I didn't like Kickstarter, had an app and motion alerts. The Blink camera was missing nearly everything else, though.I tested back in 2016. The main problem: It had no features. OK, "no features" isn't entirely fair. The battery-powered indoor camera, dreamed up by startup Immedia and funded on
With that first impression, I wasn't sure what to expect from the company's future cams.in late 2017 and another DIY security camera company, , in early 2018. So when Blink announced its latest camera, the XT2, I was eager to give it a second chance.
The original Blink camera did have a few positives: a long battery life, free video clip storage in the app, and it was pretty cheap.
That wasn't nearly enough to make it worth recommending at the time. Fortunately, the weatherproof Blink XT2 mostly fixes the things I didn't like about that first-gen model, while keeping the low price, claims of two-year battery life and free storage.
Here are my impressions after nearly a week with the Blink XT2.
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Today I set up the Blink XT2. I specifically got the $100 one-camera kit. I logged into the Blink app with the account I created to test the original camera three years ago and all of the motion recordings with full audio were still there.
CNET colleague Chris Monroe and I were debating the merits of the hot dog in one clip. Not much has changed.
The new kit I got includes one Blink Sync module and one Blink XT2 camera. The Sync module helps the camera and the app communicate and it's required. It's supposed to help extend the battery life too. Older Sync modules from previous Blink cams should work -- read more. That only saves you $10; standalone Blink XT2 cams cost $90.
Blink sells two-, three- and five-camera systems for $180, $250 and $380, respectively. Given that thetwo-camera kit costs $480, the XT2 is quite a steal.
So, what's it like to set up? That's always the first step. In short, it was a really simple 10-minute process. Here are the highlights.
I clicked on "Add Sync Module" in the app to get started and scanned the QR code on the back of the module. The module is a small gizmo finished in glossy-black plastic that plugs into an outlet with an included cable. I plugged in the Sync module after scanning the code, let it join the Blink Wi-Fi network and entered in my own Wi-Fi credentials.
The firmware automatically updated, which took a few seconds, but then the module was connected. Next, the app prompts you to add a Blink camera. Like the module, I scanned the camera's QR code, its firmware updated and the camera appeared in the app.
The kit comes with a mounting bracket and hardware in case you want to attach the camera to a wall, but it's also flat on the bottom, and you can simply set it on a front porch/back deck/wherever you want within Wi-Fi range.
Today was a test of the Blink XT2's weatherproof capabilities. It was hot and rainy, and I left it overnight on the plank floor of the back deck. I set it away from the ledge by about five inches, buffered by the railing in front, but some heavy rain and gusts of wind swept through while I was out getting lunch.
Fortunately, the XT2 fell into the grass and was totally unfazed. But it's worth noting that while Blink says you can skip the mounting hardware and just set it wherever you want it, try to think about how rain, wind and other sudden changes to the forecast could affect it.
I still have the camera outside, but it's in a more secure spot (hopefully).
I also set up Blink's Amazon Alexa skill today. I opened up the Alexa app, searched for "Blink" under skills and enabled the skill by entering my Blink account info. After that, I asked Alexa on anto "show me the CNET Smart Home camera" and it obliged (after a lag of a few seconds).
The XT2 has arming and disarming capabilities that can be adjusted in the app, but you can also ask Alexa to arm the system for you -- or to disarm it when you give your secret PIN code. The Alexa skill worked really well in general and offered some advanced features like arming and disarming via voice commands that competing systems like Arlo don't offer.
Another thing I noticed today: I haven't received any weird "phantom" alerts on this camera (yet) -- no branches swaying in the wind or bugs flying around. So far, it's been limited to people moving around within its 110-degree viewing angle (which is what I want it to capture) and its unexpected tumble from the deck onto the grass.
I had planned to give an update today on the status of the camera's battery life. The kit comes with two AA lithium batteries and Blink says the camera lasts for two years without needing new batteries, thanks to "a proprietary chip technology available only in Blink cameras."
Naturally, claims like that always come with caveats. Battery life, like the product's performance, can vary based on a bunch of factors.
Here's what the Blink website says: "Two AA lithium-metal batteries last up to two years, based on 53,870 seconds of video events, including Live View, motion-activated recording, and two-way talk. XT2 provides double the seconds of use as the original XT when used exclusively for Live View and motion-activated recording. Battery life will vary based on device settings, use, and environmental factors. Use of two-way talk will reduce battery life."
And instead of providing a specific battery percentage like my phone does, the Blink app simply says that the battery is "OK." That means I won't be able to report on how quickly it drops to 99 percent or 52 percent -- and so on. I'll only know that the app says the battery is "OK."
That said, I'm trying to stick to Blink's definition of regular use, and I have an alert set up in the Blink app that will let me know when the batteries get low. (Will it be next week? Next month? Two years from now, as Blink claims? Place your bets in the comments section below.)
I really like that the XT2 has free cloud storage. As I said earlier, the app still has old clips from 2016 saved, back from when I tested the original Blink camera. That's unique among home security cameras today. Typically, if you get free storage, it's only for 24 hours or at most for a week or so. After that, you have to pay a monthly fee for that feature.
Not so with the Blink XT2. Click on the little file-folder icon on the top-right corner of the app and scroll through days (and, in my case, years) of footage for free. A bar at the top of the app screen says my storage is 10 percent full right now. A little drop-down arrow reveals some customization options for storage. If the storage gets full, the app will simply start deleting the oldest clips. You can also opt-in to automatically delete clips older than 3, 7, 14 or 30 days -- or even clips older than one year.
Clearly I didn't make use of that feature before or I wouldn't still have the distinct pleasure of re-watching Chris and I debate about hot dogs in 2016.
I'm working remotely today, away from the CNET Smart Home where I set up this camera on Monday. The CNET Smart Home is a busy place, where lots of testing and video shoots happen. When I left the house yesterday evening, I had the Blink Sync Module plugged into an outlet on the kitchen island. When I opened the app today, it had been disconnected because a colleague used the outlet for something today.
Note: If you have a busy house, plug in your Sync module somewhere a bit remote, where the outlet isn't regularly competing with other devices. Your camera won't work if the Sync module isn't plugged in and "online" in the Blink app.
The week in review
Overall, the Blink XT2 is an intriguing camera that's way better than the predecessor I tested years ago. I like the price, I love the free cloud storage and the battery life, if it turns out to be even remotely accurate, will be a huge benefit.
There are plenty of other solid battery-powered outdoor cameras around, especially the Arlo Pro 2 (which I really like), but if the Blink XT2 continues to deliver, it might become one of my favorite weatherproof options to date.
My goal is to keep this camera running and report back if the battery dies more quickly than expected. Otherwise, I'll touch base every three months and provide a brief update that all is running well.
I'll also be sure to note any new quirks. Maybe the camera works better in extreme heat than extreme cold? Blink says it's operating temperature range is from negative four to 113 degrees. Kentucky has a heat advisory over the weekend, so we'll see what happens.