Ecobee SmartCamera review: A feature packed security camera

Expensive but top notch - this camera serves multiple purposes

Ecobee SmartCamera
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Smart home security cameras are more popular than ever, with new ones launching every day it seems. To stand out from the crowd you need to either be incredibly cheap (aka Wyze, Blink or Eufy) or really smart (aka Nest and Arlo). Ecobee - yes that Ecobee, of the smart thermostat fame - has gone the latter route.

The Ecobee SmartCamera has more features crammed into this elegant oblong device than a Sunday Matinee. A 1080p Full HD camera with a whopping 180 degree field of view, an Alexa device, and a security system all in one, the Ecobee SmartCamera also works with Ecobee's thermostats and will use its sensors as extra motion sensors.

But are all these bells and whistles enough to justify the $179 price tag? We've been living with the Ecobee SmartCamera for a month now, read our full review to find out.

Ecobee SmartCamera review: A feature packed security camera

Ecobee SmartCamera: Design and Install

The Ecobee SmartCamera ticks the right boxes design-wise. If you want a camera you can have on display on a shelf or entry table, this will look smart. And as it doubles as an Alexa speaker, you don't really want to tuck this up high, although it can be wall mounted.

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With a matt black casing and a glossy black front, it looks a bit like someone took an Ecobee Smart Thermostat and squished it.

Two touch sensitive controls on the top turn off the microphone and manually activate the built-in voice assist, Alexa.

Ecobee SmartCamera review: A feature packed security camera

It's a tall device, almost 6 inches with the stand, which it can sit on or can be used to mount it on the wall - niftily with just one screw. The mount offers some tilt capability - but as the camera has digital pan/tilt it's not essential, handy nonetheless.

Install is a cinch, the mount is magnetic and other than putting a screw in the wall should you want to wall mount, there's no tools required, just plug it in using the 10ft (3 m) cord and fire up the Ecobee app.

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Setup, however, was a royal pain using an iOS device, it kept getting hung up and would have to be reset. Those two touch sensitive buttons held simultaneously do that for you, but then you have to go through an old-fashioned, telephone tree-style voice reset process, which is beyond frustrating when you're on your 5th try.

We eventually got it set up using the Android app.

Ecobee SmartCamera review: A feature packed security camera

Ecobee SmartCamera: Features

So, let's get to all those features. A Wi-Fi camera with 1080p HD quality video and a 180 degree diagonal field of view, the widest on an indoor camera, the Ecobee SmartCamera has a 5 megapixel sensor, 30fps and night vision powered by 3 infrared wide angle LEDs.

This is a good quality camera. The 2.2 digital zoom is a bit of a let down, but a digital pan/tilt is very handy and takes full advantage of that super wide field of view, plus there's a built-in siren.

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Two far-field microphones facilitate an excellent two-way talk feature and help make the built-in Alexa very usable for quick questions and smart home control. The speaker is nothing to shout about however, so music playback is not worth considering, but you can make and receive calls and intercom announcements happily.

The voice assistant isn't the smartest thing about the SmartCamera however, that would be the Smart Focus. Similar to Nest's zoom/track feature, this uses the camera's pan and tilt capabilities to follow any person that comes into its path. Handily the SmartCamera can detect people and so won't follow Fido around all day when you're out of the house.

The Smart Focus feature in action (wait for it...!)

Activity Zones and a Window Mode - the ability to turn off the infrared LEDs so you can place the camera up against a window as a semi-outdoor cam - round out the features. There are no built-in alerts for motion or person detection, until you pay for the monthly cloud storage subscription.

While SmartCamera actually processes all the video on the device, it's all stored (for 14 days) on Ecobee's cloud. This is where that monthly subscription fee comes in, if you want to view recorded footage is $5 for one camera or $10 for multiple. This is on par with most comparable cloud storage fees, although paying for alerts stings a bit. The camera records clips of 2 minutes in length based on motion or person detection, and there's no way to adjust the length. There is no option of 24/7 recording, unusual for a plug-in camera, and there's no local storage.

Ecobee SmartCamera review: A feature packed security camera

Ecobee SmartCamera: Home Monitoring

While it works as a stand-alone security camera, the SmartCamera is also a smart security hub. That $5 a month gets you person and motion alerts, 14-day video history, and a nifty AutoPilot feature - that turns your camera on when you or anyone in your household with the Ecobee app leave, and off when you come back home.

Pair it with the new SmartSensors door and window (contact and motion sensors, $79 for a two pack) you can turn the camera into a DIY home security system monitoring that monitors for motion or intrusion, too.

