Sometimes we see a review and they rave about a product that they have had a for a few days. That’s really an unrealistic review, yes we mean you CNET, two hours, two days, weeks or months with a product is not a review.
I purchased the Blink Camera through the kickstarter campaign and supplemented the single one I bought with a second that arrived about 6 weeks later.
I never like to review a product after using it for a short time, especially when the performance claims extended life. After over a year I can honestly say that I can give a review that is fair and honest.
Blink At Home camera system is one of those that should be used for an extended time because they have such a huge promise on battery life and a review of even two months really can’t give a realistic idea of whether it really can meet that promise.
What you get…
The base package is a single receiver unit that communicates with the Blink System and a Camera. You have to download an app for your smartphone to set it all up.
Setting up the camera and receiver unit can sometimes be a real pain in the backside, someone told me it took them two days before they could get it working, The first time I really didn’t have a problem but later on I struggled to get it working and occasionally the cameras will suddenly drop off the system and stop communicating and it takes a few days before you can get it to connect back to the network.
Once it is working.for the better part it works.
The base unit
This is a small usb powered box that has multiple connectors on. Blink have said many times through their website that eventually you will be able to attach a storage device to the system and store video locally but after a year this has never really happened and I am doubtful whether they will ever include this functionality. It connects to the home network through WiFi even though there is an ethernet connector it doesn’t seem to be used, maybe one day it will have a hard wired connection which would be useful for those with faster Internet than the 802.11n wi-fi connection they use allows. Yes it uses wireless-N, sorry no Wireless-AC available.
The camera or cameras each use two AA batteries and Blink claims up to a 2 year life for the batteries, we’ll come back to that a little later. And connects to the base station through WiFi, I don’t know if it is a direct and closed wi-fi network (I think it is) or whether it piggy backs on the home WiFi. It sends video clips to the base station that then passes them to the Blink system’s website who then acts as a server for the video’s through the App.
Using the Blink At Home Cameras
The cameras are designed for indoor use but could be used outdoors if you put them in a sheltered located where they aren’t likely to get wet, maybe in a purpose built enclosure. That aside the system takes 1080p video clips when activated. There is maximum setting of 10 seconds with a 10 second retrigger time. When it’s dark it can be set to illuminate the area automatically if there is not enough light and you can select the intensity of the light which comes from a white LED.
It doesn’t have the ability to select an area that will trigger and simply picks up movement through an infra-red detector and movement detector combination.
One issue that I noticed was that if more than one camera triggers you are not guaranteed to get both video’s and multiple times we never got either if they triggered at the same time and wouldn’t get either on some occasions even though we knew they were both triggered. Blink never got back to us when we asked about this and just as with the battery life mentioned above we will discuss customer support below as a separate subject.
The video quality is good and the microphone is exceptional. On one occasion with the one that is used inside a carport in a very sheltered location watching the garage entrance it recorded a spider climbing over the camera and picked up the spiders legs touching the case of the camera and it does pick up fairly quiet noise.
You can select to mute the camera so it only records video through the app.
So when it works it works and does a good job.
The app is fairly simple and when they first launched functionality was very limited but was far more reliable with video’s appearing when notified.
As functionality increased such as scheduling on and off monitoring, for example a business where it watches an office.
Yes you can have more than one base station and multiple camera networks and as far as I know there isn’t really a limit to the number of cameras per base station though again as we mentioned above you may run into issues with multiple cameras triggering and confusing the base station.
In practice over time we have had periods where we received a notification but couldn’t view the video for several minutes, so no chance of getting a good look at an intruder before calling the police or at the least jumping into action.
Night video is only as good as the lighting it produces, it doesn’t have true night vision or infra-red camera functionality and if you have the light in the unit turned off you the camera might trigger because the infra-red detector activates it but the video will be fairly dark.
The settings for the camera are modified through tapping on the cog next to the camera and you can select the intensity of the illuminating LED, the length of the clip from 1 second to 10 seconds and the retrigger time from 10 seconds to 30 seconds etc. There is also a way to selectively turn off a particular camera by tapping the green running man or you can turn off ALL cameras using the on-off button on the main screen.
