Home security is something people are taking seriously and with Logitech's new Alert™ security systems, it is easier than ever. The Logitech Alert™ is a complete HD digital video security system that lets you keep an eye on what matters most to you. Logitech offers both indoor and outdoor Master Systems that include everything needed to get started with home video surveillance. The Logitech Alert™ 750e Outdoor Master System ($349.99) being reviewed here comes with a weatherproof, night-vision camera that lets you monitor any outdoor space day or night. Need more cameras in your system? No problem. Logitech offers Alert™ 700e Outdoor Add-On Cameras that can be added to expand your outdoor coverage. Each of these additional outdoor cameras retail for $279.99. Logitech also offers the Alert™ 750i Master System, which is designed for indoor use (no night vision or weather-proofing) and retails for $299.99. Additional indoor Alert™ 700i Add-On Cameras (for indoors) retail for $229.99.
A New Approach to Home Video Surveillance
Conventional video systems are expensive with typically poor-quality monitoring cameras and are usually difficult to install because power and video cables need to be routed back to the monitoring hardware (video switcher or recorder). We should know since we installed one of these systems several years ago. The Logitech Alert™ 750e Outdoor Master System provides 720p video (960 x 720 @15fps) and features a 130-degree wide-angle lens for large coverage. I was immediately impressed with Logitech's Alert™ system because of the ease of installation and the greatly improved video quality. In addition, portable devices such as our HTC Incredible (Android), BlackBerry and iPhone support the Logitech Alert™ application, allowing us to stream real-time content or alert-based recordings directly to our phones. The picture quality was not only much higher in resolution, but also offered much better color accuracy than our analog counterpart. Analog-based cameras over long cable runs suffer from video degradation typically in the form of lost video bandwidth and poor color reproduction due to color being modulated in the composite video format. Logitech's Alert camera systems use a digital interface from the camera to transmit the video to the HomePlug AV unit. The result is a consistently good picture that is far superior to any ordinary security video system we have seen.
Alert™ 750e Contents
The Logitech Alert™ 750e Outdoor Master System system includes a single outdoor camera with a power supply/cable, network adapter/cable, 2GB microSD card (with adapter), software CD, wall/ceiling mount, System Requirements guide, and Getting to Know guide. The MicroSD memory card adapter allows users to plug the memory card directly into their computer. If there is a need to have more storage space, users can simply upgrade the MicroSD card (up to 32 GB). This flexibility is a nice feature especially as memory cards get cheaper with time.
The outdoor camera is easy to mount and is designed to be mounted on a flat surface and includes mounting hardware that allows for two-axis (azimuth and elevation) adjustments. If you want to mount this under a sloped eave, then you may need to make an adapter to level the mount if the two axis adjustments cannot compensate for the mounting angle. Otherwise, the camera will not sit properly and will cause the video to be angled horizontally. Logitech could have solved this by using a ball joint instead of a single axis joint. The distance between the camera and the power supply is limited by the length of the provided cable. Since the camera data is digitized before being sent over the cable, there is no performance degradation. This is one of the performance advantages of this design.
These night vision capable cameras should not be installed to be looking through a window due to the IR illuminators that turn on at night. The glass will cause a huge reflection and render the camera useless in this configuration. The indoor cameras work fine through glass since they do not have night vision capability.
The camera needs to have the power/data cable installed by the user. Installation is simple and require a phillips screwdriver to remove the weatherproof covers. The interface is a standard RJ45 ethernet-style connector. For those needing longer cables, Logitech offers 50-foot and 100-foot versions as an accessory. The other end of the cable plugs into the AC HomePlug unit that plugs into any standard power outlet. Logitech recommends not using a power strip because AC line filtering can degrade the ability to send/receive the A/V signals across the power lines. The HomePlug AV unit is used to send firmware updates to the camera as well as stream audio and video data back to the user.
The outdoor camera has front indicators that provide status of the unit. These lights can be disabled by the user through software control. The lights on the left and right sides are used for night vision. The bottom light (motion LED) turns on when the camera is ready to record and flashes when motion is detected. Under the front of the unit next to the microphone there is a Camera Diagnostic LED that provides information to the user. This indicators turns many different colors depending on what the camera is doing. See this chart for more details on all of the color codes.
The Logitech Alert™ Commander software comes with the system and provides an easy way to search for cameras on the network and monitor them. There are three different Layout modes for viewing the connected cameras. Users can see one, four or six cameras at a time depending on the number of cameras used in the system. The naming and ordering of the cameras are configurable by the user and are displayed accordingly on the screen. There are three buttons for the Display setting, which provides quick access to Live View mode, Playback mode or Settings mode. Live View shows real-time video on the screen. Double clicking on any of the cameras windows will make that camera fill the entire window for greater resolution.
Using the lower right section of the Commander window allows the user to quickly zoom into an area of interest on any of the (up to 6) cameras as well as adjust the microphone level.
