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Dropcam HD Reviewed

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Introduction

Dropcam HD

At a Glance
Product Dropcam HD [Website]
Summary Wireless HD quality IP camera with two-way sound, night vision and cloud-based viewing and recording
Pros • Very good image quality
• Nice compact design
• Dead simple to set up and use
• No settings to tweak
Cons • Can severely affect your internet connection, both up and downstream
• No option for local viewing/recording
• No settings to tweak

When I saw Dropcam's new HD model at a CES press event in January, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. The concept was very appealing, a simple-to-use HD-quality wireless IP camera with an attractive web interface, night vision and DVR features. I was so impressed that I put my pre-order in right after returning from the event. Then Dropcam missed its end-of-January ship date, delaying to "late March". My Dropcam HD finally shipped on March 29, just making the delayed ship date promise.

Setup

Setting up the Dropcam HD is very easy, with everything you need to know printed on a Quick Start card that you can't miss when you open the box, because it sits right on top of the camera. In the box are also a sturdy metal stand with plastic wall-mounting plate, screws, a cute little ice cube sized 5V/2A power adapter and 10 foot USB to micro USB cord.

You connect the Dropcam to a USB port on a machine running Win XP/Vista/7 or Mac OS, browse to the mounted folder and click the installer file. After a bit, the program will open as shown below. The other installer screens are shown in the gallery that you'll find a little later on. Setup is pretty easy and you should be up and running in no time.

Dropcam HD installer start
Dropcam HD installer start

Two things that I learned during setup were that the 10 foot cord is pretty heavy and can pull the camera and base over quite easiy if you don't tie off the cord somehow. The other thing was to check that the camera is fully snapped into the base before you start moving it around or it will go tumbling.

I found, however, even if the camera was fully snapped in, it still could be pulled loose from the base too easily. Good thing the little sucker is sturdy, because it had to survive more than a few bounces off tables and floors during testing.

Inside

The FCC ID docs were no help since they reference only the Qualcomm Atheros wireless module. So I removed the four screws for a look-see. The main camera chip must be on the other side of the board and I didn't want to risk not being able to reassemble it, so I didn't probe further.

Dropcam HD inside
Dropcam HD inside

What I could see was the Qualcomm Atheros AR6103 ROCm 802.11n single stream 2.4 GHz module, an AKM Semi AK4642 Stereo Codec w/ Line, Speaker, Headphone out chip and a few other devices that handle power and IR LED driving.

Note the twelve (!) IR LEDs. When these guys are on, the Dropcam HD's temperature rises significantly from its usual very warm to downright toasty! With no heatsinking, no ventilation and a plastic case, I'm wary of the HD's long-term reliability.




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