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Flir FX review: Flir FX can go anywhere you go

Flir FX has an impressive array of features, but some performance issues detract from its overall appeal.

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Megan Wollerton
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Megan Wollerton

Senior Writer/Editor

Megan Wollerton has covered technology for CNET since 2013. Before that, she wrote for NBC's Dvice.com (now SyFy). Megan has a master's degree from the University of Louisville and a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College, both in international relations. She is a board member of the Louisville chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. When Megan isn't writing, she's planning far-flung adventures.

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5 min read

At $200 (£163 on Amazon UK), Flir FX is a direct Nest Cam , Netatmo Welcome , Samsung SmartCam HD Pro and Piper competitor. Since DIY security cameras in the $200-plus price range are considered high-end -- and since this category as a whole is rapidly growing -- these brands are under increasing pressure to deliver both in terms of HD video quality and advanced features. (Availability in Australia has yet to be announced.)

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6.7

Flir FX

The Good

Flir FX has free cloud storage as well as a microSD card slot. It comes with a power adapter, but has a 4-hour backup battery, too. And, you can convert it into an outdoor or action cam, thanks to optional accessories (available for an extra cost).

The Bad

Phantom alerts, activity log lag times and app glitches hold Flir FX back. It's also missing third-party integrations.

The Bottom Line

Flir FX has cornered the market on adaptability, but it has some major limitations that make it tough to recommend in its current state.

Although Flir FX lacks third-party smart-home integrations like IFTTT and SmartThings , it has lots of options. It offers HD video streaming and recording, free two-day cloud storage, a microSD card slot for local storage, four-hour battery backup, a time-lapse video of the day's events, detection zones and optional accessories that convert the indoor Flir FX into either an outdoor security camera or an action camera.

Even so, this pricey camera suffered from frequent phantom alerts, in-app glitches that returned erroneous error messages and significant lag times between receiving motion or sound alerts and actually being able to view the saved clips in the app. Flir FX is versatile to be sure, but its well-roundedness doesn't translate to top performance. Consider Flir FX if security camera portability is your main concern. If not, I'd pass.

Keep tabs on your house with the Flir FX (pictures)

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Versatility comes at a price

High-end security cameras tend to go above and beyond to distinguish themselves from less-expensive DIY models . Flir FX is no exception.

It brings 720p video streaming (that's a resolution of 1,280x720) and 1080p video recording (1,920x1080) to the table, along with free recording to a microSD card (not included, it supports sizes ranging from 8 to 64GB) and optional cloud services. Flir's basic cloud subscription gives you "unlimited" storage for up to two days and access to the video time-lapse and detection zone features. Seven-day storage costs $10 per month or $100 per year, and 30-day storage costs $20 per month or $200 per year.

If you tire of having a power-adapter-tethered Flir FX, you can pull the plug and enjoy the camera cord-free for up to four hours (when it's attached to the camera stand; two hours if you detach the camera from its stand) before it needs to be recharged. If that wasn't enough mobility for you, the Flir brand sells optional accessories designed to transform the indoor-only FX model into a weatherproof outdoor security camera, a waterproof sport/action camera or a dashboard-mounted car camera.

Flir FXNest CamDropcam ProPiperSamsung SmartCam HD Pro
Price $200$200$200$200$190
Color BlackBlackBlackWhiteWhite
Field of view (diagonal) 160 degrees130 degrees130 degrees180 degrees128 degrees
Streaming video quality 1,280x7201,920x1,0801,280x7201,920x1,0801,920x1,080
Cloud storage Yes, starts with two days of free storageYes, starts at $10/month or $99/year for 10 daysYes, starts at $10/month or $99/year for 7 daysYes, saves up to 1,000 clips at no extra cost No
Local storage Yes, microSD cardNoNoNoYes, microSD card
Night vision YesYesYesNoYes
Mobile app Yes, Android and iOSYes, Android and iOSYes, Android and iOSYes, Android and iOSYes, Android and iOS
Web app NoYesYesYesYes
Two-way audio YesYesYesYesYes
Motion and sound alerts YesYesYesYesYes
Protocol integration NoNoNoYes, Z-WaveNo

Looking at the side-by-side comparison above, you can see that no other camera in its price range offers both local and cloud storage options. And while battery-powered security cameras like the indoor-only Homeboy and the indoor/outdoor Netgear Arlo have some advanced flexibility over many of their peers, none of the models I've reviewed come close to matching Flir FX's versatility.

