BT Smart Home Cam 100 review
You’re never far from a CCTV camera in the UK, and the subject of privacy crops up all of the time.
Yet whenever CCTV footage is used on the news, not one of the several thousand cameras that seemed to be in the area of said crime can show anything other than a badly pixellated, often stuttery image of whoever had evaded capture.
Why, in this day and age, do we have so many cameras with such poor quality images? I’d often presumed it was due to cost. Yet having now used the BT Smart Home Cam 100 I’m beginning to question that theory.
I appreciate it’s a brand new product, and that it is designed for home use rather than commercial use, but the image quality is superb. It boasts HD quality on the box, which I took with a pinch of salt, but having seen the results it’s apparent that it’s a boast they back up well.
First things first, though. Set-up. As much as I love technology, it doesn’t love me. I have reached a stage in life where I now turn to my kids (aged 8 to 13!) to explain how to work a new piece of technology. That’s not to say I don’t do my best, obviously, but I am definitely a fan of technology that works with as little set-up as possible.
The box says that there are “3 easy steps” to set up the camera, though these three easy steps are broken down into seven or so steps in the instructions (marked 1a, 1b, 2a etc which explains where the figure three comes from). I winced at the thought of having to follow so many instructions to set the camera up but figured that the best solution was to dive in and get started.
The first step is to download the official app. It’s available on both the Apple App Store and on Android, so can be used by the vast majority of smartphones.
Step two is powering up the camera. I connected the camera to the power supply and plugged it in. Flicking the switch on the back from “Camera” to “Setup”. This made the camera appear in my Wifi list on my phone. I connected to it and that was Stage 1 complete.
Lastly, I started up the official app. Once loaded and started, the app walks you through several steps which allow you to connect the camera to the internet, set up an account with BT to manage the camera, and rename the camera if needed. You then flick the switch on the back from “Setup” to “Camera” and that’s it.
I was amazed at how simple the set up was. The only problem I had was that after switching the button to “Camera” on the last stage, the “Network” light is supposed to change from flashing to solid green before you continue. Mine remained flashing and in the end I simply continued anyway and it worked immediately.
Once you sign into your BT account via the app, your camera is there to see straight away.
In the app, any cameras that you are connected to are listed on the main page. Choosing your camera then brings up a live stream of the camera which automatically goes to full screen. You have the option of choosing to record what’s on the screen, muting the microphone or taking a snapshot of the current view. You can also choose to have the video streaming in either Standard Definition or High Definition.
Going back to the main screen, there is a “Camera Settings” option which, when chosen, allows you to update the camera’s firmware (though mine was up to date on installation). rename your camera or share your camera with others. This is perhaps my favourite option, as it means that my girlfriend can also view the camera and keep an eye on the flat if needed.
In the same menu, you are able to adjust the video streaming quality or set it to auto-adjust, turn the microphone on or off, change the motion trigger size and amend the recording and notification settings.
I’ve set mine up so that it automatically saves clips into the cloud which I can then access. Whenever the flat is empty, I change the notification settings to Push Notifications so that I get an instant warning if the camera has been activated, including a link to the video of whatever has activated it. When in meetings I tend to simply choose email notifications which are slightly less intrusive.
The motion trigger size has five settings ranging from X-Small (such as a mouse) to X-Large (such as a car). When I first started playing with the camera, I found that no matter what setting I had it on, it would pick up movement every minute or so, even when there was no-one in the house. I searched online but couldn’t find a reason why this would happen.
In the end, I moved the camera to a better position and haven’t had the same problem since. What I’ve noticed is that I now have the camera facing away from the window whereas before it was facing the window. I can only think that the constant change in sunlight caused by clouds etc affected the sensitivity. Now that the camera is no longer facing natural sunlight, I haven’t experienced that problem again.
It was also nice to see that when I unplugged the camera to relocate it, the settings all remained saved, so when I plugged it back in I didn’t need to go through set up again.
Overall, I’m massively impressed with the camera. It has NightVision, which means that the picture is equally good in the dark as it is during the day and is incredibly easy to set up and use.
The camera quality - even on standard definition - is great and very clear. The option to automatically record movement or to simply sign in and start recording at any time gives you an enormous amount of control.
Although I’ve set the camera up in my flat, I would have no qualms recommending the BT Smart Home Cam 100 as a great camera for small shops and offices, especially given the low price.
Ah yes, the price. Security cameras have historically (and in my opinion) been very expensive for poor quality. Given that I’ve already extolled the fantastic image quality of the BT Smart Home Cam 100, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this may cost hundreds. Surprisingly it’s available from just £99.99 from Amazon, the same price through BT themselves
The set-up instructions come in the box, but can also be found online here.
Steve has (quite rightly) pulled me up in the comments section, saying that Amazon mentions a monthly fee of £9.99 to be able to record to the cloud and that I hadn’t mentioned it in the review.
Although the comments on Amazon do say that there is a cost for the service (and the comments are only a month or so old, so it’s not as though they are vastly out of date which can sometimes be the case), there is no mention of a cost in Amazon’s description. I’ve checked the official BT website, which also doesn’t determine a monthly fee.
If the Amazon comments are correct, and there really is a £9.99 monthly charge (per camera, apparently!) then this suddenly changes the whole review, as it suddenly becomes an extremely expensive piece of equipment.
All I can say is that I have been unable to find any mention of a fee on the official sites and that the BT official site says that the standard product features will always be free.
Disclaimer: This unit was sent for me to try free of charge with a view to providing an honest review.