Plug-and-play camera/recorder displays burglars on your TV

If you're a drug dealer or just a fraidy-cat who is certain someone's out to get you, you might be too stoned or distracted to set up a complicated security system. That's why this Swann Digital Guardian ADW-400 night-vision camera and recorder could be just what you're looking for. It's so easy to set up, the hardest part is taking it out of its box and getting rid of its copious packing materials. Come along with us and see if it really is as plug-and-play as its manufacturer says.

The bullet-shaped surveillance camera looks like a harmonica microphone, and its lens is surrounded by infrared LEDs, allowing for exceptional performance even in near-darkness. The little 640 x 480 camera transmits its wireless video signal over long distances — we were able to receive a clear uninterrupted video stream from about 50 feet away, through three walls. Its manufacturer says it transmits 165 feet, but we think that's a stretch. It paired up instantly and automatically with the receiver, with no frustrating troubleshooting necessary. That receiver is a small, handsome set-top box, designed to connect to your TV via a composite video and single-channel audio cable.

The kit includes the wireless camera, the receiver, and a 2GB SD flash card, on which you can record about three hours of .avi footage that you can transfer to your PC. Put a 32GB SD card in there, and you can record for a couple of days at its lower 320 x 240 resolution. The set-top receiver lets you schedule when you'd like to record, or you can set it to start recording when motion is detected. There's also an option to sound an obnoxious alarm when motion is detected, so you'll know when those boogiemen are indeed breaking into your house. If you need to cover multiple locations, the system accommodates up to four of the wireless video cameras.

As far as security systems go, this one strikes an ideal balance between ease of setup and capability. Even in our Midwest Test Facility that's bristling with wireless technology, there was no interference, even over a long distance. Drawbacks are the too-short connecting cable to the camera, and the camera and its cable's lack of weatherproofing. And, we'd like to see the option of transmitting the system's video signal directly to a PC, where it could be continuously recorded. But that would make this unit more expensive than its reasonable $250 retail price, and would probably complicate matters significantly, too.

If you want to quickly set up a surveillance camera indoors, watch the results on your TV, and record the festivities for posterity, the Swann Digital Guardian handles those chores with ease and alacrity.

Here's Swann's corporate video describing the system:

More info and specs: Swann Security