Vacos Cam review

Wire-free outdoor security camera tried and tested

Vacos Cam
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There’s a certain Arlo-esque familiarity to the Vacos Cam, but this wireless camera is a fraction of the price, promises full-color night vision, doesn’t need an expensive hub and it even has built-in storage so that you don’t have to pay for a cloud subscription.

Given that this is an indoor/outdoor smart security camera, that list of specs at a $169 price makes the Vacos Cam an enticing proposition.

Beware though, as the limits of this camera far outweigh its benefits, and some big issues make it hard to recommend.

If you’re on a tight budget, the Reolink Argus Pro is a better choice, while the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor or Arlo Pro 3 make more sense for those with a bit more to spend.

If the color night vision is what's got you interested the EZViz C3X is a much better option.

The vacos cam mounted outdoors

Vacos Cam: Design

The best way to describe the Vacos Cam is like a chubby Arlo camera - see our Arlo Essential Cam review for a comparison on the design.

Vacos has used the same lozenge-shaped design as Arlo, only its camera is far fatter and chunkier. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t look nice, and the waterproof (IP65) shiny plastic exterior looks neat here, and you can’t tell that this is a budget device from looks alone.

Affordable rival: Reolink Argus 3 security camera review

While Arlo cameras can be opened so that you can change the battery, Vacos has gone for a sealed battery. To charge, you have to remove the camera, bring it inside and plug in a Micro USB cable.

Alternatively, you can fit an optional solar panel to keep the battery topped up automatically.

Vacos Cam USB charging port

Also sealed into the body is 16GB of eMMC, giving you the option to run the camera without paying for cloud storage; just be careful, as onboard storage can be stolen along with the camera.

As you’d expect from a modern camera, the Vacos Cam has a Full HD 1080p resolution, powered by a Sony IMX307 image sensor that promises to capture night scenes in full color.

There’s also a 130-degree lens inside, which is wide enough to make it easy to capture the areas you’re interested in.

Inside the box, you get two mounting options. First, there’s a ball that screws into the wall, with the Vacos Cam magnetically attaching.

Vacos Cam screw mount

This method makes it quick to position the camera and to remove it for charging, but is better inside, as it’s too easy for a thief to grab the camera otherwise.

There’s also a screw-in tripod mount that is probably better for outdoor installations.

Once charged and in place, you can use the Vacos app to connect the camera to your Wi-Fi (2.4GHz only). Just be careful where you place it, as this camera doesn’t have a very powerful Wi-Fi adaptor: even though I have mesh satellites nearby, the camera struggled to connect when I had my office door shut.

Vacos Cam review

Vacos Cam: Features

Fire up the Vacos app and it looks much like any other budget security camera’s app. You get a thumbnail showing you the last live view from the camera that you can tap to view what’s going on. Vacos defaults to connecting at an SD resolution but you can tap HD if you want to get a clearer view.

Once viewing the stream, you can use the two-way option to chat with anyone you can see. There’s little delay in conversation, and the system’s clear enough to be heard and to understand what’s being said back.

Sadly, the rest of the app isn’t as reliable. First, I couldn’t get the camera to update to the latest firmware: I just got a spinning wheel. In the end, I had to reset the camera, remove and reinstall the app and try again.

Despite running the latest firmware, the camera still lacks even the most basic features and many of the ones it has got are implemented in an odd way.

For example, to get the camera to record motion, you have to set a schedule. You can only have one time period set, and even then it’s inflexible: if you want to start recording at 10pm at night, and stop at 8am in the morning, you can’t, as the camera thinks that the end time is before the start time.

Next to the schedule is a toggle switch. Turn it off and the schedule is deleted, which is the worst bit of interface design that I’ve seen in a long time.

There’s some control over the PIR motion sensor, and you can set the range at which it will work. Although the camera can detect and warn you about people being detected, you can’t choose to turn this feature off or only be warned about people.

When a person is detected, the notification says “Human Induction”, which doesn’t even make sense.

You get 90-days of free cloud recording in the box (although the app’s pop-up message says 30 days next to a button that says 90 days, just to add to the confusion), with seven days of cloud storage. After the trial period, you can extend this option for $2.99 a month.

Sadly, my cloud storage refused to work, even when I reset the camera, reinstalled the app and even paid for a monthly subscription. Every time I selected an alert, the app said, “No Video Data”. Over a few days, the system proved to be intermittent: some clips would be available; others were not.

Vacos Cam review

Video is saved to the local storage, and you can view this on a rather horrible timeline. You can select a date, but to view footage during the selected day, you have to scroll through the timeline to try and find the clip you want. Thumbnails with clearly labelled times are so much easier to use.

When you do find the clip you want, my app would often playback at random speeds, getting faster and slower. It’s the kind of effect that might be neat when used properly in a music video; on a security camera, footage played back at a constant speed is a must.

Yet, that’s not even the worst thing: there’s no way to download a clip to preserve the evidence. In fact, the only way that I could find to download video was to start a manual recording. That’s not just disappointing, it’s a huge oversight.

The one thing that the new firmware brings is the option to turn off the siren when motion is detected. Although not particularly loud, there are very few situations where having a siren go off every time a camera detects motion is a good idea.

You can’t change the spotlight, which always shines when it’s dark and motion is detected.

Vacos Cam: Video Quality

The caveat with the video clips here is that I had to start them manually in order to download them to my phone so that they could be uploaded here. What you see is representative of the video quality, and the Vacos Cam is actually alright.

During the day, there’s a fair amount of detail in the picture, and you can clearly see who individuals are. The image is a touch oversharpened for my liking, and there are some strange artefacts around moving objects, but the overall picture quality is good enough to tell exactly what’s going on.

At night, you do get full-color night vision, but the picture becomes noticeably grainier, and it can be hard to spot physical details. In some points in the video below, my face disappears into the night, and the camera has some trouble dealing with low light.

With its dual lenses, the EZViz C3X shows how full-color night vision can really be done.

In both cases, the video is a little jerky, although playback is smoother on downloaded clips than from the app.

Amazon Alexa is supported - but only for certain voice commands. You can't stream security camera footage to an Echo Show, as you can with rival security cameras.


Vacos Cam
The low cost and integrated battery should make the Vacos Cam one of the most desirable budget security cameras but it feels too much as though it’s a demo product that hasn’t quite been finished properly. With its weak Wi-Fi connection and flaky cloud storage, the Vacos Cam falls short of expectations. And, while it can be used with its own integrated storage, finding clips is a nightmare and you can’t download any to maintain evidence. Video quality is good enough for the price, but so much else lets the side down that I recommend you buy something different.
PROS
  • Low price
  • Integrated storage
  • Full-color night vision
CONS
  • Can’t download video clips
  • Unreliable cloud storage
  • Jerky video
  • No Alexa streaming





TAGGED    security cameras

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