SwannSecure lacks the competition's appeal

/ Updated: February 25, 2014 6:00 AM PST
Swann

Promising to make advanced home security easier and more accessible, Swann Security is introducing SwannSecure, a new wireless IP camera kit due in retail outlets this April.

Based in Australia, Swann has been manufacturing cameras and security devices for over 25 years. It was just last year, though, that they launched SwannLink, a peer-to-peer network designed to help consumers connect their security systems with devices like phones and tablets via the internet. The SwannSecure kit is the latest offering to fall in line with that initiative, consisting of an indoor/outdoor, Wi-Fi ready camera that you'll be able to monitor from your Android or iOS device, as well as from a separate 7-inch touchscreen interface. Each camera features a built-in microphone, as well as motion-triggered video recording.

All of that sounds great -- until you get a load of the price. The camera and touch screen together cost $379, which is more than what you'll pay for well-reviewed competitors like Piper and Dropcam Pro, as well as exciting, yet-to-be-released options like Samsung SmartCam HD and Canary.

Meet Swann's ugly duckling. Swann

Of course, the SwannSecure camera only costs $139 if you buy it on its own. So why not just ditch the touch screen? After all, at 1024 x 600 pixels (less than half the resolution of an iPad Mini), and with no other real functionality beyond playback, it hardly seems worth the $240 it tacks onto SwannSecure's price. For consumers who already own an Android or iOS device capable of viewing their live feeds and recorded footage, it'd be a near-complete redundancy.

Unfortunately, you don't have a choice. The touch screen is mandatory -- you can't use these cameras without it.

Pricing qualms aside, SwannSecure cameras (model NVW-470) seem to fall short when it comes to image quality, as well. The new cameras will feature a 1MP CMOS sensor, an IR cut filter for night vision, a glass lens, and a resolution of 720p. That resolution is good enough to bear the HD label, but not as impressive as Piper or Dropcam Pro, both of which offer resolutions of 1080p. SwannSecure also gets bested when it comes to viewing angle, with a 65 degree lens that falls short of the Dropcam Pro's 130 degrees, and shorter still of Piper's 180 degrees.

Swann

Another factor separating the three is the cost of storing and viewing recorded video, and here's where SwannSecure might look tempting to the truly fee-averse. SwannSecure cameras will save video to a mini SD card that you'll pay nothing to access (storage size starts at 8 GB -- you can upgrade as high as 64 GB). Dropcam will let you view your live feed for free, but you'll need to pay a monthly fee in order to save continuous video to the cloud for DVR-style viewing at a later date. Piper will automatically record 25-second video snippets whenever it detects something amiss, and you'll be able to play those back for free in addition to viewing the live feed. Like Dropcam, though, Piper will soon offer a fee-based continuous storage option for longer spans of video coverage.

This local storage strategy might help explain the SwannSecure's lower resolution, as Swann is likely aiming for the sweet spot: high enough to claim HD-quality, but low enough that you'll be able to fit plenty of footage on that micro SD card. It's a strategy that we're also seeing from Samsung with the newly announced SmartCam HD, due out in March.

With motion detection and video playback, Swann's cameras aren't quite as comprehensive as an option like Piper or Canary, which both track environmental factors like temperature, humidity, and noise levels in addition to recording video. They also won't integrate into a larger network of motion detectors, open/close sensors, and other security peripherals. For a camera-based system like that, you'll want to look into iSmartAlarm, Oplink Security, or Viper Home.

SwannSecure kits and cameras will be available this April through Swann's many retail partners, which include Wal-Mart, RadioShack, Fry's, Best Buy, and Costco. Right now, I'm not sure I see the value.

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Where to Buy See all prices

SwannSecure All-in-One Wi-Fi Video Monitoring System

Part Number: SWNVW-470KIT
MSRP: $379.99 Low Price: $347.99 See all prices