn’t have to be tethered to power, although this does mean you have to take batteries into account. If that isn’t a problem, the iZon’s lower entry price and lack of ongoing cost might be the way to go, despite its more difficult configuration. The fact it doesn’t require a yearly subscription to auto-record motion is a big plus. I also liked iZone’s ability to customize the sensitivity of the audio and video recording zones.
A bonus (and for some killer) feature of the iZon app is that it will give you push notifications if there is an audio or video event the camera notices. I knew precisely and almost instantly if someone triggered the camera. The VueZone would simply record a motion event but wouldn’t notify you. When used for security and piece of mind while away, the iZon was definitely superior. I was a little disappointed in the reliability of the iZon, but support indicated patches were on the way that should fix some of the problems I faced.