Alarm.com 1080P Indoor WiFi Video Camera (ADC-V522IR) ReviewBy - 08/22/2018
Recently, I was able to try an older version of the Alarm.com Indoor Camera. Not too long after that, Alarm.com launched a new and improved version of their indoor camera that promised a higher resolution and the addition of audio.
Alarm.com is a company that provides cloud services for home security providers, including companies like Frontpoint, Link, and Brinks. They also happen to make hardware, including cameras. For testing, I tied my camera to Frontpoint. If you want to use a camera with your Frontpoint system, you will need to subscribe to their Ultimate plan for $49.99 per month. This plan adds smart home services, video surveillance, and cloud storage.
Installing the camera isn’t as simple as I’ve experienced installing newer WiFi cameras, but it’s still very simple.
First of all, the camera requires power. Second, to install it, you will need to plug it into an Ethernet port.
With that out of the way, you can place the camera on a flat surface or mount it. If you choose to mount the camera upside down, you can flip the camera’s image from the Video Device Image section of the web app.
Next, log into your Alarm.com web portal and click the Video tab. If your camera is connected via Ethernet, you should see it listed; otherwise, connect it and click refresh. Once you see your camera listed, click to install and follow the setup wizard. From here, you can enter your Wifi password to connect to your camera wirelessly or you can keep it connected via Ethernet, your choice.
Video Resolution and Performance
Alarm.com makes several cameras, including both indoor and outdoor cameras, but today we’re going to focus on the fixed indoor camera. One of the most significant differences between their current camera model and the older model is that the older model was an HD camera (720p resolution) while the new camera boast FHD (1080p resolution). You can see a comparison of footage from the two cameras by skipping to minute 3:36 in the video above.
Resolution is adjustable and can be controlled by logging into the Alarm.com web portal. However, there are two areas you must visit to adjust the resolution. The first area will adjust the resolution offered while live streaming video from the camera. The second area controls recorded video clips. And trust me when I say that adjusting the camera’s resolution will make a huge difference. Out of the box, my camera was recording using a 360p resolution (pictured below) at a pitiful 3 frames per second. In short, the video was crap.
To address the streaming resolution, head to the Video tab, click Settings, and then Live Video. From here you can adjust the live streaming resolution for both the mobile and web app. You can choose between Highest (optimized for clarity) and Reduced (optimized for bandwidth).
To adjust the resolution of recorded video clips, head back to the Settings menu and click Saved Video. From here, you can choose between several resolutions, ranging from 1920×1080, 1280×720, and 640×360.
You can also adjust image quality (image compression), choosing from Highest quality, Standard, and Reduced. Highest quality uses the least amount of compression, thus offering the best picture.
Third, you can adjust the frame rate. Bad news here: 5 frames per second is as good as it gets. Compare this to Nest, which records at 30 frames per second or even the $20 Wyze Cam which records at a rate of 15 frames per second.
So what does video look like when set to the highest and best everything? It looks significantly better, but to me it’s still a little blurry.
When placing the camera, if you don’t like the way the video looks, you can make even more adjustments, such as Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Sharpness, and Exposure.
Finally, the new Alarm.com camera offers a slightly wider field of view (113° vs. 110°).
Performance at Night
The camera also has IR LEDs that help it see at night. The process of swapping from day to night vision is automated, though you can turn off the camera’s night vision ability from the Device Info section of the Video Device Settings menu.
At night, performance is again a little lackluster.
Audio, Two-Way Audio, and Background Noise
As already mentioned, the new camera adds audio. Audio is available while live streaming and on recorded clips. The camera also offers two-way audio.
I could not find a way to adjust the volume of the camera’s speaker, but two-way audio was pretty clear and loud. Its biggest issue is that design is walkie-talkie style. You have to press a button to talk and then release to listen. You can’t simultaneously talk and listen, which makes the process of having an effective conversation more challenging.