Scheduling is done via the top of the screen where you select the particular camera cluster and the time zone you are located in etc and shows whether it is armed or not. So you have some control over the activation of the cameras but you can either schedule a whole cluster of cameras as on or off, you cannot select a particular camera to be activated unless you connect one camera per base station module. Not exactly flexible. I would be nice to schedule a particular camera in a cluster to be on or off. I guess it’s a way of getting more income by having the customers buy multiple base unit alongside cameras.
You do receive a notification that the scheduled activation or deactivation has taken place.
Since I only have one base station I have to assume that scheduling is done on a base station by base station basis rather than it turning all on or off.
Either way it is a big limitation and worse still, in a test of the scheduling, it did turn off the cameras but never did activate them again at the time it was scheduled to turn back on monitoring, we ended up manually turning it on 90 minutes after it should done so. Thankfully we have never used scheduling in normal daily use and either turned them on and off as we did to on an individual basis. That said, it could have been a glitch but people should never have to worry about whether their device is going to rearm on a scheduled time or whether it is going to not record activity.
I’m sorry to say but it is atrocious, there is no other word for the terrible customer support. We’ve had issues with the camera’s dropping from the system and refusing to reconnect, even resetting and trying to reinstall the cameras will not reconnect to the network. BlinkForHome uses an automated support system and gives out initial information suggesting fixes, if you escalate it they simply send out exactly the same information that the support system sends out and don’t bother reading the email or giving any other assistance. Kind of shit.
BlinkForHome claim up to 2 years battery life after a firmware update, previously they had claimed one year. We have never had great battery life, the batteries in one of the cameras lasts only 10 days while the other lasted a fair amount of time but recently it’s burned through batteries.
Another issue we have found is that if the batteries get low in the cameras is that at night the camera will activate and as soon as the LED lights the camera will reset and it will sadly kill the camera, it will not send the video and you just won’t know that there is an issue until the battery gets low enough to trigger the warning on the app (a new feature, for the longest time you had to go into the settings) though the warning is misleading, rather than showing a red battery emblem or always showing the actual estimate of battery life it shows a green full battery as an alert.
As a test we recorded the dates that we switched the batteries on cameras. One camera we replaced the batteries with brand new fresh batteries on Thursday 27th October at 2pm, the camera batteries were dead on Sunday 6th November at 5am. That’s not a great battery life at all, that’s a total of 381 hours in total, a far cry from the promised up to 17,520 hours.
So in the same two years that they claim two batteries should last you are actually using 92 batteries. Note we have always used Duracell alkaline batteries. We started off buying a pack of four then as pack of 8 then we ended up purchasing in packs of 20 or 24 at a time to feed these monsters.
We thought at first it was because of poor signal between the cameras and the base station but no, the one that has worst performance with batteries, between 3 and 10 days life per set, it shows full signal bars in the app while the one that lasts 8-10 days per set has worse wi-fi signal bars in the settings for that camera. All we can assume is that their estimate is based on a camera rarely activating and never activating at night or the LED illumination switched off and having a 1 second video with 30 second reset time between recording intervals.
In fact the rate we blow through batteries has not improved after their claimed “firmware update” they made that “doubled battery life to two years”.
We can only summarize from personal experience and we review on the basis of purchasing so that there is no bias, that if you are willing to feed the cameras batteries and work within the limitations and won’t need any customer support them this is a fine product.
If you are planning to purchase based on the claim of 2 years battery life in the cameras then don’t, the amount of the money we have paid for Duracell batteries since owning BlinkForHome cameras we could have paid for a much more expensive system. We as users had been attracted at the KickStarter stage because of the estimated 12 month life and we would have loved to say it is a great economical product.
In fact we raved about this product when we first got it and put down the horrendous battery life to the elcheapo battery’s they supplied but when after months we were buying multiple packages of batteries each time we went to the store combined with the appalling customer support we have to tell those that ask us about the camera’s that they should just spend extra for a rival brand with more features and realistic estimates of battery life or be willing to buy batteries like a demon.
So this is a DO NOT BUY for this product.