Zyxel Aurora Cloud Access Camera Reviewed

This is Zyxel’s first foray into cloud-based cameras, and it’s a worthy competitor to a largely populated market.  The hardware alone is enough to make it a top pick, but the immature software and questionable omission of night vision keeps it from being number one.

The camera sensor is made by Sony with an aperture of 2.0, so low light performance and overall picture quality is excellent. The camera is a bit on the larger side compared to other competitors, but the mounting post and bracket are extremely robust. On top of that, the base is magnetic which allows you to stick the camera to the side of a fridge for example. I’d prefer the bulky size if it means a solid mount and good build quality which this indeed has. Overall when you compare it to the 720p Dropcam/Nest, it is a remarkable upgrade. The picture is excellent, with much better color, clarity, and contrast, even when they’re both set to 720p mode. The camera has a one minute cold boot time which is a bit longer than other competitors.

This camera supports 720p or 1080p. In 1080p mode, the bitrate hits as high as 4+ mbps (on cellular networks). When in 720p, it typically stays under 1mbps the entire time, with an average bit rate in the 200-400kbps range. I am saying this because not everyone has a super-fast internet at home, or a fast-enough cell connection to watch the live stream. 720p makes that option possible, and the picture quality is excellent. It’s much better than similarly priced competitors in that particular resolution. This camera allows two-way audio, with above average sound quality. There is a built in 16gb storage module for manual recordings or motion detected events. The memory is not expandable however, but you can still back up videos by downloading them to your phone. From there you can delete videos on the camera and transfer your backed-up ones to a computer once on your phone.

If you need more storage, you can purchase a Zyxel cloud storage unit, and assign the camera to that. This will allow for much longer recording durations and archiving. The camera comes with a USB power adapter, and a 10’ (3m) USB-C power cord. The cord is ribbon shaped with good flexibility, and is white in color. Two mounting screws and drywall anchors are also included.

The cons? Only a few stands out so far. The first is lack of true night vision. It uses an LED ring (not infrared) around the camera that lights up in white during low light situations. It’s not the best solution for a large space in total darkness. The lights also draw a lot of attention to it. You can turn the LEDs off, which allows the camera to blend in more. If you need a full blackout/zero light capable camera, I would suggest a different model. In low light, the performance of this camera is still excellent. It has low image noise (graininess) and decent color. One other drawback is the app, which at version 1.0 is still in its infancy stage. It’s still pretty easy to use and customize, but with future updates it will only get better. I would rather have good quality hardware and look forward to software updates than the other way around. One odd behavior of the app is when you hit the back button on an Android device it prompts you to log out, rather than exit. Act too fast and you’re stuck signing in again. I’m hoping that will be eliminated in future updates. The app also does not update the preview thumbnail of the camera unless you kick off a live stream. If you have multiple Zyxel cameras, all of the previews you see will be from old footage which is not ideal when doing a quick check on your home or property. The last issue I have is being stuck using an app to watch the camera feed. Currently there is no way to watch your camera on a computer. You need to use an iOS or Android device. I’m really hoping this will change, as Google’s Nest offers this wonderful feature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aside from lack of true night vision, all of my other grievances can be resolved with future software updates. It’s minor enough that I still use the camera in my home. The picture and build quality of this camera alone (better than the Nest) are enough to earn a recommendation and it will only get better. Just take note of the drawbacks, namely night vision, and make sure this camera will meet your needs.

 

 

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