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Multimedia & VoIP Reviews

Introduction

Updated 3/29/12: Added Link to SmallCloudBuilder article

D-Link DCS-942L

At a Glance
Product D-Link DCS-942L Enhanced Wireless N Day/Night Home Network Camera [Website]
Summary Cloud-enabled day/night IP cam with local SD recording
Pros • 30 fps framerate at all resolutions
• Night vision worked to advertised distance and beyond
• mydlink.com portal provides remote viewing with no router configuration
Cons • Soft plastic ball and socket pivot construction feels cheap
• Night to day mode transitions were problematic
• Need browser open to record video
• Could benefit from more IR illumination

The D-Link DCS-942L is D-Link's top-of-line network camera that works with the company's mydlink.com cloud portal. If you haven't heard about mydlink.com, take a look at D-Link In The Cloud: mydlink Reviewed, which Tim posted a few weeks ago.

The other models in the mydlink-enabled line are currently the entry-level DCS-930L [reviewed] and DCS-932L. The 930L doesn't have IR illumination, so is daylight only. The DCS-942L edges aside the DCS-932L to take the top spot with 4X more RAM and flash, higher 30 fps frame rate at all resolutions (thanks to H.264/MPEG-4 encoding support) and local recording to a micro-SD card (not included).

In this review, I'll be looking at the DCS-942L camera and the feature set supported by its built-in web admin interface. The integration with the mydlink.com portal is covered in a separate review on SmallCloudBuilder.

Internal Details

Not wanting to damage the camera while taking it apart, I decided to grab the FCC photos. In the photo below, you can see the 942L is powered by the Grain Media GM8126 SoC, which also manages the Ethernet connection.

DCS-942L Grain Media GM8126 SoC
Figure 1: DCS-942L Grain Media GM8126 SoC

The camera features 128 MB of SDRAM and 16 MB of flash memory. A Ralink RT5370 provides the 802.11b/g/n radio.

DCS-942L Winbond memory

Figure 2: DCS-942L Winbond flash memory

Setup

I followed the installation steps provided in the Quick Install Guide and had no trouble setting up the camera or getting it onto my network. The installation instructions were simple almost to a fault, even going as far to show how to adjust the collar on the camera base for correct positioning of the camera. I chose a wired installation for the initial setup vs. the WPS wireless option, but tried WPS later and found it worked correctly.

D-Link DCS-942L Quick Setup Wizard
Figure 3: D-Link DCS-942L Quick Setup Wizard

Once on the network, the install wizard presented the network name of the camera, as well as its MAC and IP address. The install then proceeded with registration with the cloud by creating a mydlink.com account. Registration with mydlink.com went off without a hitch and I was ready to go.

D-Link DCS-942L Quick Setup Wizard Network identification
Figure 4: D-Link DCS-942L Quick Setup Wizard Network identification

With installation complete, I moved on to setting it up in the first physical test location and a couple of things immediately caught my attention. First, the ball and socket design does not feel very sturdy. The socket is metal, but the ball is a soft plastic which then threads into metal on the camera itself.

Because of its lightweight size and plastic construction, the camera easily moved under tension from the power and Ethernet cables, sometimes working the ball and socket loose, but usually moving the entire camera. It took only a moderate amount of tightening before the plastic threads started to strip. This could easily be remedied if the camera were equipped with a ball and socket of harder plastic or metal.

D-Link DCS-942L soft plastic ball and socket
Figure 6: D-Link DCS-942L soft plastic ball and socket

Another thing that might help would be a simple hook on the base of the camera so that cable tension wouldn't pull the camera out of position as much. Connecting by wireless and getting the weight of the Ethernet cable off of the soft plastic ball and socket definitely helps as well. A quick zip tie to attach the wires to the camera base may be all that's needed to keep cable tension at bay.

A plastic hook or simple zip tie for the cables would help the camera stay in position
Figure 7: A plastic hook on the base or simple zip tie for the cables would help the camera stay in position

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