Belkin NetCam HD+ Review

The $129 Belkin NetCam HD+ offers motion-activated recording, online storage for recorded footage and a simple setup process for $70 less than competing Wi-Fi security cameras like the Dropcam Pro and Netgear Arlo. The Belkin also doubles as a home-automation system, thanks to its ability to control WeMo home accessories. Although the video quality could be better, overall the Netcam HD+ is a great value.

Design

The NetCam HD+ sports a simple and compact design. About the size of an iPhone 4, the camera is composed of plastic and features a glossy white front panel and a matte-gray back panel. An adjustable stand connects to the device on the back.

The 2-megapixel camera is positioned at the top of the front panel, with a brightness sensor directly above the camera and an infrared LED (used to illuminate the camera's field of view at night) below. A microphone is located at the bottom of the front panel.

On the back, there's a power connector — and that's it. Belkin clearly took a page from Apple when designing the NetCam, eliminating the Ethernet port and external I/O ports usually found on other networked security cameras. In place of those ports, the NetCam uses a simple Wi-Fi setup switch (explained below). This approach streamlines the camera's design, but makes it impossible to set up the NetCam if you don't have Wi-Fi.

MORE: Best Wireless Home Security Cameras

The camera attaches to the stand via a miniball head-mount that provides 360 degrees of horizontal rotation and 90 degrees vertical. A mounting plate on the bottom of the stand allows you to attach the camera to a wall or ceiling with the provided screws.

At 4.8 x 3.4 x 2.6 inches, the NetCam HD+ is unobtrusive compared to larger cameras like the Piper nv, but it's not as compact as the Netgear Arlo or the Dropcam Pro. The Samsung SmartCam HD Pro, D-Link Cloud Camera 2200 and Swann SW-Viewcam are about the same size as the NetCam.

Setup

Setting up the NetCam HD+ was fast and easy. Following the included quick-start guide, I just plugged in the camera, flipped the switch on the back of the device to setup mode and downloaded the free Belkin NetCam mobile app from Google Play (an iOS version is available on iTunes). 

I then connected my Samsung Galaxy S5 to the Wi-Fi network created by the camera, launched the mobile app, and followed the on-screen instructions to create an account and connect the camera to my home wireless network. All told, the setup process took less than three minutes.

Features

Like most Wi-Fi security cameras, the NetCam HD+ will send you email alerts if it detects motion. You can adjust the sensitivity of the motion sensor in the mobile app, as well as the video resolution.

The camera will also send push notifications and save motion-activated video recordings to the cloud, but you'll need to sign up for Belkin's premium Cloud+ service to activate these features. The service costs $9.99 per month or $99 per year (after a free 30-day trial) for access to the last 14 days of footage, and lets users download saved clips as MP4 files.

The $199 Dropcam Pro offers a similar storage plan: $9.95 per month for access to the last seven days of footage. The $199 Netgear Arlo, by contrast, offers 1GB of online storage for free, 10GB of storage for $9.99 per month or 100GB of storage for $14.99 per month. The Piper nv stores up to 1,000 clips online for free, and will overwrite older clips if it becomes full.

MORE: 7 Ways to Lock Down Your Online Privacy

In addition, you can use the camera as a two-way intercom. Pressing and holding the chat icon in the mobile app lets you transmit your voice through the camera's speaker, while a built-in microphone allows you to listen to people on the other end. You can adjust the speaker's volume in the mobile app.

Perhaps most impressively, the NetCam HD+ acts as a WeMo device controller. WeMo is a wireless protocol developed by Belkin that lets users control compatible home accessories from their mobile devices using the WeMo app. WeMo products are available on Belkin's website and include electrical switches, light bulbs, door and window sensors, and a coffee brewer.

Using the WeMo app, you can create rules for how your WeMo home accessories should behave. You can program the coffee brewer to turn on in the morning, or the alarm to sound if the NetCam detects motion. You can also set notification rules (when and how the WeMo app will send notifications) and enable Away Mode, which turns devices on and off throughout the day to make it appear as if you're at home. 

