When it comes to HomeKit cameras, there are unfortunately only a handful of devices that are actually available. While this may change with the advent of HomeKit Secure Video coming this fall, consumers are currently limited to options from Logitech, Netatmo, D-Link, and Robin Telecom each with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Netatmo’s line up includes a pricey outdoor mounted fixture that incorporates a light, and may not blend in well with other fixtures installed on your home and an indoor camera that is somewhat hard to come by. D-Link’s Omna 180 camera is a fixed position camera that offers no mounting options at all, meaning it must be set in a perfect location and angle. Robin Telecom’s video doorbell is as you would expect a solution for an entrance with the appropriate wiring, and comes with an expensive price tag. So is there a HomeKit camera on the market that is the best solution for most people? Yes, thankfully there is and it is Logitech’s Circle 2 Wired Indoor/Outdoor Camera. Let’s dive into why this is the best camera for most.
Unboxing the Circle 2 may vary a little bit depending on the amount of cameras that you purchase, but all of the included accessories will be the same. In our case, we purchased the Circle 2 in a bundle which included 2 wired cameras and 1 wireless battery camera, even though the battery powered camera does not support HomeKit due to limitations with the platform. Inside the box, were greeted with the camera itself being housed in its own package specifically designed to keep the camera from becoming loose or damaged. In a separate accessories package we found the camera stand, wall mount, mounting hardware, USB power cable and a USB power brick along with the associated instructions and quick start guide. Attaching the camera itself to the traditional stand was simple, with a quick twist and turn after lining up the guide marks on both the base and the camera. Interestingly, the USB power cable for the camera is actually attached to the stand and not the camera, which we believe is for weatherproofing, and for enabling additional types of mounts (more on that later). This also makes the stand required for wall mounting the camera, as the wall mount is a tiny circular plate that the stand slips over. We were a little leery to say the least as to the whether or not the small plastic plate would actually hold the entire stand and camera combo once attached, but we have not seen any issues in the year that we have had ours installed.
Once everything was set up and the camera was plugged in and ready for pairing, we found ourselves facing a somewhat confusing process. Like most HomeKit devices, the Logi Circle 2 can be paired using only the iOS Home App, or it can be paired using Logitech’s Circle App. Naturally, we were inclined to only use the Home App, due to privacy and ease of use. Without registering an account with Logitech for our camera, we figure that it would be the most secure way to go about things and we were up and running through HomeKit in a matter of minutes. However, this decision meant that there were some tradeoffs like losing the ability to review recordings, so we ultimately decided to bite the bullet and set it up through Logitech’s App. Since we originally chose to pair the camera through HomeKit, the Logitech Circle App greeted us with a splash screen stating that we must remove the device from HomeKit before proceeding, and essentially resetting the entire camera. Once we reset the camera, we went through the prompts presented by the App, and eventually we were able to view our camera feed. Once added in the Logitech Circle App, we were able to select the “Smart Home Integrations” option to add the camera to HomeKit. One thing to note that going this route means that one of the two camera feeds that the camera provides will always be dedicated to Logitech’s cloud, meaning that only one person can view the camera at a time through the Home App. When the camera is paired directly to HomeKit, two people can view the feed in the Home App at a time.
Before we head back over to the Home App, let’s talk a little about Logitech’s Circle App. The App, which features bright green-ish yellow colors is not the worst device manufacturer’s App out there, but it is still pretty bad. On the iPhone, the App uses landscape for its UI, which is reasonable considering that the camera’s feed is widescreen video formatted, however it is jarring having to adjust your phone for one App. The App opens immediately to a live feed of your camera, and has several buttons overlaying the feed for actions such as taking a screenshot, enabling the microphone and opening an expanded set of options via a “hamburger” button. On the right hand side of the “home” screen, circles with timestamps are available, creating quick access to motion events. These circles are color coordinated by the level of activity in the event, with circles in blue denoting a large event. Below the times is a “Day Brief” button, which presents a time-lapse view of the last 24 hours, which is neat, but somewhat unnecessary as events can be accessed directly via their timestamps, and the brief option plays the events way too fast.
Jumping into the options menu, cameras are displayed at the top, and the option to add another device is readily available. Quick actions for the installed camera include toggles for turning on and off the camera itself, pausing recording, and silencing event alerts. Even more options for the camera are available in yet another menu button, which is a completely different style of button, 3 circles, than the first menu button. Options for the camera include turning on and off night vision, changing resolution (360, 720, 1080), adjusting microphone sensitivity, toggling on and off the speaker, field of view, and turning on or off the LED light on the face of the camera. In the camera options portion of the App, there is also options for enabling “Smart Alerts” and “Smart Location” which as you may have guessed are tied to notifications. The Smart Location option uses your phone’s location to determine when to send alerts, which is handy, but it duplicates HomeKit’s core functionality through the Home App. Smart Alerts will use AI to determine the types of motion that is happening in front of the camera, such as people, cars or animals, and will alert you accordingly. Specific motion zones can also be created, to limit which portion of the camera’s view will send an alert, however this features requires a subscription to Logitech’s Circle Safe service, which is frustrating to say the least.
