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Review: TRENDnet TV-IP551WI IP Camera

Great IP camera, not so great software package

IP cameras are a strange beast.  Initially they were designed for commercial purposes, but these days more and more consumers are getting in on the market as well.

There are plenty of reasons you might want to invest in an IP camera for the home.  Maybe you live in a rough area, perhaps you want to keep an eye on the kids.  Or maybe you’re just nosy or in to technology.

Whatever the reason, there are plenty of options available to you.  And TRENDnet have released an interesting model in the TV-IP551WI.

Design

The 551WI comes in a reasonable form factor, TRENDnet quote it as being 75 x 115 x 30 mm, but that doesn’t include the stand.

The front features the lens (as you’d expect), along with the manual focus and LEDs for night vision.  You’ll also find the ambient light sensor above the lens, and the pinhole microphone just below it.

To the rear of the unit you’ll find the power input, the wired network connector as well as the mounting arrangement to allow you to point the camera pretty much wherever you want.

The metal mount feels well made, and TRENDnet even throw in some fixings to allow you to mount it to the wall.  The camera can be repositioned by slackening off the screws on the back, moving the camera and then tightening them back up.  The screws do a reasonable job of holding the camera in place, just make sure you tighten them up properly to avoid the camera moving over time.

Connectivity

As mentioned on the last page, the IP551WI comes with a wired Ethernet connection, but there’s also built in wireless connectivity for those of us who don’t want to run network cables around the house.

If your home router supports WPS then connecting to your home network is as simple as pushing a button on the side of the camera.  But even if it doesn’t, you can quickly and easily connect to your home WiFi network by first connecting via a network cable and setting up the camera using the tool on the provided CD.

We found performance to be more or less the same whether using a wired connection or the built-in wireless.  There was no noticeable difference in picture quality or frame rate when using the lower bandwidth wireless connection.

Actually getting the camera connected to your home network couldn’t be simpler.  The provided software CD features a wizard that will take you through the steps to getting connected, no matter if you’re using a wired connection or your WiFi network.  We were quickly able to connect the camera by both means, and then able to access the camera by typing the IP address into a web browser on any PC on the network.

From this screen you can watch a live feed of the camera, save or email live stills, and use the digital zoom feature to get a slightly better look at part of the picture.  You can also administer the camera from this screen, including changing the default password so that not just anybody can view the feed.

SecurView Pro

Although typing the IP address of the camera into your browser will allow you to view a live feed, it doesn’t give you any facility to record or monitor the camera.

That’s where SecurView Pro comes in.  Included with the camera, this Windows app allows you to monitor multiple cameras at the same time, as well recording video streams onto your PC’s hard disk using a time schedule and motion detection to ensure you only capture the important things.

SecurView Pro supports up to 32 compatible cameras, and has a feature list as long as your arm:

  • Manage up to 32 cameras
  • Compatible with Windows and Microsoft Server 2008
  • Multiple language support
  • Camera Viewing
    • Preset viewing modes
    • Program custom viewing modes
    • Full screen view
    • Drag and drop live feeds to a new location
    • Program camera cycle viewing sequence
    • Motion detection brings video forward
    • Side, top, and bottom tool bars can be hidden
    • Web based access from smart phones and tablets
  • Recording options
    • Program weekly recording schedules
    • Motion detection recording
      • Define motion detection areas of any shape
      • Define motion detection sensitivity
    • Event trigger recording
    • Date and time overlay
    • Mask overlay to conceal sensitive areas
    • Save a single video stream to multiple locations simultaneously
    • Define recording quotas by recording time or space allocation
    • Disk clean feature condenses and optimizes old files
    • Real time recording stats to help manage files
  • Search and Playback
    • Navigation timeline provides a quick visual reference to the recorded content
    • Search continuous recordings by motion
    • Search recordings by motion within a defined field (a portion of the viewing area)
    • Time laps playback search
  • Map cameras on an image such as a floor plan
  • Map cameras on Google Maps™

The problem is, we had a hell of a job actually getting it to work properly on a standard Windows 7 PC.  The initial setup is way more complicated than home users should have to put up with.  And even when we did get it set up we found that some of the more advanced features are probably not that useful for home users.

We would have liked to have seen a separate app included for home users, with a more stream lined installation process and less confusing user interface.

That being said, TRENDnet throw in some pretty easy to use mobile apps which allow you to view your cameras quickly and easily while on the go.

Thankfully, the IP551WI should work with the majority of third party recording suites.  We were able to set it up flawlessly with a Synology 411j NAS drive, allowing us to stream live to a web browser or to Synology’s mobile apps.  The recording and motion detection features also worked fine, though we can’t guarantee this for all 3rd party systems.

