If you're in the market for a security camera that connects to your Wi-Fi and pings your phone every time motion is detected, you've never had so many devices at such a range of prices to choose from ‚Äď the number of these devices has exploded in recent years, and here we're talking a look at the Neos SmartCam.
The big selling point here is price, just ¬£20 at the time of writing. That's twenty of your hard-earned pounds for a device that cuts very few corners: it's well built, it's reliable, it has a decent range of features and a polished mobile app, and it makes you wonder why you would spend any more money.
Admittedly it doesn't have the top-end video quality or the AI smarts of something pricier from the likes or Arlo or Nest, but for a lot of users out there, the Neos SmartCam is all they're ever going to need.
It's worth saying that this is the same smart camera sold by Wyze in the US, under the branding of tech-focused insurance company Neos in the UK. The only differences are that the associated user data is held in the EU, and there's a new auto-arming feature on the software side, which we'll discuss below.
Neos SmartCam: Design
At first, the Neos SmartCam seems impossibly small ‚Äď so small you can almost completely hide it in a clenched fist (if you've got fairly big hands). The compact size is the main selling point, design-wise, because otherwise this is a fairly standard, uninspiring plastic block. Power is supplied via an included USB cable and plug.
The fold-out stand mechanism is neat though, allowing you to swivel and tilt the Neos SmartCam as needed, or just sit in flat on a surface. The base is magnetic too, and you get a metal plate with adhesive on one side included in the box, so you can place the device just about anywhere (anywhere indoors at least, as this isn't waterproof).
This is a security camera that defies first impressions. You think it's too small and too basic to be any good, but then you figure out that you can actually position and point the camera in almost any configuration you choose ‚Äď and that matters much more than polished aesthetics. There's no need for a hub plugged into your router either.
Neos SmartCam: Features
The flexibility of the design surprised us, but the list of features packed into the Neos SmartCam was even more impressive ‚Äď despite its bargain basement price, the device comes with the vast majority of features you're going to need.
There's night vision, which we found was perfectly capable of illuminating whole rooms and small-ish back gardens, and a 110-degree field of view that means plenty of the scene in front of the camera is included in the frame. Two-way audio is here as well, and reaches a decent level of volume (though it won't replace your Sonos speakers anytime soon).
With the camera so cheap, Neos is making up money on subscriptions right? Well, the camera is actually perfectly usable without one: you can record up to an hour of 12-second clips straight to the cloud every day, and keep them for two weeks, all without paying a monthly fee to Neos. Slot in a microSD card, and you can record two days of continuous HD video, if needed.
There is a Neos Boost subscription package, costing you ¬£3.49 a month after a 30-day free trial, but it's by no means essential for using the camera. Pay up, and you get to save recordings of up to a minute rather than them maxing out at 12 seconds, and you can save 12 hours of footage a day rather than just one hour. Monitoring schedules (where device alerts are muted at certain times) and activity zones (so only certain areas of the feed trigger an alert) are two more perks you get with Neos Boost, so it's worth considering.
Alexa integration is another feature we should mention, so you can arm your camera with a voice command or get the feed up on an Echo Show or Fire TV device. Compatibility with Google Assistant would be nice too, but it's not something that the Neos SmartCam currently offers.
As for the features you don't get, video footage tops out at 1080p rather than the 4K that some rival cameras reach, but we were perfectly happy with the quality of the video we got. There's not all of the advanced face recognition that you get with AI-powered devices like the Nest Cams either, but are you really going to miss it?
Neos SmartCam: Monitoring
Motion and noise detection is the bread and butter of the Neos SmartCam and we weren't able to catch it out during our testing ‚Äď if anything, it's a little too sensitive by default (you can adjust the sensitivity if needed). Alerts pop up promptly on the connected phone app, so you'll quickly realise if you're got an intruder or just a bored canine wandering around.
We do like the way motion is highlighted inside a moving green frame when you review your clips, which is a neat touch. We also like the auto-arming feature we mentioned in the intro: it uses your phone's location to automatically arm and disarm the system when you leave the house and then get back (though you can do this manually too, if you don't want alerts while you're at home).
You can set up activity zones within a feed too, enabling you to focus the motion detection on a particular door or window for example, but this requires the ¬£3.49-a-month subscription that we've already mentioned. Still, you do get plenty of features and functionality for the price of admission, so we're not grumbling.
We were pleased with the quality of the video captured by the Neos SmartCam too. It does become a little grainy and noisy when blown up on a larger screen, but it's more than good enough for its purpose‚ÄĒyou're not trying to win any film awards here. It's crisp and stable in daylight and at night, which is what matters
- Works without a hub
- Works without a sub
- App is slick and polished
- No 4K video footage
- Design could be better
- No Google Assistant support