D-Link Omna vs. Logitech Logi Circle: Which home security camera to keep?

I didn’t intend to do a comparison piece between the D-Link Omna and Logitech Logi Circle, but here I am, with both in my house, and I only need one. One has to go. But which is it?

First: Let’s talk about my needs. I’m really only looking for something to check in on my kids during the day. I want something more full-featured than a baby monitor, but it doesn’t need to be a full-fledged security cam (which I already have through my security company). I’m looking for something in between.

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The Omna in all its glory.

The brand new Omna immediately stuck out to me. It’s the first web-enabled “security” camera with built-in HomeKit support, which I currently use with my Hue lights. (What is HomeKit? It’s a protocol that allows smart home devices from different companies to work with each other — and to blend seamlessly with Apple’s ecosystem of products and software.)

It also has a built-in microSD card slot allowing it to store video locally, no cloud service needed. Looking for a dedicated security cam? Don’t get this one, because if the crook steals the camera, they steal the video evidence of the crime too. But if the idea of paying $4-$10/month just for access to your own videos sounds like a pain, this is an alternative. Guess which boat I’m in? (The boat that doesn’t want to shell out any more bucks per month.)

Because it’s not cloud-enabled, there’s no need for a subscription to unlock core features. What you see if what you get.  Zone motion detection? Check. Notifications when activity is caught on camera? Check. Ability to look at past events? Check.  The only limitation to how much it can record is the size of the microSD card you put into it (which is an additional, albeit only one time, purchase, of course).

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Above you can see the motion settings. You pick the zone. You pick the sensitivity. You pick how often it triggers (i.e. if it senses motion twice or more in a given amount of time, it only sends one notification).

Nice benefit: Even if your home internet goes down, the camera will still keep on recording when it senses motion.

Potential drawback: In only records in 20 second increments (the 20 seconds immediately following when it first senses motion).

The feature I love the most (and the main reason why I bought it)? Once it’s set-up, you don’t need the dedicated Omna app anymore…if you’re an Apple user. You can just use Apple’s Home app — the same app I use to control my Hue lights.

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The ability to see my room specific lights, cameras, and other smart home devices on one screen is SUPER convenient.  It also makes sharing with other people in the household a breeze.  Once I set it up on my phone (which is done in 3 easy steps), the new camera automatically appeared on my wife’s Home app. Didn’t have to do anything at all on her phone.

So as you can tell, I bought the Omna. I set it up. And I was happy…until I went to Best Buy to get a microSD card and saw that the Logi Circle had just gone on sale.

Two days ago, the Logi Circle and the Omna were the same price — $200, which is why I went with the HomeKit-enabled Omna over the Logi Circle, despite it’s great write-up at thewirecutter.com (where tech reviewers go for reviews). But as of this writing, the Logi Circle is now only $130. That’s $70 in savings. With the Omna still in its return period, I had to check out the Logi Circle.

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Both have the same basic (and free) functions: A live view of any room in your house and the ability to record motion-triggered events.

The Logi Circle has no local storage, though, so you’re dependent on Logitech’s cloud-based hosting of your video. At the free tier, you get a 24-hour recording archive. NOTE: That’s not 24 hours OF recordings. Just recordings FROM the last 24 hours. Like the Omna, the Logi Circle only records in snippets, based on when the motion sensor is first triggered. Unlike the Omna, the snippets vary in time and can go well-over 20 seconds.

Possible detriment: If you put the camera in a place with a lot of activity, that’s a lot of video uploading. It could tax the speed of your home network a bit.

But the cloud-service (even at the free level) does come with a perk: You can view a special time-lapse video (30 seconds in length) of all the activity over the previous 24 hours. And you have the option to pay $4 or $10/month for a 14-day or 31-day recording window.  The $10/month option also unlocks the ability to record by zones (something free on the Omna), as well as some other features — like the ability to tell when a “person” triggers the motion sensor instead of an animal or the wind or something.

So that’s how they are the largely the same at the free level. But how are they different?