Picture quality

We found the picture quality to be more than suitable for home users, and it should be fine for commercial purposes to.  The lens is rated at 640×480 pixels, and recording can be achieved up to 20 frames a second under good network conditions.

Picture quality suffers slightly when using the night vision function, but it’s still good enough to identify a face clearly at between 5 and 7.5m.

We took the liberty of recording, um, some goldfish to demonstrate picture quality:

Specifications

CAMERA
GeneralSensor: 1/5” CMOS Sensor
Board Lens
Focal Length: 4mm
F/No: 1.5
Minimum illumination: 0 lux
Focus Depth: 20 cm ~ infinity
View:Horizontal: 38.0 degreesVertical: 28.7 degreesDiagonal: 46.5 degreesDigital Zoom: 4x
AudioBuilt-in omni-directional microphone
Sensitivity: -38dB +/- 3dB (5 meters max)
Frequency: 100~20000Hz
S/N: >60dB
Format: PCM
Day/NightBuilt-in ICR
Night vision (IR) up to 7.5 meters
HARDWARE
NetworkIEEE 802.3u 10/100Mbps Auto-MDIX Fast Ethernet
LEDPower, Link/Act
WPS ButtonEnable WPS connection
Reset ButtonReset to factory default
Power ConsumptionMax 5 Watts
PowerInput: 100~240V, 50/60Hz, 0.2AOutput: 5V, 1.2A external power adapter
Dimension75 x 115 x 30 mm (2.95 x 4.5 x 1.2 in.)
Weight110 g (3.8 oz.)
TemperatureOperating: 0°C ~ 40°C (32°F ~ 104°F)Storage: -15°C ~ 60°C (5°F ~ 140°F)
HumidityMax 95% (non-condensing)
CertificationsCE, FCC
REQUIREMENT
Management InterfaceInternet Explorer 7.0 or higher
Firefox 3.5 or above
Safari 4.0 or above
To Run softwareWindows 7 (32/64-bit), Vista (32/64-bit), XP (32/64-bit)
Windows Server 2003, 2008
SecurView SoftwareChannel: supports up to 32 cameras
Record / Playback / Motion Detection / Audio
Network ProtocolsIPv4, ARP, TCP, UDP, ICMP
DHCP Client, NTP Client, DNS Client, DDNS Client, SMTP Client, FTP Client
HTTP
PPPoE
UPnP
WIRELESS
StandardIEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g and IEEE 802.11n
Frequency2.4 ~ 2.497 GHz ISM band
ModulationDQPSK, DBPSK, DSSS, and CCK
AntennaBuilt-in 2dBi antenna
Date Rate802.11b: up to 11Mbps802.11g: up to 54Mbps802.11n: up to 150Mbps
Security64/128-bit WEP, WPA / WPA2-PSK
Output Power802.11b: 17dBm (typical)802.11g: 14.5dBm (typical)802.11n: 14.5dBm (typical)
Receiving Sensitivity802.11b: -89dBm at 11Mbps802.11g: -74dBm at 54Mbps802.11n: -71dBm at 150Mbps
Channels1~11 (FCC), 1~13(ETSI)
MANAGEMENT
AccountsUp to 64 user accounts
Remote LoginRemote management supported
Backup / RestoreSave / retrieve configuration files
SETTINGS
ImageBrightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness, white balance, flip, mirror (horizontal / vertical), black & white, indoor, outdoor,
schedule mode
Video SettingEncoding: MJPEGResolution: 640 x 480, 320 x 240, 160 x 120Max frame rate: VGA @ 20fps, QVGA @ 30fps, QQVGA @ 30fpsJPEG quality: Very Low, Low, Medium, High, Very High
RecordingEvent based (motion detection), and scheduled
SnapshotTrigger event: motion detection
Action: send alert email and / or upload to FTP
Real time snapshot
Port SettingsHTTP port: 80 (default)
TimeSynchronize with NTP server or set time / date manually

Conclusions

Would we buy the TRENDnet TV-IP551WI?

Yes, but certainly not for the bundled software.  The camera itself is on par for what you should expect from an IP camera at this price point.  But SecurView Pro is, to our minds, way too complicated for the average home user.  We want a system where we can quickly and easily gain access to a live feed and recordings.  Not a system that is difficult to setup, pretty hard to get to grips with and is full of options that we’re hardly ever likely to use.

That being said, if you’re looking at buying an IP camera for use with an existing setup, then this model should certainly make your short-list.  Picture quality is good in both the traditional and night vision modes, and the built in microphone is good enough to pick up speech clearly at around 5 meters.

We did find that the automatic switch to night vision could be a bit premature, but the images were clear and in focus at all times, which is the important thing.

Author

Matt

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