Hands-On Review of the Tend Secure Lynx Solar CameraBy - 12/19/2017
What do you get when you take the Lynx Indoor Camera, bulk it up with some weatherproofing, and attach it to a solar panel? The Tend Secure Lynx Solar outdoor camera!
Back in June 2017, Tend impressed me with their Lynx Indoor Camera. Not only is the camera on the surprisingly cheap side, but it also comes packed with features typically found only on more expensive devices. The company mostly hits a nice stride when it comes to app functionality as well, which happens to be make-or-break for many camera users. To that end, I couldn’t wait to test out their new Lynx Solar outdoor camera, a solar-powered security camera featuring all of the goodies Tend puts in their Lynx Indoor with just a few notable upgrades. What I discovered was a distinctly good outdoor camera hampered primarily by software updates that seemingly eliminated key features.
Lynx Solar Hardware
|Lynx Solar||Ring Spotlight Solar||Arlo Pro 2 Solar|
|Cost of Camera||$199.99||$229.00||$449.99 (two camera kit)|
|Cost of Solar Panel||Included||Included||$79.00|
|Free Cloud Storage||7 Days, Unlimited Cameras||7 Days, 5 Cameras|
|Battery Life||7 Days||1-2 Months||2-3 Months|
|Option for AC Power||Indoor Use Only|
|Special Features||Two-Way Audio, Night Vision||Two-Way Audio, Night Vision, Built-in Siren, Spotlight||Two-Way Audio, Night Vision, Modes, Zones|
|Visit Site||Visit Site||Visit Site|
If you’re new to solar-powered devices, the Lynx Solar might be a bit intimidating when you open the box.
Inside, you’ll find all of the following:
- Lynx Camera
- Wall Mount
- Overhang Attachment
- Solar Panel
- AC Power Adapter
- Welcome Book
- 25 Foot In-Line Power Cable
The Welcome Book is where you’ll find instructions on how to setup your Lynx Solar. Much like the furniture store Ikea, Tend takes a minimalistic approach to things that can come off as detrimental to the actual setup process. The Welcome Book is where you’ll find the brief, 6-step setup instructions. None of the instructions go into detail about how to attach all of the various solar panel pieces, nor do they explain how to mount the camera or solar panel outdoors properly. Tend assumes the most amount of competence from its customers, which is certainly flattering, but probably leading to more frustration than necessary.
You may want to spend a good half hour to an hour making sure you understand how everything works before trying to dive into the installation process. Thankfully, the camera will need to charge using the A/C adapter before you attempt to mount both the camera and solar panel outdoors, giving you plenty of time to get familiar with the product.
Lynx Camera Setup
Setting up your Lynx Solar is deceptively difficult. Although parts of the setup process (like charging your camera) are truly simple, there are gaping holes in the instructions. Of the six steps offered up in the manual, steps 1-4 are all about downloading the TendApp and then connecting your camera to your Wi-Fi and app.
Connecting the Lynx Solar to my home Wi-Fi and TendApp was easy, but as we found when reviewing the Lynx Indoor, there can be issues connecting to your home Wi-Fi. The process goes like this:
- Open your TendApp, and in the main settings (heart symbol), click on “Add new camera” at the bottom
- Turn on your Lynx camera and wait for the indicator light to flash between green and orange
- Open your mobile device wireless settings and connect to the Lynx camera’s Wi-Fi network
- Once connected, close the TendApp completely then open it up again. You’ll receive instructions that walk you through the setup process, which includes connecting to your account, connecting the camera to your Wi-Fi, naming the camera, and finalizing the setup
When attempting to connect the camera to your wireless network, you’ll need to select your home Wi-Fi network from the list and then enter your Wi-Fi password. Here is where I believe many people (including myself) have struggled to make the proper connection. I’ve found that if you take too long to enter your Wi-Fi password, the system will hang and give you a failure message.
The amount of time that needs to pass before this error occurs is unknown to me, but it seems anywhere between 1-2 minutes or more. You’ll need to be quick about entering your Wi-Fi password at this step. If you have a long, complicated password that takes more than a minute to input, you might struggle to get it to connect.
Once your camera is connected to your TendApp, you can play around with its settings. At this point, however, you’ll want to move onto steps 5 and 6 of the instruction manual: mounting your camera and installing your solar panel.
Mounting the camera is where my biggest installation hang-up occurred. Here’s what Tend’s instruction manual says you’ll need to do.
Mounting on a wall:
“Secure the Lynx Solar camera to the mounting bracket. The camera should connect magnetically. Screw and secure the mounting bracket to the side of your house.”
