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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

D-Link Cloud Camera DCS-5020L Review

CCTV systems are the talk of the town these days and even mandatory for businesses. Who can forget about that vile person caught on cam doing atrocious acts on a poor little baby? Having a baby myself, that video really made me consider getting a surveillance camera that I can access while I’m at work. Luckily, the folks at D-Link sent a Cloud Camera, the DCS-5020L, for us to try out.
D-Link-DCS-5020L-01

Overview

The D-Link DCS-5020L Cloud Camera is an indoor wireless surveillance camera that can be accessed via internet. The camera touts an easy setup process and the ability to control the camera remotely through their My D-Link app on iOS or Android and the My D-Link webpage. The controls allow us to pan and tilt the camera to get the viewing angle that we need. Digital zoom up to 4x is available and also allows us to hear what happening within the vicinity of the camera. Features also include a night vision mode and a WiFi signal repeater.
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The camera comes with a power supply, an install guide, an install CD, a LAN cable and a wall mount. For those that are wondering why we have a LAN cable included with a wireless cloud camera, don’t worry, you’ll only use it during the initial setup.

Setup

Overall, the initial setup of the camera did not go as smoothly as D-Link claimed. Some of the challenges we encountered was the outdated installation wizard found in the install CD. So an extra step is needed to get the latest installation wizard from the D-Link site. The install wizard also had a hard time getting the wireless camera to establish an internet connection with our router. We basically did the wizard steps over and over and over again…I can’t remember how many times we ran the wizard until it just magically decided to work. I can’t imagine doing this process on multiple cloud cams.
D-Link-DCS-5020L-05
Maybe the installation might have been smoother if I had a D-Link Cloud Router with their claim of a “zero” step setup. But even after the frustrating setup, me and my wife were still very excited to see if the D-Link DCS-5020L will work. Thankfully things went smoother with the installation out of the way.

Accessibility and Controls

Our home is connected to the internet via a 1mbps DSL line and we were using the bundled WiFi modem that was provided by PLDT. The D-Link DCS-5020L connects to our modem wirelessly and that enables us to access the camera online. Keep in mind that you’ll have to leave the camera on to be able to access it, and there is no way to turn on the camera remotely.
To access the camera online, I had to register to the My D-Link website for free. Once I signed in, the webpage was very straight forward and worked really well. There were several controls available in the page like the pan and tilt controls, mute, night and day mode, zoom in and out, brightness adjustment, and an image capture button.
Alternatively, there is a free My D-Link Lite app available for iOS and Android. I downloaded the My D-Link Lite app on the iPhone and got the same controls. I would suspect that the Android version won’t be too different. The only difference is that the interface is optimized for the touch screen.
The video feed is actually quite reliable. I’ve tried streaming for an hour on the My D-Link webpage and it streamed video without long lags or interruptions. We experienced the same reliability even while using 3G on our iPhone My D-Link Lite app.

Video Quality

The default video feed resolution is also the best resolution at 640 x 480 at 30fps. At the best resolution and my 1mbps internet connection I was getting a half second to 1 second lag, not bad in my opinion. I would suspect an improvement with the lags if we use lower resolutions…in my mind, the smaller video resolutions might be too small to be of value so I didn’t bother with it.
Also, the video stream will probably be smoother with a faster internet connection. Here are some snaps that I took using the image capture button:
Day mode with poor lighting (energy efficient fluorescent bulbs):
D-Link-DCS-5020L-day-mode-low-light
Activating the night mode will turn the red IR bulbs on. If you want a discreet camera, the red lights are obvious and not hidden in any way.
Night mode with lights on:
D-Link-DCS-5020L-night-mode-lights-on
Night mode with lights off:
D-Link-DCS-5020L-night-mode-lights-off
If you need to record the video feed, you will need to get the My D-Link Camera Video Recorder and a separate storage device. I think recording the video feed is the best way to take advantage of the motion detection and sound detection feature of the cloud camera.

Conclusion

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You can purchase the D-Link DCS-5020L Cloud Camera for Php6,800 at any official D-Link resellers. A reasonable price to pay for some peace of mind… unless you plan on installing many cameras all over you home. Overall, this is a good product, the only thing that’s holding this back from being great is the frustrating installation process… time to check on my baby.

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