D-Link Day/Night Network Cloud Camera 1150 (DCS-933L) review

D-Link's entry into low-cost indoor surveillance lacks some of the extras we like to see in networked webcams, but it offers easy setup and good usability at a fair price.

D-Link knows networking, so the company almost gets it right with the Day/Night Network Cloud Camera 1150. Setup is straightforward, and if your network is built with the latest D-Link products, no setup is required—just plug the camera into an AC outlet and your router and it’s ready. Compared with the $200 Y-Cam HomeMonitor Indoor or even the $150 Dropcam HD the $99.99 (list) Cloud Camera 1150 is a good deal. It’s a bit under-equipped with a standard-definition sensor, weak night vision mode, and a lack of online DVR service. While there is an online service for viewing the video feed, it doesn’t include any cloud-based storage, putting it on par with the $120 Compro Cloud Network Camera (TN50W).

Design and Setup
The plain, white Cloud Camera 1150 has a soap-bar size and shape at 3.6 by 2.3 by 1.2 inches (HWD) without the stand. That stand is one of the few I’ve seen that’s entirely plastic, but it’s still wall- or ceiling-mountable with the included screws. It doesn’t feel as sturdy as the metal stands that come with the Zmodo 720P HD Wireless Network IP Camera or Dropcam, though.

The camera has far fewer infrared LEDs than other models we’ve tested, with just four, instead of a nice ring array to nearly invisibly illuminate the area for the camera’s IR-sensitive mode when it’s dark. D-Link only guarantees night vision to about 15 feet while Y-Cam promises 50 feet. On the other hand, the Compro TN50W we tested has no LEDs at all, so D-Link is ahead of that one.

According to the company, setup is “zero configuration” if you already have a relatively recent D-Link Cloud Router and a mydlink account. My D-Link router is officially ancient at four years old, so I went through the full setup. This involves installing software on a Mac or Windows PC, rather than just a quick scan of a QR code with a mobile app (like that found on the Zmodo) or going to a website to enter a code from the camera (like with the Y-Cam HomeMonitor).

The setup leads you through connecting the camera, via Ethernet, to a router (D-Link includes a ribbon-thin 10baseT cable for this purpose), plugging in the power, then waiting for an LED on the back to turn solid green. The wizard auto-detects the camera’s MAC and IP addresses. You can assign a password to the camera at this point, which is highly recommended. Switch the camera to wireless mode using either the simple Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), or by finding an available Wi-Fi network SSID to connect to.

Finally, you have to sign up for the mydlink cloud service, if you don’t have an account already. Download the mydlink Lite apps for your phone or tablet, and get ready for some surveiling.

Features and Performance
The D-Link Cloud Camera 1150 appears no-frills on the surface, but there’s some power underneath if you bother to access it (more on that in a minute). Many won’t, and will feel they’ve got their money’s worth since that surface works just fine for the most part. I ran into some glitches, however.

To view the camera in a browser on mydlink.com, you need to install the Java Runtime Environment (JRE). I was also told by the wizard to perform a firmware upgrade. It’s not exactly a fast setup, but it worked despite the constant Java errors I had with my Chrome browser. Thankfully, Java worked in IE 10.

Once in the mydlink.com interface, you can activate and adjust the motion detection and audio detection under the settings tab. Motion detection has a nice screen that lets you define an area of the image for detection (so the ceiling fan or dogs don’t set it off, for example). A slider bar lets you increase or decrease the motion sensitivity. You can also schedule motion detection for individual days of the week. No matter how I set the sensitivity, I got far too many email alerts and false positives.

The audio detection settings are unique among the surveillance cameras I’ve tested. Mydlink displays a decibel level graph of what the camera currently hears up to 90db, so you can make an educated guess on what setting to use. This model supports listening to live audio with the video, but there’s no two-way audio—you can’t talk to the camera’s subjects from a mobile app or remote computer, for instance.

Whenever a motion or audio event is detected, you get a time-stamped email with a still 640-by-480-pixel (VGA) image attached. The camera doesn’t just support SMTP email; you can easily input settings for Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail, as well. It automatically sends the alerts to the email address you signed up with, so using a different address here can mean double the alerts.

Utterly unique to the Cloud Camera 1150 is a wireless extender mode. This lets you extend the range of your home wireless network, and could come in especially handy if you get multiple D-Link Cloud Cameras. Don’t set it too far away, though; that could actually hurt wireless network performance.

Many of the above settings can also be modified from the mydlink Lite app on a phone or tablet. Generally, however, the apps are just for accessing the live camera feed, and perhaps taking a still image here or there.

Where’s all this under-the-hood power I mentioned? In the mydlink settings, click the “Advanced Settings” button. You’ll need the special password you assigned the camera (it may not be the same as your mydlink account password). This gives you access, via your browser, to the internal settings of the camera itself, everything from changing the password, to changing video quality, setting up dynamic DNS, creating mail accounts for alerts, or altering the extender mode to have its own SSID.

In Advanced Settings, you can set up alerts to email a video clip rather than a still image, and there are also options for sending video or stills to an FTP site. That’s as close as the Cloud Camera comes to an online “DVR” service for surveillance footage, though the company claims it will work seamlessly with D-Link network-attached storage devices to store video.

The camera uses the H.264 codec, so the video looks good, but it only records up to 640 by 480 resolution, which just doesn’t cut it compared with the 720p images on cameras from Zmodo and Dropcam.

Conclusion
We’ve yet to see a Wi-Fi surveillance camera that has just the right mix of performance, setup, and features to match the Logitech Alert 750n Indoor Master System. The 750n remains our Editors’ Choice even though it’s more expensive and isn’t wireless (using HomePlug instead). D-Link’s home surveillance solution needs to improve quality, remove the Java requirement for browser access, and consider some functional online storage (and not just a live feed or email/FTP uploads) to measure up.

Specifications
Service Provider Other
Active Noise Cancellation No
Bundled Software PC, Mac
Tilt Adjustment No
1080p Recording No
Mic Mono
Skype HD certified No

Verdict
D-Link's entry into low-cost indoor surveillance lacks some of the extras we like to see in networked webcams, but it offers easy setup and good usability at a fair price.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc