PC-Based Home Security: Do It Yourself

Logitech Alert 750i and 750e

I was using WiLife security cameras long before Logitech acquired the company and rebranded the products. I enjoyed the WiLife products then, but I like the new Logitech Alert models a whole lot more. The product series was in desperate need of an overhaul, and, in typical Logitech fashion, the results managed to exceed most of our expectations.

Here’s the Logitech Alert 750i Master System ($299.99; $229.99 for 700i add-on). Essentially, it’s an indoor camera, cabling, HomePlug powerline wall adapter, three types of camera mounts, a 2GB SD card, and software. Unlike many consumer cameras, this mouse-sized 750i feels solid in the hand. The included flat Ethernet cable clicks into a port hidden behind a detachable panel in the camera’s back. At first, I wondered, “Why a flat cable?” Then, when I went to route the cable from the camera on my window sill down to the HomePlug wall wart, I quickly realized how much easier flat cables were to tuck into crevices and run under objects. Smart!

 

For mounting, Logitech includes a cradle, a stand with multi-directional head, and a window suction cup. Judging by Logitech’s model photography, these three options look oh so stylish—except for Logitech apparently airbrushed the requisite power/data cable from each image. These cameras are neither wireless nor battery-powered, so keep the cabling in mind as you plan how and where to place your units. Also note that Logitech’s integrated microphone didn’t perform as well for me as the D-Link or Axis units, so if sound is important, get closer to where you anticipate the action will be. Audio is one-way only; there are no speakers in the cameras.

If you want the outdoor camera, you’re dealing with either the 750e Master System ($349.99) or the 700e Add-On Camera ($279.99), which requires a Master System to already be on the network.

The 750/700e is built like a tank. The metal housing is thick, the Ethernet cable slips inside of a compartment secured with two screws, and it feels like it will laugh in the face of global climate change. The outdoor cam also sports a microphone and has two infrared emitters flanking the lens to help with night vision. In total darkness, the IR lamps will push visibility out to 20 to 30 feet. 

The old WiLife outdoor camera was all but useless to me. I wanted to mount it under my eaves above the garage, but its conventional power cable would have meant running an extension cord up the side of the house all year, and I’m not sure data would have run reliably over that. The new Alert models both seem much better able to maintain solid connections and frame rates at my house’s outermost outlets. I wonder if this has to do with Logitech’s move to the HomePlug standard on the Alert models. In any case, if Logitech’s included cable is too short for such a lofty reach (which it is), simply get a high-grade Ethernet cable for the connection. The weather-proofed wall adapter stays at your outlet down by the ground.

I should point out here that the Logitech Alerts are not conventional IP cameras. They are HomePlug cameras that route data across your building’s electrical wires, not Ethernet. The Ethernet cables I’ve mentioned serve only to go from the camera to the wall adapter and from a second wall adapter (included with Master Systems) to your router. All other connections run through the power lines in your walls. This excludes the Logitech cameras from intermingling with most other IP camera systems, but for the consumer market, most of which lacks Ethernet structured wiring and may have spotty wireless performance, this is a calculated risk on Logitech’s part that makes a lot of sense.