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Immedia Blink review: Too few features stymie this security camera

The Blink security camera by Immedia is decent, but its closest competitors manage to offer a lot more for your money.

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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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5 min read

The Blink security camera by startup Immedia launched on Kickstarter back in July 2014, raising over $1 million -- a roughly 500 percent increase over its original $200,000 funding goal.

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5.9

Immedia Blink

The Good

You can install Immedia's battery-powered Blink anywhere (inside your house). One camera -- and its requisite Sync Module accessory -- cost less than $100.

The Bad

Blink doesn't currently support two-way talk, audio alerts, third-party integrations, on-demand recording, local storage, arm/disarm scheduling, in-app rules or other common features.

The Bottom Line

The price is right, but Immedia's Blink just doesn't offer enough functionality when you factor in the competition.

At that time, we hadn't seen many battery-powered models with free cloud storage, especially at such a reasonable price; one Blink cam plus the required plug-in Sync Module hub costs just $79/£55/AU$112 (the price will increase to $99/£69/AU$140 on February 1 and international shipping is scheduled to launch in the second quarter). It's been over a year since we first covered the Blink crowdfunding campaign, though, and many of its features aren't that unique anymore.

Cord-free, battery-reliant models like Netgear's Arlo and Homeboy are fairly common nowadays -- and an increasing number of brands are adding free cloud storage to their list of features. You'll also find a larger number of lower-priced DIY cameras available now, like Guardzilla, the Ezviz Mini and the iSmartAlarm Spot -- all of which cost $100 or less.

Blink is also missing a lot of other features, from two-way talk, to audio alerts, environmental sensors that alert you to changes in temperature, on-demand video recording, in-app rules and integration with products from other manufacturers either via IFTTT or another third-party service. And, while the Wi-Fi connection at the CNET Smart Home was solid during testing, the app was often laggy and said, "System is busy, please wait."

Immedia does have plans to add some of these options in the future, but Blink just doesn't offer enough to make it worthwhile today.

The Immedia Blink won't break the bank (pictures)

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Getting to know Blink

Blink is a small squarish camera with rounded edges that measures 2.77 inches by 2.77 inches. Out of the box, you get the camera, two lithium AA batteries, a separate stand that you have to attach yourself and mounting hardware. Most of the cameras I've reviewed come with preattached stands.

That means an extra step for you if you want to install your Blink camera in a fixed spot or simply position it to hit an optimal angle using the stand. And, you also don't have the added benefit of a magnetic base like Nest Cam, Netgear Arlo or the Ezviz Mini, which makes installation on any obliging magnetic surface a snap.

Blink also doesn't feel particularly durable. It isn't designed for outdoor use, so that isn't a concern, but it definitely has the look and feel of a plasticky smart-home hub or other bland accessory. And, removing the camera's back panel to replace the AA batteries isn't all that simple. The side of the camera has a sliding mechanism that makes it easier, but I still felt like I was going to break it every time I tried to open (or close) it.

The camera is equipped with a 720p 110-degree field of view lens, a motion sensor, an infrared LED for night vision and a Micro-USB slot, presumably to allow for future updates.

In addition to the camera itself, your purchase also includes a Sync Module. This required accessory is also a basic white plastic square that's a little smaller than the Blink cam at about 2 inches by 2 inches.

The Sync Module has an included power adapter and it performs a variety of functions -- it communicates with Blink's remote servers to avoid draining the Blink battery; it talks to the cameras via a low-power radio channel to "wake them up" whenever you want to pull up the live video stream; it has a a built-in USB port to facilitate future updates and it is an integral part of the initial setup and configuration process via the related Blink Android and iOS apps.

Instead of having to connect the Sync Module directly to your router, though, you can simply plug it in to any outlet and follow the instructions in the app -- create a username (using your email address) and password; open the confirmation email and verify your account; plug in the Sync Module; connect it to the Blink Wi-Fi network; connect to your local Wi-Fi network; install the included AA batteries in the camera and wait for it to connect.

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Setting up the Sync Module and the Blink camera.

Screenshots by CNET

It's a fairly straightforward process, although you will have to reconfigure both the Sync Module and your Blink camera any time you change your local Wi-Fi network. A slight inconvenience since you're dealing with two devices -- the Sync Module and the camera -- rather than just one.

Here's the bigger problem

The thing is, this camera doesn't do all that much. And in today's competitive DIY security landscape, that's a pretty significant deal breaker. Cameras really need to offer something extra to stand out -- and Blink just doesn't.

Sure, it's battery-powered and it can detect motion, but that's about it as far as features. It performs pretty well overall, sending quick motion alerts whenever activity is detected, but it doesn't have any advanced video analytics that can tell the difference between a person, a pet or a shadow. To account for this, you can adjust the sensitivity of the sensor. This helps to some extent, but not much.

The battery-powered Homeboy camera works with IFTTT and has a built-in siren for true home security functionality. And, Netgear's battery-powered Arlo is rated for both indoor and outdoor use. What's more, if you're just looking for a simple, basic DIY camera for less money, the $70 Ezviz Mini and the $99 iSmartAlarm Spot offer more.

All of the indoor home security cameras we've tested

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Screenshot by CNET

The Ezviz Mini has both local and free cloud storage, as well as a built-in magnetic base that makes installation very simple. iSmartAlarm's Spot has sound analytics that can detect the frequencies of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and send you an alert. Both also performed well.

Beyond Blink's limited features and only quasi-smart motion detection capabilities, I also had some issues with the app being laggy. At various times when I was trying to pull up the live feed, make changes in the settings section, and more, I would get a pop-up message saying that the server was busy. This happened enough over several days of testing in two different locations (both with solid Wi-Fi connections) that it impacted overall usability.

Blink also doesn't offer two-way talk, you can't record a video clip on-demand, there's no built-in siren, IFTTT channel or settings section where you can create advanced rules. Of course, it also costs less than your average DIY cam -- most sit around the $200 mark, but that isn't enough for me to recommend it.

Immedia says it's adding more features and functionality in the future, so I'll likely revisit Blink then, but it really isn't worth it right now.

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5.9

Immedia Blink

Score Breakdown

Features 5Usability 6Design 6Performance 7
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