Tying the flexibility of NVR-based security systems, which use their own monitor and storage, with the expected functionality of newer online devices is something many customers don’t even realize they want.
Simplifying the installation of a security system using wi-fi and batteries is something almost every potential customer can see the advantage of, but isn’t always done well. Batteries don’t always even provide always-on cover depending on camera storage and the base station; that, too, is something Swann has taken on.
In a selection of bundles (with alternate numbers of cameras, Swann is attempting to take on both and provide the best of both worlds. Doing so coherently (and at a reasonable price) is a big ask, so have they managed it?
Camera resolution: 2K
Camera field of view: 105˚
NVR dimensions: 110 x 205 x 110mm
NVR connectivity: HDMI, USB x 2, Micro SD, Ethernet, WiFi
Build and handling
Swann’s cameras have a D-shape if viewed from the top, and are made of thin white plastic with a gloss black front. It isn’t as elegant as some, but it manages to be discrete in terms of volume and still obviously a camera. That’s important, as it serves as a deterrent. Function over form means you also get a flip-up antenna, while the three-celled battery slides (and clips reassuringly into) the base. The 8,700mAh battery has a socket which can be charged in-situ, but because it can be reached from underneath it’s also easy to swap (or pull out). The PIR sensor has a range 8m(26ft) range.
The NVR itself stands quite tall (over 8 inches), but the matt white tower is elegant enough to place in public view (if, for example, that’s where your 4K TV is). At the back you’ll find all the connectivity, including USB for the generic mouse (included) and more storage. This allows the choice of external HDD or MicroSD. There is also a bay for the same battery type as in the cameras; it charges here while being available as backup power. The mere fact of having an extra battery in the set means you can swap a fresh one into a camera with hardly any downtime.
This sample night footage is crisp, but the compression is struggling when the fox is at distance.
Grinding through the setup wizard isn’t difficult but doesn’t have the gloss of modern apps; since you’ll be using an on-screen keyboard setting too long of an admin password is something you’ll likely regret, too!
Once you’re past this, however, this device becomes distinctly optional. The Swann app (the same one which works directly with some of their cameras) can read a QR code from your hub and all the cameras are now viewable and can be commanded via your phone. You can activate the siren and light on each camera from the app too. Moreover using cameras that capture brief clips before leaving a static image seems counterintuitive on the NVR viewer page. There is a ‘Search’ tool on the NVR to look for certain events (you can limit the scan to PIR triggers, or ‘Person’ ones) but it is more natural to use the app’s playback page.
We found the camera’s view clean and sharp, however, the first time testing the recording misses some frames, perhaps because the wi-fi was only 2 bars. Otherwise, footage looked sharp at night and in the day (though a bit soft near the edges).
The cameras are of undoubted quality, with the 2K image more than adequate to identify intruders, despite some artifacts. The simplicity of reaching up and removing/swapping the battery combined with the ever-ready spare in the hub is a real winner for anyone who doesn’t want wires or dead periods, though battery life seems very encouraging too.
Our two main gripes are a lack of options over triggers, sensitivity, clip length or dead zones – if they are there then we couldn’t find them. This brings us to the next complaint – the system (app especially) has a slight lack of polish. The icon for the system in the menu depicts an older Swann device, for a start. Inside it the app allows access to all the camera functions (light, siren, two-way-talk), and you can swipe between cameras, but it just didn’t feel as slick or obvious as we’d have liked.
Ultimately if you’re looking for a system that will capture unwanted visitors and store them locally (meaning a cloud subscription isn’t needed), and can keep going when the lights go out then Swann’s is a great choice with some brilliant hardware solutions.
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