SpotCam Sense Pro Review: More Than Just Video Surveillance

The SpotCam Sense Pro is a powerful security camera that goes far beyond video surveillance. Though it has a few flaws, you'll appreciate the flexible approach to security.

Our Verdict

The SpotCam Sense Pro is a powerful security camera that goes far beyond video surveillance. Though it has a few flaws, you'll appreciate the flexible approach to security.

For

  • Easy setup
  • Compatibility with Alexa and Google Home through IFTTT
  • Good video quality
  • Ability to set motion zones
  • Environmental sensors

Against

  • No removable storage
  • No automatic live social media sharing
  • Too many cloud-storage upgrade reminders

The $169 SpotCam Sense Pro is a powerful, waterproof security camera with many features that go beyond video surveillance. It can alert you to rising temperatures in your home, bright light events and high humidity. For home protection, this flexibility means you can monitor more than just a break-in. Though it's more expensive than some competing cameras, these added features make it worth the premium. That said, the Sense Pro does have a few flaws that make it not quite as useful as other security cameras.

Design

The SpotCam Sense Pro is IP65-rated as waterproof and dustproof, so you can install it outside. (An indoor version costs $20 less.) The black cylinder stands 6 inches tall and sits on a 2-inch-wide base that never tipped over during our tests. At 1.37 pounds, the Sense Pro is light enough that you can move it to a different location in your home (as long as you have an outlet nearby) but heavy enough to stay put all day.

The camera comes with a mounting kit, which means you can install it on a wall or ceiling. It comes with a 10-foot cable, which was long enough to allow the camera to sit on top of a grandfather clock and connect to an outlet near the floor. One minor gripe: It's big enough that it looks like a eye staring down on the room; more than one person noticed the camera in the room.

Installation

Setting up the app, which works on iOS and Android, was a breeze. Like most home security cams these days, the Sense Pro lets you connect to a dedicated Wi-Fi network broadcast from the camera itself, then configure which Wi-Fi network you want to use. With a Google OnHub router, the Sense Pro had no trouble connecting from two rooms away from the router in an office.

Once configured, the camera reconnected with no problems in a different room. The camera maintained the signal without any issues.

MORE: Best Wireless Home Security Cameras 2018

Video and Audio Quality

The SpotCam Sense Pro records in 1080p HD. (There's a toggle in the app that lets you use SD video instead.) It has a 155-degree wide-angle view in HD and supports night-vision mode. For the recorded videos, don't expect the quality to match what you see on a home television, though.

The video looked a bit fuzzy even in a bright and sunny room; for example, a cat walking across the room was a bit dark. At night, the night-vision video was adequate for helping identify a person or an animal and didn't have the washed-out glare of the video from some night-vision cameras, like the one on the lower-end Tend Insights Lynx security camera.

The sound quality was passable, but there was a lot of background noise. When someone spoke in a video, it was possible to make out the words clearly, but the sound had a bit of an echo.

App Performance

SpotCam's app is fast and reliable. When you first run the app, you see a thumbnail of the video feed and another option for seeing the public video feeds from other users. When you click the lay button, you see a live video of the premises. Below the live video, four sections are displayed: Go Live, Events, Talk, and Vitals.

Go Live is the default view. When you turn your smartphone to landscape view, you'll see a full-screen live video. In portrait orientation, you can disable the sound, share a live feed of your camera, take a photo or rewind. The Events view shows a list of recorded clips, Talk allows you to talk to someone near the camera (the speaker is loud if a bit distorted) and the vitals option lets you check environmental vitals in your home (including humidity and temperature but not air quality).

The process of accessing videos so you can save them is a bit convoluted. Through the website (myspotcam.com), you first find the portion of the video you want to save. Then, you click the Make Film option and choose whether to make a time-lapse or normal video. You save the videos in the My Films section of the site, and that's where you can export them to Facebook, YouTube or email. It took longer than I expected to save the videos — about 5 minutes for each clip. Very recently, SpotCam added the ability to export recorded videos from the app and save them in the My Films section.

A new video search function for the mobile app and the web lets you quickly scan through recorded video using a date slider. For example, you can look back a week and see dates marked in gray that recorded an event.

You can configure whether night vision works automatically, rotate the camera feed 180 degrees, set the status light on the camera, configure an alert schedule and adjust the microphone volume.

During the first few days of testing, every pet that walked into the room triggered the camera and sent a notification. The camera spotted motion but did not differentiate between humans and pets. A very recent update added the ability to configure a motion delay (detecting enough motion in the room before it alerts you). However, SpotCam has not yet released its new Cloud Video AI service, which can distinguish between pets and humans (and will be an optional paid service). You can also set motion zones, which trigger notifications for one part of the camera view.

You can also configure motion sensitivity and set a schedule for when the camera is active. The feature to disable notifications "all day" is particularly quick and helpful. Another perk here is that the SpotCam Sense Pro can send notifications when you use the web app (or you can receive them by email) in addition to the mobile app. You can then view and save any triggered events. You can't create a geofence for a room or record only from a predetermined location.

MORE: Best Video Doorbells of 2018

Environmental Sensors

Similar to the Canary All-in-One wireless security camera, the Sense Pro can also monitor environmental conditions. In the Vitals section, you can see a history of the temperature, humidity and lighting in the room. The Sense Pro can also alert you if any of those conditions go below or above a threshold you configure, such as a temperature over 70 degrees Fahrenheit or below 50 percent humidity. One complaint here: The sliders for setting these factors are a bit touchy, and you can't type them in directly.

Smart-Home Integration

The Sense Pro works with other smart-home systems (as well as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant), but only through IFTTT. For example, we connected the SpotCam Sense Pro to Alexa using IFTTT and were able to turn the camera on and off by voice.

An industrious smart-home enthusiast could conceivably trigger multiple events, turning on all of the lights, sounding an alarm and locking all of the doors if the camera were to sense motion.

Direct support for Alexa and Google Home voice control would work much better and would require fewer steps in the setup process.

Cloud Storage Costs

SpotCam's app records events and stores them for free for 24 hours. Three days of recordings costs $3.95 per month (or $39 per year); seven days costs $7.95 per month (or $59 per year); and 30 days of recordings costs $19.95 per month (or $199 per year). Those are comparable to the cloud-storage costs for the Nest, Netgear and Canary cameras.

In the app, there are large, orange buttons that remind you to update to cloud storage, and you even see it in the settings with a link to upgrade to Cloud NVR.

Bottom Line

In the end, the SpotCam Sense Pro does exactly what you need it to do. It records video clips and saves them for 24 hours for free. It detects motion, temp changes, light and humidity. You can share a link to a live feed to let friends and family help with security monitoring.  

That said, the Sense Pro has a few issues that put it a notch below other cameras. It's more expensive than the Canary All-In-One ($130), which also monitors air quality, and having to connect the Spotcam to other smart-home devices using IFTTT makes the process more cumbersome than it should be. That said, the Sense Pro is a good product, even if it can't quite keep up with the best of the security bunch.

Credit: Spotcam