The security system has the standard home security modes that you activate through the Ecobee app: Arm Away - when any sensor that's triggered will send an alert. Arm Stay - when only contact sensors on exterior doors will, and Disarm - where none will. You can choose which sensors do what in the app. Autopilot switches to Away / Disarm automatically.

Ecobee SmartCamera review: A feature packed security camera

Ecobee's new SmartSensors detect motion and contact and have a three-year battery life and 80 foot range.

The SmartSensors are very nice devices, similar to Nest Detect sensors that come with the Nest Guard system, they have motion and contact built into one sensor, and can also be used to trigger smart home routines through HomeKit (although not through Alexa Routines). You can also use the Ecobee SmartThermostat sensors as motion detectors for the system, and a $99 Sensor Coverage bundle includes two of those and two SmartSensors door and window, a pretty good deal.

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There's no professional monitoring here, and you have to activate the siren yourself by responding to the alert on your phone, but it's a pretty smart system. If you invite all the members of your household and they download the app, their comings and going won't trigger the alert system, only an "unauthorized activity" will and then you get the option to activate the pretty loud, built-in siren or disarm the system.

Ecobee SmartCamera review: A feature packed security camera

Ecobee SmartCamera: Performance & Integrations

We've tested a lot of security cameras and a lot of home security systems, and having both integrated into one is not a complete novelty (think Abode Iota, or Canary). But the simplicity of this system did impress us, as did the ease of setting up AutoPilot, which lets you simply set it and then forget it.

Being able to add family members to the security system is also handy, and we liked that it's smart enough not to send an alert if someone in your household comes home late at night. But calling this a security system is a bit disingenuous as all it really does is tell you if something's happening when you're away, It can't trigger the alarm autonomously (you have to do that) and it can't contact the authorities, so if you miss a notification your house can still get robbed - although you'll have some high-quality footage to show for it.

Ecobee SmartCamera review: A feature packed security camera

As an indoor security camera, the Ecobee SmartCamera is top notch, delivering clear, crisp video and decent night vision. The zoom is a bit lacking but the Smart Focus feature works very well, only getting confused if there's two people moving in different directions. The pan and tilt capability is also good, letting you get a clear view of almost your entire room.

While the camera is pricey, it's less expensive than the only slightly smarter Nest Cam IQ Indoor, which adds facial recognition and sound alerts (Ecobee doesn't have any sound detection alerts), but otherwise the two are pretty comparable. Nest has Google Assistant built-in and has a thermostat and security system in it's ecosystem, but Ecobee is much less expensive, Nest Cam is $299.

We also love that it works with HomeKit, although the camera integration is pretty limited - all you can do is view it through the HomeKit app. The SmartSensors however, can trigger HomeKit automations (so you can have your lights turn on when the sensors detect motion), which is a nice bonus. You can also circumnavigate the lack of any alerts if you don't pay for Haven, as HomeKit will give you motion and contact alerts for the sensors (but not the camera).

There's no HomeKit Secure Video, yet (Ecobee says it's coming "very soon"). That should mean you could circumnavigate paying for Ecobee's cloud storage, as you can route it all through your iCloud storage. But presumably you would still be missing those alerts for motion or people on the camera. We'll update this review once we know.

Ecobee SmartCamera review: A feature packed security camera

Two way talk on the Ecobee was very good, much better than the Nest IQ, it's instant and you could easily carry on a conversation. It's Ecobee's app that's the biggest failure point here, it's always been quite slow, and it takes a while to load video, 3-5 seconds. Plus, they put the sensors and camera above your thermostat (if you have one) so when you open the app to change the temperature (which you're likely to do more often than check your sensors or camera) you have to scroll through the security features first.

While the sensors don't do much with Amazon's voice assistant, the camera works very well with Alexa. You can call up a live view on any screen-enabled Alexa device, and activate Arm and Disarm (with a pin) using voice. There is no Google Assistant or SmartThings integration yet.

All in all, this is a premium camera with premium features and decent integrations - but it will cost you, and if you don't plan on paying the $5 a month, then you'll likely be frustrated as all you'll be able to do is watch a live stream of your house.

Ecobee SmartCamera
A beautifully-designed, high-end camera that packs in the features and doubles as both an Alexa speaker and a smart home security system, the Ecobee SmartCamera is top-notch. But you'll pay top dollar for it. And keep paying thanks to a basically mandatory service subscription. If you're an Ecobee fan it's a must, if not, there are cheaper solutions that offer more security features, but they're not as easy to use or as good looking as this one.
  • High-quality image
  • Easy setup
  • Built-in Alexa and siren
  • Person detection
  • HomeKit compatible
  • Good privacy features
  • Not much use without a subscription
  • No Google or IFTTT
  • Basic security features
  • No option of 24/7 recording
  • No local storage
  • Expensive

TAGGED    security cameras

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