Mounting under an overhang:
“Attach the overhang attachment to the magnetic mounting bracket. Screw and secure the overhang attachment under an underhang.”
This all sounds simple enough. However, there didn’t appear to be any way to screw the base into a wall or otherwise. This is because Tend appears to have left out a very crucial piece of information from the Welcome Manual. You have to detach the mounting bracket cover.
Tend let me down in the past with its confusing base setup, something other reviews also pointed out. With the Lynx Indoor, it took an attentive reader to point me to how to effectively secure the odd base so the camera didn’t move around. Tend later updated their app with a helpful tips screen to explain how to do this.
Trying to cover all my bases, I searched online for an answer. I found one rather quickly on the Tend website support page for the Lynx Solar.
Tend has a very useful how-to video for setting up the camera. In the video, there are instructions for popping off a small covering on the bottom of the mounting bracket—a necessary action that is somewhat obvious in retrospect, but not something you’d likely attempt to do without direct instructions.
With that bit of helpful information, I was able to mount the camera quite easily to my back porch.
The solar panel was fairly easy to figure out even without the manual, although the video showing how to loop the power cable through the hole in the base was an important tidbit also missing from the instruction manual.
To be frank, Tend needs to do a better job of providing written instructions to customers regarding camera setup. The need to remove the cover on the camera support bracket is such an essential action to setting up the camera that it’s baffling as to why Tend didn’t include it in the manual. The company should also point users to its extremely helpful support page.
PRO TIP: Before installing any outdoor camera, you should first check your wireless range to make sure it reaches to the spot you intend to install your camera. Also, use the app to make sure your camera placement gives you the view you’re looking for before you drill any holes.
The Lynx Outdoor can run off of A/C power, but its premier feature is the solar panel. Thankfully, there’s not much to the solar panel attachment.
When you remove the solar panel from the box, there’s little you’ll need to do with it other than connect the two sides of the panel, and then attach the panels to the base. Once you’re ready, you can easily mount the solar panel’s base to your desired location—preferably somewhere that receives as much sunlight as possible.
That said, you can still put the solar panel somewhere that only gets partial light. During testing, I found the panel charged the battery fairly well, even on a cloudy day and when shaded by trees.
The solar panel is overall the most uncomplicated part of the whole camera setup. The 25-foot cable attaches to the solar panel and is long enough to allow you to place the panel in a location to reach maximum light coverage.
As with the Lynx Solar outdoor camera, the included solar panel also utilizes IP65-rated weatherproofing. During my test, it was rained on, snowed on, and experienced freezing temperatures with no impact to functionality.
Unfortunately, after the app updates I mentioned in the introduction wiped the power level readout in the app, I was no longer able to determine how effective the panel was at charging the battery. Given that the camera continued to work for the following two weeks of testing, I’m fairly confident that the panel is effectively doing its job.
Tend describes the camera as the “first dedicated solar-powered camera on the market.” The company also makes a bold claim that you only need one sunny day to power the camera for seven days. That claim comes with an asterisk explaining that that impressive battery life only fulfills one hour of recording/streaming per day.
From what I can tell, Tend’s claims about the battery life are accurate.
Tend helps the camera maintain that battery life by putting the camera to sleep when it’s not in use. The camera only wakes if its sensors pick up motion, or when you open the camera feed on the app. The waking process times can vary greatly, however, and seem to be impacted by outside temperature and other software-related issues.
After charging the camera using the AC adapter as instructed, I kept it unplugged for 24 hours. The battery life, which was available through the app, only dropped down to around 90% while off of any power source. During that time, it didn’t pick up any movement, but I did turn the camera on from the app a few times to watch the stream.
After attaching the solar panel to the camera, it started charging extremely fast. The power level jumped from around 90% to 93% in just an hour, and then later charged all the way up to 100%. This charging occurred in partial sunlight and during the evening hours.
I repeated the test by again allowing the camera to sit for 24 hours unplugged, then I plugged it back into the solar panel. The battery level had dropped very little in that time, and just like before, almost immediately started charging back up with partial sunlight.
At one point, I had some nice rainy days and even a snowy day. While I’d love to relate how the camera’s battery life fared during those days, the app for some reason stopped showing me camera battery life. This appears to have occurred after one of the several firmware updates that Tend pushed through the app while I was testing the device. I tried uninstalling and reinstalling the app, to no avail. I later deleted the camera from my account and re-added it to see if that would bring back the battery meter. It appeared nothing worked, at least in my case. The once-helpful battery life meter no longer appears.