We say frustrating because the D-Link Omna 180 Cam, which was the first HomeKit camera on the market, supports this feature natively, without a subscription at all, and we suspect that Logitech’s camera is doing this all locally anyway. Equally frustrating is that the motion zone feature is only available in the “Premium” subscription tier, which is $9.99 a month, and is not included with “Basic” subscription which is $3.99 a month, which just screams that the company is looking to squeeze the most out of its customers. However, HomeKit Secure Video will hopefully correct this issue this fall, and we were quite surprised that Logitech came out stating that the Circle 2 would be receiving a firmware update to enable the functionality as it seems that this is in direct competition to their Circle Safe Service. In our case we are able to get by with the “Free” subscription free tier, which provides 24 hours of recordings, and the day brief feature.
Over in the Home App, the Circle 2 looks and behaves like all of the other HomeKit cameras on the market. Tapping on the camera from the favorites or room overview screens take you directly to the camera live view. Options to enable the microphone and adjusting the volume of the feed are presented while viewing your camera, and a setting screens that provide basic information about the camera can be accessed. A separate device “tile” for the motion sensor in the camera is available in the Home App, which is where notification settings for events happening in the camera can be enabled. When a motion event occurs, the Home App will send a snapshot of the event to all of the devices set up to receive the alert which is handy, but currently Apple’s camera implementation is lacking to say the least. Once tapping on a motion notification, the snapshot is lost forever, with no way to reference it, and you are taken straight to the live view and not a recording. Thankfully, this will be resolved later this year when the HomeKit Secure Video feature is enabled, but in the meantime, users will have to rely on the Logitech Circle App to review footage.
Earlier we mentioned that the Logitech Circle 2 is the best HomeKit camera for most people, and you may be wondering why with its artificial zone subscription and the lack of Home App actions. This boils down to one simple thing, reliability. Since installing our Circle 2 Camera outdoors, albeit under cover, over a year ago, we have little to no issues with the device at all. The camera is always available in the Home App, with no instances of “Not Responding” seen, and there has not been an occasion where we had to pull the plug on the camera to get it to restart and function properly at all, which is surprising to say the least. The camera has always notified us of any and all motion events, and the video quality set to 720p is good enough for our use case. The only oddity that we have seen with the camera is the occasional video artifacts which can make the entire feed take on a weird color, such as purple, but this only lasts for a few moments before it corrects itself.
In addition to the cameras reliability, we also find Logitech’s modular capabilities with the camera hardware to be something that other camera manufacturers should look to provide. Before we installed our camera outdoors, we utilized the Circle 2 Window Mount, which is a separate kit that allows the camera to, you guessed it, be attached directly to a window. The kit includes a special camera housing that sits the camera itself back deeper in the mount allowing for a smooth flat surface to attach to a window. The Window Mount uses adhesive strips to attach to your window, and additional strips are included in the box. When we tested the Window Mount, we unfortunately had some set of circumstances that did not allow us to provide a conclusion on the effectiveness of the adhesive itself. While the camera held to our window for over a month, it did eventually fall off, sending our investment crashing down to the floor below. However, it should be noted that our camera was mounted in a window that was hit pretty much every time our shades were closed, and the wiring for the camera itself was sometimes pulled slightly either through typical household scenarios. Another option that Logitech provides is a plug mount, that strips out the long USB cable in favor of a mount that attaches the camera directly to a power outlet. This style of mount is one that every manufacturer should copy, as it creates a clean appearance and is easy to install if an outlet is at the correct height for your needs. Even if the Circle 2 is installed somewhere else around the home, the plug mount is a great option to allow quick placement in a different location when leaving the home for extended periods of time, such as on a vacation, and is generally just nice to have around.
At the end of the day, the Logitech Circle 2 Camera despite some flaws, is the HomeKit camera that I would recommend for most people. The camera is reliable, offers good picture quality, and can be adapted to fit almost any setting, indoors and out. The Circle 2 Wired Camera retails for $179.99, but it can be frequently found around $129 at outlets such as Best Buy or Amazon, and for those lucky enough to have a Sam’s Club around with them in stock, they can be purchased in a 3 camera bundle for $199. Of course, the additional mounting options are available at an additional cost, with the Window Mount coming in at $39.99 and the Plug Mount at $29.99. With the HomeKit Secure Video coming this fall, it will enable features that are currently buried behind a subscription, making the Circle 2 an even better camera that it already is.
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