Alexa, who's that knocking at my door? Amazon is expanding its smart home reach from voice assistants to security cameras with the Cloud Cam, a $119 security camera that can not only show you who's at your door but also let you unlock it. The Cloud Cam is about $60 to $70 less than our favorite cameras, the Netgear Arlo Q and the Nest Cam, and offers comparable quality and subscription plans. And, you can even view a feed from the camera on your Fire TV, Echo Show and other Amazon devices just by asking Alexa. But outside of Amazon Key — its door-unlocking feature — the Cloud Cam doesn't really distinguish itself from more established players.
Editor's Note (3/16/18): Amazon has added new features to the Cloud Cam; we have updated this review accordingly.
Similar in looks to the industry stalwart Nest Cam, the Amazon Cloud Cam has a cylindrical head (2.4 inches in diameter, 1.7 inches deep) that's supported by a small, white base.
It's about 4.1 inches tall with its stand. The Netgear Arlo Q, while more squarish, has a comparable design. Amazon's camera comes with a 10-foot USB cable, which provides power to the Cloud Cam.
Video and Audio Quality
Like our top two cameras, the Netgear Arlo Q and the Nest Cam, the Amazon Cloud Cam has a resolution of 1080p and a frame rate of 30 fps. Its field of view is slightly narrower, though, at 120 degrees, compared to 130 degrees for the Netgear and Nest.
When compared to the Nest Cam, video from the Cloud Cam was generally very good. The Cloud Cam's video was brighter — too much so in some cases. While it let me see more details in darker areas — I could better make out the cables behind my TV set — it was at the expense of lighter areas. For example, the center of the video, which was illuminated by an overhead light, was completely washed out; when my white cat walked through the same area, he partially disappeared.
A ring of eight infrared LEDs provides nighttime illumination. I could see one of my cats as he prowled across the dark attic.
Colors were also a lot more washed out; the pennants hanging on the wall just popped more in the Nest's video than it did in Amazon's.
However, in other situations, the brighter video from the Amazon camera was an asset; during the day, when the room was lit only by sunlight, I could clearly see my gray cat sleeping on a gray couch. On the Nest Cam, the cat blended in, making him virtually invisible.
A ring of eight infrared LEDs provides nighttime illumination; here too, the Cloud Cam performed well, letting me see one of my cats as he prowled across the dark attic.
Sound came through really well, too; although the Cloud Cam was in the attic, it picked up my cat, who was on the landing below, scratching the bell on his collar.
Motion and Sound Detection
Within the Cloud Cam app are a number of settings, most of which you can already find in other security cam apps.
You can opt to receive notifications if the camera detects motion, if it detects a person, or both. This worked as advertised; I received one alert when one of my cats walked in front of the camera and a person notification when I walked in front of it.
A geofencing feature will turn the camera on automatically when your phone leaves a particular area and off when you get back home.
Zones let you specify areas within the camera's field of view that let you ignore movement; for example, if you just want to monitor a particular door and not an entire room, you can create zones to exclude everything but the door.
Smart Home Integration
A neat feature that Amazon has added to Alexa is the ability to view live feeds from security cameras on the Echo Show, Fire TV and other Amazon devices, just by asking Alexa. However, this is not exclusive to the Cloud Camera; a host of other security cameras (Arlo, Ring, Nest, Logi Circle, TP-Link, August, IC Real, Vivint, Amcrest, and Eziviz) support this feature. Simply say “Alexa, show live view of [your camera’s name.” On my Echo Show, the feed appeared almost instantly. A small microphone button in the lower-right corner also let me carry on conversations with people I saw in the camera’s feed.
I merely had to hold the microphone button on the Fire TV stick, say, "Alexa, show me Man Cave," and a video stream appeared on my TV screen.
Update (3/16/18):If the Cloud Cam detects a person or movement, you can opt to receive notifications on your Echo device. On the Echo and Echo Dot, the Alexa ring will glow yellow. (The Sol by GE also turns yellow, so this will probably happen with other Alexa-enabled devices, too.) On the Echo Show and Echo Spot, an alert appeared on the screen.
