After moving house, installing my previous CCTV system consisting of 4 wired cameras and a DVR box proved difficult due to the layout of my new home.
The main obstacle was the lino flooring throughout the passage way and kitchen meaning I couldn't run any cables underneath it.
Not wanting to see a barrage of ugly cables everywhere, my only option was to buy a IP camera that would wirelessly transmit the video signal from the camera directly to my laptop or smartphone.
Not really an ideal solution, since I wouldn't be able to view live footage on my TV, but since I spend most of my life on my laptop, plus most IP cameras also allow you to add a microSD card to download footage it was a very small compromise.
Never owning an IP camera before and not really knowing whether it would suit my needs, I wasn't going to break the bank and buy an expensive model.
Therefore, I went for a budget model called the ieGeek Outdoor IP Camera (720p version). This, like most budget IP cameras was from a relatively unknown Chinese brand that cost £42.99 from Amazon.
With an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 from 350 customer reviews this was the highest rated budget IP camera available on Amazon.co.uk.
The camera arrived about 3 days after ordering and first impressions were fairly good. Quality was reasonable with a solid aluminium housing and attractive black (also available in white) design. The camera was also compact, roughly the size of a clenched fist.
However, the joints and small allen bolts used to adjust the direction of the camera feel flimsy, and I have concerns that water may find its way through the Wi-Fi antenna, rubber seal and screw holes in time.
There's also no dedicated weatherproof microSD card slot, meaning you have to disassemble the camera with a thin long screwdriver to insert the microSD card within the camera system itself. However, once the microSD card is installed, you can download the footage wirelessly to your PC or smartphone without removing the card.
The cable coming from the camera also splits into 3 with a power, ethernet, and reset button, making it unbelievably difficult to thread through a wall, meaning a weatherproof junction box would be necessary unless you fancy drilling a big hole. Lucky enough the power cable is very thin and easy to get through a wall with a piece of rigid wire.
Pairing the Camera with Your Router
As with most cheap Chinese products, the manual comes with a very unique pidgin English instruction manual, which has apparently been improved from its previous version, though its still like reading a non-English webpage using Google translate.
Before you mount the ieGeek IP camera in your desired location you need to first connect it to your router via the supplied ethernet cable. You'll also need to use the supplied mini CD and install a tool called "SearchTool" on your PC. If setting up your camera via a smartphone you can download an app called "CamHi" either from the App Store or Google Play, however, I haven't tried this yet.
It's annoying that you have to use an ethernet cable to pair your camera with your router, rather than being able to enter your Mac address and other details manually. I also found that if you accidentally reset your router via the settings menu, you have to go through the same process again. This also applies if you change your Internet router at any time.
Therefore, it's a good idea to mount your camera in a sensible position so the ethernet cable port is easily accessible just in case you need to pair it to your router again.
Pairing your camera with your router with the supplied "SearchTool" software is a fairly easy task, and once completed, it will supply you with a IP address where you can access the live feed and additional settings through your web browser. This must be done through Internet Explorer, not Chrome, Edge, Firefox or any other web browser.
Turning off the ieGeek IP camera or your router doesn't affect the pairing process, though you may need to use the SearchTool to be issued with a new IP address.
Mounting the Camera
You can mount the camera either inside or out. In my case, I installed it outside on the front of my garage, so it overlooks my driveway and 2 cars. As mentioned earlier, the camera comes with a bulky cable which splits into 3 consisting of the power, ethernet and reset button.
Since I installed mine on the garage, this was just a single skin wall which I drilled one large hole, probably at least 1 inch in diameter. I wouldn't recommend doing this if you had to go through 2 layers of bricks and a cavity, but instead use a small plastic weatherproof junction box to store the main cable and its 3 connectors and then just drill one hole for the power cable which is very small in diameter.
The power cable is roughly 9 feet in length, so you should have plenty of cable to get to your nearest plug point. You can also buy an extension cable for a very modest price.
The camera is secured via 3 screws and wall plugs (supplied in the box), which ensures it should survive strong winds and even accidental knocks.
Unlike a wired CCTV camera, you're limited by your Wi-Fi range. In my case, I installed the camera roughly 50 feet away from my Wi-Fi router, which is located in the front living room.
So far, this is working well, though the live feed can be a little jerky at times.
The ieGeek IP camera only supports 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi frequency, but this shouldn't be a problem as most modern routers support both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency.
When it comes to determining whether the camera is within your Wi-Fi range, you can use a speed website, such as Speedtest.net. First do a speed test with your laptop or smartphone in the same room as your router and take note of the speed, then do the same test standing in roughly the same position as you intend to mount the camera. As long as speeds stays fairly consistent and doesn't drop by more than a couple of megabytes per second, you should be fine.
