Remo Doorcam is a Camera for RentersBy - 07/05/2018
By hanging over the door in much the same manner as your typical holiday wreath, Remo+ DoorCam makes it so that anyone can quickly install a security camera, regardless of their housing situation. I found that to be true from my own experience, as the DoorCam easily slid over my door right next to my (admittedly) out-of-season wreath. So before diving into the rest of this review, it’s important to note that Remo+ DoorCam does indeed live up to its most prominent promise: easy and fast installation without damaging your home’s structure.
First Impressions, Features, and Installation
I was extremely excited when my Remo+ DoorCam came in the mail*. As a renter, making the kind of alterations to my home that other outdoor video cameras require was out of the question. Whereas cameras such as the Ring Video Doorbell Pro and Nest Hello require that you drill a few holes in your exterior walls, DoorCam is designed for the more than 40 million renters out there who are eager to avoid losing their deposits.
Beyond that, however, DoorCam offered up a mixture of good and bad, leaving me somewhat on the edge for whether or not to recommend this device to others. I spent a month living with the DoorCam attached to my front door, giving me a fair amount of time to think critically and introspectively about DoorCam and its features.
Remo+ didn’t load up their DoorCam with features that match top outdoor cameras, but it’s also a far cry from some of the cheaper cameras out there. With DoorCam, you’ll get:
- Push notifications
- 2-way audio
- Night vision
- Battery power
- Cloud recording
- HD videos (up to 720p HD)
- Advanced motion sensor (distinguish between humans and trees ruffling)
- Multiple viewer access (same login, up to 5 viewers per account)
- Weatherproof (can withstand most weather conditions, rain or shine, 0°F to 122°F)
- Alexa voice integration
Remo+ also lists “quick install” as a feature, although that doesn’t quite go hand-in-hand with the technical specifications of the device. Still, Remo+ says you can hang DoorCam in just 5 seconds, which is true, just not the case the first time you install it.
First Installation: Yes, It Was Fast
Eight minutes and thirty seconds. That’s how long it took me to install the DoorCam for the first time.
While that’s a far cry from the 5 seconds I was promised, installation was still much faster than with most indoor or outdoor security cameras I’ve tried in the past. Of course, part of my timing included unboxing, looking at the install instructions, and putting in the batteries, all of which are important parts of the installation. Even still, none of that was complicated, and DoorCam was in place and ready to go in under 10 minutes.
There are some limitations to a DoorCam installation. While Remo+ says DoorCam is designed for “every door” on their website, they also contradict that message on the same page. You can install DoorCam on any door that’s between 1⅜ inches, and 2 inches. Additionally, it only works on doors that are “push to enter.” Typically, this means doors that open toward the inside of your house or apartment. You will definitely want to check the sizing and function of your door before purchasing DoorCam.
Outside of that, however, Remo+ does cover most door situations, especially in apartments and rental houses.
To run the system, you need to install the Remo+ app from either Google Play or the Apple App Store. The Remo+ app is designed to work with both the DoorCam and the RemoBell (coming soon RemoBell W photographed above during CES 2018), the company’s doorbell option that’s similar to Ring and Nest Hello.
Almost in line with Ring and Nest, the Remo+ doesn’t have stunning reviews on either app store. On Google Play, Remo+ has a lackluster 3.5 from users. By comparison, Ring’s app has a 3.4, while Nest’s app has a 3.9. From my own testing of various smart devices and cameras, I have found that one of the most consistent problems developers have is getting the operating app designed well to the extent that it offers users a good experience.
In the case of Remo+, the app isn’t great, but it’s also not terrible. Setting up the DoorCam through the app was extremely fast, so I can’t fault them there. By comparison, I ran into a lot of problems trying to setup the Tend Lynx Indoor a while back. Although the DoorCam uses a similar setup method (having you connect to the camera’s WiFi signal, and then connecting the camera to your home WiFi through the app), I didn’t run into any connectivity problems with the DoorCam app setup.
Once the camera is paired with your app, and you have your account created, you’re good to go.