Other than that, though, you can't really integrate the Cloud Cam with other smart home devices like you can with other security cameras. For instance, you can connect the Nest Cam to Philips Hue lights so that your smart bulbs will turn on when the camera detects motion, or will turn the lights on and off randomly when the camera is in Away mode. An Amazon spokesperson said, "We will continue to provide updates that make Cloud Cam even smarter, more efficient and more useful to customers."
Amazon's new Amazon Key service will allow you to unlock your front door remotely, so that delivery people can slip your packages inside your abode.
Amazon added a web interface to its cloud camera service, so you can now log into a web browser to view a live feed, as well as see previous events. From here, you can turn the camera on and off, but can’t adjust any other settings.
Worried about packages being stolen from your front door? Amazon's new Amazon Key service, available for Prime members, will notify you when a delivery person is at your front door, let you see and communicate with the person using the Cloud Cam, and then allow you to unlock your front door remotely, so that he or she can leave your package inside.
For this service to work, you'll need the Cloud Cam, plus one of the Amazon Key-approved smart locks (the Yale Assure, Kwikset SmartCode 914 and Kwikset Convert are the three compatible locks), and you must live in one of the areas where this service is supported.
Personally, I'd much rather deal with a stolen package than give a complete stranger access to my house. The "Amazon Key Happiness Guarantee" states that if "your product or property was damaged as a direct result of the delivery, we'll work with you to correct the problem." I'd prefer something more legally binding.
Still, I could see this being useful for the disabled or elderly, or anyone who has trouble getting to his or her front door. Amazon plans to expand this to dog walkers and house cleaners as well as the myriad other Amazon Home Services providers.
You can get the Cloud Cam and the smart lock for $249, which is a pretty good price for the combo. The only comparable device and service is the August Smart Lock and August Doorbell Cam Pro, which would cost $100 more.
Amazon's cloud storage plans are competitive, but they're not the best.
The Cloud Cam comes with a free 30-day trial; after that, if you don't want to sign up for a subscription, you can save clips from up to three cameras for 24 hours and get notifications when activity is detected.
Signing up for a subscription plan not only increases the amount of storage you get, but also adds three features: Person detection, which sends alerts only when the camera sees an actual person; Zones, which lets you specify particular areas to watch; and Unlimited Sharing, which lets you download clips.
The Basic plan ($6.99/month, $69.99/year) gets you seven days of storage for up to three cameras. The Extended plan ($9.99/month, $99.99/year) increases the storage to 14 days and the number of cameras to five. The top-tier Pro plan ($19.99/month, $199.99/year) includes 30 days of storage for up to 10 cameras.
By comparison, Nest offers two plans: For $10/month (or $100/year), you get 10 days of recording, intelligent alerts, downloadable clips and customizable activity zones. For $30/month ($300/year), storage increases to 30 days' history. Each plan only supports one camera, but additional subscriptions are half off.
Netgear is the only one of the three to offer more than 24 hours of recording gratis; the company's basic plan gives you seven days of recordings for up to five cameras. The Premier plan ($100/year) ups that to 30 days for 10 cameras, and its Elite plan ($149/year) gets you 60 days of video history for up to 15 cameras.
MORE: Coolest Things the Amazon Echo Can Do
|Amount of Storage||24 hours||3 hours (snapshots)||7 days|
|Number of Cameras||3||1||5|
|Cost Per Month||$6.99||$10||$10|
|Amount of Storage||7 days||10 days||30 days|
|Number of Cameras||3||1||10|
|Cost Per Month||$20||$30||$15|
|Amount of Storage||30 days||30 days||60 days|
|Number of Cameras||10||1||15|
For a more detailed look at the leading video cloud storage plans, check out our in-depth guide to Nest, Ring, August, Canary, Amazon, and Netgear Arlo's options.
All in all, the Amazon Cloud Cam is a safe entry for the shopping giant. It's less expensive than its competitors, delivers good-quality video with a robust feature set and has good cloud storage options. However, with the exception of Amazon Key, there's nothing that makes this camera stand out from others on the market. But maybe that's all Amazon needs; its devices are there to make it easier for you to buy things; if the Cloud Cam makes it easier for you to receive the things you purchase, then it's done its job.