If you’re looking for a camera that can run off of solar power, the Tend Solar appears to live up to expectation. Not only does the camera charge quickly using the solar panel, it also sips through the battery life.
The Lynx Solar shares many of the same features as the Lynx Indoor. Tend advertises 1080p HD video, facial recognition, two-way audio communication, and night vision. Unique to the Solar version of the camera is a dual power option (solar panel and AC adapter) and the requisite weatherproofing (IP65).
Each of the features was fairly easy to test, with the standard camera features performing well.
1080p HD Video
The HD video appears to live up to expectation. The quality of the camera’s live feed is crystal clear, making it easy to pick out minute details. My camera was mounted in the backyard, and as you can see in the image below, individual leaves on the ground are easy to point out, at least in the foreground.
The camera has no true zooming features, but Tend includes a pinch-to-zoom feature in the app while viewing the live feed. Pinch-to-zoom works, but you lose HD quality when you use it.
This is what it looked like when I zoomed in on a section of the backyard:
As you can see, everything gets pretty grainy and pixelated at that point. It’s no different than increasing the size of a picture on the computer. Without a true zoom in the camera’s hardware, this is what you’ll get.
Still, I’m satisfied with the video streaming quality. There were rarely any hiccups in the live stream, and I never noticed the quality drop.
The audio quality was one thing that didn’t quite meet my approval in my Lynx Indoor review and the trend continued with Lynx Solar.
You can enable two-way communication by tapping on your live video stream, then on the microphone icon. Lynx added in the option for “normal voice,” and “Minion voice,” which lets you sound like one of those goofy yellow guys from Despicable Me.
I tried out both, and the audio was painfully bad. There’s a huge lag between when you speak into the mic and when it actually comes through the camera’s speaker. And unfortunately, it gets broken up in transmission so much that entire words are dropped, and even parts of words. For example, I spoke “Hello, outdoors!” to my camera, and the audio that came out was something along the lines of “–lo —utdoor—.”
Other attempts resulted in pretty much the same. Lots of broken up speech and indecipherable output.
I’m unsure of whether the camera’s distance from my Wi-Fi router or the fact that my bandwidth was also being used by other devices impacted the poor audio transmission. I also don’t know whether it’s just poor quality audio hardware. Regardless, the two-way audio is a miss on this device.
Simply put, the Lynx Outdoor weatherproofing works like a charm. I installed my camera on the edge of my back deck, exposed to the elements. It took on rain, snow, and 20-degree weather. It’s probably not advisable to leave yours as exposed to all of nature’s fury as mine was, but hey, product testing requires risky behavior.
As far as functioning in the cold, the only impact was wake-up times. I found that cold weather slowed down the wake-up time by a lot. At one point, on a 26-degree morning, I tried to wake up the camera to watch a live feed and it sat there for over 5 minutes on the live feed loading screen. I eventually backed out of the software, logged back in, and found it loaded up in a few seconds.
It should be noted that both the camera and the solar panel are rated for the elements. Both held up well to cold weather, rain, and snow.
Motion Detection with Facial Recognition
Tend advertises that it utilizes the same motion detection and facial recognition software for the Lynx Solar as it does with all of its other cameras. For the Lynx Indoor, I wrote extensively on how effective this feature was. I also initially praised Tend for carrying that tech over to their Lynx Solar. That was before my facial recognition mysteriously disappeared.
At some point during the review process, a firmware update appears to have eliminated my facial recognition options. Whereas in the past I could add faces and have Tend’s intelligent recognition software recognize my face and send a push notification, that option completely disappeared. No more library for faces, no more facial recognition. At all.
I emailed Tend to see if there’s any feedback related to this issue. A quick check on Tend’s social media accounts didn’t indicate any message from the company regarding this issue nor did they respond to my co-workers request for more info, so my only hope to learn more is to hear back from customer support. I’m still waiting.
@tendinsights post the last firmware update, the facial recognition library on our test camera is gone. Is this a known glitch?
— Rose Thibodeaux (@Rose_Thibodeaux) December 17, 2017
Unfortunately, the facial recognition software feature was wiped from the app before I had a chance to test it for the Lynx Solar. Assuming that it returns, it should operate similarly to when I tested it with the Lynx Indoor. In theory, you should be able to store a large number of pictures to your account (saved to the cloud), and have the Lynx camera trigger a motion event recognizing different faces which helps to eliminate false alarms.
The Lynx Solar is designed to go into “sleep” mode when you’re not actively viewing the live feed. It will wake up when it detects motion. However, the wake-up period can take so long that you might actually miss a motion event.