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  1. The Logi Circle is vastly more customizable.

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You can choose another resolution if the 1080p setting uses up too much data (either uploading or downloading on your mobile device while on the go.


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The ability to set up motion zones might be extra, but the Logi Circle has some free “alert” settings missing from the Omna, like “smart location” which checks to see if you (i.e. your phone) is home. It also has more generous delay times, up to 30m, which can keep your phone from getting cluttered with notifications for the same activity.

2. If your internet goes down, so does your ability to record anything on the Logi Circle. Not a problem with the Omna.

3. Degree of visibility and video quality. Both offer HD imaging, but not all HD is the same.  Blurry pixels in HD are still blurry pixels. Also: The Omna has a much wider degree of visibility.

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The Logi Circle’s 135 degrees of visibility.


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The Omna is 180. Note: Both pics were taken from the same exact spot.

4. Night Vision. Both offer night vision. But the Logi Circle made a weird “click” noise whenever it enabled its night vision mode (i.e. anytime it senses motion in a dark environment, or you if you check-in for a live stream). I think that’s because the Circle senses for motion first (or waits to be contacted for a live stream), then looks for light, then enables the night vision mode if needed.  The Omna senses its dark first and already has it’s night vision lights enabled (and ready) for when it senses motion.  The click noise was definitely noticeable, and it draws attention to the camera.

5. As mentioned, the “alert” options are quite different.  The Logi Circle’s added customizations results in much fewer notifications on my phone.

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6. Apple Watch support! Because it’s HomeKit enabled, the Omna sends preview images to your Apple Watch whenever it senses motion. And you can also watch a (tiny) live stream of your home from your watch.  The Logi Circle does none of the that. Even on your iPhone, you don’t even get a preview photo.

7. The Logi Circle has a battery! The Omna does not. The Omna is made to stay in one place. In fact, I tried moving to another room and had to set it up all over again (why? I’m thinking it’s because I have an eero system, and switching from one eero router to another changed the IP address assigned to the Omna, which confused it.) The Logi Circle can be taken off it’s dock (i.e. the permanent place in your house where it sits) and moved anywhere for up to a few hours. I had no issues moving it all over the house. Just know that the battery can drain quickly in a place with a lot of motion. (Putting it in battery saver mode turns off the motion sensor, saving energy because the camera only turns on for remote live viewing).

So which will I be keeping? I love the look of the Omna… I love the HomeKit integration, but for a saving of $70, I can do without those things.  And I’ll get some other things, too, like a battery and some modest, free cloud storage. So I think I’m going with the Logi Circle… Or not.  I need to think a little longer on it…


Products mentioned in this write-up:

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Nothing’s Lost Forever: Data Recovery For When You Need It Most

A little over two months ago, my newborn daughter took her first breaths, and I was there with my new camera.  I documented her first day like Errol Morris on crack.  First bath? Check. First snuggle with mom? Check. First poop? Check. For two days, while we were all stored up at the hospital, I snapped away.  Then came time to take a look at what I got…

Nothing. The computer told me that the memory card was empty.

Back in the camera, though, the SD card showed all my photos and video were present.  So everything was there… it’s just that none of it was readable to the computer.  Curious, I put the memory card back into my Macbook Air’s SD slot.  I loaded up Disk Utility, Apple’s handy diagnostic/repair tool for storage devices.  Sure enough, Disk Utility found an error on the SD card.  I hit the “repair” button and, boom, the SD card was “fixed.”  No more errors.

But no more pictures either.

Whatever Disk Utility did to “fix” the memory card wound up making it appear empty to both the laptop and the camera now, too.  Oops.

“That’s okay, it’s just all the video and photo I took from the first two days of my daughter’s life, I’m sure I’ll have another chance to capture those same exact memories” is not what I said.  I was pissed.  Of all the pictures I’d ever take with this camera, those were the most unreproducible.