DoorCam’s Placement and Angle
There’s an interesting dynamic happening with the DoorCam. Or, perhaps I should say, an interesting angle. Unlike other DIY security cameras that go next to your door, the DoorCam points somewhat downward in its position above your door.
There are advantages and disadvantages to this. For one, pointing more downward means that your DoorCam’s PIR motion sensor is not going to get triggered by every little thing passing its view. So while a video doorbell system sitting horizontally and at level with your street is going to pick up everything in its field of vision (assuming you have the sensitivity on high, that is), the DoorCam has a 160° FOV, but as it points downward, it may not even see the street or passing cars.
For my setup, I can see several feet past the front step, but not even close to the street. As a result, I get far fewer false alarms than with the Eken Video Doorbell 2 I also have installed, or the Tend Lynx Solar that’s sitting on my front porch.
There are two drawbacks though. The first may not be obvious until you install the device: it has a limited FOV. Because it points downward, you aren’t getting the full capability of what a 160° degree field of vision can offer. If you have a particularly tall door you might be able to get more out of the view, but you’ll still be limited as it’s not pointing upward enough to capture everything it potentially could.
Secondly, the angle creates a problem with effectively capturing faces and picking up motion. Whereas a chest-level video doorbell like the Ring will easily capture someone’s face and detect their motion fairly easily, DoorCam has less time to get someone’s face as they’re walking up to your door. Once that individual is standing right at your door, all you get is a nice view of the top of their head, unless they’re interested enough in DoorCam itself to look up.
On the bright side, you can let your uncle know he’s starting to bald up there. However, someone stealing a package from your door or breaking in from that entrance could easily get by without having his face recorded on DoorCam.
That doesn’t mean the angle is terrible by any stretch of the imagination. But there’s also another problem that your DoorCam might face that is a product of its design, and that’s called the screen door.
Here’s what my front porch area looks like with my screen door closed in front of DoorCam:
And here’s what it looks like with the screen door open:
That’s a huge difference. By my estimation, 25-30% of the viewing angle is lost due to the top and sides of the screen door. If you’re living in an apartment, you probably won’t have a screen door at all. But if you live in a rented house, as I do, there’s a good chance you will have to make the screen door a part of your consideration before buying DoorCam. You can always leave the screen door hanging wide open, but that’s probably not a preferable situation for you.
The immediate problem I found with keeping the screen door closed is that the camera’s sensor will completely miss that small window of opportunity it has to pick up a face. In fact, with the screen door closed, by the time someone gets to the door and opens the screen door to knock, the camera has almost entirely missed the opportunity to record their face. Someone can get inside the house through the door without getting snagged by the camera if they’re fast enough. That’s because the door is not blocking the entire view of the lens, but it is blocking the sensor. If I were a package thief, I’d welcome this scenario wholeheartedly.
For DoorCam, the hurdle here is that its placement creates some benefits but some noticeable and sometimes unavoidable problems. In an apartment, you are less likely to have some of these issues. After all, a 160° viewing angle is not likely to even be necessary for many apartment setups, and the screen door isn’t going to cause too many issues when you don’t have one. But only capturing someone’s forehead, or top of their head, could be a security issue.
Let’s Talk About the Video Quality
We need to have a serious talk about the DoorCam’s primary use, as a video camera.
For starters, you can do a few things with DoorCam related to the video. You can view live streams through the app’s Live View option. You can also toggle Live View on and off, as Remo+ lets you know in the app that Live View will drain the three D batteries much faster. What Live View does is allow you to view the live stream on-demand or when you get a push notification telling you it’s picked up motion.
You can adjust the video quality from “Best” to “Average” and down to “Low.” According to Remo+, adjusting the video capture quality down changes the resolution that’s captured with the video. This is to help reduce the size of the recorded videos, and Remo+ states that some users have found recording in a lower video quality helps save battery life. Lowering the video quality doesn’t appear to have any impact on the streaming quality of the Live View, however.
At “Best” quality, DoorCam records videos in 720p. On “Low” they’re recorded in 640p.
Alongside the 720p HD that Remo+ advertises for DoorCam, they also state you can get up to 30 frames per second (fps).