As far as audio from the camera, it comes with its fair share of background noise. While you can still hear people talking on the camera, the overall audio quality is diminished because of this.
Using the Camera for Home Security
Of course, the sole purpose of using an Alarm.com camera is to tie it to an Alarm.com security system. You can’t use the camera without an Alarm.com subscription. It is entirely dependent upon their paid cloud service.
That said, the camera only has one sensor aimed at protecting your home: a motion sensor. In addition to detecting events on its own, you can also tie it to security events. In total, the camera offers six event triggers which are called “Recording Schedules.”
- Alarm: Record video when your security system reports an alarm.
- Video Motion Detection: Record video when the camera detects motion activity.
- Lock Activity: Record video when an emPower enabled lock reports activity.
- Entry Delay: Record video when the security system reports an Entry Delay.
- Sensor Opened/Closed: Record video when a security sensor is opened or closed.
- System Armed/Disarmed: Record video when the security system is Armed/Disarmed.
All of the options include some level of customization. For example, you can choose to have the above actions to happen all of the time or only during specified times. If you have multiple cameras, you can also decide which of them should record. Finally, you can select video clip recipients. For example, you might want the system to send video clips to you, but not to your children.
Beyond that, the descriptions of each of the event triggers are rather self-explanatory, but Video Motion Detection and Lock Activity deserve further explanation.
Video Motion Detection
Video Motion Detection (VMD) is tied back to even more customization. The settings are controlled on a per camera basis from the Video Motion Detection page as well as the Camera Settings page.
Like all triggers, you can choose which cameras you want to be involved and create a schedule, but you can also set a minimum delay between camera triggered clip uploads, commonly known as a retrigger time. This feature helps to reduce the number of notifications you receive by notifying you once every few seconds or minutes versus every time it detects motion. You can turn the retrigger time off or choose from 15 sec, 30 sec, 1 min, 2 min, 3 min, 4 min, 5 min, 10 min, and 15 mins.
Second, you can control at home settings by telling the camera that it shouldn’t record when your system is disarmed or armed stay. You can also tell it not to record when your selected devices (such as your smartphone) are within a geofence radius created by you.
Finally, from the Video Motion Detection screen, you can control zones. You can create up to three rectangularly shaped zones within the camera’s field of view.
The zones tell the camera to only concentrate on motion within the set area while ignoring everything else. With the zones set, you can further customize them by adjusting sensitivity for all or each zone, and by adjusting Target Size.
Target Size tells the camera what sized object should trigger the motion sensor. For example. If you choose 4% (small objects) the camera will detect all motion. If you choose 30% (Large Object), it will look for larger moving objects like people.
*It’s important to note that the camera’s motion detector cannot trigger your alarm. If you want a motion detector that can do that, you will need to purchase an actual motion sensor.
Lock Activity does what it says it will do: It triggers the camera to record when your lock detects activity. What makes this option interesting is that you can break this down by lock or even by user.
If you happen to own a keypad-style lock, you can assign multiple users their own passcode. When that user enters her passcode, the system will trigger a recording. For example, you might not want to be recorded when you unlock the door, but you might want the camera to record when your house cleaner unlocks the door.
This feature also works with non-keypad style locks. For example, I tested it with the August Smart Lock Pro, which also works with Alarm.com systems.
|Storage Amount||1,000 Clips|
|Download and Share Event Clips|
|Live Video Stream|
Cloud Storage isn’t necessarily tied to the camera, but rather your home security company. For the most part, I’ve found some universal truths when comparing Alarm.com companies.
My Frontpoint system offers cloud storage based on a monthly limit. I’m allowed up to 1,000 clips per month. (Alarm triggered clips do not count against the limit.) When I reach that limit, older clips are deleted to make room for new clips. Alternatively, I can easily see how much of my monthly limit I’ve used and can proactively delete clips.
