Affordable home surveillance: sort of like saying affordable filet mignon, affordable supercar or affordable whole home solar setup. Does such a thing as GOOD affordable home surveillance really exist? Well that depends but first let’s examine why it’s a great idea to have some eyes and ears outside of your home which never require sleep.
- Situational Awareness. Right now I’m sitting in my basement typing on the computer and I have a tablet next to me on a stand, with the front and rear of my home fully in view (and it’s dark outside). Isn’t that a wonderful thing? I have both avenues of approach covered and if something did go bump in the night I wouldn’t have to peek out of a window to see what’s going on.
- Keeping Honest People Honest. An experienced and determined criminal would laugh their way through my electronic home defenses (cameras and alarm). However to the average delinquent teen or thug exterior cameras with flashing red lights on them could be just enough to force them to seek a softer target.
- Piece of Mind. With my current setup I can access my cameras via iPhone app and see real time footage from my house, I can even tap record or snap pictures if something shady seems to be going on.
Affordable vs High Tech
I have a friend who installs home security systems for a living and naturally I reached out to him prior to making my purchase. He mentioned that he could make me a great deal on a quality system for around $1500 to $2000, to which I replied that was way out of my price range. I needed something under $500 (hopefully quite a bit under $500) which was still capable of being out in the weather, required very little in the way of custom installation (read: DIY) and could also record. His suggestion was this: buy whatever has the best warranty as the cheaper systems aren’t known for being the most reliable.
Armed with that information I went to Costco to seek out a surveillance system which would suit my needs. After a lengthy discussion with a very helpful customer service rep (who mentioned I could bring it back no questions asked if not satisfied) I settled on the Uniden Guardian G955, priced at $350 online but available for $299 in the store.
The system includes:
- G955 9-inch Monitor
- 2 Outdoor Surveillance Cameras
- 2 Camera Stands
- 2 Camera Antennae
- 3 AC Adapters
- Mounting Screws
- Ethernet Cable
- 2 Extension Cords
- 8GB microSDTM Card and Adapter
It took longer to mount the cameras outside than it did to get the thing set up on the network and tablet. It was as simple as mounting the camera brackets to the exterior of the house and running the power cables inside. While the system does claim to be wireless it only makes sense that the cameras would need some sort of power, hence the power cables. The good news is that I was able to route the lines in a way which minimized their exposure and then ran them through two second story windows (the cables were thin enough so that I could easily shut the windows). I also made sure to position the cameras under cover so that it would not rain directly on them, even though they are supposed to be completely weather proof.
Once I had the cameras installed and plugged in I fired up the tablet and it immediately detected both cameras. From that point I just had to re-adjust the angles of the camera to get the coverage I wanted and I was 95% of the way home. The last step involved making sure that I could view the images from my iPhone, which meant downloading the Uniden App and then struggling to figure out why I couldn’t see anything. It turns out that the tablet must be connected to a router via an Ethernet cable before you can utilize the remote viewing app, sort of a bummer but nothing I couldn’t work around. Basically I’ll just have to make sure that the tablet is plugged in the router prior to leaving for the day and then unplug it while I’m around the house. A minor inconvenience at best.
You Get What You Pay For
Alas, despite all of the great things this system provides there are still quite a few things that could be improved. Yet when you think about the price I paid and the 30 minute installation I guess I really can’t complain. Still….
The image isn’t exactly high definition. In static mode it looks just fine, sort of email photo quality if you know what I mean. When things start moving though it gets a bit fuzzy/grainy. For instance you would definitely be able to see that two people are in the driveway and make out what clothes they were wearing, but clear facial recognition would be nearly impossible to achieve. If that person were standing perfectly still or very close to the camera I suspect the image would improve but that isn’t realistic.
The battery life on the tablet is terrible. I had it fully charged and brought it down to the basement with me, it was almost completely drained in the span of two hours. Looks like I’ll have to drag the power cord around with the tablet if I plan on staying in one place for more than an hour or so, that’s pretty inconvenient if you ask me.
Still a Bargain
The system does have some faults but I feel performs as advertised. I can see what I want to see (the cameras do have a great field of view) and record when necessary, both from home or remotely. I can set it to record via motion detection or set specific time tables (e.g. 10 pm to 3 am). Despite some negative reviews I have read I think the night vision capabilities are decent and more than enough for what I need. The tablet which was included is easy to use and I can navigate quickly between the quad screen and individual cameras. Speaking of the quad screen I failed to mention that I can easily add two more cameras should I feel the desire to do so.
The Bottom Line
A professional security system installer/salesperson would no doubt scoff at my purchase but for my demands and what I am willing to pay I believe it delivers. For the piece of mind it provides I really think you can’t go wrong with a setup like the Uniden Guardian G955 and most definitely think this is a much better investment than say…1000 rounds of 9mm ball ammunition. One final point: I will check back in after 3 to 6 months have passed in order to provide a longer term update.