PC-Based Home Security: Do It Yourself

The DCS-1130  is not made to blend in. Stark white and measuring 1.5” x 3.2” x 4.7” with the two antennas off, the 1130 is about as big as your hand. The W-shaped stand is bulky but stable. Overall, the camera struck me as slightly cheap-looking perhaps because of the thick, plastic focus ring around the lens. The bad news is that the focus ring is there at long, requiring another setup step that’s easy to miss. The good news is that, because the lens does feature a variable focal length, images tend to be a bit sharper and avoid some of the fringe blurring common in low-end network cams.

There’s not much to say about the back of the DCS-1130. In addition to the two antenna ports, you’ll find an Ethernet connector, power adapter port, and a threaded mounting point for optional mounting kits. The 1130 does come with a pair of sheetrock screws for securing the camera base to a wall or ceiling.

     

The DCS-1130 was D-Link’s original 11n camera. Lottery winners can feel free to buy it from D-Link directly for $219.99. Amazon currently lists it for $138.99, which is far more reasonable for the feature set. (If you have structured wiring or some other reason not to care about WiFi, you can find the Ethernet-only DCS-1100 for just under $100.) There’s no question that you want/need a network camera with 802.11n support. I’ve tried 11g units in the past, and they simply can’t sustain consistent, acceptable results. There just isn’t enough stable bandwidth, especially in environments with lots of competing RF traffic.

I should also point out D-Link’s excellent and surprisingly sensitive microphone. Recordings I made from the camera downstairs were able to clearly convey songs and even regular talking from upstairs. I wouldn’t say the mic is more sensitive than human hearing, but it’s impressively close.

I’ll detail the DCS-1130’s inner operations on the next page, but suffice it to say here that, like nearly all network cameras, the 1130 comes with an internal Web server. This allows users to view live video from anywhere they can use a Web browser…sort of. The camera supports Motion JPEG and MPEG-4 formats, but if you use any browser besides Internet Explorer, you’ll only be able to receive MJPEG. I also noticed several setup screens within the camera’s pages that wouldn’t display properly unless in IE. Either way, the DCS-1130 specifies a maximum performance of 30 frames per second (fps) at 640 x 480.

Installation is very straightforward. Just pop in the Installation CD-ROM and follow the instructions. D-Link guides you through all the cable connections required during setup, WPS linking to your router/access point (if your hardware supports it), and a camera reset. That’s it. When I moved the 1130 to a new location, it went back on the wireless network without a hitch.

Note: In the process of mixing and matching networking gear, we discovered that D-Link’s old DIR-635 Draft N router doesn’t always play nice with the company’s own cameras. The DCS-1130 would occasionally drop off the network, and the DCS-930L would outright crash the router. These problems vanished when we switched to the newer DIR-825 router.