What's going on in your house while you're away? The $199 Withings Home not only records audio and video of what's happening inside your house, but also keeps tabs on your air quality. This gadget can even play a lullaby if you have it set up in your baby's room. Unfortunately, this jack-of-all-trades security camera is a master of none.
The small, cylindrical Withings Home is about the size of a large tumbler glass, measuring 3.4 tall by 3 inches in diameter. The upper two-thirds is wrapped in wood, which helps it fade into a bookshelf. This wood sheath, which has a cutout for the camera, can be rotated to block the camera. Oddly, this action doesn't turn off the mic, so you could listen in on someone’s conversation even if you couldn't see them.
The bottom third of the Withings Home is made of white plastic, which hides a multicolored LED array. Around its back are a power plug and an Ethernet port, though you can also connect it to your home network via Wi-Fi.
It couldn't be easier to get the Withings Home up and running. After powering on the camera, I downloaded the Withings Home app to my iPhone. (An Android app is in the works.) The app then guided me through the process of connecting the camera to my Wi-Fi network, which took all of 5 minutes.
In addition to recording video at 1080p at 30 frames per second, the Withings Home has a few other features. The first is an air-quality monitor that, similar to a feature on the Netatmo Weather Station, measures volatile organic compounds (such as benzene and acetone) within your home.
MORE: Best Smart Home Gadgets
Like the Withings Smart Baby Monitor, the Withings Home can play a lullaby, but in this case, you get only one selection. I wish you could stream music to the device from your phone. The Home also has a soothing LED in its base that can change colors.
The top of the Withings Home has a speaker and a microphone so that, in addition to hearing what's going on around the camera, you can talk to those you see via the smartphone app. The microphone was surprisingly sensitive; I could easily hear passing cars outside my apartment.
The Withings Home app is fairly simple. The upper third shows a live view from the camera. Below are thumbnails of events on a timeline when the camera detected motion or audio; selecting one of the thumbnails shows a brief clip of that moment.
In the app, you can enable push notifications, as well as set whether you want the camera to record sound, motion or air quality. For the latter category, you can set the threshold from 450 parts per million of dangerous substances to 3,500 ppm. By default, it's set to 1,250 ppm, which Withings considers medium air quality. Anything higher than 2,000 ppm is considered poor, and anything less than 1,000 is considered good.
You can also view a photo album of events recorded by the camera, as well as a chart showing overall air quality While the app only stores two days’ worth of photos, it retains air quality data indefinitely.
Overall, the Withings Home performed well, but its image quality and features aren't the best.
The Withings Home has a 5-megapixel CMOS sensor, which, at first blush, would seem better than the Dropcam Pro's 3-MP sensor. However, I found that although the Withings Home camera was good, its image quality wasn't as crisp as that of the Dropcam Pro.
On the Withings Home, I could identify individuals at a distance, but they weren't nearly as clear as what I saw on the Dropcam Pro. The cameras have comparable fields of view: 135 degrees for the Withings vs. 130 degrees for the Dropcam Pro.
I like that you can manually block the Withings Home's camera, but oddly, even when the camera was blocked, the app continued to take pictures when it detected a noise.
The app also alerted me whenever the air quality dropped to unacceptable levels. When I was cooking dinner and had all four burners on my stove going, the app notified me that the ppm had spiked to more than 2,500.
Withings' app will store two days' worth of recordings, as well as a daily diary that shows a slideshow of the previous 24 hours of activity. However, I wish there were more controls, such as the ability to automatically turn off recordings when you enter your house, or turn them on when you leave. Even a scheduling option would be welcome.
Unlike the Dropcam Pro and other security cameras, the Withings Home can't be integrated into any other smart-home systems. So, for example, you can't have it turn on all the lights in your house if it detects movement.
More exacting customers might want to consider the $249 Withings Smart Baby Monitor, which plays a variety of music and tracks temperature and humidity, or a Dropcam, which offers better image quality, lets you save recordings over a longer period and interacts with other smart-home devices.
Overall, the $199 Withings Home camera performs well, but it feels like it's stuck between a baby monitor and a home security camera. It offers some of the features of both categories, but doesn't excel at either.