For example, at one point, I had a natural gas delivery to my home. The delivery person walked through the backyard to get to the tank, passing by the camera. The motion triggered the camera to wake up, but the wake-up time took so long that all I caught was a half second of his shoulder moving out of the frame.
Tend appears to still be fiddling with the wake-up times, as evidenced by firmware updates. However, it appears that’s still a bit of a functionality issue that needs to be addressed further.
Whether through facial recognition or otherwise, all motion events are saved to the cloud as a video clip and become part of your 7-day free cloud storage. Unless you save a recording to your device directly from the app, Tend automatically deletes the stored videos after seven days.
Speaking of recording, Tend Solar has backup local storage. If offline, it will save event recordings to its built-in memory device and keep the event until the camera comes back online. Once online, locally saved recordings will be uploaded to the cloud.
Tend nailed the night vision in their Lynx Indoor. It appears they brought forward that same quality technology to the Lynx Solar outdoor camera.
Night vision comes in crystal clear. In some ways, I prefer the look of the night vision. Without the added detail required by the full-color video stream it’s easier to make out details. Regardless, night vision proves to be a very impressive feature for this camera.
Once the light level drops, night vision will trigger pretty quickly. At times, the switchover to night vision will actually trigger the motion detector if your sensitivity is set to max. If you want your camera to remain in full color for longer, you might want to leave it where it gets the most sunlight.
(Update May 2018: Lynx is now using the TendSecure app, which solves many of the app problems outlined below.)
Tend has an app for both Android and iOS devices. On the Google Play Store, the app has 3.8 out of 5 stars. On iTunes, it has 3.2 stars. Most negative reviews point to issues with the camera freezing up or difficulties connecting the camera to the Wi-Fi. Both are issues I addressed in the Lynx Indoor review, and in setting up the Lynx Solar, it appears that those issues remain to some degree.
Using the TendApp, you can:
- View live streams
- View, share, or downloaded recorded event clips
- Create schedules
- Utilize two-way talk features
- Adjust camera motion sensor sensitivity and night vision
Since the previous update that appears to have wiped the facial recognition from the map, I’ve spied a large number of negative reviews on the Google Play Store commenting on other issues. One user noted that her app no longer creates a highlight reel, while another stated the pinch-to-zoom feature disappeared. For my part, pinch-to-zoom still works, while the highlight reel never appeared to be a feature for either of my Lynx cameras.
While I’m a fan of the TendApp in general, it’s still a bit buggy. At one point during my testing period, the app was consistently crashing every time I opened it. Even after restarting my Android phone, the app would still hang for a few seconds and then crash. Eventually, I had to uninstall and reinstall the app to get it working again.
Additionally, I experienced several issues with a slow-waking camera and solar panel battery level information disappearing from my interface. For the former, a slow-waking camera still occurred even after Tend pushed an update intended to reduce camera wake-up times.
As with the Lynx Indoor, Tend has made some great strides in the self-monitored home security camera market. The solar panel is effective, backed by a backup battery. Additionally, the camera’s live feed comes in crystal clear during the day and night.
Overall, however, I feel Tend has taken a few steps backward with the Lynx Solar. The sudden disappearance of the facial recognition feature makes purchasing the camera much harder to justify. Putting the camera to sleep to save battery is important, but the occasionally slow wake-up times could cause you to miss something important. As with the Lynx Indoor, the lack of integration with smart home devices like Alexa or Google Home, and no integration with IFTTT or other automation tools makes it a subpar option for a fully-integrated household.
When all Tend has going for it is low-cost, feature-packed devices and a functional app, losing either of those is risky. With the current app problems and the sudden disappearance of key features, the good features and functionality of the Lynx Solar camera are somewhat overshadowed by the negatives.
You can purchase Tend Secure Lynx Solar for $199.00.
May 2018 Updates: New Camera, New App
In March 2018, Tend launched a ‘new’ camera, which prompted me to give Lynx Solar a second look. In doing so, I discovered two things.
First, I found that Tend isn’t just removing features from the TendApp; they’re migrating to a new, dedicated app. Instead of using the TendApp, Lynx users must now download the new TendSecure app, which offers all of the features that were previously covered including facial recognition. The TendSecure app also makes it possible to integrate Lynx Indoor and Lynx Solar with Google Assistant. Although somewhat limited, the integration lets you do things like turn notifications and recordings on and off. The fact that facial recognition is back is great, but they should have informed users of the migration.
Second, Lynx Pro, the new outdoor camera made by Lynx, is not new. It’s the same camera as the Lynx Solar minus the solar panel. Other than that, Lynx Pro = Lynx Solar. It sells for $149.99.