In recent months, smart thermostat specialists, ecobee, have been working on a transition from a one-of-a-kind device company to an effortless home security company. New products from ecobee include a smart camera and a door / window contact sensor that works alongside a new home monitoring subscription service called Haven.
I tested the new ecobee tools in the last week and a half and was quite impressed with the debut of the camera. A simple setup process, excellent video quality, HomeKit support and a fantastic Smart Focus tracking ability make it one of the best options around, but it has a cost, both advanced and monthly.
Bottom line: The debut of the ecobee camera comes with impressive visuals, Alexa integration, HomeKit support and Smart Focus tracking. If you can afford the high advanced price and subscription fee for video recording, then this camera will not disappoint.
- Excellent image quality
- Pan digital controls
- Person detection and focus mode
- Device processing
- Supports Alexa (built-in) and HomeKit
- Video recording requires a subscription
- Notifications do not include images
ecobee SmartCamera: features
The Ecobee SmartCamera has a clean visual design with an all-black face, white frame and sleek metal backing. The camera mount allows for easy vertical adjustments, and its clever design allows it to be mounted on a single-screw wall. The camera is rated for indoor use only and does not have an internal battery, so if the power goes out, the camera will not be accessible.
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The image quality of the camera is 1080p HD resolution, with a field of view of 180 degrees and records at 30 frames per second. For night viewing, the camera uses 3 wide-angle LEDs, and the camera supports 2-way audio with a built-in microphone. There are two physical buttons at the top of the camera that are used for voice control, one is a mute switch and the other is a manual Alexa activation button, which also serves as a dual setup menu on the device.
The ecobee camera connects directly to a home network via Wi-Fi, both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, without the need for a separate hub. The camera has an Alexa voice assistant built into Amazon, which allows voice commands for the camera and other skills and services. SmartCamera also supports HomeKit to stream live images on demand through the Home app, and while it doesn’t support Google Assistant, it works with the Android Ecobee app.
Software features include digital panning, zoom and a siren activation option that works with other ecobee devices. Image processing, which is performed on the device by an 8-core processor, can distinguish between humans and pets and allows Smart Focus, which tracks activity by panning to track people in its vision.
While the camera has 4 GB of flash storage on board, it does not save local video. The footage is encrypted and sent to the ecobee cloud storage, which is available through the company’s Haven Home Monitoring subscription service. A free one-month trial room is included with the room, after which the price for Haven starts at $ 5 per month for a single room. The service provides a 14-day timeline, and snapshots and videos can be saved to your phone’s storage at any time.
Haven Home Monitoring works with other ecobee devices in the house, such as thermostats, room sensors and newly added door and contact window sensors. The Haven house monitoring approach allows the use of motion and occupancy sensors on existing devices to automatically arm and disarm the house, bypassing the need for keyboards or fobs. By tracking the location, family members who are connected to the ecobee application allow the system to distinguish whether an unexpected entry into the home requires a security notification.
ecobee SmartCamera: What I like
Setting up the SmartCamera was quick and easy, the whole process takes less than 10 minutes from disconnecting to pairing. Attaching the metal bracket does not require any tools and all you need to do is connect the camera to an outlet. The association of the camera through the ecobee application was simple with a series of prompts that guide the way. As a HomeKit fan, I like how ecobee integrated HomeKit into the setup process and does not require additional setup later.
Navigating the ecobee app is simple, with the newly added camera appearing in the list of home devices at launch. Extracting a live stream is just an accessory and I like how ecobee put all the controls and settings of the camera in its own dedicated section. Speaking of controls, I like to have options for panning the camera view, mermaid and manual recordings, along with live streaming, both in portrait and landscape views. These commands are sensitive and fluid, each of them living almost as soon as you touch the associated button.
Uploading the live stream only takes a few seconds through the ecobee app, and oddly enough, it’s even faster using the Apple Home app. The footage transmitted and captured by the SmartCamera is detailed and clear, remaining uniform with forward movement activity. The quality of the image remains clear through the black and white night vision, easily providing enough detail to identify people or any action that might be in his vision.
The quality of the SmartCamera microphone was also quite impressive. When watching a live stream, the quality was good enough for real conversations, with no weird gaps or delays often seen with other cameras.
The quality of the camera speaker is about what you would expect for this type of device. The music played by Alexa was tinny and, without the bass, I would equate it with a first generation dot echo. Alexa’s voice responses were loud and clear and, for some reason, sounded richer than real audio playback through the speaker.
ecobee SmartCamera: What I do not like
Make no mistake, ecobee SmartCamera is expensive compared to the existing offers on the market. While the camera offers impressive images and the ability to track movement, it does not offer features such as an internal battery or a local storage option.
Even if the ecobee SmartCamera does sports on the device’s processing, the recorded videos are stored in the cloud. Video recording requires a subscription to Ecobee’s Haven Home Monitor service, which only adds to the already high cost of ownership.
Without a service subscription, the room is fine, it is not a security room at all. Sure, you can stream live video on demand and use it for use with HomeKit and your Alexa device, but the lack of recording capability is definitely a problem. Obviously, I would have liked to have seen the company offer at least one day of recording or a local option available, but I understand that cloud video storage is certainly not free for ecobee. I asked about HomeKit Secure Video, the iCloud storage solution for Apple’s privacy center, and I was told that it is something that is up and running and should be available in the coming months, which will give users a Haven subscription-free registration option. .
My final complaints contain how the SmartCamera handles notifications for motion events and video sharing at HomeKit. For motion events, the iOS ecobee app will send an alert within seconds of the activity event, however, the notification doesn’t include a picture of the action happening in front of the camera. The notification only displays the following: “Activity alert! We detected activity while your home was armed.”
On the HomeKit front, I noticed that turning off the camera in the ecobee app did not affect the HomeKit and you can continue to watch live video through the Home app. Equally strange is that turning off the camera in the ecobee app turns off the camera’s automatic night viewing mode, so the Home app view won’t turn on during the night. Certainly, this is an extremely big issue, which I don’t think many will face, but it is worth noting for privacy reasons.
ecobee SmartCamera: Bottom line
At the end of the day, the ecobee SmartCamera offers some really compelling features, including excellent image quality and on-device processing. While I was expecting great things from ecobee hardware, I was still surprised at how well it performs, given that it is the company’s first foray into the category.
However, the SmartCamera is priced at the top of the connected camera market and requires a subscription to register. This makes the SmartCamera more of an investment, leading it from an easy recommendation for most, to a recommendation based on price sensitivity.
If you don’t care about prices and just want a solid, good-looking camera with great features and images, then you won’t be disappointed with the ecobee SmartCamera. If you have reservations about the price, you may be more suited to another option, which is unfortunate given how good this room is.
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