The 720p was true. All of my recorded videos in “Best” quality came in at that resolution. But I struggled to get a decent frame rate out of the camera, which meant that almost all of the videos look pixelated. Most videos never exceeded 10 frames per second. Compounding the issue was the extremely poor bitrate. For that, my videos were almost always recording at around 0.25 Mbps, sometimes lower.
(Tend Lynx Solar)
By comparison, my Tend Lynx Solar (image above), which is priced the same as the Remo+ DoorCam, was recording in 1080p HD, 20 frames per second, and at 1.5 Mbps. The combination of a low bitrate and poor framerate on DoorCam creates an inferior image quality than even cameras with a similar price and resolution. Overall, that left much to be desired.
Finally, a bit of problem shooting. There’s a strange issue where some recorded and live videos look purple. If you’re experiencing this problem, it’s not DoorCam’s fault. You just need to make sure you don’t have Night Vision turned “On.” Instead, put it on “Auto.” During the day, DoorCam will record everything with a purple hue if you have Night Vision on. Turn it off, and your video recordings will look normal again.
Regarding night vision quality, here’s a sample.
Added Features: Push Notifications, Two-Way Talk, Alexa Integration, Cloud Storage, Battery Life
Even with the questionable video quality, there’s a lot to like about DoorCam, especially regarding its features and usability.
As with most security cameras now, DoorCam is designed to send you push notifications when it detects motion. While there is no facial recognition or sound triggering for events, the PIR sensor can be extremely sensitive, if you want it to be. You can set notifications to “Frequent,” “Standard,” or “Light.” You cannot turn them off completely, however.
Push Notifications come with their own unique sound, so you can easily distinguish your DoorCam from any other camera you might have set up or any other push notifications you might be receiving.
You can tap the push notifications to view the recorded activity or to open up Live View. Push notifications were quick, almost immediately triggering once the PIR sensor picked up motion. What you will notice, however, is that the camera wake up time is often too slow to pick up all of the motion. So while your sensor might detect motion and send a notification, by the time you get a recording, whatever or whoever triggered the event might be out of your effective view.
That is unless the person is waiting at your door. If that’s the case, the two-way talk feature comes in handy.
Positively, the two-way talk feature indeed works. The audio quality on the receiver’s end is good with only a short delay, and you can easily make out what someone on the other side of your door is saying through the app.
However, if there’s any noise happening inside your house while the Live View is going, you’re going to pick up a lot of noise from inside of the house. This can make it difficult to actually hear anything from outside of the house. Additionally, if you’re also inside of the house with the audio turned on from your device, you’ll get a significant amount of feedback, within a second or two.
Ultimately, I found two-way talk on the device difficult to use because of the feedback issue. You can turn the audio pickup for both ends (phone mic and Door Cam) off, and you may find yourself having to do that if you have someone at the door. Even when I tried to keep everything inside of the house quiet, even small noises caused a feedback loop that forced me to turn off the audio.
Perhaps one of DoorCam’s more interesting features is its Alexa integration. To use Alexa with your DoorCam, you will need to activate one of two skills. If you have an Alexa device that doesn’t have a screen, like Echo or Echo Dot, you will choose the Remo+ Voice skill, which is what I tested. If you have a device with a screen, like Echo Spot, Show, Fire TV, or even a Fire Tablet, you will choose Remo+ Show.
You can activate your desired skill by opening your Amazon Alexa app and enabling the skill manually. Because you need to verify your account and give Alexa access, you can’t enable the skill through a voice command.
If you choose to enable the Remo+ Voice skill, you can use one of three voice commands:
- “Alexa, ask remo plus for battery status.”
- “Alexa, ask remo plus for last event details.”
- “Alexa, ask remo plus for wifi status.”
If you choose the Remo+ Show skill, you can use three different commands:
- “Alexa, show my [camera name].”
- “Alexa, stop my [camera name].”
- “Alexa, hide my [camera name].”
To be frank, the Remo+ Voice commands aren’t terribly useful. You can find battery status and last event details from your Remo+ app quite easily. The last event details, in particular, are just when the last event occurred, which again, is information probably better suited to watching from your recorded videos instead. Meanwhile, getting the WiFi status is interesting, but ultimately not the most useful bit of information as you’ll probably already know if you’re having WiFi issues without having to ask Alexa.
