Y-Cam Bullet HD 1080 review

The Y-Cam Bullet HD 1080 is a more enthusiast security camera than most homes or small offices will be able to afford (or want to fuss with).
Photo of Y-Cam Bullet HD 1080

The Y-Cam Bullet HD 1080 ($671 direct) is a wireless outdoor security camera that delivers a sharp, high-definition video stream. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to overcome its overly complex setup, lack of online streaming extras, and high price—especially when compared with the competition. The Bullet HD 1080 is a camera an IT enthusiast might enjoy, since it supports features like Power over Ethernet (PoE) with some extra work, but it’s not for those who just want to set up surveillance quickly and inexpensively.

Design and Setup
The Bullet HD 1080 is a heavy-duty, 1.8-pound, 2.75 by 4.44-inch (HW) surveillance camera. It comes with an adjustable base you can screw into a wall or ceiling. The camera is designed primarily for outdoor use, as it’s weatherproof and can withstand temperatures ranging from -14 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s not obtrusive when mounted, but it’s not stealthy, either. Once you’ve connected the Bullet HD to your network, all it needs is a supply of power to stay running. 

Setup requires plugging the Bullet HD into your wired network first, using the Ethernet dongle at the end of the thick cable on the back of the camera. That cable also houses connectors for power, external speakers, and a digital I/O port for hooking into some security systems. Power-over-Ethernet is also an option, but requires removing the camera’s back panel to perform some internal surgery.

Once you’ve connected the Bullet HD, if the network supports DHCP, the camera will be assigned an IP address. That’s what you’ll use to access the camera’s video feed in a Web browser. To discover the address, you need to run a small utility called Y-Cam Setup (for Macs or PCs), which provides a grid displaying all the Y-Cam cameras on your network, with their MAC addresses and IP addresses. 

Type the Bullet HD’s IP address into the browser and you’re in. The camera actually is a Web server, so it’s like accessing a full Web site to get to the video and settings, much like when you change settings on your router. Y-Cam’s internal software prefers Microsoft Internet Explorer, as it defaults to it even if it’s not your default browser; Y-cam even wrote a special ActiveX control to display the video and capture motion or stills from the stream. Firefox or Chrome are still usable, as long as you have QuickTime installed. You’ll need the default username (“admin”) and default password (“1234″) to get access. And you should change them, since I’ve now made them public knowledge.

Features and Performance
The Bullet HD 1080 streams sharp video at a resolution as high as 1,920-by-1,080 pixels at 30 frames per second to a Web browser (you can set the resolution lower as needed). While the Bullet HD 1080 connects via Ethernet during setup, it’s actually a wireless webcam with 2.4GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi. Turn this on in the settings, and thereafter, the Bullet HD only requires power to operate. There’s no battery option, unfortunately, as delivering a high-definition video stream isn’t a low-power activity.

Another price of the high-quality stream is that it’s all local to your network. The Logitech Alert 750e Outdoor Master System (our Editors’ Choice) and the Dropcam HD both use a “DVR” service; they send video directly to servers on the Internet and let you view it with a browser or smartphone app. Not so for Bullet HD, which keeps it all at home. Even the Y-Cam MultiLive app for smartphones (I tried it on an iPhone 4) is all about local access, asking for the camera’s local IP address, username, and password. No matter what I tried, that app wouldn’t access the camera even when the stream was obviously viewable on my desktop. However, I could access the video by simply typing the IP address into Safari.

There’s a way around that local limitation that lets you view a stream when out and about, but it’s complicated: Using a dynamic DNS service. Some ISPs provide one free, and the camera specifically supports FreeDNS, no-ip, and Dyn, among others. But they’re not all free, and worse, they pale in comparison to the services Dropcam and Logitech offer. Those not only make it easy to view a stream anywhere, but they also have “DVR” capability for storing your video surveillance off-site for later access.

With the Bullet HD 1080, you can store video in two ways. The camera has a microSD card slot that supports up to a 32GB card. But no card is included, and to install the card, you need to remove the back of the camera by taking it off its mount and removing three recessed screws—so swapping cards regularly is a problem. A better bet is to take advantage of the support for network attached storage if you have a NAS device. After all, keeping HD video can take a lot of space. With either storage method, you can schedule recordings for, say, during the week, or just whenever there’s motion.

Like most modern home/office surveillance cameras, the Bullet HD supports infrared night vision, which looks good and works well out to about 30 feet. Night vision used to seem really cool, but it is now an expected commodity—and it still isn’t worth the price you’d pay for this camera. The Bullet HD also has a microphone so you can listen in on those you surveil. The camera’s microphone is pretty sensitive; ambient room noise comes through as loud as people talking. If you plug speakers into the dongle you can talk to them from your computer (if you use IE to access the video stream).

Conclusions
Liking the Y-Cam Bullet HD 1080 comes down to what you can afford and how much work you want to put in. The price—almost double that of the Logitech Alert 750e Outdoor Master System, not to mention the even less expensive Dropcam HD—immediately hurts Y-Cam’s chances. For that cost, a microSD card should be included, at the very least. The 750e does everything the Bullet does for less per camera—though paying a monthly fee to Logitech for the DVR service means it costs more in the long run, but the mobile access and online storage make the fee worth it.

It’s the Y-Cam’s lack of a true online video storage service option that hurts it the most. A total gearhead may get a lot of joy out of playing with the Bullet HD’s options. But everyone else will likely prefer the simplicity of the competition.

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Verdict
The Y-Cam Bullet HD 1080 is a more enthusiast security camera than most homes or small offices will be able to afford (or want to fuss with).
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc