- Suitable for wireless or wired networks;
- supports 802.11g;
- accessible via the Internet from any location
- Fairly large and clunky;
- can’t remotely pan, tilt or zoom;
- for indoor use only
Linksys is known for its wireless and wired networking products, and its Wireless-G Internet Video Camera is intended for use in both environments. The camera is capable of delivering live video feeds with sound to computers on a local network, and can also make these accessible remotely across the Internet.
The hardware itself is rather large -- you certainly won’t find it easy to use this kit for clandestine surveillance. With its antenna extended above the camera itself, the device is a shade under 30cm tall. If you use a stand instead of wall-mounting the camera, this adds around 13cm of depth. Keeping the camera secret is also hampered by the bank of LEDs indicating various aspects of its operation, and by the mains cable (rechargeable cells are not practical for a device you may want to leave unattended for weeks at a time). The lens projects from the case and can be swivelled up and down, and left and right, providing a good viewing range from a fixed location. The camera captures sound as well as video, while the built-in microphone at the front has a range of around three metres. There's a microphone jack if you want to use a wired alternative to get closer to your quarry. The only other feature of note in design terms is an LED screen that indicates the camera’s IP address, and whether this is fixed or dynamic. This information may come in handy if you need to troubleshoot the camera.
We first set the camera up on a wired (Ethernet) connection to our ADSL router (it does not need to connect directly to a PC), and subsequently ran it in wireless mode too. The colour image was sent with minimal delay to a viewing application on a network-connected notebook. Effectively we were able to watch near-live video, with sound, from any location within our Wi-Fi network range -- and beyond that range with a cable connection. Our 54Mbps 802.11g network delivered enough bandwidth, and the colours delivered by the camera were nice and sharp. The software that Linksys provides for viewing live feeds can capture video at scheduled times, and you can record manually as well as taking still snapshots. If you don’t want to use the provided software for viewing video, or it is not installed on each of the PCs within wireless network range, then Internet Explorer will do fine. In any case, you’ll need to access the camera via a Web browser if you want to interact in any way with its on-board software. This software's functionality includes adjusting the image quality (there are 15 resolutions and quality settings ranging between 160 by 120 to 640 by 480), changing the red green and blue colour ratios, time and date stamping images, and asking the camera to automatically send an email alert if it detects motion. If you want to be able to view the camera’s feeds from beyond your network, you’ll need to set up the SoloLink DDNS service that Linksys provides. This is a subscription service, and the first years’ sub is already paid for.
The Linksys Wireless-G Internet Video Camera performed well. Setting it up on our network was straightforward, although newcomers to wireless networking may find the manual a little difficult to follow if they encounter hitches. Image quality is pretty good when the camera is focussed indoors, but when pointed outside in gathering darkness it becomes clear that this is not a useful device for night-time surveillance. We’d like to be able access some of the camera settings via Linksys's viewer software instead of via a Web browser. Using the Web browser to change image resolution, adjust colour balance and set up email alerts seems a little long-winded. Still, the viewer's simplicity could be preferable in situations where access to the camera is shared. Some users may find it irritating that you can’t adjust the focus remotely, or move the lens. The 57-degree field of view is not particularly wide, and it’s inevitable that some action will happen off-camera at some point. This is an expensive piece of kit to justify under the ‘fun’ banner, but its security uses may be limited due to its dislike of poor lighting conditions and the outdoors, and its general size. In-office or home monitoring during working hours may be its forté.