Why you can trust Tom's Guide
The wireless Blink XT is a minimalist device. It's small enough to fit in your hand and priced so reasonably that you might be tempted to buy several to place all around your home — indoors and outdoors. While it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of larger, pricier, more full-featured wireless security cameras (such as the Nest cameras), it includes free cloud storage and is very easy to use. And most of our of test videos were good — except the nighttime shots.
Update (June 2019): Amazon has released the Blink XT2 ($99.99), which has a resolution of 1080p, two-way talk, customizable motion detection zones, and free cloud storage (for up to 120 minutes of video). It runs on two AA batteries, which should last up to two years. If you have an Amazon Echo device and an Echo Spot, Echo Show, or Fire TV, you can also ask Alexa to show a live feed from the XT2. Stay tuned for our review.
Blink's XT camera is an inconspicuous, matte-black, rectangular box that measures only 2.75 x 2.75 x 0.9 inches. The 2.4 x 1.2-inch, glossy, black lens bezel has a tiny microphone to its left. (The XT has no speaker.) A half-inch dome below the lens covers the motion and infrared sensors. The blue recording light in the upper right corner can be turned off with a switch inside the battery compartment, to keep the light from giving away the camera's presence.
The wireless XT runs on 2 AA batteries (included in the box), which Blink claims will last for 2 years of "standard" use (defined by Blink as 10-second videos recorded 10 times a day). While you can also power the camera with a micro USB cord, that accessory isn't included.
The most significant differences between the Blink XT and the "classic" Blink are an increase in video resolution (1080p instead of 720p); the use of infrared for night vision rather than an illuminator; and that the XT is a weatherproof indoor/outdoor camera (rated IP65), while the previous model was an indoor camera only.
The separate indoor sync module — which creates the link to your Wi-Fi network for up to 16 cameras — looks like a smaller version of the camera. It's a 2.5 x 2.25 x 0.75-inch, black-matte, rounded rectangle that communicates with the cameras via a proprietary LFR (low-frequency radio) signal. Other than the color, it's the same sync module that's sold with the previous model. (Since the classic Blink camera is white, so is the sync module that is sold with it.)
The sync module is powered by an included 40-inch cord that plugs into a mini USB port on the side and into a USB port on the power adapter. In our tests, the sync module maintained a consistent connection with the camera, which was located more than 100 feet away, even when separated by several walls (including two thick outside walls).
Video and Audio Quality
Using a glass lens, the Blink XT captures 1080p HD video over a 110-degree field of vision, which is a comparatively narrow coverage. The quality of the recorded videos ranged widely, depending on the conditions.
Daylight indoor videos were clean, bright and nicely detailed. Outdoors, where the daylight isn't as well-controlled, video was acceptable, though the XT had difficulty with backlighting and lost details in the shadows.
Instead of using IR LEDs for night vision (as most security cameras do), the XT simply turns off its infrared filter that blocks IR light in daylight. That way, the XT can capture both visible and IR light in night mode. You can also adjust the illumination setting of the video, to help you better see darker objects.
Unfortunately, this method does not work well. On most of our outdoor night test videos, we couldn't see any details on an approaching person, regardless of what light-intensity setting we chose. The indoor night mode was better, capturing helpful, identifiable details in the range from dark shadows to midtones.
The XT's tiny microphone captured generally clear (though soft) audio within 5 to 8 feet from the camera. Outside that range, the sound dropped off precipitously so that it was impossible to hear what was being said.
The XT has no speaker and doesn't offer two-way audio.
Motion Detection & Temperature Alerts
The XT has no sound detection, nor does it offer person or face detection. But its comparatively bare-bones motion detection works well, sending push notifications very quickly. What's more, it offers three very useful settings that many other security cameras do not: slider controls over sensitivity level, clip length (from 5 to 60 seconds), and re-trigger time (how soon after a video is captured a new one will be triggered, between 10 and 60 seconds). Plus, you can also set to have the clip end early if motion stops.
The camera also monitors ambient temperature, displaying the current temperature in the Settings screen. You can turn on alerts for temperatures that go above or below set points. This can be useful if, for instance, you live in a region where freezing pipes are a problem, especially if you pair the camera with IFTTT to control your thermostat.
Blink's scheduling is difficult to find, because it's located in a separate area from the camera settings. However, once you find it, it's very accessible and intelligent, though it requires a few too many taps.
You can set as many separate arm/disarm segments per day as you wish. In addition, you can easily define specific segments for several days at once.
Cloud Storage & Video Library
The Blink XT's free cloud storage (for up to about 120 minutes of video) more than makes up for the camera's lack of local storage.
At the top of the video-history screen (called Clip Roll), is a slider indicating how much of your allowed cloud storage you are using. After about a week and a half, we had used up about 36 percent, but we were able to delete unimportant clips one at a time to free up space, which is useful since you can't buy additional storage.
On the playback screen, you can download your video, delete it, or share it via email or any relevant app that you have on your phone.
Blink's minimalist philosophy extends to its Android and Apple app. (Blink has no web portal for managing or viewing cameras.) The software is very simple and easy to understand, but it has little depth and lacks features that other, more-robust systems offer.
For instance, the home screen thumbnail for each attached camera isn't a screen grab from a recent alert video. Instead, it's a specific still image that the user captures manually by tapping the camera icon, and it isn't updated to reflect current conditions unless the user captures a new image. Auto-rotate is enabled for only some screens (such as video playback).
However, the Blink app does provide the essentials in an easy-to-navigate interface that has unambiguous icons. These include a nice responsiveness when motion is detected, with quick push notifications.
Smart Home Integration
The XT can be armed and disarmed using Alexa (but you can't view the XT's feed on a Fire TV) and supports IFTTT. The latter could be very useful in conjunction with the temperature alerts if you have a smart thermostat installed. Blink wasn't forthcoming on when other smart home integration will be available, but the company said it's working on it.
Installation of the Blink system is a multistep process, though the mobile app's on-screen instructions are clear and easy to follow. One hiccup: The app doesn't mention that your phone or mobile device must be connected to your network via 2.4GHz. If your device is attached via 5GHz, the installation will fail.
Video Resolution: 1080p
Field of View: 110 degrees
Night Vision: No LED lights, uses infrared.
Network Connectivity: 2.4GHz, 802.11n
Smart Home Connectivity: Alexa
IFTTT connectivity: Yes
Audio: Microphone for one-way audio
Mobile Devices Supported: Apple iOS 9.3 or higher, Android 4.4 KitKat or higher
Web Browsers Supported: No web portal
Cloud Storage & Monitoring: Free
Local Storage: No
The Blink XT ($129 with the Wi-Fi sync module) is a very reasonably priced security camera. Its features cover only the essentials, but for many, that will be enough. We also like that you can save up to 2 hours of video for free. That said, the Blink XT's camera did not perform well in an outdoor setting at night, so consumers who want a camera to monitor the outside of their homes should consider spending the extra money for the Arlo Pro or Arlo Pro 2. But as a budget indoor security camera, the Blink XT is a pretty good performer.
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
Sally Wiener Grotta is the president and lead analyst of DigitalBenchmarks test lab (www.DigitalBenchmarks.com). The scripts she created for various tech publications for testing and evaluating digital cameras, image quality, software and related technologies have become industry standards. Among her numerous books is the first major volume on image processing “Digital Imaging for Visual Artists” (McGraw-Hill), co-authored with Daniel Grotta. Her hundreds of reviews, stories and columns have appeared in scores of magazines, journals and online publications.