Simplicam review: the Dropcam killer has arrived

Aug 31, 2014
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Simplicam review: the Dropcam killer has arrived

As go home security cameras, so goes the Dropcam. The very cool, Google-owned company put everyone on notice with their snazzy camera, meant for home security, but good for a variety of use cases. A new challenger, Simplicam, wants to unseat them from their throne atop the consumer security cam heap. Offering a bit more technical savvy than the Dropcam, Simplicam may end up the home security camera you should be considering instead of others it competes with. Is Simplicam as good as advertised, though? We put it through its paces to find out.

Hardware

From the second you get the Simplicam box in your hand, you know they’re not messing around. Cleverly designed and smartly packaged, Simplicam takes a very streamlined approach to getting you up and running. Layer upon layer of camera, cords, and mounting bracket give you all you need, and walk you through setup as you unbox.

Simplicam 2-XL

The Simplicam itself is a vicious kidney shot to others in the market. The frame is made of solid aluminum, and has an articulating swivel. There is a well placed cord cutout at the bottom, too, so if you want to set Simplicam on a shelf, the (flat!) cord slips into the background neatly, virtually undetectable.

The shape of Simplicam is equal parts visual pleasure and solid security. The round camera assembly slips straight out a the square-ish frame, and makes Simplicam a handsome addition just about anywhere you want to place it. All metal, you don’t have that feeling Simplicam needs to be handled with too much care, either. Beautiful and solid, Simplicam’s hardware already sets it above much of the competition. The included wall mount, though plastic, is sturdy and reliable, with brackets that grip the Simplicam tight.

Software

The Simplicam (Called Closeli in the App Store and Google Play, as that’s who makes Simplicam) app is brilliant, and walks you right through setup from the start. With the push of a few buttons, your Simplicam is linked to your WiFi, set up and ready to go.

The included host of features is impressive, and only get better with a subscription (more on that in a minute). The app interface also makes having and monitoring multiple cams a breeze, as they’re all right there on the first screen. I can also happily report the Closeli app is available on the iPad as well as the iPhone, and the web portal mimics the mobile app perfectly.

Aside from being easy to use, Closeli also offers a host of granular controls. Choose when to get notifications, and what type you’d like to see (‘someone’ instead of ‘something’, for instance). Turn the camera or notifications off at certain points of the day, or access the microphone feature to create a kind of intercom system. Yeah, you can now scold the children or dogs from anywhere.

 

Using Simplicam

In actual use, Simplicam is like many other cams of a similar nature: you view your camera remotely, which lets you check up on things. Simplicam can also notify you if movement is detected, which is great for those nights out. When viewing the cam live on your mobile device, a one second lag is normal. Notifications took a minute or two.

Without a subscription (I promise, we will discuss it!), you get a really robust camera that does more than just stream video. Simplicam does a very adequate job of switching into night mode when necessary, and doesn’t overcomplicate the picture when it does. Simplicam might not have the best night vision we’ve ever seen, but for the price, it’s better than average.

Bone-stock features include motion detection an intercom system, where you can speak to (and hear from) whoever is on the camera. It’s a really great way to check up on kids, or scold the dog when he or she is being naughty. Cats, well, they don’t listen anyway.

In your face, Dropcam

Now, about that subscription I’ve been teasing. First, it’s not necessary. If you don’t want to pay, you’re already getting a really nice camera with an intercom feature and motion detection, that shoots in HD and has night vision. You don’t need to buy a subscription, but if you want to, there is really good news.

You can choose to have cloud backup for a single day, or up to 21 days. That single day recording brings you the last 24 hours stored in Closeli’s cloud, and will run you $4.99 for the month, or $49.99/year. 11 days will set you back $13.99/$139.99 respectively, while the 21 day option puts you at $22.99/$229.99. When you do snap up a subscription, you’ll also get face detection. Simplicam won’t identify individual faces (that would be facial recognition), but will detect a human face. The subscription model can also auto-records events based on facial detection, movement, or sound, and scrolling back through video is a breeze.

I will say facial detection is great, but not foolproof. Several times during testing, I walked by and looked right at the Simplicam, only to get a “something moved” detection alert rather than a “someone moved” alert. When I stopped briefly, Simplicam noticed I was human.

Simplicam 6-XL

Conclusion

The conversation around Simplicam — or any home security/monitoring camera — will be how it stacks up to Dropcam. If you’re asking me to choose between the two, I confidently and emphatically choose Simplicam.

Solidly built, Simplicam just flat-out performs. Night mode was great, and the movement detection controls save you from smartphone notification hell. The Closeli app is easy to use, and the subscription model is both affordable and feature-rich.

Simplicam 7-XL

The ability to record for a single day is smart, and great for the average consumer. You left for the night when a break-in occurred — why would you want to record a full week? Even the bottom-tier $49.99/year plan is approachable to most who would buy this cam. Perhaps the only drawback is the 107-degree field of view, where Dropcam has a 130-degree view. At distance, that concern drifts away.

For $149.99 (also where Dropcam pricing starts), Simplicam is your best bet. At every turn, Simplicam performed as well or better than expected. Simplicam is better looking than Dropcam in my view, and absolutely has a better build quality. Similar pricing keep them close for the consumer, but Simplicam’s subscription model and exceedingly handy features set it apart.

If you were looking for a Dropcam killer, it’s Simplicam.


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