D-Link DCS-930L Wireless N Network Camera review
After we reviewed the DropCam Echo a few weeks back and found ourselves generally unimpressed, we received an e-mail from someone at D-Link saying something to the effect of: "Dude, you have to try out our thing, because our thing is totally better than their thing and costs a heck of a lot less too." We took them up on that offer and, while unfortunately D-Link's thing has a much less catchy name, DCS-930L Wireless N Camera hardly rolling off the tongue, the sub-$100 device does indeed live up to its billing -- for the most part.
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D-Link DCS-930L Wireless N Network Camera


Hardware

As advertised, the DCS-930L supports 802.11n, meaning you can set this sucker up anywhere your router's microwaves and your home's power grid can reach. Initial setup is painless and, thanks to an internal web server, viewing footage is easy. Just type the IP address that's assigned to your camera into your browser and there you are, streaming live and looking pleasantly surprised.

You'll need to set the cam up over Ethernet first, but after that you're cable and carefree. That's just like the DropCam Echo, which looks so much like this thing we'd swear they shared a womb at some point. At the very least an assembly line. The stand rotates 360 degrees and has indentations to let you screw it to the wall if you're so inclined, though an unfortunately short power cable means you'll probably need an extension cord if you'll be poking holes in plasterboard too far up the wall.

The camera has a single button, which resets it, and on the front there's one blinkety light that can blissfully be darkened.

Software

You may not actually need any software to use this camera. As mentioned it streams its video directly through its own little (password-protected) webpage when you're on a local network, which is a neat trick, and you can use the mydlink.com site to view things remotely. D-Link also provides an iPhone app that lets you view that footage elsewhere, but if you're on other platforms you'll have to find your own. On Android we used an app called Tiny DVR that had us viewing footage in minutes, though getting that footage accessible beyond your firewall could be a challenge if you're unfamiliar with the ways of dynamic IPs.

In fact you can use the camera with just about any IP cam software that you like, and there are some good ones out there, but D-Link thoughtfully includes a reasonably comprehensive option called D-ViewCam. It's ugly and about as intuitive to use as an old DOS partition manager, but it is effective. Through that app the camera can act like a DVR, archiving footage to a disk share to be viewed later. Unfortunately it's not in a standard format so you'll need to use the app to export the footage back out again, and for whatever reason we couldn't get it to export the audio, despite that audio being captured.

The camera can also be configured to look for motion and, when it's detected, e-mail a photo to you or even dump it on an FTP site. That means you're just a little scripting away from hosting an auto-updating, live view of your iguana lounging in its habitat -- or your My Little Cthulhu doll having some lunch.

Performance


The camera is VGA, so lower thy expectations. Even then it disappoints, with grainy images that are distorted and dull. Low-light performance is poor as well -- the sizeable profiles of our dogs easily disappeared into the shadows at night when a single light was left on. Finally, the lens isn't wide enough for our tastes. Given the resolution you can't make out much detail here anyway, so we'd just as soon have a big 'ol fisheye view.

Wrap-up

Ultimately this is indeed a decidedly better package than the DropCam Echo and, with no monthly fees and availability at around $80 if you shop around, it's a decidedly cheaper one too. It's slightly more difficult to configure and does not impress with its image quality, but the quality is certainly good enough to fulfill this camera's purpose and with its software you can do some impressive things. Just make sure you get your iguana's consent before you start beaming its private business for the world to see. We all know what happens when those things get mad.
D-Link

DCS-930L Wireless N Network Camera

Pros

  • Wireless connectivity
  • Easy setup
  • Relatively low cost

Cons

  • Poor image quality
  • Software is unintuitive
  • Seizure-inducing blinkenlight
Summary