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Homeboy review: Homeboy isn't just another Dropcam Pro clone

Homeboy skirts its security camera competition with an IFTTT channel and a long-lasting rechargeable battery.

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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

Homeboy is a bit of a security camera rebel. Rather than copying other DIY models, this nonconformist security camera company decided to do its own thing.

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7.6

Homeboy

The Good

Homeboy is a reasonably-priced rechargeable DIY security camera designed to last for months on a single charge.

The Bad

It doesn't have live-streaming capabilities or HD video quality.

The Bottom Line

Homeboy's simple, untethered approach to DIY home security handles the basics beautifully and frees you from any would-be bandwidth or storage concerns.

Its $150 camera (international availability is slated for 2015, but there's no pricing information just yet; direct conversions would be about £95 or AU$170) doesn't have live streaming or HD video, so don't even think about Homeboy if you want a webcam or prioritize top-quality resolutions. Instead, Homeboy focuses on mobility via a long-lasting, rechargeable battery. This makes it possible for you to mount your camera pretty much anywhere -- anywhere indoors, that is -- and still enjoy the benefits of motion-related push and email alerts, night vision and free 30-day rolling cloud storage.

Despite its more minimalist take on DIY security, Homeboy also has a built-in siren, arm and disarm modes tied to your phone's GPS location as well as its own IFTTT channel. These factors combine to create an elegantly-executed security camera that gives you just enough functionality without taking up a ton of bandwidth.

The Homeboy security camera can go anywhere (pictures)

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Homeboy is a white plastic camera about the size of a billiard ball. It comes with a detachable magnetic base so you can easily set it up on a flat surface or use the included adhesive to mount it to a wall. The camera itself has a large magnetic section so you can rotate and re-position it as needed for just the right angle.

For a paired-down DIY security camera, Homeboy has a lot of features. Still, it won't look particularly impressive in a side-by-side comparison with cameras like the Dropcam Pro . That's because Homeboy purposely took a different approach -- focusing instead on freedom of movement and simplicity rather than continuous cloud storage and comparatively-high bandwidth requirements.

Homeboy's lithium polymer battery is designed to last for up to three months before needing a charge. The company points to its low-power Wi-Fi tech as the reason for Homeboy's impressive battery life. It also claims that only 500 milliseconds pass from the time the camera detects motion to when it starts to record video. I didn't really have a way of testing that particular claim, but it definitely captured events as they were happening, rather than missing the action.

Homeboy's camera captures video at 640x480, which, unlike DoorBot , wasn't particularly bad. Of course, it wasn't as sharp as cameras with 720p or higher, but I was able to easily make out what was happening in the saved clips in both day- and night-vision modes.

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Viewing saved clips and scrolling through the camera's timestamped activity log. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

I like that Homeboy has arm and disarm modes that can tie into your phone's GPS locator. Enabling the "arm with GPS" feature automatically armed the camera when I left and disarmed it when I returned. Similar to setting a home and away schedule, I received motion-related push and email alerts while I was out and I didn't have to worry about receiving them when I returned. You can disable or override this feature, as needed, but I found it to work extremely well -- especially since I didn't want hundreds of clips of myself walking back and forth.

You can also record your own clips on demand. So even though you can't see what's going on 24/7 via live streaming, you can hit the "record now" button whenever you want and adjust the length of the clip to anything from 5 to 30 seconds. You can also extend unlimited access to what Homeboy calls your "crew" so friends and family can also receive alerts and respond to potential security breaches.

The camera also has the ability to sound a siren (it wasn't terribly loud, but it would definitely startle an intruder), record audio whenever it captures video (it doesn't have separate audio alerts, though) and set an emergency phone number that will display on the video clip screen in case you need to quickly make a call.

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Homeboy's IFTTT recipes worked very well. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

The IFTTT channel was a welcome addition to Homeboy's basic functionality. I created three separate recipes. The first one turned on the lamp connected to a Belkin WeMo Insight Switch every time it sensed motion. It worked well, except this recipe was rather anticlimactic when the light was already turned on. You could also pair your Philips Hue LEDs to Homeboy and have them flash or change color.

I also had Homeboy send my saved video clips to Dropbox for a simple, free local storage option (you can also send them to Google Drive) and send me a text message whenever it detected motion. Up until this point, the free Manything iOS security camera app has been the only "security camera" with an IFTTT channel. That makes Homeboy a bit of an IFTTT channel pioneer, bringing it closer to tons of different third-party products and services, including SmartThings .

Homeboy's setup was incredibly seamless. I downloaded the app on my iPhone 5 (an Android app is currently in the works) and followed the instructions to get started. I created an account and selected "setup camera." From there, it walked me through a series of simple steps, including setting my location, opting in to the "arm by GPS" feature, charging the camera (a USB cord is included) and entering my Wi-Fi information. The camera takes a couple of hours to fully charge (the camera works while it's charging) and, although I didn't test Homeboy over time, is supposed to last for a few months on one charge.

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Arm the camera to receive motion-related push and email notifications. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

The only issue I ran into during testing related to the Wi-Fi connection. When the Wi-Fi cut out, so did the camera and I would get an email telling me that Homeboy has lost contact with my camera. That happened a couple of times and the connection didn't always return right away. So, any of the motion detection that happened during the outage period would start to come through with a vengeance after the Wi-Fi connection was restored -- not super helpful if there was a real security threat, but, of course that's more of a network complaint than a concern with Homeboy's core functionality.

But that does raise the question of Wi-Fi-connected home security in general and how reliable it really is. Link-Union's Link-U Hybrid SmartCam is in the middle of an Indiegogo campaign and lists optional cellular backup (by way of a data SIM card) among its many features. Of course, you'd have to pay for the SIM card, but it would theoretically solve any Wi-Fi connection wonkiness.

At $150, Homeboy is an affordable DIY camera that gracefully tackles basic home security, while still managing to offer a handful of extra features. Although it doesn't deliver the sharpest video clips or offer 24/7 live streaming, Homeboy will still record clear footage and let you know it detected a potential security breach right away. The free, rolling 30-day unlimited clip storage is appealing and its rechargeable battery and IFTTT channel will bring a new level of customization to your DIY setup. Homeboy is available for pre-order now in the US, with units scheduled to begin shipping November 1.

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7.6

Homeboy

Score Breakdown

Features 7.5Usability 8Design 7Performance 8
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