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Logitech's Circle camera is a portable Dropcam-killer

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If you were disappointed by Nest's minor update to Dropcam's home monitoring cameras, Logitech might have just what you're looking for. The new Logi Circle is a home monitoring camera similar with a unique twist: You can unplug it from power and stream video from anywhere in your home for up to three hours. Logitech is positioning the Circle as as more than just a home security camera, it's also something that you can use like a webcam, since it has support for two-way voice chat. The company is also one-upping the competition by including 24-hours worth of video rewinding from its cloud service -- that's something you have to pay extra for from Nest's devices. You'll be able to snag a Circle for $200/£159 starting in October.

Gallery: Logi Circle Hands-on | 9 Photos

The Circle is the first home camera for Logitech, but it's also building on its experience with webcams and outdoor security cameras. (This is also the second product in the consumer-friendly Logi line, after its recent iPad cases.) While the Circle isn't as sleek as Nest's new camera, it has a bulbous design that's sort of cute (it reminds me of the new Star Wars BB-8 Droid). And even though its case and charging bay (which the camera latches onto magnetically) are made of plastic, they still feel pretty sturdy.

On the software side, Logitech came up with a few unique features to make the Circle stand out. You can have the camera create a "Day Brief," which algorithmically produces a sped up video of the day's highlights. Logitech also filters all of the video and surfaces the most interesting segments when browsing the Circle's iOS or Android app.

After testing out the Circle for a few days, I was surprised by how polished the entire experience was. My phone recognized the camera within seconds of launching the Circle app, and it then prompted me to connect the camera to a WiFi network. After that, I quickly registered for Logitech's Circle service and the camera was ready to go. It records 720p video at this point -- the camera is capable of shooting 1080p, but 720p is easier to broadcast on most WiFi networks.

The footage overall looked fairly clear, with a decent amount of sharpness and no major artifacts. There also weren't any hiccups when I yanked the Circle out of its charging pod and walked around with it. As long as I was within range of my WiFi network, everything worked fine. Like most security cameras, the Circle uses a very wide angle lens, so there's a pretty big distortion curve with all of your footage. And yes, it also has night vision and motion detection capabilities.

I was particularly impressed with the Day Brief feature. It's completely on-demand, and it never took more than a few seconds for Logitech's servers to generate a quick recap of the day's events. It's not any way to view your baby's first steps, but it provides a helpful glance of what's going on in your home (or wherever you point it). Day Brief will get even more useful when you can jump straight from specific points in the hyper-fast video to the source recording -- something Logitech says it's working on.

While Logitech isn't a brand most people associate with hip new devices, the Logi Circle shows the company can still innovate where it counts. I'll be putting the Circle through its paces over the next few weeks, so check back for a more in-depth look later.

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