Overall, we're pretty happy using the WiFi Baby 3G as a baby video monitor. In fact, in our experience, only Luvion's brand of premium video baby monitors can hold a candela to the Y-cam in terms of convenience and interference-free image quality under a variety of lighting conditions. However, unlike Luvion's cameras, your Y-cam can be converted to an all-weather outdoor surveillance camera for home security / monitoring with a $99 "Shell" adapter and 10 minutes of assembly. True, stuffing the relatively diminutive WiFi Baby 3G into a shiny hunk of 17 x 13.5 x 12.5cm plastic tubing makes quite the statement when slung off the upper floor of our European HQ -- but its conspicuous appearance translates into additional security. Already, just the presence of the camera seems to have stopped at least one neighborhood punk from tampering with our property.
For additional stealth, you can turn the external power indicator on or off using software, but the eerie red halo produced by the cam's 30 IR LEDs at night is inescapable. Of course, you can also disable the night vision feature completely or set it to function automatically using the camera's ambient light sensor. While there's a "moonlight mode" that superimposes frames to brighten an otherwise dimly lit image, it's no match for the cam's infrared capability -- if you want to see in the dark, you have to use the cam's night vision mode. Keep in mind that the IR range will likely decrease when pointing the WiFi Baby 3G camera outside due to the lack of walls needed to bounce the IR light back onto the objects you wish to illuminate. Nevertheless, we're still able to see the street (and our bicycle) fairly clearly from a camera mounted on the third-floor window. In practice, we'd likely augment the camera's ability with a separate IR illuminator or flood (and wipe away the spider web).
Naturally, all the features that make the WiFi Baby 3G a great baby camera also make it a great surveillance cam. But some features are paricularly well-suited to security. For example, you can set up several positional motion alarms of varying sensitivity to send a snapshot and / or video with sound to your FTP server, NAS, or email address whenever the camera detects movement. Y-cam also offers a Y-cam Knight SD camera model that records directly to removable SD cards. Storing your surveillance footage is useful for reviewing it after an incident occurred. For our testing, we configured the camera to record a 30 second video clip and still image to our NAS server at 30 minute intervals and whenever motion is detected. Of course, like all consumer grade surveillance cameras, the motion detection feature can flounder in the face of flying insects or wind-blown vegetation -- an issue not seen by city dwellers like us.
Of course, we do have some complaints. For one thing, the image colors have inexplicably shifted into the violet range of the visible spectrum. This wasn't always the case and could be related to a configuration setting we tweaked along the way -- there are many. While the color offset is fine for viewing baby's play habits, it's not very useful when trying to identify the colors of a perpetrator's clothing to police.
Also, we'd recommend repurposing an old Android or iPhone handset to use as a dedicated monitoring device with access to power (preferably in a cradle) near the bed. That way, you always have a master monitoring device at the ready to alert parents to cries of distress. Also, because the camera depends upon your WiFi network, it's not the kind of baby monitor that you'll toss in an overnight bag ready for use at grandma's house.
Our biggest gripe, however, is the premium placed on what amounts to a generic Y-cam Knight S surveillance camera. WiFi Baby lists the third-generation camera for $279 -- a price that includes US shipping and all applicable taxes. The identical Y-cam Knight S version YCK004 can be had for $50 less from Amazon and other US sites. WiFi Baby claims that its phone and email support justifies the differential. Perhaps. We didn't have any need for it thanks to Y-cam's own user manual and a number of helpful tutorials freely available on WiFi Baby's site. To make matter worse, owners will still have to dish out an additional $19.95 to a WiFi Baby network specialists if they get stuck trying to poke holes through their router for viewing the camera over the internet -- that feature isn't freely supported under WiFi Baby's terms and conditions.
The company does plan to deliver additional value in the future. It's already working on an Android app for release in 2011 as well as custom firmware, co-developed with Y-cam, that will simplify setup and provide exclusive baby monitoring features to WiFi Baby owners. So, you'll have to make the decision: spend a bit more now for a support lifeline you may or may not use with a promise for future exclusives, or put the $50 towards the $9.99 Baby Monitor HD iOS app with the remainder set aside for the $100 Y-cam Shell outdoor mount.
: Since posting our review, WiFi Baby has eliminated the $19.95 fee for advanced technical support and is now reselling the Y-Cam Shell all-weather enclosure for $65, $35 below MSRP.
It's not pink, it doesn't pack a remote temperature sensor, and it won't play an 8-bit lullaby. Hell, it's not even swaddled in an adorable "Summer Infant" or "AngelCare" moniker. Yet this third-generation WiFi Baby -- a repackaged Y-cam Knight S surveillance camera -- manages to make traditional baby video monitors look like overpriced toys. Sure, it's priced about the same as a typical high-end baby monitor, but the WiFi Baby 3G provides more features and flexibility than any traditional babycam. As the name suggests, you get WiFi freedom in addition to tethered Ethernet. You also get VGA video with sound, an IR illuminated night-vision mode, audible alerts with vibration, and plenty of iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Mac and PC apps that let you view your baby from anywhere in the connected world. And just think, when baby's grown you can repurpose the camera for security or home monitoring tasks thanks to an optional $99 waterproof Y-cam Shell and an out-of-the-box ability to send images, video, and sound to your networked hard disk drive or personal email address whenever motion is detected. Let's see your Safety 1st or Graco babycam do that.
We know that having a baby can cause well-meaning parents to do foolish things. Just don't add your choice of baby video monitors to that lengthy list. We urge you to give the WiFi Baby 3G (or its cheaper Y-cam Knight S clone) a look -- you'll have plenty of chances to disappoint your child later.