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Guardzilla review: This budget security camera isn't the best guardian

Guardzilla works fine as a low-res live streaming machine, but its glitchy motion alerts keep it from attaining true security camera status.

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Megan Wollerton
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Megan Wollerton

Senior Writer/Editor

Megan Wollerton covers renewable energy, climate change and other environmental topics for CNET. Before starting at CNET in 2013, she wrote for NBC Universal's DVICE (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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I first saw the Guardzilla home security camera at CES earlier this year and was intrigued. It definitely didn't dazzle in terms of specs -- it captures video at a comparatively low 640x480 VGA resolution, and has only a 89-degree horizontal field of view and other basics -- but at just 100 bucks it's much less expensive than the $200 Dropcam Pro and its other pricey peers.

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5.5

Guardzilla

The Good

At just $100, Guardzilla is significantly less expensive than many standalone DIY security cameras. You can use a microSD card to store video footage locally.

The Bad

Guardzilla's motion alerts are sporadic at best, making it an unreliable security device. It snaps photos when it detects motion rather than video (unless you buy a microSD card and even if you do, you'll have to remove the card to view recordings since there's no built-in video-clip-viewing feature on the app).

The Bottom Line

Guardzilla makes a fine budget webcam, but there are free app solutions like Manything, Presence and Salient Eye that do even more for less.

During a time when companies (and many consumers) seem singularly focused on crisp, bandwidth-breaking 1080p video quality, Guardzilla is doing something different. And, at roughly half the price of its high-res competition, this quirky triangle-shaped security camera has clear appeal for budget-minded security seekers.

Sadly, Guardzilla doesn't quite live up to its name, as inconsistent-motion notifications hurt its security potential. Skip it if you're looking for reliable alerts, but it does make a fine webcam if you just want to spy on a mischievous pet while you're at work.

Guardzilla doesn't quite live up to its name (pictures)

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Guardzilla has some explaining to do

Given that there are quite a few look-a-like security cameras on the market today, I really appreciate Guardzilla's unique design. It's triangular and available in either a white or a black finish.

On the other hand, it's triangular, which means that it isn't the most discreet camera we've ever seen. That could be an issue if you're going for discretion (and let's face it, you probably are). It also doesn't look or feel particularly premium, although that's no surprise since it's only $100.

Getting my Guardzilla unit up and running was a little challenging at first, although the process had relatively few steps. You simply plug it in to an outlet, download the Android or iOS app and follow the instructions.

Once you've plugging in your camera and you're inside the app, it will direct you to connect to the Guardzilla Wi-Fi network. Then you just have to enter in a device name like "Living Room" or "Office," hit next and let it connect. This is where I ran into trouble.

Instead of connecting seamlessly and advancing to the app, the status wheel stubbornly continued to spin. I checked the Wi-Fi connection, reset the camera, made sure that I wasn't missing any firmware updates and so on to no avail. Ultimately, I took the camera home and it connected immediately. I still can't quite pinpoint what went wrong at the office originally, but I have successfully set it up there since.

Generally, as long as you're within range of a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network, you shouldn't experience any major issues. Still, it was surprisingly glitchy for such a straightforward pairing process.

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Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

Thankfully, accessing various settings and features inside the app is easy. The main home screen shows large Arm/Disarm, Monitor, Activity Log, Settings and Panic buttons -- the main options you'll be messing with on a day-to-day basis.

Press the Arm/Disarm button to manually adjust your home and away status; Monitor takes you directly to the live VGA feed where you can see what's happening at any given time and access the speaker and microphone for two-way talk; Activity Log gives a list of date- and time-stamped events, like "Alarm Set," "Image Taken" and "Motion;" Settings gives you custom control over notifications, the siren, Guardzilla's geofencing auto-Arm/Disarm feature, night-vision, motion alert sensitivity and more; and Panic provides fast access to the built-in 100-decibel siren.

This is all extremely simple to navigate within the app. The Arm/Disarm button even turns from red (when armed) to green (when disarmed).

How does Guardzilla measure up?

All that easy app navigation stuff is good, but Guardzilla doesn't deliver motion alerts on a consistent basis and that's its core functionality. All of the security features, including taking photos, sounding the siren and sending notifications require a reliable motion sensor.

To troubleshoot, I adjusted the motion sensitivity from its Medium default setting to Max so that it would (theoretically) trigger at even the slightest hint of activity. Nothing changed.

I also tried out different notifications since you have the option of Text, Push and E-mail (I also double-checked that I had entered in the correct phone number and email address). Even with the system armed, motion sensitivity set to Max and all three notification options enabled, I still couldn't get Guardzilla to respond -- whether I was walking around a few feet in the distance or feverishly waving my arms right in front of the camera.

Then, even when it did detect motion, certain other features didn't work. For instance, I set the siren to go off when an armed Guardzilla sensed motion activity. This simply did not work. I was able to manually trigger the siren using the Panic feature, but that's it.

Interestingly, the geofencing feature worked well, meaning that you can set Guardzilla to "auto-arm" by triangulating your proximity to home. When you leave, it switches to Arm mode and when you return, it switches back to Disarm mode. Of course, you can also manually adjust these settings in the app. The ability to switch between Arm/Disarm modes doesn't matter much, though, since the motion alerts rarely work.

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Screenshot by Megan Wollerton/CNET

Guardzilla is really best reserved for simple low-res webcam use. Its 640x480 VGA resolution eases bandwidth concerns and I noticed very little lag time in the feed. Its two-way talk and night-vision features worked pretty well, too. And, you can manually snap a photo of any video feed action while you're watching by simply pressing the camera button in portrait view. That's useful if you happen to catch Fido doing something cute, but don't expect to be watching the video feed at the precise time that an intruder decides to break in; this really doesn't function as a security feature.

You also have the option to add a microSD card into the mix. I didn't use one during testing, but you can select between continuous and alert-related recordings in the settings. That means that you could bypass the wonky unreliable alerts and simply record continuously on a microSD card. That still doesn't offer any real-time security benefit, though, since you'd have to remove the card to watch your footage after the fact.

If you're curious about DIY home security and are looking for a solid entry-level option, free apps like Manything (iOS-only), Presence (Android and iOS) and Salient Eye (Android-only) are significantly more functional than Guardzilla. Each one lets you use a main device (probably your phone) and a secondary device (either Android or iOS depending on the specific app you pick). The secondary device can be set to act as your camera, while your main device can be used for live streaming (Manything and Presence only), to receive alerts and to adjust your settings. So, consider this route if you have a spare Android or iOS device at home and are interested in delving into DIY home security.

A gif of the Presence app doing its thing. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

A webcam at best

Guardzilla doesn't have an IFTTT channel or any official third-party partners. It's a simply standalone device that I really hoped would shake up the competitive high-res DIY security camera market as a budget counterpart that works. Unfortunately, that just wasn't the case. At $100, Guardzilla is cheap to be sure, but it isn't a functional security camera. It's a reasonably good webcam and that's about it.

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5.5

Guardzilla

Score Breakdown

Features 5Usability 7Design 6Performance 4
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