Review: Avaak Vue personal video network simple to install, difficult to justify

Avaak's Vue personal video network promises to allow you to view live video footage from small wireless video cameras online, anywhere. It's simple to install, but difficult to justify.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor on

Avaak's Vue personal video network promises to allow you to view live video footage from tiny, battery-powered wireless video cameras online, anywhere. It's incredibly simple to install, but difficult for which to justify a purpose.

Avaak frames the Vue personal video network as the answer to, "What's going on in your home today?" (The answer for most of us: probably not a whole lot.) Its suggested uses are for monitoring children, aging parents, pets, a business, or a primary or vacation home.

The Vue is a three-part video package comprising of a plastic, paperback book-sized gateway that plugs into your home's router and two 1.5-inch long, 2.0-megapixel plastic videocams that magnetically mount to metal balls that you can stick to any indoor surface.

If there's one thing you'll take away from using the Vue, it's that it's dead simple to set up. Just plug the gateway into your router, pop the included batteries into the videocams and, with a push of a button, everything's synced up.

The entire Vue experience is managed from the browser window (computer or mobile phone; there's a free VueZone for iPhone app). From the my.vuezone.com portal, you can activate and deactivate the videocams remotely, check their status and battery levels, watch live video footage, playback previously recorded footage and share live streams and recorded clips.

It's a drag-and-drop affair with big, bold buttons that are easy for pretty much anyone to use. Avaak founder Gioia Messinger should be commended for the system's clever, streamlined setup.

In use, though, the Vue suffers from one big conceptual problem: it's not optimized for any of the aforementioned uses.

That's because the neat little videocams can't offer very good quality video (especially in low light), omit audio capability completely and don't have motion-sensing -- not good for security purposes.

Moreover, you can't watch multiple streams at once -- when you drag one videocam's feed into the viewable area within the browser window, the other deliberately freezes.

So while the Vue is a wonderfully easy system to set up -- brilliant in form (three steps) and function (browser-viewable) -- it lacks a sufficient response to its own question, "What's going on in your home today?"

(Answer: Hard to say, since I can't see everything and can't hear anything.)

That's not to say there isn't a use for a video-only monitoring system. For example, the Vue's limited feature set may be enough to keep an eye on your ailing mother who lives alone in Florida.

But for a retail price of $299.99 -- about on par with competing, clunkier wired systems -- the Vue in its current state is a tradeoff: if you need more robust coverage, systems from Panasonic, Logitech or D-Link may be more appropriate.

But if you need simplicity more than anything, the Vue won't disappoint.

Avaak says future versions of the system may including sound and motion sensors. (An outdoor version would be welcome, too.)

If that's the case, Avaak could give baby monitors and small business security cams a real run for their money, with a simpler setup, wireless operation and on-the-go live streaming. For now, though, it's merely a novelty.

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