So I scoured the internet for an application that could retrieve deleted files.  This is where you have to be careful.  In all truthfulness, if you have good online habits, you can avoid viruses and spyware with 99% certainty without the need for any anti-virus software.  Downloading programs off the internet, though, is not a good online habit.  Malware, like vampires, typically can’t enter your computer unless it’s invited.  The most harmless (and seemingly useful) application could really be a nasty trojan horse.  You have to be careful to whom you open your door.

Even though I’m a tech guy, I’ve don’t have much data recovery experience. I’m such a devout believer in backing up, I’ve never really lost a file before. A Google search turned up a lot of programs, but I didn’t know which companies were trustworthy.  Before you download any software you intend to run on your computer, always look into the company.  Look for reviews from as many reputable sources that you can.

One of the programs I came across is called FileSalvage.  It claimed to be able to recover image and video file formats specific to my Canon camera, so it immediately rose to the top of the list of programs I wanted to try.  I then set out to find some reviews.  Various user forums had people both praising and complaining about the product — but the complaints were limited to people who didn’t think it worked for their needs or hated the speed/interface.  No one complained of malware.  And I even found a couple positive legit reviews of it.  It didn’t matter if the reviews were from several years ago — it’s actually a good sign if a program has been around for a while and is continually updated.

So I downloaded FileSalvage from their main website (always get it from the source) and installed it, fingers crossed.  The free demo mode is limited to just telling you it found a lot of files and not much more than that. You definitely can’t recover anything for free. But that’s par for the course with a lot of programs.  Just enough free functionality to peak your interest, and that’s it.

When you run data recovery programs on a storage device, the software will scan for anything it can find, even files you intentionally deleted a long time ago.  The free preview found A LOT of files on the SD card… but I had no way of knowing for sure whether it found my most recent pics and video.  At this point, though, I had nothing to lose besides $80, so I bought a user license and unlocked the “recovery features” of the program.

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FileSalvage can’t tell you anything about the files you’re recovering other than “file type” and “size.”  That’s all the info you get before you start recovering.  No metadata of any kind, not even original file names.  At this point, there’s a bit of wishing and hoping that that the files I wanted were among the thousand it found.  I went ahead and recovered all of them.

Note:  The way digital storage works, files are never truly deleted.  When you delete a file or do a routine format of a hard drive, the file structure is merely changed to allow new files to be rewritten over old ones.  The less you use a memory card (or hard drive, flash drive, etc), the more likely you can recover deleted missing files. (Because of this fact, it’s unwise to restore recovered files to the same drive you’re restoring from.)  If you’re ever giving away a computer and want all your old data as hard to recover as possible, do a specialized format that overwrites old data as it formats.

So what was the verdict on FileSalvage?  After going through all the recovered files, I got all the videos and pictures back that went missing.  Yay.  Well worth the $80 even if I never use this program again.

Review: Motorola MBP36 Baby Monitor

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Consider this the first post in a new category I’ll call “Tech Dad Eric” for now.

With my wife due to deliver any day now, it was time to get the one piece of parenting equipment I had been putting off — a baby monitor system with both audio and video.  They come in two varieties:

  1. Monitors that use technology similar to a cordless phone (but with video) to connect to the camera.
  2. Monitors that use Wifi/home networks to connect to the camera.

They each have their advantages.  Option 1 establishes a very solid link between the camera and monitor, since the system uses its own dedicated wireless signal.  These types of connections are not as finicky as wifi.  These monitors are easily kept turned on whenever you’re in a different room from your baby.  The downside?  There is no option to send the video signal to your smartphone or computer.  You have to use the monitor that comes with the camera.

Option 2, on the other hand, tend to come in packages with no actual monitor (i.e. the screen), just the camera.  The camera plugs into your home network (or connects via wifi), where it transmits a signal that can be opened with a smartphone app or from a web page.  Your iOS device, Android device, or computer is meant to be used as the monitor.  The benefit of this kind of system is that you can (usually) access the signal even when you’re not home.  You can be across the globe and see what your baby is up to (and I’m guessing there are many times when a parent will wish they were halfway across the globe).  The downside?  It’s more difficult to have an “always on” monitor.  If your baby is asleep in the other room and you want to check on them without entering the room, you need to open an app or web browser.

