Samsung is taking on Nest yet again with another Wi-Fi security camera. The Korean giant unveiled the new SmartCam HD Plus in November, available now in the US at Costco stores and online at Costco.com (the MSRP is $190, but it's currently available at Costco for just $110; there's no current plan to expand internationally). The live-streaming camera offers full 1080p HD resolution with a 130-degree field of view, motion and sound alerts and local storage (with a 16GB microSD card included).
Although this new model is supposed to offer "improved night vision" as well as "advanced motion and audio detection" designed to keep false alarms at bay, I noticed no discernible difference between the HD Plus and the $190 Samsung SmartCam HD Pro I reviewed back in 2014 (I used the three HD Pros currently installed at the CNET Smart Home for reference). And, while the next-gen HD Plus is smaller and generally more discreet than the HD Pro, it still feels cheaply made. It also doesn't work with SmartThings yet -- a smart-home company that Samsung acquired in August of 2014.
Samsung's $190 SmartCam HD Plus is a decent live-streaming security camera that's worth considering if you're interested in local storage, particularly if you take advantage of the Costco sale. Just don't expect it to be a massive improvement over the last-gen HD Pro.
The Nest Cam effect
The HD Pro, which will continue to be sold alongside the new HD Plus, is big and clumsy-looking and made of white plastic -- not exactly what you're going for when you're talking about discreet home security. The HD Plus, on the other hand, is smaller and comes in a black finish. You can even detach the camera from its base to make it less conspicuous.
While these design updates make a lot of sense, they also bear a striking resemblance to the $200, one of Samsung's direct competitors in the DIY home security camera space. ( and replaced its already-impressive with the 1080p, live-streaming Nest Cam).
But Nest Cam boasts a magnetic base that you can easily snap to a magnetic surface (similar to theand the ) and a streamlined mobile app that works with Nest's and its -- two things that the latest SmartCam models are missing. (The HD Plus operates on the same SmartCam Android and iOS apps as the HD Pro, and they aren't particularly easy to navigate.)
Inside the SmartCam app
Set up is relatively straightforward -- you have to plug in the camera (which is a challenge of its own because of the location of the power port), download the app, connect to your local Wi-Fi network, and wait for the status LED on the camera to turn from blue to green.
But once you're in the app, the layout is pretty chaotic. It has a lot of features, including live streaming, a timestamped motion and audio activity log, access to saved clips and adjustable settings like the sensitivity of the speaker, the microphone, the motion detector and the audio detector. It also has the ability to opt in and out of push and email notifications related to motion and audio activity.
There are even more options on the live streaming page. You can record a 30-second clip on demand -- either to the app or to the microSD card; you can take a picture; you can enabled two-way talk to communicate with whoever's near the camera from your phone or tablet; and you can tweak the resolution -- low, medium and high resolution options are available.
In addition, you can play sounds of a police siren, a generic alarm or a dog barking (the HD Pro only offered "lullaby" music clips, so the additional sounds are more security-centric). You can also adjust the brightness of the screen, rotate the picture and record your own audio clips.
That's a whole lot of functionality packed into this camera and its app, but it isn't executed particularly well. And it can get even more confusing if you add more than one camera (we have three SmartCam HD Pro's and one SmartCam HD Plus set up under a single log-in).
Beyond the challenge of locating various features inside the app, it isn't always clear what certain options mean. For example, the fourth icon at the bottom of the screenshot to the right (which reminds me of the chalk outline guy you see in detective movies) is for setting motion zones. I guess it's fairly intuitive, but it would be easier if there were some sort of accompanying description.