The ieGeek 720p Outdoor IP Camera, as the name suggests, produces 720p HD footage. However, so far I have found the quality to be lacking, especially compared to my previous 720p wired CCTV system.
It isn't bad by any means, but you won't get a crisp, clear shot of somebody's face, especially if they're stood 20 feet or more away, even at the highest bit and frame rate quality. The colours are also on the dull side, but you can change the brightness, saturation, contrast and exposure through the settings via Internet Explorer.
The video quality, especially when viewing a live feed can also vary depending on how well the camera is communicating with your router. The quality can fluctuate quite considerably, though it's fairly consistent most of the time.
Video quality in nightvision is poor, and often looks pixelated. But from previous experience, I found that night vision quality depends on a number of factors, such as street lighting or how close you park your car to the camera, as light can reflect back from the car and impede quality.
The camera claims it can see up to 15m at night, but personally I can't see anything beyond 10m. You'll also find that cobwebs, moisture in the air and even reflectors from car lights can reflect back from the infrared and cause horrible vision.
The camera isn't too great in rain, especially when the wind is blowing raindrops back towards the camera, which can severely impair the vision until it dries.
Overall, the quality is okay, but far from great. There is a 1080p version of this camera and I wonder whether it's worth spending an extra £20 to get that sharper video quality.
Unfortunately, the camera doesn't come with any inbuilt storage. For that you have to buy a microSD card, which as mentioned earlier needs to be installed by dismantling the camera, though this is fairly straightforward.
The microSD card will also need to be at least class 10 capable of recording HD video.
There are other options to record your footage to an FTP server or directly to your computer using the supplied software, HiP2P Client, however I wouldn't recommend either of them.
The ieGeek 720p Outdoor IP Camera supports up to 128 GB microSD card, though you only really need a 32 GB microSD card to record a reasonable amount of non-stop footage.
I personally bought a 64 microSD card, thinking it would only store around a couple of days of footage, but so far I've recorded 9 consistent days and still have 20 GB left until it rewrites over the old data.
The reason why you can store so much footage is that it records in a raw format called .264, which can only be playback via the HiPlay application supplied with the CD.
On the downside, I've been unable to convert this format to MP4 or another friendly format using a video converter. Not very good, if you need to hand over the footage to the police.
By default, when you insert an SD card it should start recording continuously, but you can also choose whether you want it to record on certain days of the week or whether you want to use motion detection. All of these options can be applied through Internet Explorer.
However, motion detection recording is a waste of time, in my opinion, as it only records several seconds of footage at a time, or until it detects further motion. A criminal could easily smash your car window, steal your belongings and very little of it would be caught on camera.
You can also set the camera to take JPEG pictures every 5-60 seconds or set motion detection, where the camera will take between 1-3 pictures every time it detects movement.
You can set motion detection via 4 different windows which you can position, resize and adjust the sensitivity. By default, the sensitivity is set to 50% which offers an all-round good performance, though, every time it rains at night time, it triggers the sensor far too often meaning you'll end up with loads of false recordings, even at the lowest setting.
Finding and Playing Back Recordings
You can either use Internet Explorer or the supplied software, HiP2P Client, to view footage that has been recorded to the microSD card. When using Internet Explorer, you have to click on the SD card logo, which then displays a list of dates and times of each recording. Recordings will be saved from 60 seconds to 5 minutes, depending on the settings you have chosen.
It can be quite confusing trying to find a video clip from a certain time period since the date and time formats aren't very clear.
Once you find the file you want it can be downloaded to your PC, which only takes 10-20 seconds at best.
I've also found that the file size of each video varies considerably, with some ranging from as little as 3 MB to 50 MB in size. It seems that the camera doesn't start recording in its highest frame rate or resolution until it detects movement even though continuous 7 days a week recording is enabled.
This means that the first 2 or 3 seconds of footage can be poor and jerky, until the camera kickstart itself into action and starts recording at the highest resolution.
I initially thought this was because I was recording both motion detection pictures and continuous video at the same time, and the camera simply couldn't process the the 2 things at a reasonable speed at once. But after disabling this, it still records in the same way.
The ieGeek 720p outdoor IP camera is a cheap, but not necessary a cheerful camera. At at £42.99 it was never going to deliver the sharpest video quality or have the easiest features to use.
The supplied software is temperamental (at least on my PC), and the instructions are extremely poorly written, meaning if you have no prior experience with IP cameras you may find this one extreme difficult to set up and use.
If you're in the market for a camera, which delivers crisp and reliable recordings to protect your home or your belongings, then this probably isn't the camera for you.
For the price it isn't a bad camera, but I can't help but feel an extra £40-50 would get you a far superior camera both in video quality, features and instructions.
If you're on a tight budget and don't mind a few flaws, then the ieGeek 720p outdoor IP camera is definitely worth considering.
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