Review: Belkin NetCam HD+

Last year, I had the opportunity to review the Belkin NetCam HD WiFi camera which I found to be a very good camera if you want to keep an eye on property, watch your dog while you’re at work among other things. Belkin has now improved on that camera by coming out with the NetCam HD+ WiFi camera. Physically it looks the same as the NetCam HD and setting it up is just as easy:

  1. Plug in the NetCam HD+ and flip the switch at the back of the camera to the setup position.
  2. Download and install the NetCam app for iOS or Android onto your smartphone or tablet.
  3. Go into the WiFi settings on your smartphone or tablet and choose the NetCam network. Then start the NetCam app and follow the instructions including creating a unique username and password.
  4. When prompted, pick the WiFi network that you want to use and enter the password associated with it along with an e-mail address.
  5. Wait as it does its magic.
  6. Flip the switch at the back of the camera to camera mode when you’re told to.
  7. Done. Declare victory and have a beer.

At this point you have a camera that you can access inside and outside your home either on your smartphone or via either the app on your phone or tablet or via the NetCam web page.  Either way, you can use the app or the webpage to view or control multiple NetCam devices as illustrated by this picture of the NetCam app on my iPhone 5S:

IMG_0806

Just like the NetCam HD, you don’t have to configure a thing on your router to make this camera accessible from outside your home. This makes it easy to set up for any type of user.

Now, the key difference between the NetCam HD and the NetCam HD+ is that the latter now comes with a glass lens. To illustrate this, let me show you a pair of pictures taken from the same distance. The first one is the NetCam HD:

IMG_0805

The second one is the NetCam HD+:

IMG_0802

 

I found the colors in the latter to be much better. Not only that, when I tested the night vision function I got much better night vision performance versus the NetCam HD in the same area. Clearly the glass lens does make a significant difference. The only thing that I would describe as a negative is that the glass lens creates a bit of a fisheye effect on the picture. But I was okay with that as the overall quality was good. Plus compared to the NetCam HD, I can see a bit more of the room as the NetCam HD+ has a slightly wider viewing angle.

Another change that Belkin doesn’t seem to advertise is that the NetCam HD+ now has multiple ways to encode video (which is 720p by the way) and audio (it has two way audio capability so that you can hear and talk to people remotely). You can choose MJPEG, MPEG-4, and H.264 for mobile streaming. For the more advanced user, this could be handy as it allows you to choose the level of video quality and performance that suits you. For the rest of us, here’s a quick rundown:

  • MJPEG can deliver the highest quality video and takes very little smartphone processing power to decode and display. The downside is that bandwidth use can be quite high. This is the default setting.
  • H.264 can use less bandwidth. But it needs more processing power on your smartphone. But you can get better video if you’ve got the stars aligned in your favor. If you want better video quality and you have a smartphone that can handle it, this is the option to choose. It worked just fine on my iPhone 5s and I would imagine that the same would be true of any smartphone made in the last couple of years.
  • MPEG-4 was a predecessor of H.264 that has sort of fallen out of favor now that H.264 is on the scene. It has the same strengths and weaknesses of H.264. But I would avoid MPEG-4 and go to H.264 if you can.

One thing to note is that these settings are only available on the NetCam web page. If you’re only using the mobile app, you’ll never see these settings. In my mind, the app and the web page should have similar user experiences. Thus it’s very strange that they don’t.

The 720P video that NetCam HD+ produced was generally sharp. I say generally because the video quality that you see is adaptive depending on your bandwidth that you have available. So you will get better quality if you have a good connection to the Internet and to your phone or tablet. You can alter the settings to set it to the quality levels that you want or leave it in automatic mode. I did the former as I have a very fast connection to the Internet (30 Mbps downstream and 5Mbps upstream) and found that it worked well for me. The NetCam HD+ has e-mail alerts if it detects motion. Unlike other cameras where you have to define areas where the camera needs to look for motion, the NetCam HD+ will simply look for motion in the entire field of vision. The net result is that enabling this feature is as simple as flipping the feature to on using the NetCam app. Any notifications in terms of motion are sent to e-mail address that you entered during the set up process. But it can be changed later, but only from the NetCam webpage. The pictures that were e-mailed were very sharp and clear. Though I will note that it takes up to five minutes from the time that motion is detected to the time you get the e-mail. I’m guessing that it has to do with the fact that the camera has to talk to the Belkin server and the server then has to take a couple of images from the camera and package them up into an e-mail to send to you. If you run the NetCam app, you can also watch a short video clip of the event that made the camera send you an e-mail.

Downsides? I’ve got a few that I want to touch on:

  • The NetCam app for iOS has not been updated since July of last year and under iOS 8 it is crash prone. Belkin seriously needs to address this sooner rather than later.
  • The camera is driven by Belkin’s cloud service. That leaves you completely dependant on another party to use the camera. Now that’s not a bad thing as it gives you options to store clips on their cloud service if you pay to use it. Plus you can get push notifications to your phone as well. Not to mention the fact that this cloud service helps to make the NetCam HD+ easy to setup and to use. But it may be concerning for some.
  • There is no way to set up this camera from scratch using a computer. That means that if you don’t have a smartphone or tablet, you are out of luck.
  • Some settings are only available on the NetCam website. They should be in the app too.
  • It would be nice if you could send alerts to multiple e-mail addresses.

The Belkin NetCam HD+ is $129.99 USD direct from Belkin and from your local retailer. If you had the choice between the NetCam HD and the NetCam HD+, choose the latter. It’s a camera that has easy setup and great video quality. It’s a great choice for those who need a WiFi camera for security or other needs.

 

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3 Responses to “Review: Belkin NetCam HD+”

  1. The netcam is very disappointing. Read all the real users comments. The Belkin servers are down again and the response was “Try again in a few days”, A FEW DAYS!. Very unreliable ever since I installed it. I never have any problems with my other devices like my Nest which I access all the time remotely. I’m returning it.

  2. […] concern. So while my wife dialed the building management, I leveraged the fact that the we owned Belkin NetCam HD+ units which had not only a speaker but a microphone to speak to whomever in our unit. Something […]

  3. […] our visit to the PEI Preserve Company we once again got an alert from our  Belkin NetCam HD+ units and once again a maintenance person was in our unit doing some emergency plumbing work. […]

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