Review: Logitech WiLife Video Security System grants peace of mind at a discount

Security cameras? Who needs ’em? That was my opinion until a neighbor’s home was invaded. One morning, a suburban housewife a few feet from our Midwest Test Facility walked into her kitchen only to find a strange man standing there. As soon as he saw her, he ran out the door and into a car, so the burly burglar is still at large.

Nothing was taken and no one was hurt, but one thing was definitely lost: the neighborhood’s peace of mind. Suddenly, I was very interested in a security system. However, I didn’t want to spent thousands of dollars and tear apart my house installing one. Enter the Logitech WiLife, which can be up and running in minutes. Hit Continue to see how it worked out.

The WiLife system consists of indoor and outdoor cameras as well as a variety of night-vision accessories that easily connect to a PC via USB. For our review, we plugged in a couple of weatherproofed outdoor cameras, two indoor cameras that attach to the inside of a window with a suction cup, a weird spy camera that looks exactly like a digital alarm clock, and a USB adapter that plugs into a wall outlet, since the cameras are networked together over electrical wiring using HomePlug Technology.


How It Works
The system began working as soon as I plugged in all the cameras and installed the newest version of the software, WiLife Command Center 2.5 (screen shot above) on my PC. Suddenly, I had a view of every side of the house, and motion-activated recordings of anything that moved. The quality of the recordings is surprisingly good. To give you an idea, take a look at this footage (deer_2008.wmv) of a pair of deer the cameras spotted early one morning.

You can access those cameras for free over the Internet, even via cellphone, and the system can alert you via e-mail if anything moves. Remarkable. Any prowlers wanting to help themselves would have VGA-quality color movies (no sound) of them in the act. Just the mere presence of such cameras, with their highly visible red and green lights (which can be easily turned off), serves as a strong deterrent.

Platinum Edition
This WiLife system newest software, the Platinum Edition add-on, costs $79.95 per year. It lets you electronically pan and zoom all the cameras and, most importantly, store footage online. That makes tons of sense, because if someone is robbing your house, the computer with all the WiLife footage will probably be one of the first things stolen.

The downside? It's not perfect. The system is geared toward recording footage, so live viewing of all the cameras isn't as smooth as I'd like. Also, while the cameras all have good low-light performance, they require an optional infrared lighting system and special lens to actually see faces at night. Keep in mind, too, that you’ll need a powerful PC to handle multiple cameras and recordings.

Thumbs Up
That said, after testing the WiLife system for the past month, I think it’s excellent. I'm convinced it’s the best surveillance setup for the money, costing around $1,100 to set up a complete system with five cameras. A starter kit with one camera is $260, and each additional camera is around $215. Besides letting you catch thieves in the act, it’s tons of fun to play with this system, which we found to be on the edge of addicting. Just the wildlife watching alone is worth the cost of admission. If you have worries about your home’s security and are looking for a strong deterrent for petty criminals, WiLife is the perfect choice.

WiLife site