Whether we want to monitor our pets when we’re not around, or just want extra peace of mind as regards home security in these straitened times, a security camera needn’t cost the earth. Such a device is relatively simple to install and control, typically via an app – as is the case here.
Camera: Full HD 1920x1080 pixels
Lens: 8x digital zoom
Coverage: 360° rotation and 100° tilt
Range: Up to 30ft
Available in a choice of black or white – we got the latter – the super-sized, egg-like NetVue Orb Mini home security camera most closely resembles its similarly spherical competitor in the Eufy Indoor Cam E220. Both models feature the ability to tilt and swivel and show us views through the full 360°. Like its rival, the NetVue also features a built-in slot for insertion of an optional micro SD card, with a Class 10 variety up to 128GB being advised. Here the slot is atop the unit, where in time it may attract dust, rather than being partially hidden.
Two screws and a tiny bracket are also provided should we wish to mount the camera on a flat surface, instead of simply sitting it on a shelf or mantelpiece, as most of us will probably do. At the base is also a standard screw thread for tripod mounting if desired. Power is supplied courtesy of a USB cable and mains plug. So although the length of the supplied lead is fairly generous we’ll still need to position it relatively close to a source of mains electricity.
With specifications and handling being pretty much as expected from the off, how does the NetVue Orb Mini home security camera perform in practice, and when compared with others of its ilk? Read on to find out…
Intended for indoor use only and compatible with Android or iOS smartphones and digital devices but not laptops or our desktop Mac, the key appeal of the motion sensor equipped NetVue Orb Mini is its 360° vision.
It can rotate about its axis 360° horizontally and 100° vertically, plus like its rivals also features a two-way audio facility. This means that whoever is monitoring the camera via the dedicated smartphone app can communicate with whoever’s in front of the NetVue, whether that’s a loved one, baby or domestic pet.
In terms of image quality, here we’re getting Full HD 1920x1080 pixels, with built-in infrared IR LEDs even helping it to see in the dark. That’s useful when used as a nighttime baby monitor. In terms of its range, specifications state that it can detect motion at around 30ft from wherever it is stationed, which is plenty considering the average living room or kitchen.
NetVue Orb Mini: Design & Handling
Roughly the size of an avocado, the build quality of the NetVue Orb Mini seems fair, although due to its lightweight plastic build we wouldn’t like to see the result if it were accidentally to fall from a top shelf to a hard floor.
Like other Wi-Fi enabled security cameras of its ilk, we need to download a manufacturer-specific app and pair our smartphone with it to begin operation and enjoy live video streaming, or the ability to screen-grab a snapshot.
This set-up process begins with the scanning of a QR code provided in the miniature instruction manual to download the relevant NetVue app, connect to our home Wi-Fi and attempt to pair the camera. It took us a few attempts to get everything working properly, as we got a warning message each time that 5Ghz Wi-Fi is not supported by the device, and asking us to connect to a different Wi-Fi network. The small printed quick start guide states that it only works with 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi.
The old trick of turning everything on and off again miraculously we got the camera and our smartphone handset playing nicely together and the latter relaying video and audio as we’d wanted. In terms of provided user interface within the app on our handset, this is kept simple, chiefly consisting of a four-way control dial beneath the window displaying whatever’s in front of the camera lens. To monitor what’s in the camera’s vicinity we simply tap on this to move the lens left or right, or up and down as desired.
NetVue Orb Mini: Performance
In terms of the camera itself, on-screen colours are well saturated to the extent that Caucasian skin tones appear overly reddish, like we’ve imbibed a few pints of alcohol before appearing on camera. There’s also a delay of second or so between speaking into our handset and the audio being relayed through the speaker, although the latter is not unusual with security cameras with similar features we’ve tested. The audio relayed via the built-in speaker is also a little quiet. Still, picture quality is clear enough for it to actually serve the purpose for which it is intended. However our chief disappointment was that, unlike rival 360° security cameras, it doesn’t track movement of subjects by itself, and therefore needs to be manually directed by the user via the app. For us this means that operation feels a little clunky.
NetVue Orb Mini: Final Verdict
The NetVue Orb Mini indoor security camera looks the part and is relatively simple to set up, with the minor issues we had with getting camera, smartphone and home Wi-Fi to talk to each other fairly quickly circumnavigated. HD and SD picture quality is clear, though colour is a little unnaturally oversaturated for our liking, with only a brief lag between camera and our smartphone handset, in terms of us moving the dial and the camera responding, or audio being transmitted.
We were a little disappointed however that, given the fact the device can swivel through 360° and tilt through 100°, it cannot automatically track the movement of subjects. Instead we can manually control the movement of the camera via a four-way control panel on the app, which is fair enough but feels a little clunky compared with similar devices that can track movement independently. In all, the NetVue Orb Mini can do the job for which it’s intended and is fine as an inexpensive surveillance device, but if we’re willing to spend just a little more there are better examples out there for our money.
There are plenty of similar looking and specified alternatives to the NetVue Orb Mini. Just before taking a look at this option we also examined the 2K Eufy Indoor Cam E220, which this most closely resembles. The alternative is slightly smaller and lighter, but not substantially so. The Eufy has a range of up to 32ft, compared with the NetVue’s 30ft, which isn’t a substantial enough difference to make one a clearly better buy over the other.
As is the case here, the Eufy Indoor Cam E220 offers the ability to insert a microSD card. On that model the slot for its insertion is hidden below the lens rather than being blindingly obvious in being located directly above it on the NetVue Orb Mini. But for us the clincher is that the Eufy will automatically track the movement of subjects, twisting or swiveling as necessary to keep up. On the NetVue Orb Mini we have to manually make such adjustments ourselves.
If budget allows, also take a look at the anthropomorphic twin lens (wideangle and zoom) Eufy S350 indoor security camera that offers the additional advantage of a 4K video resolution, should a boost in clarity be required. In our experience both the Eufy devices were generally slightly smoother to operate and easier to get going, with a more natural and realistic looking image relayed to our handset and a slightly more friendly user interface offered too.