Aztech's latest wireless IP (Internet Protocol) camera - the WIPC309HD - eschews the trend of uploading recorded videos and photos to the cloud. It instead saves them on local storage.
As a result, there is no subscription fee and users can reasonably expect that their files will be secure at home, away from hackers and prying eyes.
It does not make a good first impression - its small plastic body is light and feels like a toy. Screws are included if you wish to mount it on the wall.
Like most modern IP cameras, it is designed to be used with smartphones. Download the AzCam app (available for both iOS and Android), use your smartphone camera to scan a QR code at the back of the camera and the setup process will be completed within minutes.
While such a process is typical of these devices, I was surprised by its audio cues. For instance, a robotic-sounding voice informed me when the setup was complete. This is certainly more novice-friendly than having users decipher status LEDs to determine if the camera has been correctly configured.
Unfortunately, the new AzCam app has some teething issues. It does not detect that the camera has been configured and is working properly, until I restart the app. A restart is also needed for it to recognise that the camera has a microSD card installed (it supports up to 64GB cards).
During my testing of the camera last week, the Android version did not support smartphones running Android 8.0 Oreo. Aztech says Android 8.0 support will be available this week.
VIDEO RESOLUTION: Up to 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
VIDEO FORMAT: H.264
FIELD OF VIEW: 110 degrees
NIGHT VISION: Up to 6m
MOTION DETECTION: Yes
MOBILE APPS: iOS and Android
When motion is detected, the Aztech camera starts to record a short video clip of 15 seconds. Infrared LEDs ensure that it captures videos even in the dark, though the range is fairly limited at about 6m.
At its default "middle" sensitivity setting, I find the motion detection to be accurate. An app notification is promptly sent to my smartphone when the camera detects motion.
A minor grouse: Unlike some of its competitors, there is no option to select the motion detection zone. I can only assume that the detection feature applies to the entire field of view captured by the camera (110 degrees).
It also lacks audio detection so sound will not trigger a notification or start a recording. Using the app, you can talk to another person in front of the camera, thanks to a two-way microphone and speaker system. But the audio quality is mediocre and there is a slight lag. My voice sounds distorted with some static. The quality of the videos and photos is passable, but the colours and details captured by its 2-megapixel sensor are not the best, though it records at up to full-HD resolution.
As mentioned earlier, photos and videos can be stored on a microSD card in the camera. It can be configured to record continuously, though videos are automatically saved as one-minute snippets. It would have been useful to have an option to change this to a lengthier snippet in the settings. In addition, users can also have the camera save videos and photos directly to a network-attached storage drive on the home network.
But I would give some of its flaws a pass because at $69, it is significantly cheaper than its competitors.
• Verdict: A decent camera that gets most things right, especially the price.