The WeMo app also lets you specify times of the day when the NetCam will send you alerts if it detects motion. You can customize the message that appears and the frequency of alerts. Unfortunately, the camera doesn't automatically record video. By comparison, you get scheduled recording with the Nest Dropcam Pro, Netgear Arlo, Samsung SmartCam HD Pro and Swann SW-Viewcam.

WeMo transforms the NetCam HD+ from a mere Wi-Fi security camera into a full-blown home-automation system. My only quibble is that you can't create and edit rules in the NetCam app; this functionality is broken out into the WeMo app. Still, this is a minor inconvenience.

Unfortunately, the NetCam lacks the programmable security modes offered by the Netgear Arlo and Piper nv. While the capacity to enable or disable notifications and adjust the sensitivity of the motion sensor from the NetCam mobile app is helpful, I would have appreciated the ability to create separate modes for when I was at home or away from my apartment.

App

The NetCam HD+ can be remotely controlled using either the NetCam mobile app (compatible with devices running at least Android version 2.2 or iOS 5) or the Web console at netcam.belkin.com. You can download the mobile app for free from Google Play or iTunes.

Navigating the mobile app's interface is straightforward. The top of the home screen lists the cameras connected to the account. Tapping on the gear icon next to each camera opens the Settings menu, while tapping on the camera itself opens the live video feed in a new window. At the bottom of the window are buttons to take a snapshot, record video, mute the sound and use the microphone.

At the bottom of the home screen are tabs for My Cam (the home screen), Clips, Feeds and App Settings. The Clips tab displays a list of recorded video, organized by date and time. Tapping on each video opens the clip in the app's built-in video player.

The Feeds tab shows any cameras that friends or family have invited you to view. Finally, in the Settings tab, you can enable or disable auto login and sound effects, and reset your password.

MORE: Mobile Security Guide: Everything You Need to Know

The Web console's interface is equally intuitive. A window in the center of the screen displays the live video feed, with tabs at the top of the screen identical to those in the mobile app. A Camera Settings button above the live feed lets you adjust the video quality, enable or disable motion-activated video recording or invite friends to view your camera feed.

Performance

The NetCam's 2-megapixel camera sports a 95-degree field of view and records video at a maximum resolution of 720p. This matches the resolution of the Dropcam Pro, Netgear Arlo, D-Link Cloud Camera 2200 and Swann SW-Viewcam, though it's lower than the Samsung SmartCam HD Pro and Piper nv, both of which capture video in 1080p.

The NetCam also features night vision with a 26-foot (8-meter) illumination distance. The quality of the infrared video is fairly good. When I turned on the live feed at night, I could clearly see my living room, though I had trouble differentiating dark-hued objects.

Belkin NetCam HD Sample Footage

The quality of daytime footage is much better. Colors pop on screen and details look crisp. Even when I stood several feet away from the camera, I could easily read the text on my shirt. Still, I had a difficult time distinguishing minute details, like the Roku box next to my TV, on my phone's relatively small screen.

The mobile app and Web console proved mostly reliable. I never experienced any issues connecting to the camera, even when I was 15 miles away. However, streaming live video in 720p occasionally caused serious latency issues; shortly after launching the live video feed, my movement on the screen lagged more than 10 seconds behind my movement in real life. Switching to a lower resolution resolved the issue.

Bottom Line

The Belkin NetCam HD+ is one of the best Wi-Fi security cameras we've tested. For $129, it provides the full range of features offered by competing security cameras — motion-activated video recording, cloud storage and a robust mobile app — as well as the ability to control WeMo-compatible home accessories such as alarms, sensors and switches. The only other security camera that offers comparable functionality is the Icontrol Networks Piper nv, which costs $269, more than twice as much.

The NetCam does suffer from a few minor issues. The camera's WeMo functionality, while immensely helpful, is broken out into a separate app. The mobile app also occasionally suffers from latency issues when streaming video in 720p. Overall, we prefer the $199 Dropcam Pro, because its camera has a wider-angle lens and offers more reliable streaming. But overall the Netcam HD+ ease of use and versatility make it a great deal, costing at least $70 less than competing cameras.

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