In addition to its basic motion and sound alerts, this camera also has temperature and humidity sensors so you can set customizable environmental notifications. But my favorite advanced feature by far is Flir FX's "Rapid Recap." Rapid Recap is a little tricky to explain, but it gives you a condensed time-stamped time-lapse video of all of the activity that's taken place within a specified amount of time.

Folks using the free two-day cloud option only get to create three Rapid Recaps per cycle, while subscribers at the $10 and $30 level have access to unlimited recaps. Check out the video below for a better idea of what Rapid Recap can do. As you can imagine, this feature would definitely come in handy if you want a quick look at everything that happened at home during a 6-to-12 hour period (free cloud service users can recap up to 6 hours, while paid users can recap up to 8 hours for the $10, seven-day subscription and up to 12 hours for the $20, 30-day subscription).

Rapid Recap in action. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The nitty-gritty

Before I could start testing out all of these features, I had to download the Flir FX app (it's available for Android and iOS devices) and follow the instructions to set up my camera. This process went smoothly, although the app doesn't mask Wi-Fi or account passwords, putting them on full display inside the app. I found that odd, since most other DIY security cam configurations take care to hide those details.

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Flir FX in day- and night-vision modes. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

While I didn't have any other concerns or setbacks during setup, I did find the configuration process a little more involved than that of models like Nest Cam, which took all of 5 minutes. The Flir app even instructs you to charge your FX for at least 20 minutes before continuing to the next step. That isn't complicated, but it is a little inconvenient if you're hoping for "plug-and-play."

The ease-of-use didn't change much once I connected the camera and started exploring the app in-depth.

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I frequently received this error message in the app. Screenshot by Megan Wollerton/CNET
Not only does it have some general clunkiness that makes the navigation learning curve steeper than I'd like, but it was glitchy, too.

Nearly every time that I enabled motion alerts, I received the following error: "Update camera 'Front Door' -- There was an error updating the camera."

Confusingly, the error message was completely erroneous since the app always completed the "enable motion" command successfully.

Performance was also hit-or-miss. You have the option to select between HD and SD quality for live streaming (to ease any bandwidth concerns), but the HD quality was regularly grainier and more pixelated than expected in both day- and night-vision modes.

I also received numerous phantom motion alerts during testing, many of which popped up in oddly consistent two- or three-second intervals for hours, rendering the highest sensitivity setting on the motion sensor setting all but useless. Switching the setting to medium or low sensitivity did help, but inaccurate alerts still snuck in occasionally.

There was an annoying lag time between receiving a sound or motion alert and being able to actually find the clip for review in the activity log. Sometimes a clip would appear right away and others it would take 15 or more minutes for it to populate.

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Inside the Flir FX app. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

That often meant that selecting "Open screen" on the in-app alert (as seen in the center screenshot above) didn't work, since that specific video hadn't yet been saved in the log.

Another wallflower

Like many security cameras, the black Flir FX blends in easily with its surroundings. It features an adjustable stand that that can fold and extend with minimal effort, although it isn't optimized for rotation. I also wish it had a magnetic base, like Nest Cam and Netgear Arlo.

I like that you can remove the camera from its stand, but it doesn't feel as sturdy as models like Nest Cam or ArcSoft's Simplicam . Generally, though, Flir FX camera looks pretty good and seems durable enough for indoor use (the optional accessories for outdoor use would add a much-needed layer of protection).

All of the indoor home security cameras we've tested

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Is Flir FX for you?

There's a lot happening in the DIY security camera market today. While Flir FX definitely offers an impressive array of features, it needs to perform better to stay competitive in the smart-home industry. Specifically, its app is glitchy, its alerts are unreliable, and its streaming quality is surprisingly grainy for HD.

Flir FX is also missing third-party partnerships, and those will become increasingly important as Apple's Siri-based HomeKit platform , Google's Brillo operating system and other Internet of Things powerhouses, like Works with Nest, continue to develop. Skip Flir FX unless you really need a security-and-action-cam-in-one.

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6.7

Flir FX

Score Breakdown

Features 9Usability 5Design 7Performance 5