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Range Test and Other Features

Along with higher throughput, one of the benefits of the draft 802.11n wireless standard used in the Smartvue system is supposed to be increased range. During my review, I had the Smartvue base station located in my basement, so I wanted to see if it could communicate with cameras placed at the far reaches of my house and yard.

Typically, I've issues with long-range access around my house since there is a lot of furnace ductwork in the basement, but the Smartvue system didn't seem to have a problem, being able to view both a camera up on the second floor, and a camera out in the corner of my yard. The frame rate may have been a bit lower than I'd seen before, but it wasn't bad.

I also wanted to check to see if the wireless network used in the Smartvue system would cause interference issues with my usual 802.11g home network. To check this out, I set up my 802.11g access point to use channel 6, a frequency in the middle of the wireless range, and I moved some large files across the network, measuring their speed both when the Smartvue system was running, and when it was not. If there was an interference issue, my simple little test didn't show any drop in speed. In both cases, my throughput was similar.

NOTE:Smartvue said that the radio used in the S4 can operate in both the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands and use either 20 MHz (normal) or 40 MHz (channel bonded) modes. But they currently set the radio to operate in the 5 GHz band with no channel bonding.

When using a system like this, it is often desirable to get access to the cameras from remote locations. To support this capability, you can either punch holes in your firewall to access the box directly, or with Smartvue, you can use an intermediate service they supply. To check this out, I logged into their service using a supplied username and password, and selected my system.

The first time I tried it, I got nothing, but when I figured out that my pop-up blocker was interfering, I got a window with my video (Figure 16). This worked pretty well, but given the lower available bandwidth, the image was smaller and the frame rate was quite a bit lower than on my local LAN. Smartvue also provides an even smaller view for use on cellphones.

Remote Viewing

Figure 16 : Remote Viewing

Most of my testing was with Windows, but since Smartvue had recently announced support for Macintosh systems, I wanted to try it out. I didn't see it documented anywhere, but one key appears to be configuring the camera to output MJPEG instead of H.264.

Once I had done this set, I could occasionally view video from the cameras from my Safari browser, but behavior was inconsistent. And even Internet Explorer didn't seem to like the MJPEG setting, occasionally giving me unhelpful error pop-ups as see in Figure 15. So at this point, I'd stay away from the MJPEG setting.

Helpful Error

Figure 15 : "Helpful" Error
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