If you want to keep an eye on your home or office without stringing wires everywhere, D-Link's DCS-2100+ wireless video camera can help. It gives you acceptable pictures and the ability to receive an e-mail alert if anything moves. Getting it all to work is a two-hour job, but it's worth it because the excellent suite of surveillance software can monitor as many as 16 different cameras. D-Link's DCS-2100+ has built-in Wi-Fi, and it connects directly to 802.11b or 802.11g networks. It lacks a zoom function and a remote control, but the DCS-2100+ is the best low-cost surveillance system we've seen. The package comes with a camera and a stand, an AC adapter, and a six-foot Cat-5 cable. A CD contains the installation and surveillance software; for documentation you get a well-organized and thorough, 102-page manual and a handy, 10-page start-up guide.
The initial installation requires plugging the camera into AC and connecting it via a wired Ethernet connection to a PC running Windows 98 SE or later (sorry, no Macs). Then you run the IP Installer from the CD; it sniffs the network for the camera, then launches a wizard that lets you change the IP address and configure the camera's wireless settings. After you have configured the camera to join your network, you can pull the Ethernet plug and install the camera anywhere within range of your wireless network. The included stand and mounting bracket make the physical installation easy. The camera doesn't take batteries, so you'll need to have an AC outlet within range of its six-foot power cord.
The camera's single, green LED glows, showing it's ready. Open an Internet Explorer window (the camera requires IE 5 or higher) and enter its IP address; a stream of 320x240-pixel video appears, complete with a time and date stamp. It can also send 160x120 video.
The core of the software package is the IP Surveillance suite, which has Monitor and Playback programs and provides a slew of recording and viewing features. The application is easy to install and run, but it takes up the entire screen, and the image stretches awkwardly to fit anything other than a traditional 4:3 display. You can view as many as 16 different video streams in a variety of formats. The DCS-2100+ has a good feature set that includes a motion detector and the ability to monitor up to 16 cameras simultaneously. It can alert you of intruders via e-mail, or it can start an external application that can make a recording or play an alert sound. You can't remotely aim, focus, or zoom it, though.
The DCS-2100+ transmits acceptable-quality (30 frames per second) video, with excellent sound synchronization. Under the best of circumstances, its output has a red cast to it in spite of an automatic white balance, and in a dark setting, the output is grainy, black-and-white video. The camera is not weatherproof, so you must mount it behind a window to monitor outdoor areas.
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The camera's sturdy stand makes the DCS-2100+ easy to mount and point.
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You can attach directional antennae to the DCS-2100+ for increased range.