Tech Review: D-Link Wireless N Home Camera DCS-930L

D-Link's latest WiFi gadget allows users to keep an eye on their home from wherever you have access to your network, without the need to leave a computer connected.

Simon Gallagher

NUFC Editor

Let’s be perfectly honest here, there are two uses for this sort of kit: the first is the professed use, as a home security device that allows the user to access a video stream from their mobile device, no matter where they are, with the option to turn on a motion sensing facility that sends them an email when burglars are about. But then there’s also the Amateur PI side of things, with spouses or parents able to check up on the activities of their subjects “while the cat’s away”.

There’s also a third use – as a pet monitor. If you’re away from the house for a short period (I would never advocate leaving a pet at home for an extended period unless it was a cat that was able to come and go as it pleased) having that peace of mind that the beloved creature is safe and well, and not eating your furniture is invaluable. Though I’m not entirely sure what you could do from a distance if it was…

Anyway, the D-Link Wireless N Home Camera DCS-930L ticks all three functional boxes, and now thanks to DABS.com we have had the opportunity to play with one. It turns out, you’d be amazed how fun playing hide and seek is with a network camera.

The camera offers both live streaming functions, accessable through your browser, or cleverly through apps for your mobile device. There’s also the opportunity to set it up to respond to motion, which will prompt it to send an email with a snapshot to your email or to a file server.

It is a very impressive piece of kit, especially at the price – though I’d worry that extended use, especially while out of the country will lead to serious paranoia whenever an email notification chimes on your phone. Logic might suggest it’ll be from a work colleague as usual, or a facebook update or something, but the more destructive parts of your brain will scream “BURGLARY!” and have you scrabbling in your pocket to see the faces of your would-be terrorisers.

Anyway, on to the substance of this review…

Features

  • D-ViewCam software for multi-camera monitoring
  • Motion detection set to trigger recording and send e-mail alerts
  • DDNs support for web access
  • Administrator/User password protection
  • UPnP support for network set-up and configuration
  • 1.0 lux Cmos sensor for low light environments
  • MJPeG streaming for high-quality video
  • WPS support for easy network setup
  • 802.11n wireless connectivity
  • Speedy access to registered cameras via the Mydlink website

Design

Simple, white, inconspicuous. Just as you’d want really for what amounts to being an in-plain-view hidden camera. Crucially, the simple design isn’t too far away from a conventional webcam, so should any unwanted visitor be invading your home they won’t immediately recognise it as a network camera and have the sense to cover it up.

I wouldn’t necessarily say the camera was a thing of beauty, but it wouldn’t look out of place next to the highest end Macs, thanks to its simplicity of form, and that colour choice. Anyway, it’s definitely not an eye sore.

Set-Up

Pretty much as simple as it can get. The first set-up is completely painless and its just as simple to start viewing footage straight away. The instructions are there if you need them, but I never felt the need other than a cursory glance through – besides which, the set-up wizard included on the software CD should provide more than enough help.

Usability

Again, simple. It’s all just a matter of typing the camera’s IP  address into your browser and the stream is accessed.

Accessing the video stream while you’re away from home is likewise pretty easy thanks to the Mydlink service. When you install the Wireless N Home Camera DCS-930L, you’re asked to create a MyD-Link account. This can be used on any PC or mobile device that’s connected to the internet.

There are also an app for iPhone users, which make checking the video stream even quicker – though other platforms will require a little investigation for appropriate apps. There are a number, and they’re not particularly difficult to find or use, though there may be some issues with firewalls to begin with. As long as you have a good connection at both ends, the streaming quality is good in all cases.

Performance

The first time I used it during daylight (on what was a particularly sunny day I might add), the DCS-930L suffered no hiccups at all – I had no lofty expectations of crystal clear images (the camera is VGA), so the grainy resolution was neither a shock nor a deal breaker. Maximum video resolution is 640 x 480, but it’s more than suitable for the purpose and the camera’s built-in microphone allows for audio recording, in case the burglars use their real names or something. Detail is far from high-definition quality, and darkness doesn’t help (which unfortunately is when burglars tend to work), but I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the image all the same. You could argue all day on the limitations versus the value for money, but the simple fact is, the compromise is not a deal breaker, and the DCS-930L outperforms other, more expensive pieces of kit already on the market.

At the final summation, the quality of image produced suits the purpose of the camera, and its demographic – so in those terms it can be classed a huge success.

Final Thoughts

For such a generally impressive bit of kit, the price (£63.49 from DABS.com) is ridiculously low, and makes the DCS-930L a no brainer for anyone looking for this sort of set-up. It might encourage paranoia every time an email arrives while you’re on holiday or at work, but that is very cheap peace of mind when it boils down to it.

Yes there is a compromise in image quality for the price, but the ease of use counter-balances that for anyone who is buying solely as a “casual user”. It is an accessible purchase, a very reasonable in-road for consumers not necessarily up to scratch in this area of gadgetry, which would work well as a springboard to more comprehensive tech.

The D-Link Wireless N Home Camera DCS-930L is available to buy from DABS.com