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Hands-on Gear Review

Samsung SmartCam HD Pro Review

Price:   $180 List | $119.00 at Amazon
Pros:  Great video quality, good real time viewing performance, free ‘motion zones’
Cons:  No cloud services without a subscription, poorly designed app, no scheduling available
Bottom line:  A decent camera but lack of scheduling and non-subscription cloud services robs it of some functionality
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Samsung

Our Verdict

The Samsung SmartCam HD Pro is the only model we tested that offers the ability to tell the camera where to look for motion without a subscription (though in our testing this technology wasn't as effective as what other manufacturers offer with a subscription plan). It also has some of the best night vision we tested. One major downside is that it offers zero cloud storage without a subscription, all video must be stored on an onboard SD card. This, combined with a poorly designed app, make it feel a bit dated. We feel most users would be better offer with the Arlo Q or Canary All-in-One, which offer similar performance and some free cloud services.


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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Max Mutter and Steven Tata

Last Updated:
Wednesday
February 22, 2017

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Performance Comparisons


The chart below shows how the Samsung SmartCam HD Pro's overall performance (in blue) compares to that of the other cameras we tested.


Monitoring Performance


The Samsung SmartCam earned a 5 in our monitoring performance testing, placing it just above the worst score of 4 and a good bit behind the top score of 8.

Monitoring Services With/Without a Subscription


The SmartCam's low score was mostly due to its lack of cloud services without a subscription. If you don't sign up for a subscription all video is stored on an internal SD card. In some ways this is nice because you can store as much video as you'd like onto the SD without worrying about cloud storage limits. However, a thief could also steal your camera and all of your footage along with it, and once the camera leaves the range of your wifi network you won't be able to access any clips from it remotely.

If your wifif router is slow the SmartCam has an ethernet port.
If your wifif router is slow the SmartCam has an ethernet port.

We did like that Samsung offers 'motion zones' without a subscription. This allows you to set specific areas where the camera should look for motion, allowing it to ignore the squirrels frolicking outside the window. The shape of these zones are limited to rectangles and aren't as customizable as those offered with a Nest Cam with a subscription. They also weren't as effective as the equivalent technology offered by Nest, as we still get some extraneous motion alerts. Also, The SmartCam is the only model we tested that doesn't offer any sort of scheduling or geofencing, so you have to remember to turn the camera on when you leave the house to actually take advantage of it.

A $5/month subscription earns 5 days of event storage on the cloud. $8 extends the history to 7 day and offers 24/7 recording, not just clips of when the camera detects motion. $20 pushes that 24/7 history out to 21 days.

Audio Quality


Footage from the SmartCam had some of the best audio in our testing, bested only by the Canary All-in-One and Canary Flex. Conversations were always understandable when within 20 feet of the camera and it took a lot of echoes or ambient noise to actually drown them out. The speaker it uses for 2-way audio wasn't nearly as clear. Most of our testers thought it sounded a bit garbled, though they could understand what was being said if they listened carefully.

Video Quality


The Smartcam shared the top score of 8 out of 10 in our video quality metric with a number of other 1080p models. In our testing daytime footage looked sharp and bright, and it produced some of the clearest nighttime footage of any camera we tested (though the edges of the image were a little dark). It also has a respectable 128˚ wide angle view. It only missed out on a higher score because of how it dealt with motion. All of the cameras we tested tend to blur swift moving object, but the SamSung was particularly bad in this regard. In our testing someone really had to stand still in front of the camera for at least a second or two for us to be able to capture a recognizable face screenshot from the footage.



App Ease of Use


Samsung's app was far and away our least favorite. It earned the low score of 5 out of 10 in this metric, far off the top score of 9. The app itself looks and feels like a website from the 90's. All of the menus are blocky looking and difficult to navigate. Luckily there isn't too much to navigate as there are no options for scheduling and very few for adjusting notifications. Setting up motion zones on the app fleels a bit clunky, but isn't too painful to do. When navigating event histories there is no thumbnail attached to each event, so you generally have to open a few before you can find the one you're looking for. The biggest annoyance was that it requires you to type in a password every time you access the camera. This felt needlessly annoying, especially for those of us with clumsy thumbs that hate typing on smartphones. There was an auto login option that could be turned on, but it kept mysteriously turning off for many of our testers.

Samsung's app felt poorly designed and realtively difficult to use.
Samsung's app felt poorly designed and realtively difficult to use.

Real Time Viewing


The Samsung SmartCam HD Pro is a decent real time viewing camera. It scored a 7 out of 10 in this metric, just one below the top score of 8 and significantly better than the low score of 5. In our testing it had a field leading latency of just 3 seconds. Its real time stream was also high quality, but it did pause for a second to refresh once or twice a minute, which kept it from earning a top score.

Installation Notes


The SmartCam can be placed on any horizontal surface, or can be mounted to a wall with a mounting plate that requires three screws to install. It does not have a battery and must be plugged into a standard outlet.

The SmartCam come with an ethernet cable  in case you'd prefer it to be hard wired.
The SmartCam come with an ethernet cable, in case you'd prefer it to be hard wired.

Value


With a list price of $180 the SmartCam is about 10% cheaper than most 1080p cameras. If you're ok with onboard SD card storage this is a fairly decent value. However, if you're going to pay for a subscription the Nest Cam is a much better value, and if you want some free cloud storage the Canary All-in-One or NETGEAR Arlo Q would be a better value.

Conclusion


The Samsung SmartCam HD Pro is good all around camera. However, its poorly designed app and lack of any cloud services without a subscription would make it a poor choice for many users.
Max Mutter and Steven Tata

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