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Hive Camera review: Worth adding to your smart home?

4

The Good

  • Easy to use
  • Reliable connection
  • Feature-packed

The Bad

  • Slow setup
  • Big Brother is watching

The Hive Camera is the latest accessory for the smart home system that promises to let you keep an eye on your home no matter where you are, but is it any good and what are the best and worst features?

The Hive Camera joins a number of gadgets designed to make your home smarter, including an Active Heating system that controls your home's temperature and smart light bulbs that can change colour and be dimmed ─ all from the comfort of a smartphone.

Being able to switch off your heating and control the temperature remotely is very useful, as is being able to switch on a lightbulb randomly to make it look like you are at home, which may deter a break-in while on holiday.

In similar fashion, the Hive Camera can help make your humble abode safer by letting you keep tabs on it, with whatever it 'sees' relayed back to the standalone Hive Camera app available on Android and iOS.

Related reading: The best home security smart cameras

A discount is offered when you buy a pair of Hive Cameras (£219, £109.50 each) so you can save a few quid money if you want to monitor multiple rooms or provide superior coverage in one big room.

The main question is whether the Hive Camera actually worth its £129 asking price, what can it do exactly and does it have any drawbacks? We booted up our review sample to find out.

£129 (£219 for two) | Hive Camera

Hive Camera review: Design

The Hive Camera is much smaller than some smart home security cameras we have tested, at 97.9mm by 65mm, which makes it less of an eye-sore and easier to put where you want it to be using the included small plastic stand.

Its lens provides a 130-degree field of view, making it rather wide and able to see a lot of a smaller living space, while the night vision helps it see at night.

The two-metre long cable could be longer but it lets you plonk the 137g Hive Camera in a variety of settings and supplies the mains power needed for operation.

Inside the Hive Camera is a speaker (more on this later) and a microphone. The WiFi type it uses is 802.11b/g/n and the app requires  iOS 9 or Android 4.4 or later. Up to 1080p at 30 frames per second can be recorded, putting it above a lot of 720p-only alternatives.

Meanwhile a microSD slot can be inputted to record what goes on (up to 128GB of storage is supported), although you can view video footage live without a memory card installed. A 16GB microSD card is supposedly included in the box, but we never got one.

You also get two screws and wall plugs so the camera can be mounted, although the fact you have to plug it in makes wall-mounting less useful. Nice to have the option, though.

The white colouring and black lens and central element give the Hive Camera a smart aesthetic that will look okay in most homes and the stand's adjustability and solid feel ensures it can look wherever you want it to.

What works?

Small footprint, smart design.

What doesn't?

Two-metre plug is too short and the need for a coin to remove from its stand can be a pain.

Hive Camera review: Setup

The Hive Camera setup is like most smart home products. You switch it on, hold down the wireless button located on the back of the compact circular body and then you need to run the Hive Camera app.

From here it will ask you to connect your Hive Camera to the wireless router in your home, enter the password of said router and then you have to wait around three minutes for the blue light to turn green.

Mess up your password as we did (we had run out of coffee, okay) and you get to wait the full three minutes before you can have another go, having been treated to a password error message. Get it right and the process takes a much shorter time.

At this point, you can now see what your Hive Camera can see. The default resolution of the image is set to low but it is more than good enough for seeing what is going on and will save you from using up as much data when watching it over data as opposed to WiFi.

Medium and High settings do noticeably improve the quality, which can be useful for when you zoom into a particular area on screen and take a screenshot.

Audio and visual warnings are monitored, as in, you can tell the Hive Camera to send you an event notification if a sound or movement is detected. This can be someone talking or walking past and the notification arrives in a very short time if your data coverage is good.

The sensitivity of the settings can be adjusted. This means you can make it only notify you if there is a loud noise, as opposed to basic background stuff. You can also turn off one or both event notifications in case you just want to view your camera and nothing else.

Other options within the app prove just as useful. You can, for instance, change the orientation 90-degrees so you can view video the right way up when the Hive Camera is mounted upside down or on its side.

What works?

Relatively painless process to get going.

What doesn't?

Shame it needs a separate app.

Hive Camera review: Setting and features

There are a number of features beyond recording footage. The Hive Camera can provide two-way communication, thanks to that aforementioned microphone. Initiate the mode and you can talk and hear a conversation, which could be good for tricking a pet into thinking you are nearby.

You can also jump between multiple cameras when the app first starts up (and there is the option to always login for security or have it done automatically until you say otherwise) and adjust the brightness level as well as enable image encrypting and display the date.

One of the more amusing features is the in-built alarm function. Press the musical note button and you can then choose from a police siren, alarm siren and dog barking. Each one will make any unsuspecting trespasser jump, maybe even send them on their way, although the siren is very un-British.

On a related note, it is possible to screenshot the video footage on your smartphone if you need, say, quick access to proof someone is in your home.

A handy on-screen prompt reminds you whatever everything does within the Hive Camera app at start-up so long as you choose to keep it there, making it very easy to operate.

When recording to a microSD card, you can choose to record at 720 or 1080p resolutions, the former of which will be less detailed (but still very usable) and require less storage space. Useful for smaller microSD cards.

What works?

Easy to use and feature-rich.

What doesn't?

No screenshot feature built into the app.

Hive Camera review: Performance

In typical home conditions during the day the Hive Camera proves more than capable of displaying whatever is going on. The speed at which it relays an event is impressive and the footage quality is good.

We also found it remained connected constantly to our Virgin Media router and the app starts up and connects quickly enough to never put you off using it, which is a big plus.

It would have been nice to be able to connect the Hive Camera to the main Hive app because having everything in one place is more convenient, but then it is no hardship opening a separate app and the event notifications let you jump into it quickly.

Less forgivable is the inability to have it adhere to a schedule as you can with other Hive products and it is odd you can only watch one camera at once so there is a chance you could miss something going on in the camera you aren't watching.

There is also the problem of where footage is stored. If a thief notices your camera when burgling your home, the lack of cloud storage for your video footage means he could steal the camera and/or the proof stored on the microSD.

What works?

Video feed updates relatively quickly and quality is good.

What doesn't?

No option to store footage on your smartphone, tablet or in the cloud.

Hive Camera review: Should I buy it, then?

The functionality and build quality makes the £129 Hive Camera a tempting prospect, especially as the accompanying app gave us no trouble during testing. Not only that, a rival Nest indoor camera is £50 dearer although you can get cheaper home security cameras from other manufacturers.

If you need to monitor your home or are a landlord with multiple properties, the Hive Camera could prove useful. The fact it can be used as a pet or baby monitor is a big plus, but there are better options if security is your main priority.

Key Specs

  • 1,920x1,080 pixels (full HD), 130-degree FOV
  • Yes
  • Yes
  • 93.7 x 65mm
  • 137g
  • MicroSD (up to 128GB)
  • No
  • WiFi, 802.11b/g/n
  • Yes, Hive Camera (Android and iOS)

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