Smartwitness Smart-I review
The Smart-I is a miniature battery-powered wireless IP camera. You can either connect it to your router wirelessly and view its video feed from your web browser, like a traditional IP camera, or set it to act as a wireless hotspot, viewing its video feed from up to 20 metres away - like having a portable third eye. You can also record its video feed onto a phone with an Android or iPhone app.
We first set up the camera as a wireless hotspot, and had no problems connecting to it from a laptop. The browser-based video feed window gives you the option to view the stream as a motion JPEG or, if you have Java installed, with video and sound. We were impressed by the video quality; it’s not as good as that of the best cameras we’ve seen, such as EyeSpy247’s HDSD, but video is clear even in low light. The stream was fairly clear at close range, letting us have some amusing out-of-body experiences by holding the camera above our head, and coped well with low indoor lighting. The camera doesn’t have infra-red LEDs, though, so you can’t use it in the dark, and we found that the frame rate dropped off sharply after around five metres’ distance, becoming a slideshow at 15.
We also had no problems viewing the video stream on an iPhone just by connecting to the camera with Safari. However, we had no luck seeing the video stream on our test Android mobiles, either on an Android 2.2 Froyo or Android 2.3 Gingerbread device. Windows Phone 7 was also a no-go, but Smartwitness doesn’t claim it’s supported.
There's also an app for iOS and Android, which gives you the audio and video feed from the camera, and also lets you record the feed to the handset. The files are saved in AVI format, so you can copy them to your computer and view them in a video player. Unfortunately, the app is £5.50 on both Android and iOS, which seems expensive considering the price of the camera.
Using the Smart-I as a traditional IP camera was also fairly simple. You have to flick the camera into Settings mode, then connect to it over Wi-Fi from a PC. You then have to enter the SSID and wireless password for your router, along with a static IP address for the camera to make it easy to find. A quick reboot of the camera and a 30-second wait and we could access the feed by typing the camera’s IP address into a web browser. You can also view the feed over the internet by typing your router’s external IP address into a browser, once you’ve set up port forwarding on your router. Strangely, the manual doesn’t tell you which port to forward, but as with many cameras it’s simply TCP port 80. You’ll need to buy the optional power accessory kit (SMART-I-ACC, £25 from www.y3k.com) as the camera’s CR-2 battery only lasts for two hours.
The Smart-I is an impressive bit of design and works well. It’s a niche product - if you just want to keep an eye on your home when you’re away you should buy a normal IP camera – but you may find it useful as a way to record the world as you walk around. It’s just a shame it’s so expensive.
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