Dropcam goes HD with tiny new Wi-Fi video-monitoring camera

At CES, Dropcam has unveiled the Dropcam HD Wi-Fi Video Monitoring Camera.

The Dropcam HD is available now for pre-order for $149 (click to enlarge). David Carnoy/CNET

LAS VEGAS--Dropcam, which has made a name for itself for providing a user-friendly, easy-to-setup video-monitoring camera and service, has taken the wraps off its new video-monitoring camera, the Dropcam HD.

While Dropcam has just announced the product--and is shipping it later this month for $149--I've been playing around with an early sample for the past week. It has an interesting design and is fairly tiny. The camera can be removed from its stand (when you hook it up to your computer, you take it out of its stand), but most people will leave it in its stand and either set it up on a flat surface or mount it on a wall.

You can't swivel the camera remotely, but you can manually tilt and swivel the camera into almost any position. It's a fixed lens, which means there's no optical zoom, but Dropcam is now offering a digital-zoom feature.

Setting up the Dropcam HD was even easier than setting up the original Dropcam cameras, which were made by Axis and ran on Dropcam's firmware. This camera has been designed in-house by Dropcam and features an integrated microphone and speaker, so you can both hear what's going on in a room and also talk to anybody in the room through the camera.

The Dropcam HD has a wider angle lens in the camera than the original Axis cameras, and while I can't say I was blown away by the image quality, it's certainly sharper (it offers more detail) and because its higher resolution image, you can blow up the image on your computer screen and retain much more detail.

Here's a sample image from the Dropcam HD (click to enlarge). David Carnoy/CNET

Here's a look at the Dropcam HD's features:

  • The company is touting its "60-second setup"--you plug it into your computer (it connects via USB), select your Wi-Fi network, personalize the camera (name it), and your Dropcam HD is online and ready for viewing.
  • The Dropcam HD is AC powered so it's always on (unless you have a power outage).
  • A night vision mode turns on automatically when a room darkens, so you can capture video even in poorly lit environments.
  • You can "talk back" with the two-way audio feature. Dropcam said you can, "Ask who's at the front door, check in on the kids while chores get done, tell the dog (or husband) to get off the couch."
  • With digital zoom, you can "pick which part of the room to focus on."
  • Dropcam HD is adjustable to mount on a wall, stand on a table, or you can pop out the lens to create a smaller, more discreet profile that can be placed anywhere.

Dropcam's pricing for its service remains the same. You get free real-time viewing from a computer or mobile device (there are free iOS and Android apps available that work quite well), plus free e-mail and push motion/sound alerts. But if you want DVR functionality, you have to step up to the company's premium service, which costs $9.95 a month.

Dropcam settings menu (click to enlarge). David Carnoy/CNET

With that DVR service, Dropcam stores up to 30 days of video on its servers, so you can look back through a month's worth of events. The company said that, "All video is encrypted using bank-level security standards to ensure user privacy."

It's worth noting that yesterday Samsung unveiled a new consumer video-monitoring camera and a service that's very similar to Dropcam's service. Samsung's new video-monitoring cameras don't offer HD resolution, but they do retail for the same price ($149.99) and will be available for purchase in March.

The Dropcam HD is available for pre-order now and will ship later this month. We'll post our full review when it ships.

 

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