To me, that defeats the whole purpose of having a baby monitor, though.  I want a system that will let me know whenever the baby wakes up as soon as it happens, not one that I have to check into.  That’s why I opted for Option 1.  After trips to both Target and Babies R Us to see what they had to offer, we opted for the Motorola MBP36 because its 3.5 inch screen was the largest we could find.  (Note: Motorola makes monitors in smaller sizes as well, which run cheaper.)

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Part of me wishes it had more of a HAL 9000-like appearance… Though I can see where that might be a problem for some people.

The Camera comes with a motorized base, allowing you to rotate and tilt it remotely.  It also has a night vision mode and even a small speaker built-in that allows you to talk to anyone in the baby’s room (and play music, but more on that later).   The closest flat surface to our crib with a good vantage point was a tall cabinet.  We placed the monitor on top of the cabinet, thinking we could just aim it down into the crib, but the camera wasn’t able to tilt down enough.  The good news is that the camera has a hook allowing it to be hung from a wall.

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We wound up just hanging it from a wall near (but not directly over) the crib.  Very easy.  It now as a “security camera”-like vantage point.  We can rotate it around to get a good look at pretty much the entire room if need be.

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The 3.5 inch screen was plenty big. The screen shows signal strength, room temperature, and battery strength. The controls are very intuitive.  The four arrows on the left of the screen, by default, control the direction of the camera.  On the right hand side, the top-most button brings up the main on screen menu, which allows you to adjust the volume and brightness, the option to play music from the camera’s speaker, the ability to “zoom” in, the ability to switch cameras (if you have an optional multiple camera set-up), and the ability to set an alarm (for you, not the baby).

The other buttons on that column allow you to turn off the screen (but keep audio going) and use the camera unit as an intercom in the other room. (The “ok” button is just an “enter” button.)

The only features that were disappointing were the music feature (the sound is very mechanical) and the digital zoom (it has only one setting and it’s very pixelated).  Fortunately, I didn’t buy it expecting to really use those features.

The monitor is battery powered, but not via normal batteries.  It has its own proprietary battery.  Before you use it, Motorola recommends you recharge the battery fully for about 16 hours.  If the battery gets low, the monitor will notify you, and you can continue to use it while it recharges.

Across the top of the screen, you’ll see 6 LED indicators.  The one furthest to the left lets you know when its recharging.  The rest are a visual indicator for audio, so you can visually see how much noise the baby is making by how many lights are lit up (even when the volume is turned down, or if you’re hearing is impaired).

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Along the side of the unit, you’ll see two ports.  The lower is for the power adapter.  The upper one is for an AV cable that will allow you to hook the monitor up to a TV set.  The needed AV cable isn’t included, but it looks to be a mini-USB port which is somewhat common.  A lot of devices (like camcorders, digital cameras, some smart phones, etc.) come with an A/V cable that uses such a port.  So you might already have a cable that will work.  I do not have one handy, though, so I’ll have to test this out later.  On Amazon, Motorola-branded cables can be had for $10.

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The back of the monitor also has a kickstand and an antenna you can raise for a stronger signal, though I had no problem getting a signal throughout my entire house even with the antenna down (including spots of the house that are a dead zone for wifi).

One feature I won’t be testing is the ability to work with multiple cameras (we don’t have a need for more than one).  According to the documentation, though, you can connect it to multiple cameras and cycle through the various feeds.  On Amazon, additional cameras sell for just under $100.

And that’s the Motorola MPB36.  It lists for $249.99, but you should be able to find it cheaper if you shop around.  If you can live with a smaller screen and a few less features (like the ability to pan and tilt remotely), there are also 2.8 inch and 2.4 inch systems that retail for quite a bit less ($180 and $130 on Amazon at the moment).

Overall, it appears to be a well-crafted, dependable product.  We look forward to using it with an actual baby…

-Eric

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