Tend Secure's $60 Lynx Indoor camera has a few flaws, but you can't beat its price.
Today's home security market follows a pretty predictable pattern. Most DIY security cameras come with high-definition live streaming video, cloud storage for that video, some kind of motion detection feature and typically cost about $200. Tend Secure's Lynx Indoor camera has all of those things, but it costs just $60 (£45/AU$80).
Yep, you read that right -- 1080p HD resolution, 7-day free event-based cloud storage and advanced, facial recognition-based motion alerts all for 60 bucks.
The Lynx doesn't currently integrate with any major smart home platforms, although it is slated to work with the Google Assistant by the end of July. Its removable base is oddly designed, too, and doesn't hold the camera in place well. It isn't a perfect camera, but its features and overall value make it easy to recommend.
While it's great to see a budget HD DIY camera on the market, Tend Secure should've thrown a little more money at the Lynx's design.
The base that's supposed to hold the camera upright on a table or other flat surface doesn't quite get the job done. As you can see in the image to the right, you simply slide the camera into the base without a latch closure or other locking mechanism to keep it from moving around.
You could tape it down or skip a tabletop installation altogether (wall-mounting hardware comes with your purchase), but it isn't ideal.
The camera looks fine otherwise, if not a little utilitarian. Its small size does help it blend into surroundings more easily.
We've reviewed three DIY cameras that ID specific faces: The ArcSoft Simplicam, the Netatmo Welcome -- and Tend Secure's Lynx. Every other camera touting advanced motion detection can only tell you when it sees a person, any person, without being able to recognize specific faces.
The Simplicam is no longer widely available for purchase, but originally retailed for $150 (about £115/AU$200 converted); Netatmo's Welcome is still sold, but costs $199 (£150/AU$265). While Simplicam charged an optional monthly fee for extra features like cloud storage, the Welcome relies on local storage in the form of a microSD card. If you have a strong preference for local storage and want facial recognition, the Welcome is a reasonable choice.
But if you don't mind using the Lynx's free 7-day event-based cloud storage instead (specifically, it will save 7 days of downloadable motion-related video clips on a rolling basis), you get all of the same things, including arguably better facial-recognition performance.
Here's how the Lynx's facial-recognition software works:
While the Lynx never got a face wrong during my testing, we did have to walk pretty close to the camera and stare at it for at least a couple of seconds before it detected anyone's face. If I walked quickly by the camera feed, it would only deliver the generic motion alert and not detect me. Over time, though, it got a little better, and started to recognize me even when I barely stopped in front of the camera. The more images of you it logs at various (and often unflattering) angles, the better it gets at detecting your face.
Setting everything up in the app was pretty simple. Download the Tend Secure app for Android or iPhone and follow the instructions on the screen. You need to be connected to your local Wi-Fi network, but it only takes a few minutes to get the Lynx's live stream working.
One source of potential annoyance: If you move the camera to a new location with a new Wi-Fi network, you'll have to start the configuration process all over again. I began testing the Lynx at our CNET Appliances office and finished testing at the CNET Smart Home across town. Fortunately, reconfiguring the camera didn't take long; it also miraculously saved my original facial recognition library. My favorite cameras make it easier, though, by simply letting you update the Wi-Fi details in the app without having to reset everything.
The $60 Tend Secure Lynx Indoor camera is truly unique. It's inexpensive, but manages to offer a lot of the same features as $200 security cameras. The free cloud storage is also a huge bonus, as there's no need to worry about monthly fees to access advanced features like watching saved clips or review facial recognition alerts.
If you can work around the Lynx's odd design, you're left with a solid live streaming camera that gets smarter over time.