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Zmodo Pivot review: Zmodo's Pivot security cam has a 360-degree view

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The $150 indoor Zmodo Pivot cam was first unveiled at CES earlier this year. Zmodo isn't new to the security camera scene, but it did something entirely different with this model. It's equipped with motion sensors that cover 360 degrees and a pannable center that auto-rotates to record activity clips outside of the 135-degree camera's otherwise fixed range.

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7.3

Zmodo Pivot

The Good

24/7 recording, 16GB of internal storage, 360-degree motion sensors and panning capabilities, two included door/window sensor accessories and a Bluetooth speaker give the $150 Zmodo Pivot an edge over the competition.

The Bad

The Pivot doesn't currently have cloud storage or work with any products/platforms from smart-home manufacturers. The app is also a little tricky to navigate.

The Bottom Line

Get the Zmodo Pivot if you prefer local storage and want to be able to pan around an entire room on demand.

The Pivot also has night vision, two-way audio, a Bluetooth speaker, 16GB of internal storage, and temperature and humidity sensors. It comes with two battery-powered door/window sensors, too, and you can add on Zmodo's $150 Greet doorbell camera and other brand-specific accessories as needed.

While it occasionally feels like this camera is trying to do too much, the 360-degree motion sensors, panning function, and included door/window accessories definitely add value. Its 1080p live stream, night vision, and other standard features are also solid, although the motion detection was a bit hit or miss.

Consider the Pivot over other DIY camera options if you want to cover a wide field of view and don't care about third-party smart-home integrations (because this camera doesn't have any).

Zmodo's Pivot cam rotates to catch all the action

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Features

Cameras that can pan and tilt have been around for a while now; we've even reviewed some of them. But, cameras surrounded by a whole bunch of motion sensors aren't all that common among DIY pan-and-tilt units -- and they are completely MIA when it comes to single, fixed-view security cameras like Nest Cam, Samsung's SmartCam HD Plus, ArcSoft's Simplicam, iSmartAlarm's Spot and many more.

That's the main thing that sets the Pivot apart from the competition. Its sensors are located at the top of the camera and span its circumference to pick up on activity that's happening beyond the Pivot's 135-degree field of view. If someone's walking near the camera, but they don't actually pass in front of the camera lens, it doesn't matter. The built-in motion sensors issue an alert and the Pivot follows suit by, well, pivoting to capture a video clip of the activity. You can also pan manually if you're interested in seeing what's going on at home on demand.

You get two battery-powered door/window sensors with your purchase, too. Stick them in view of the camera and you can program it to rotate in the direction of the door/window/cabinet/drawer you're monitoring when the sensor detects activity.

In addition to its 360-degree motion sensors, door/window sensors, and panning capabilities, the Pivot cam also boasts some other solid specs:

  • A 1080p high-definition resolution
  • Temperature and humidity sensors
  • Two-way talk via a built-in speaker and a microphone
  • 16GB internal storage
  • Night vision
  • Bluetooth speaker
  • Related Android and iPhone apps

Design and configuration

It looks pretty nice, too. A smallish black cylinder that's similar to the Canary and to Amazon's Tap in terms of design, the Zmodo Pivot is fairly discreet. At the same time, it works best in the center of a room due to its 360-degree panning, so you probably won't want to tuck it away in a corner.

Configuration was as simple as downloading the Zmodo app, plugging in the Pivot camera, and entering the local Wi-Fi credentials. Adding the door/window sensors was also straightforward -- just select Add device > Accessories, then push the button on the side of the sensor for it to connect.

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Canary, Zmodo's Pivot, and the Amazon Tap side by side.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The app is mostly easy to navigate, but it isn't the most streamlined software I've ever seen. It always took a little longer than expected to find the various features and functions I wanted to access. Even so, it got easier after extended use.

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Day and night-vision modes.

Screenshots by CNET

But even with all of these features and options, the Pivot has a couple of significant limitations. Zmodo says it's bringing cloud storage into the mix "soon," but it isn't available today. That's fine if you're partial to local control, as it has 16GB of internal storage, but it won't suit everyone.

It's also seriously lacking in terms of third-party integrations. It doesn't work with Amazon Alexa, Nest, Apple HomeKit, IFTTT, SmartThings, Wink, or any other smart home platforms or products. A Zmodo spokesperson also told me that, "There are no future plans to integrate at the moment." Again, that's fine if you aren't looking to expand the system, but it could be a deal breaker for some.

Performance

The Pivot performed well during my testing. The video didn't lag much, the live stream looked good in both day and night mode, the software auto-adjusted between SD and HD when the Wi-Fi network was slow and the notifications related to motion and any door/window activity were prompt.

But there are a couple of caveats. The Zmodo support page says, "Pivot is designed to send you an alert no more than once every 10 minutes," so it won't capture every motion event by design. I also got a handful of phantom alerts when no obvious motion activity had taken place. Because of this, I wouldn't depend on it exclusively to secure your home.

All of the indoor home security cameras we've tested

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The takeaway

The $150 Zmodo Pivot is a quirky camera. Its 360 degrees of motion sensors and pannability make it an asset for those times when you want to see an entire room at a glance. The addition of temperature and humidity sensors, as well as the Bluetooth speaker and two included door/window sensors may be secondary features, but they give the Pivot a unique suite of options that some might appreciate having. I do wish the Pivot had cloud services and worked with products from other manufacturers, but Zmodo's all-seeing Pivot would still add value to your smart home.

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7.3

Zmodo Pivot

Score Breakdown

Features 8.5Usability 7Design 6.5Performance 7