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Canary All-in-One Smart Home Security Camera review

Alan Lu
7 Mar 2016
Canary All in One Smart Home Security Camera
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
160
inc VAT

A slickly designed security camera, but comes with some hidden costs

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Specifications

Sensor: N/A, Viewing angle: 147 degree wide angle, Video recording frame rates: 1080p (30fps), Night vision mode: Infrared LEDs, Dimensions (HxWxD): 152x76x76mm, Weight: 400g, Warranty: One year RTB

Network security cameras have been around for years, typically recording footage onto local or network storage and being something of a nightmare to set up properly, unless you happen to be a port forwarding expert. More modern models aren’t necessarily any easier to configure and use, but can upload footage to the cloud so you can access it from anywhere – as long as you’re happy to pay (a potentially costly) subscription fee.

The cloud-only Canary is a cylindrical camera that tries to be as easy to configure and use as possible, by leaning heavily on your smartphone and a selection of built-in sensors. It’s actually so dependent on your phone that there’s not actually a web interface, either for configuring the camera or for watching back footage.

Instead, you download an app. It’s available for iOS and Android, and is exceptionally easy to use. After going through the setup wizard, we had the Canary running just a few minutes after getting it out of the box. One oddity is that while the iOS app supports iPads, the Android version doesn’t support any tablets at all.

Canary All in One Smart Home Security Camera iOS interface

^ If the Canary detects motion when it's in Armed mode, it will start recording and notify you

The app shows more than just your video feed; it records the local temperature and humidity, too, plotting the data on line graphs that could be useful if you’re keeping plants indoors. It can also keep track of air quality, judging how ‘abnormal’ it is based on how much iso-butane, carbon monoxide, hydrogen, ethanol and cigarette smoke it detects. I had no way of judging how accurate the readings are, and am sceptical of its usefulness unless you’re living on a heavily polluted brownfield site.

Unlike other security cameras, you don’t fiddle around with recording schedules or motion detection thresholds. Once you’ve registered your phone, any time you leave the house the camera will automatically enter ‘Armed’ mode. If it detects motion, it will start recording and send you a notification. You can then view what’s happening, sound an extremely loud siren, and even send an alert to the police. Once you return home, Canary enters one of two modes. ‘Disarmed’ leaves motion-activated recording on, but you won’t receive any alerts, while ‘Privacy’ disables recording altogether.

Recordings are displayed on a social media-style news feed within the app, in reverse chronological order, so the latest clips are always at the top. You can quickly jump to a specific date and download clips, with six minutes of 1080p, 30fps footage taking up approximately 35MB of space on an iPhone 6 and HTC One M9.

Canary All in One Smart Home Security Camera in living room

Cleverly, you can tag specific clips to make them easier to find, then bookmark certain parts of a particular clip so you can jump straight to a specific recorded event. The app also marks movement with a yellow bar on the clip’s timeline, so you can quickly scrub to them. This automatic marking was surprisingly accurate, with few misses or false positives.

There are, of course, some caveats. The location-based triggering of the ‘Armed’ mode was a little buggy. Even though it uses your phone’s GPS and presence on your Wi-Fi network to tell when you’re home, it still sometimes entered Disarmed mode when I wasn’t anywhere in the vicinity.

Video quality, both in daytime and at night, was respectably sharp and detailed. You shouldn’t expect any CSI-esque levels of quality though. People were mostly identifiable if they passed within 10-15m of Canary’s camera sensor, but you won’t be able to “zoom and enhance” on anyone further away. Audio tended to be muffled too, so don’t bet on hearing the conversations of any potential trespassers.

Canary’s most serious limitation is its subscription options. The free service is very restrictive, only storing footage of the last twelve hours, and only giving you the option to download a maximum of five videos. You can’t use any bookmarks on this plan, either. After your free seven-day trial runs out, you’re prompted to pay for one of three subscriptions.

Paying US$5 a month (or $49 annually) gets you two days of video storage and 25 bookmarks. $10 a month (or $99 annually) buys seven days of storage and 100 bookmarks, and the top tier $30-a-month package ($299 annually) provides 30 days of video storage and unlimited bookmarks. All of these paid-for plans include unlimited downloads and cover up to four separate Canary cameras in any one location, but you’ll need separate subscriptions for each new location, such as a holiday home or office.

The Canary is a useful one-box, cloud-based home security camera with high quality footage and an especially well-designed app. It’s also refreshingly easy to use, thanks to the way it leverages your smartphone. The snag is the high price and stingy terms of its subscription plans. Although still cheaper than the running costs associated with a professionally installed security system, it’s more expensive than the (admittedly less polished) Ycam Home Monitor HD. That camera comes with seven days of recording for free, and a 30-day plan that only costs £4 a month, or £40 a year. It’s still a great security camera if you can afford the fees, but think carefully and realistically about your needs before buying.

Hardware
Available appsAndroid, iOS
Sensornot disclosed
Viewing angle147 degree wide angle
Lens typenot disclosed
Video recording formatH.264
Video recording resolutions1080p
Video recording frame rates1080p (30fps)
Cloud recordingYes
Video recording media (card supplied)not disclosed
Sound48kHz stereo
Maximum still image resolution1,920x1,080
Network connectionsEthernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi
AV connections3.5mm input
Night vision modeInfrared LEDs
Outdoor modeNo
Power typeDC
Dimensions (HxWxD)152x76x76mm
Weight400g
Buying information
Warrantyone year RTB
Price including VAT£160
Supplierwww.pcworld.co.uk
Detailscanary.is
Part codeCT100UKWT

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