REVIEW: D-Link DCS-942L home security camera

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DCS-942L.jpgreview-line.JPGName: D-Link DCS-942L mydlink-enabled Enhanced Wireless N Day/Night Home Network Camera

Type: Wireless web-connected security camera

Specs: Click here for full specs

Price: RRP £149.99

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Whether you see it as step towards an Orwellian surveillance state or a necessary measure to ensure the protection of your home, there’s no denying that DIY home security camera kits are big business these days. D-Link have recently launched a web-connected model, the The DCS-942L, which offers mobile monitoring, motion detection and night-vision recording at an attractive price. But with a series of bugs, can it be relied upon to help keep an eye on your home? Read on to find out.

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The DCS-942L is fairly unassuming in design, with its white plastic casing and chrome-rimmed lens. It should fit in nicely with most décors, and considering you’re likely going to be dotting a few of these units around your home, it’s small 27.2 x 60 x 96mm size should mean it can fit in plenty of nooks, snugly out of sight. Weighing only 76.9 grams with the bracket and stand removed, it should be fairly easy to wall mount the DCS-942L should you require too.

It’s not, however, the most practical of designs. Though a wireless camera, it of course requires power, and the AC adaptor that comes with it has a frustratingly short cable, roughly a metre and a half in length, which greatly restricts where you can place the DCS-942L.

Similar problems occur when using the supplied stand, which allows you to angle and lock the direction of the camera to ensure it’s facing where you want it to. Again, though wireless, the camera offers the option of an Ethernet connection to your network should you have signal issues. But with the Ethernet port located at the top of the camera, the weight of the cable pulls the lightweight DCS-942L down, meaning you’ll need a fair bit of blu-tac, and patience, to keep the camera and stand in place.

This would be less of an issue if the wireless functionality of the camera was more robust, but it too proved to have problems. For instance, the WPS functionality (letting your router wirelessly add the DCS-942L to your network) failed to connect, meaning we had to laboriously cable the camera up to our router before setting it up where we had planned to leave it.

To view the feeds from the camera, you’ll have to create a myDLink account, which uses a web-based Java plug-in to present the video. Once set up, this works nicely, offering a simple interface with which to grab snapshots from the feed, complete with date stamp details. The camera also offers a local microSD card recording option with a 16GB card thrown in free, which is useful for making hard copies of your recordings.

However, this web interface again had its own share of problems. With few physical buttons on the camera itself, changing its many settings (for instance, swapping between H.264 and MPEG4 recording codecs at 640 x 480, 320 x 240 and 160 x 120 resolutions) is done through menus on the web. We could never change these settings though, as the link to the corresponding options pages only ever returned a “404 Not Found” error.

Though only maxing out at a 640 x 480 resolution (presumably to allow for long, continuous recordings; the 16GB card can hold as much as 7 days worth of continuous footage before overwriting its earliest entries) the image quality from the DCS-942L was acceptable, with strong colours and reasonably smooth motion at 30fps. The camera also works in pitch black darkness, though the light sensor could be triggered a little too easily (i.e just by casting a shadow by standing too closely to it), which hampered its usefulness somewhat. There’s also a motion detector onboard if you only want the record function to be triggered when movement is caught by the camera.

If the DCS-942L has a saving grace, it’s with its use of Android and iOS apps. Using a similar system to the web based monitoring options, these bespoke apps allow you to monitor the camera feed on-the-go over 3G. Those worried about the security of their property will find comfort in the ability to monitor the recordings wherever on the globe they may be.

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We really like the idea of affordable home security camera kits, and while on paper D-Link’s DCS-942L fits the bill, in reality it is hard to recommend. While the mobile Android and iOS viewing options are commendable, little else here is. Cheaply constructed, difficult to set up and backed by buggy web software, you’ll struggle to balance the importance of monitoring your home against the hassle of using the D-Link camera.

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2/5

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Gerald Lynch

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