While daytime video looks fantastic through the Logitech cameras, night video looks equally impressive - albeit in black and white. Resolution is still good even without the color information.
Day View at full resolution
Night View at full resolution
The Settings button is used to configure the Logitech Alert™ Commander software. Cameras can be automatically located and added to the system. The camera site can be named for convenience. Each camera can also be individually named. Motion detection can be based on the entire image or based on regions (up to 16) drawn by the user. This is particularly useful in case where the camera has a lot of general traffic, but you are only interested in activity in a certain region of the picture. Alerts can notify the user with emails and even include a picture of the captured activity. Any or all of the areas can be monitored with the alert option. Notices can also be sent to the desktop with a selection of alert sounds. While each camera has its own built-in memory storage for video clips, the computer running the Alert™ Commander software automatically copies the camera video clips locally to the PC.
Alert Web Commander
The Alert™ Commander software can only be used when connected directly to the network where the cameras are installed. However, when users are away from where the cameras are installed, Logitech offers web access to the live video or recorded content. Logitech's Alert™ Web Commander located at the following link (http://alert.logitech.com) allows users to access their cameras from remote locations. This subscription based service comes with many of the same features found on the local Alert™ Commander program. A 7-day trial is given to users to try out the software and service. A one-year subscription costs $79.95, but is worth it if you take your home security seriously. Picture quality using the web-based software is not as good (some visible compression artifacts) as the local program and only one camera can be viewed at a time due to limited bandwidth. However, the software still works quite well and provides users with the ability to see real-time video when they are away from home. In addition, playback of captured motion can also be viewed with ease.
Mobile Device Support
Logitech also offers apps for the Android, BlackBerry, iPad and iPhone. Those subscribing to Logitech's Alert™ Web Commander will have access to the Alert™ Mobile Commander as well. I ran the applications on my HTC Incredible, iPhone and iPad with excellent results. I must say that the iPad offered superior resolution with the huge screen and ease of use as you might imagine. Response time was largely based on the phone connection bandwidth and in some cases it was difficult connecting to the cameras with a weak cellular signal. The iPad app had a nice selection window that showed up in the lower corner giving users quick access to any of our cameras. Another nice feature of the playback window is the small activity picture next to the video clip. This provides the user with a quick shot of what occurred during that time. It is easy to see if someone is standing on your porch or if the cat dropped by. This information helps you decide whether to look at the full video clip or not.
The Logitech Alert™ 750e Outdoor Master System is a convergence of state-of-the-art technologies that make this product stand out from conventional security systems. The ease of setup and configuration allow virtually anyone to have advanced monitoring capability of their home. The HD (high definition) video provides fine detail and the night vision works extremely well while providing images 24/7.
The motion sensing and recording of video on the MicroSD flash card allows users to quickly see any activity that has occurred without wasting a lot of time or storage space going through benign video footage. Sensitivity and regions of interest in each camera can be individually set based on the placement of the camera. For example, one could set the lower quadrant of the field of view such that other areas do not trigger the motion recording. It is a great design that is easy to configure and the results are excellent. Each camera has a microSD memory card that stores the video clips. Once the card fills up, it begins deleting the oldest videos to make room for the newest. This is also known as first in-first out (FIFO).
The Logitech Alert™ 750e Outdoor Master System is a huge leap forward in home security and this system proved to be worthy of the price. Many of the multi-camera systems I have seen and used do not come near the performance I experienced with this system. Logitech includes everything you need to get up and running and the number of cameras you decide to add is largely driven by your budget. This scalable system handles up to six cameras all with the same easy to use interface. Logitech has taken the complexity out of installing and using a home security video surveillance system.
April 10, 2013 Follow-up
The Logitech Alert™ System has been an essential part of our home security for more than a year now and looking back there have been substantial improvements made to both the camera firmware and the software. The overall reliability of the Alert™ System has been greatly improved since its initial release with virtually no issues with the cameras going offline. Early during the review period, we found that cameras would sometimes go offline requiring a reboot, but this gradually improved with updates and appears to have been largely fixed. The system is now very reliable and I can fully depend on it while away from home.
The latest PC-based Logitech Alert™ Commander software (v3.3.142) has also been improved and provides excellent video quality when on the local network. The web-based remote access (alert.logitech.com) works well and looks great and allows users to download video clips or take snapshots. The newer Android app for ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich) is now better than ever with instant access to any of the cameras in the system. My Verizon-based Galaxy Nexus is running Android version 4.2.2 with Logitech Alert Mobile Commander version 4.3.2 (released in 2013). The best part about the Logitech Alert™ System is the ability to quickly see only motion triggered events. For example, if you wanted to see if someone stopped by the house and you have a camera looking at the area of interest, simply look at the thumbnails for playback and you will see the event. The remote playback capability requires a subscrition ($80/year). My system gets used daily making the subscription cost well worth it. At least 5 of my neighbors now have the Logitech Alert System installed thanks to me.