The Alexa skill for the Remo+ only has a 2 out of 5-star rating, mostly because it doesn’t add much value to your DoorCam experience. Thankfully, the Remo+ Show skill, which I did not test, adds more value.
|No Plan||Standard Plan|
|Price Per Camera||FREE||$3/month or $30/year|
|Video Storage||30 Days|
|Download & Share Videos|
|Activity Log||List Only||List With Video Clips|
DoorCam does not come with any local or cloud storage. For free, you can use DoorCam for Live View, Two-Way Talk, Instant Alerts, and Activity Logs.
You can purchase a Standard Plan for cloud storage for $3 per month or $30 per year. Standard Plan allows you to do everything the DoorCam has to offer: Live View, Two-Way Talk, Instant Alerts, Activity Logs with Videos, Video Storage (up to 30 days), and Video Management (delete, download, share). Standard Plan is available per device, so if you have multiple DoorCams, you will need to purchase a cloud storage plan for each one.
DoorCam also lets you cancel your Standard Plan at any time with no cancellation fee.
Having Cloud Storage is optional, but if you want to make the DoorCam really functional, you’ll need to get it. You can share Live View with up to 5 family members and friends even without the Standard Plan, but if you want to save and share recorded videos (necessary if an incident does occur), the Standard Plan is an essential addition.
There’s not too much to say about DoorCam’s battery life. Or rather, not much good to say about it. Remo+ says DoorCam can last up to 12 months. By the end of the first month, my DoorCam was registering low battery.
I’d like to think I was playing around with the camera more than most people will, but I don’t think my usage was extreme. I left DoorCam and its app alone for days on end, and would only spend at most 1-2 hours playing with features while testing when I did test it.
I recommend turning notifications and video quality to the lowest setting if you want to make the battery last as long as possible. However, even then, I have doubts that the camera’s battery will last a full 12 months with normal usage.
Usefulness as a Security Camera and Final Thoughts
This was a tough one for me. There is a lot to love about DoorCam. It’s a literal godsend for the millions of renters out there. Because it’s so easy to install, it’s also great for those who are less tech-savvy. Additionally, while the video quality isn’t great, the camera does a fairly good job of sending push notifications, even if the recorded video lags a bit at times. But let’s separate the good from the bad.
The lack of internal storage and the necessity for cloud storage to view your videos is a bit of a letdown.
The video quality issue needs to be addressed.
And the short battery life is definitely going to be a sore point for some, especially if making the battery last means putting the already suspect video quality at its lowest possible setting.
As for the app that controls it, Remo+ has the right idea, but the app could use not just a facelift, but a more streamlined approach to make it easier to access the camera’s various functions.
If you’re looking for a more integrated and smart-home-friendly solution, it’s not the best option.
From a security standpoint? DoorCam has a lot going for it. The camera is out-of-the-way enough that someone sneaking around your house trying to break in or steal packages probably won’t notice the camera is even there before it’s too late.
Unlike a video doorbell, DoorCam is a bit more difficult to steal. Even if it does get stolen, Remo+ provides a lifetime warranty for device theft.
Furthermore, DoorCam’s video sharing feature is easy to use. You can share recorded events in seconds via email or by using other apps and services (such as via text message or to one of your social media accounts). You can also save videos to your phone.
The good far outweighs the bad. DoorCam is extremely useful for security purposes.
Is DoorCam worth the price? I will say this: If I didn’t already have other cameras monitoring my door, I might give it serious consideration. The issues I have with it (forced cloud storage, video quality, short battery life, lackluster app) are ones that Remo+ can certainly fix with an upgrade.
Most new devices do leave a lot to be desired in their first version, and DoorCam is no different. But it’s not as unrefined as some other first-run products on the market, so if you’re not going to purchase v.1, it’ll be interesting and somewhat exciting to see what Remo+ does if they do decide to smooth out the rough edges and produce DoorCam v.2.
You can purchase the Remo+ Doorcam from remoplus.co for less than $200.
*I received DoorCam from Remo+ for testing purposes. This in no way influenced my review of the product.