That said, from the Saved Video Settings menu, you can also adjust the number of days that you want Alarm.com to keep your video clips. You can choose from 5, 10, 15, 30, 60, 120, or 180 days. You can also choose “Unlimited,” which means clips will not be deleted based on age. Of course, they will still be deleted when you reach your 1,000 clip limit.
From the Saved Video Settings menu you can also choose your preferred downloaded clip format (AVI, MOV, MP4), adjust the requested clip upload time during an alarm (1, 2, 5, 10, or 15 minutes) and adjust the camera-triggered clip length (5-15, 15-25, 25-35, and 35+). Alternatively, if your alarm triggers a clip (not your camera), the recorded length is fixed at 5-60 seconds. This length is not adjustable. Finally, you can enable and disable pre-trigger recordings. When enabled, this will tell the camera to include a few seconds of footage preceding the triggered event, but keep in mind that this few seconds will count toward your total clip length.
Sorting and Organizing Recorded Clips
Recording clips is one thing; finding a clip when you need it is another.
Alarm.com’s Saved Video screen is okay, but not the best. You can sort through clips by date, or you can choose between camera-triggered and event-triggered clips. You can also name individual or groups of clips and then use the search bar to search for clips by name.
One unique feature offered by Alarm.com is the ability to manage multiple clips at once. When you select multiple clips you can choose to play through all of the selected clips, download them, rename them, protect them from deletion, or mass delete them. The same options apply when managing clips one at a time.
I think it’s clear that the camera’s strength lies in the fact that it can connect to your Alarm.com security system. If you want a camera that will trigger when your Alarm.com security system takes action, this is the only surefire way of making sure that happens. Its second strength lies in customization. You can definitely tweak enough settings to get the camera to behave the way you want it to.
That said, that’s where the camera’s strengths end. Overall, I’m giving the camera a thumbs down. Why? Well, for starters:
- The resolution is lackluster
- A max frame rate of 5 FPS is insufficient
- The audio quality is poor
- It lacks an intelligent way to sort through recorded footage
- It lacks person detection
- It lacks an IFTTT integration
- There’s no way to turn the camera on or off remotely
In general, it’s just not a very advanced camera, and it feels cheap when compared to newer WiFi cameras. And in some ways it is cheap, often selling for under $130. But even still it doesn’t perform as well as the $25 Wyze Cam or the $120 Amazon Cloud Cam. My recommendation remains that you should buy a third-party camera and use Frontpoint’s Interactive plan.
You can read our hands-on Frontpoint review here.
Frontpoint Camera FAQs
Can Frontpoint cameras trigger the alarm?
Frontpoint’s cameras cannot trigger the alarm. However, you can set up notifications for video clips.
Does Frontpoint offer Alarm.com’s stream video recorder? (SVR)
They do not support this service right now. I would not be surprised to see Frontpoint add the SVR as they are constantly researching and testing new products to see if they can make them fit within their model.
What level of encryption is used to encrypt the video sent to the cloud?
Frontpoint’s cameras support WEP wireless encryption along with WPA Personal and WPA2 Personal encryption. The cameras also employ password protection. Alarm.com also adds advanced MD5-based “digest authentication” for user authentication.
Are the cameras cellular too?
No. Frontpoint’s system is 100% cellular, but the cameras require a broadband connection.
Do I have to use the app?
No. You can also use the web portal from any internet connected device, or you can use your TV. They support Apple TV, and the app can be downloaded from the tvOS App Store. From your Apple TV, you can watch live footage from 4 simultaneous video stream. They also support Amazon Fire TV, which works the same as the Apple TV access.
Can I view doorbell footage from my alarm panel?
No. The Skybell does not integrate with the panel. It connects to your account via Wi-Fi similar to Frontpoint’s other cameras.
Does Frontpoint support multiple cameras?
Yes, you can add multiple cameras to your account. You can add multiple indoor cameras or a mix of indoor and outdoor cameras. From the app, you can swipe between your cameras to quickly access them. You can also live stream video from multiple cameras at the same time.