YI Home Camera Wireless Surveillance System Review

Yi Home CameraThe YI Home Camera Wireless IP Security Surveillance System is a low priced home security camera that touts several high end features.  It’s inexpensive versus some of the most popular brands yet shares some of the same features.  At least on paper.

I recently picked one up and was anxious to try it out.  Let’s see how it stacks up.

Software

You can access the Yi Home Camera with your Android or Apple iOS smartphone.  There is no web portal.

The smartphone apps is very straightforward.  You can view multiple cameras from here as well as perform configuration changes and initial setup.

Setup of the camera happens directly from the app.  The app is called Yi Home.  Download the app.  You will be prompted to select a wireless network, enter the network password, then scan the code on the back of the camera.  The Yi Home Camera speaks to you during the setup.

This was the first problem that I ran into.  I did everything it said and it kept telling me it was “waiting to connect”.  I was then informed that I entered the wrong password.  OK, maybe I made a typo.  Tried it again.  Then again.  And again.  No luck.

The instructions say to get real close to the wireless router.  I was upstairs maybe 30 feet away.  I went into the office and sat a foot away.  It accepted the password and I was connected.  I found this a bit interesting and believe it had to do with proximity to the wireless router.  I don’t understand why but it worked when I was a foot away.

Video quality of standard or high can be set from the application.  The camera also supports a setting of Auto which allows the camera to select the best definition based upon available bandwidth.  I recommend using Auto.  More on this in the hardware section of the review.

The software allows establishment of motion sensitivity settings as well as frequency of alerts.  Putting it in the middle is typically the best advice but something you need to experiment with.  Notifications are received via smartphone alerts.  I didn’t see a way to notify via email or messaging.

The Yi Home Camera supports the motion activity zone concept that has proven useful for monitoring a smaller area for motion events.  The Yi Home Camera supports a single motion zone.  This is useful, for example, eliminating the motion alerts caused by a small dog.  Simply set it four feet above the floor and the camera won’t catch your dog walking beneath the zone.

The Yi Home Camera cloud implementation is interesting.  Their free basic cloud storage retains a six second video clip of motion events over the past seven days.  Yi offers paid cloud services which are apparently unavailable for this camera.  Only the free basic service can be accessed and you will receive a message indicating that this camera does not support Yi Cloud – which it turns out refers to the paid service.

This isn’t plainly documented.  At least not that I could see.  I did verify this by unplugging the Yi Home Camera and accessing it from a different smartphone versus the one that it was setup with.  I was able to access yesterday’s motion events from that other phone.  So we’re using the Yi cloud service, but only the free one which provides six seconds of a motion event.

Hardware

The Yi Home Camera looks a lot like a DropCam.  That’s a photo of the Yi Home Camera that accompanies this article.  The stand is similar and the shape of the camera itself is almost exactly the same as a DropCam.  In fact, I popped the Yi Home Camera out of the stand and inserted it into a DropCam mount and it fit fine.

There is a blue status light just below the camera lens which I chose to turn off for the photo.  This is easily done through the Yi app.

There is a speaker and microphone integrated into the camera.  I found the quality of this implementation to be inconsistent.  At times, everything was fine.  Sometimes audio lagged the video.

The 720p lens will provide clear video day and night.  A bit of a fish-eye effect.  The lens has a 111 degree field of view which is sufficient.  While you can zoom up to 4x, the resulting image is a bit fuzzy as the camera lacks the ability to focus in on tight zooms.

The night vision is good with integrated infrared lights that illuminate up to 16 feet.

There is a micro SD slot at the side of the camera which accepts cards up to 32GB.  These cards are cheap so splurge and go for 32GB.  You can view history very easily without removing the micro SD card.

I found the wireless transmission to be somewhat weaker versus most other cameras.  From a distance of 30 feet, the camera had a difficult time with 720p video transmission.  This locks the entire camera up until it successfully transmits the video.  If the camera cannot transmit at your chosen definition, you are stuck in limbo until you move it closer to the router.  So keep it at standard definition or auto when using it from moderate to far distances from the router.

This last point wasn’t a show stopper for me, but could be for others that need the higher definition.  Thirty feet isn’t that far in my opinion.  I have other cameras around my home that exceed 60 feet without a problem.

Connectivity

Connectivity refers to the connection of the camera to your home router.  The Yi Home Camera attaches via Wi-Fi to a home router.  The camera will connect to your home router at 2.4GHz using 802.11 b,g or n.  The 5.0GHz frequency is not supported.

Another aspect of connectivity to consider is the Yi automatic selection of video quality.  Don’t use it.  Select the video quality based upon experimentation and use the highest video quality that can be delivered without interruption.

Mounts

The Yi Home Camera comes with a weighted base for tabletop usage.  There is a little documented trick to mounting this on a wall.  The stem of the stand can twist off exposing a trio of mounting holes.  The holes are covered with a round sticker on the bottom of the base.  These holes can be used for surface mounting on a wall.

Fun and Different

The Yi Home Camera default camera view shows the amount of data being used to broadcast the video stream.  It’s interesting to see the vast difference between the standard and high definition streams.

Summary

What the YI Home Camera Wireless IP Security Surveillance System has going for it is price.  We outlined several quirks in this article.  The overall experience isn’t as smooth or refined as a Nest Cam, Canary or Arlo, but for the difference in price, you may not mind it that much.  If all you need is a basic home security camera without extended cloud storage, this might make a good candidate.

Quick Specs:

Video QualityField of ViewCloud SupportSD SupportNight VisionMobile/Web AppAlertsOutdoor
1280x720111 DegreesYesYesYesYes/NoYesNo

Manufacturer Link:  Yi Technology

All of these articles are written by someone (me) that figured out how to do this stuff the hard way.  I have owned and tested dozens of cameras.  Manufacturer support varies.  There are a few good companies that provide timely answers when you have questions.  There are several that sell you the camera and seem to have little interest in post sales support (which leads me to finding out stuff the hard way).