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Samsung SmartCam HD Pro review: This Dropcam Pro competitor feels a bit unfinished

Can Samsung's $189 SmartCam HD Pro compete with the $199 Dropcam Pro?

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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

Samsung's $189 SmartCam HD Pro was designed to compete directly with the $199 Dropcam Pro . As far as IP cameras go, both offer straightforward setup, an impressive array of app-related features, and 1080p resolution, but the Dropcam Pro still feels like a more-complete camera. The Dropcam Pro's camera is durable yet streamlined; both its Web and mobile apps are thoughtfully designed, and the video quality is particularly crisp. The SmartCam HD Pro is still a very good camera that offers appealing extras such as local SD storage, but I would still spend the additional $10 for the Dropcam Pro's superior app interface and video quality. And if you're looking for a more security-focused, wireless networked camera, consider the $239 Piper all-in-one security system.

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7.9

Samsung SmartCam HD Pro

The Good

Tons of app-accessible features make Samsung's $189 SmartCam HD Pro an extremely hands-on, customizable IP camera. It has less lag time than the $199 Dropcam Pro and offers SD card storage.

The Bad

The camera's components feel cheap. The video quality isn't as crisp as its Dropcam Pro competition even though both are 1080p.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung SmartCam HD Pro is a very good IP camera, but Dropcam Pro still has it beat in terms of durability, app design, and overall video quality.

Shining a spotlight on Samsung's Smartcam HD Pro (pictures)

See all photos


Design and features

The SmartCam HD Pro looks much more like a mini smoke detector than an IP camera. Its 10.3 ounces is definitely bordering on clunky compared to the 5.7-ounce Dropcam Pro. And while the Samsung's design is bigger, it doesn't feel nearly as durable as the Dropcam Pro. That's probably because Samsung's camera has a lot of plastic components, while the Dropcam Pro is decked out in substantial-feeling metal parts. That also makes the $189 SmartCam HD Pro feel significantly cheaper than the $199 Dropcam Pro.

The SmartCam HD Pro is available in a glossy white finish that isn't exactly inconspicuous, but it isn't terribly offensive, either. Like the Dropcam Pro, you do have the option of mounting your camera on a wall or using the base to place it on a flat surface. Here's a comparison chart of major Samsung SmartCam HD Pro and Dropcam Pro features and capabilities:

Samsung Dropcam
Price $189 $199
Weight 10.3 ounces 5.7 ounces
Dimensions
(HxWxD)
4.7 by 3.3 by
3.1 (inches)
4.5 by 3.15 by
3.15 (inches)
Camera color White Black
Field of view
(diagonal)
128 degrees 130 degrees
Video H.264, 1,920x1,080
30 frames per second
H.264, 1,920x1,080
30 frames per second
Glass lens Yes Yes
Night vision Yes Yes
Mobile app Android: 2.3 or higher
iOS: iOS 5 or higher
Android: 2.3 or higher
iOS: iOS 6 or higher
Web app Yes Yes
Zoom 4X (mobile), 10X (Web) 8X
Bluetooth No Yes, BLE
2-way audio Yes Yes
Alerts Yes Yes
Local storage Yes, SD card No

While there are a lot of basic similarities between the two cameras, there are two glaring differences. Samsung's IP offers SD card storage (whereas the Dropcam Pro offers optional cloud-based recording starting at $9.95/month or $99/year) and the Dropcam Pro has additional home automation opportunities via Bluetooth low energy (BLE). Also, the SmartCam HD Pro's 128-degree field of view versus the Dropcam Pro's 130-degree field of view may not seem significant on paper, but there's a pretty noticeable difference between the two when you're watching live footage on the app.

Speaking of the app, Samsung makes sure that you have plenty of features to customize your experience. You can adjust the speaker and microphone for sensitivity, there's a night vision feature that you can turn on or off as needed, and there's also an optional wide dynamic range (WDR) feature. Strong light can cause other things inside your house to appear darker; opting into WDR will fix that. I found that it worked extremely well.

You can also turn on motion and/or audio detection and adjust the sensitivity of both, depending on your needs. Then you will receive notifications whenever an event is triggered. The Manual Recording option will send video (both recorded events and continuous recordings) to your microSD card, Capture saves video frames to your photo album, and Two-way Talk lets you speak to someone in your home directly from the camera.

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Samsung's mobile app on the left, Dropcam's at right. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

Samsung also loaded a few lullabies into the app, so you can press the music notes icon for an instant baby monitor. Video brightness and the ability to select up to three zones inside your home for targeted motion detection are also features available to you on the app. A lot of options are packed into both the mobile and Web apps, but the design is underwhelming and utilitarian. The Dropcam apps, on the other hand, are both functional and visually appealing.

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Samsung's Web app at top, Dropcam's below. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

Usability

Setting up the camera was painless. Simply download the app on your connected device and follow the instructions. I used an iPhone 5, and the whole process took me less than 10 minutes.

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The iOS app setup process. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

While the mobile app offers a lot of features, the layout wasn't as simple as I would have liked. For instance, some of the features are displayed on the live video feed, while others are located in a separate menu section. The options on the live feed are displayed as icons. Some, like the music notes, are obvious, while others, such as the image capture icon, aren't quite as intuitive. Still, it's pretty easy to use the app to interact with the camera (still, I prefer Dropcam's app over Samsung's).

Performance

I caught fellow CNET staffer Ry Crist walking back to his desk and took a screen shot from both apps for comparison. I noticed a clear difference in video quality between the SmartCam HD Pro and the Dropcam Pro. Both are good, but the Dropcam Pro is noticeably better -- that was consistent throughout testing.

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Samsung SmartCam HD Pro at top, Dropcam Pro below. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET


You're going to notice different lag times across Wi-Fi connections, but I wanted to see if anything stood out, and in doing so found some interesting results. Using the Web app, the Dropcam Pro had a significant 5-second lag time, while the Samsung model was only about 1 to 2 seconds behind. Then, when I switched to the mobile app, they were much closer. Still, the Samsung model tended to have a shorter overall lag time.

I also set up motion and audio alerts to receive notifications whenever the camera sensed movement or noise in the area. At first, I received only sound alerts. I made a quick adjustment to the motion alert sensitivity and began to receive consistent movement notifications. Every time an event was triggered, I received an alert.

Conclusion

While I really like the Samsung SmartCam HD Pro, I still think the Dropcam Pro is a superior IP camera. Samsung's app could use a bit of work, the camera felt flimsy, and the video quality wasn't as sharp as the Dropcam Pro's. Still, if you're a devotee of SD cards, the SmartCam is the way to go. Overall, though, I'd spend the extra 10 bucks and get a Dropcam Pro instead.

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7.9

Samsung SmartCam HD Pro

Score Breakdown

Features 9Usability 7.5Design 7Performance 8
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