The TP-Link Kasa Cam is a quality security camera with generous cloud storage
- Good quality footage, usually at 30fps
- Night vision
- Generous helping of free cloud storage
- Indoor only
- Only 15fps in high-quality mode
- Distorted audio
If you’re the kind of person who agonises over Wi-Fi hardware reviews, you’ve probably heard of TP-Link. If you’re not – and believe me, I envy you this – you’ve still probably used TP-Link hardware at some point in your life.
Now the company has branched into connected cameras, to rival the likes of Nest, Ring, Arlo, D-Link and others. Does the TP-Link Kasa Cam deserve a place protecting your home?
TP-Link Kasa Cam: Price and competition
At the time of writing, the TP-Link Kasa Cam can be had for around £80 – down considerably on its original £120 launch price. That’s a significant cut, as it means that its rivals no longer come in the form of Amazon’s Blink camera or the Ring Stick Up Cam, but in competitors that are considerably cheaper.
Bluntly, you can forget getting a weatherproof outdoor camera for this sort of money, which is just as well as the TP-Link Kasa Cam is strictly indoors only. That makes its competition the somewhat limited £60 BT Smart Home Cam and the incredible-for-the-price £20 Neos SmartCam.
TP-Link Kasa Cam: What you need to know
It’s more expensive than either of those cameras, so is the price justified? Yes, in a word. This isn’t so much down to the quality of the device – although it’s perfectly fine, as I’ll get onto in a moment – but its main party trick: free cloud storage.
Now, free cloud storage isn’t exactly a new concept, but it’s generally heavily caveated. The £20 Neos Smart Cam offers free storage but only records 12 seconds of footage and then has a five-minute “cool-down” phase before it springs into life again. Blink will record up to two hours worth of footage before footage begins overwriting itself. With Arlo, the caveat is that the hardware is simply very expensive to begin with.
Here, the caveat is that the footage is only available to download for two days but that feels fair enough to me. If you don’t download within 48 hours of spotting burglars on your camera, then you don’t deserve to catch them.
In fact, at the moment, it’s even more generous than that. The company says it will eventually have a paid option called Kasa Care, with clips stored for 30 days. It’s not live yet, though, and until it is, every new camera comes with a rolling trial of the beta until launch day. Given it’s been in beta since at least September 2018 when the support page I’ve linked to above was written, it may well not materialise any time soon, making this incredibly generous.
There is an elephant in the room, here, though. What a company promises today may not be available tomorrow and, while there’s no sign that TP-Link will withdraw its free cloud offering any time soon, if it did it wouldn’t be the first. Forewarned is forearmed and, given the Kasa Cam doesn’t have an SD-card slot for your own recordings, you’d definitely be left high and dry.
So what about the camera itself? Well, first of all, it’s very easy to set up. Unlike more expensive kits from D-Link or Arlo, there’s no hub to connect to your router, just the camera itself. It looks like a radio microphone, with a hinge to allow you to set it at just the right angle.
Plug it in, connect it to your wireless network, register for an account with the app and you’re away. As soon as it’s set up, the camera will start firing alerts to your phone when it sees something come into view or hears an unusual noise.
If that gets annoying, you can set times when notifications are disabled. When you’re at home and can see the dog bounding around with your own eyes, for example. In fact, if it keeps getting triggered by the dog, you can adjust the zone it looks for movement within.
As apps go the Kasa’s is minimal but it does the job. You get a live feed on the home screen to see what’s going on at any given time and all the saved clips appear in a timeline for you to visit at any time. If you see something interesting, you can download it for safekeeping, so it’s not lost when your cloud storage timer expires.
By default, the camera is set to 720p resolution but you can reduce this to 360p or raise it to 1080p depending on the reliability of your home Wi-Fi. For the record, this is the quality you can expect from the default 720p:
Not bad. You can see everything pretty clearly and it’s also recorded at 30fps which is pretty generous. Some low-cost cameras really cheap out here: BT’s Smart Cam isn’t exactly a slideshow, but at 15fps it’s noticeably bumpy.
Here’s some footage captured at 1080p for comparison:
Hmmm. The picture quality may be nominally better – although to my eyes there isn’t much in it – but the frame rate halves, dipping to 15fps. Clearly, you have to decide whether you’d rather have a better picture or smoother motion. Fair enough, given the cloud storage limitations but a pity we can’t have both.
You might have noticed, too, that sound quality is not the strong point from this camera: everything sounds a little bit distorted and the chances of capturing clear dialogue on the Kasa Cam seem pretty remote. The microphone is better though, and holding down the mic button on the live stream lets you talk to the person on the other end reasonably clearly. Whether or not you’ll be able to hear what they’re saying in reply is definitely up in the air, but they’ll be able to hear you, which is the key thing in scaring off intruders.
The camera also has night vision. Here’s a clip caught after nightfall to give you an idea of how usable it is:
This is once again shot in 1080p but, curiously, the frame rate is bumped back to 30fps. In any case, the image quality is perfectly fine, and you’re able to pick out quite a lot of fine detail.
TP-Link Kasa Cam: Verdict
Questions about frame rate are a little silly anyway: this is a camera for catching intruders, not shooting an Oscar-winning movie. Whether it’s 30fps or 15fps on any given footage, the picture quality is far more important.
And on that bar, it’s pretty hard to fault the TP-Link Kasa Cam for the price. The sound quality isn’t great, but the picture is good and the free cloud storage makes it excellent value – especially while Kasa Care is still in beta.
But it does sit at a difficult price point. While it’s generally better than the Neos Smartcam, it is still four times the price, making it a tough sell for price-sensitive consumers.
Still, for £80 it’s very hard to fault. Hopefully, TP-Link stays in the camera space and continues to add more products to the range. If it does, it could be a seriously good value contender.