Video monitoring systems offer peace of mind to keep an eye on our pets when we’re not around, but do they deliver? Are they versatile, easy to use and effective — or the hideous black-and-white static images of older technology?
I took a spin with the NETGEAR VueZone Personal Video Network (affiliate link) for almost a month to see if it delivers what the company promises. The following is my in-depth review.
What Is the VueZone Video Monitoring System?
VueZone describes its product as a personal video network. The setup comes with a “gateway” device that plugs into your modem or internet line, a small camera, and a mounting half-sphere. The system is completely wireless with the exception of the line from the VueZone gateway device to the internet source.
You can buy additional cameras, and there are three mounting options. An additional option is a shell casing for the cameras for outdoor use.
One of the big boasts by VueZone is simple installation. The company describes installation of the cameras as a super-simple process that only requires you to plug, mount and monitor with a surprising ease. Was it really that simple? Absolutely.
I was sent the starter system (Model SM2200) with the gateway device, one motion-sensitive camera and two mounting half-spheres. I unpacked the box and went over the directions. Surprised by how incredibly short the directions were, I thought to myself, “It can’t be this simple.”
Skeptical, I removed the gateway device, internet and power cords, and headed to the office to plug it into my modem. After plugging in two cords, I brought over the camera to sync with the modem. All these actions took less than a minute, and I was all set. All I had to do now was decide where to put the camera.
The dog has a favorite spot on a blanket at the end of the hallway, so I placed the camera on the floor facing her cozy corner. The next steps involved creating an account on the VueZone website and testing the camera angle, tasks that were — again — simple and fast.
One thing is worth a separate mention: The half-sphere mounting option is versatile and simple. The camera has a magnet that adheres it to the half-sphere, and the angle options are virtually endless. The camera rolls around on the sphere in any position. The sphere comes with an adhesive or hanging option, and this magnetic versatility greatly enhances the capabilities of this product.
I’m a bit of a rebel when it comes to the smartphone craze. I relish the nostalgia of mobile phones being used for emergencies instead of constant texting, pinning, tweeting and the like. Then again, I know I’ll survive losing a cell phone without a nervous breakdown, and sometimes I just like being disconnected. So I didn’t use the smartphone applications for this system, but they are available.
What I did use was the interface available from any computer. At least if you ever lost your smartphone, you’d have an alternative, right? Once you log in to the website, you are instantly taken to your monitoring system interface. I kept the motion detection off for most of the review and used the “play” button on the website to activate the camera and check in on my pup.
This is one feature I love about this system. While the cameras can run all the time, the system can be customized based on your circumstances. You can set it to motion detection only, and it even has an option to notify you and send you a short video clip of the recorded event. If you’re not away from home often but still want to check in periodically, just log in and hit play to get a real-time visual of what’s going on with your pet.
Aside from the smartphone applications and monitoring from anywhere you can access the internet, the online system and the devices have multiple features. The online system activates the cameras when needed if you use the system in that way, but it also lets you take screenshots, record video and adjust the settings on the camera remotely. You can even schedule recording sessions in advance and share your photos or video snippets with friends and family.
It even has a nifty night vision feature that helps adjust the resolution so that even if the lights are low or off, you can still see your pet. Here’s my screenshot during night vision mode (adjustable on the camera page of my account):
As you can see, the image is a little dark, but I could clearly recognize my dog’s tags and see that she was napping peacefully on the floor in her favorite spot. To get this much detail and clarity with such limited light is a definite bonus of the NETGEAR VueZone.
For comparison, check out this screenshot with the lights on in the hallway:
Just don’t tell her I have a snapshot of her greying facial hair, or I’ll be in the doghouse.
I reviewed the NETGEAR VueZone system as a pet video monitoring option, but there are more uses available. The company lists its many uses on its website:
This versatility makes sense given the ease of relocating the camera (no cords!) to virtually anywhere in the house based on your schedule. While you may love checking in on your pet while at work, you could also set up one or more cameras throughout your house while on vacation, hiring a contractor or keeping a close eye on a babysitter.
The cameras are so small and inconspicuous, people don’t even notice them. I had family over a few times over the course of my VueZone review, and it took several visits for them to even notice the camera (which was sitting on the hallway floor and not even hidden). Imagine what you could do if you got creative with placements or mounting options. I bet you could place one on a shelf in a bookcase and no one would notice it for weeks or months.
I still had to test this idea out. I knew the camera worked well, but I am — like many people — a visual person. I moved the camera around the house and took some other snapshots to see how well it would monitor other areas of my home.
First up was the kitchen:
Then I wanted to focus on the front door as if I would while away on vacation:
The bright sunlight was filtering through the front entrance, but the impressive thing about these last two screenshots is how easy it was to get them. I didn’t even bother with the mounting sphere; I just placed the camera on top of something waist-high in the room and was good to go. The simplicity in this system is simply too hard to ignore.
Cost is the first factor I would consider a drawback for some consumers. I cannot ignore that our economy is not what it once was, and many people are living on a lot less. The SM2200, the basic starter system, sells for around $199.95. Despite the price, do I think the system and the technology are worth it? Again, I have to say yes.
As great as this system is, there are additional drawbacks when it comes to temperature. Some locations may not be able to use the system as an outdoor feature since the casing is limited to 32 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. While this temperature range will work in most places without issue, it may be something to consider in colder climates. With that said, this only applies to the outdoor casing’s temperature restrictions. Temperatures inside a home would never exceed those extremes — or at least I hope not.
My last concern may not be as much of a drawback as it is a hopeful product enhancement soon to come. The night vision mode can be a little grainy and dark, but just the idea of having that capability for this price seems to outweigh the clarity. The company has made some exciting partnerships and enhancements since launching this product, and it would be worthwhile to stick around and see the new developments.
Summary of My NETGEAR VueZone Review
VueZone claims to be a video monitoring system for not just pets, but also your home and exterior. The company promises an installation so simple it’s silly. Does it deliver? It sure does.
The drawbacks are few and the praises are excessive, so I would definitely recommend this system to anyone wishing to keep a set of eyes on their home, children or pets when away.
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Disclaimer: I was sent the basic package from NETGEAR VueZone to test and review the camera system. No compensation, monetary or in product form, was given to myself or Petful (formerly Pets Adviser) for this review. The system provided for testing was returned to the company. The link above is an affiliate link. All photos were taken from and through the NETGEAR VueZone website and monitoring system and remain the company’s copyrighted property.