So chances are you’ve never heard of YI Technology, but I’m willing to bet they’ll become a familiar brand in the United States very soon. It’s an imaging technology company, whose name stands for “Your Innovator,” with big ambitions to knock competitors by releasing strong products that carry shockingly low price tags. YI is like the Xiaomi of its industry, which is ironic because Xiaomi is an investor in this company. But unlike Xiaomi, YI is ready right now to battle in the country where new brands and products vanish as fast as they appear.
Late last year, YI’s Action Camera went on sale in the U.S. when Amazon signed on as its exclusive seller. The portfolio then expanded with the introduction of the Home Camera right before the end of 2015, but that was quickly succeeded by the new Home Camera 2 in April. This device from YI is similar visually to the original Home Camera; the real differences are inside. YI slightly altered the design but ushered in entirely new internal components that elevate this affordable home monitoring system.
Hit the break for our review of the YI Home Camera 2.
The Home Camera 2 comes in a compact white box with a red wrapper detailing what’s inside. Along with the actual device, YI throws in the cable and wall adapter you need to begin operations. Fortunately for those of us who are forgetful, the Home Camera 2 has a micro-USB port; therefore, you’ll never have to worry about ordering another cable because it’s highly unlikely you don’t have another micro-USB cable lying around somewhere. Getting started with the Home Camera 2 is as simple as getting it power through the micro-USB port.
A 32GB microSD card from SanDisk is included, too. That’s for storing pictures and videos locally, and YI will be launching a cloud storage service for its products later in the year.
What’s nice about the Home Camera 2 is the compact design, giving it a quiet appearance that blends in with its environment. Other home monitoring systems can be bulky and thus stick out like a sore thumb. Because YI’s device is mainly white with just the camera’s cover being black, the Home Camera 2 stays quiet behind the scenes. And while the price tag of the Home Camera 2 may be cheap, build quality will have you thinking differently. The entire device is smooth and tightly put together — none of the parts bend or flex even though it’s all plastic.
The main part of the device is obviously where the camera is, but there’s a little more going on up there than just being the Home Camera 2’s eyes. Beneath the camera is an LED light and a microphone, and around the back is a speaker. So yes, YI’s Home Camera 2 can also hear and speak in addition to seeing.
On the back right above the speaker is the removable back cover. When you take it off, you’ll expose the manual reset button and the microSD card slot.
Below all of this is the hinge that connects the camera to its base. The hinge is surprisingly pretty impressive considering it allows the camera to be pushed forward to a position that’s almost flat with the base. If you go backwards, the camera goes beyond being flat with the base. This is for when you want to attach the base vertically on a wall.
The ring underneath the base has a plastic strip that reveals an adhesive material for firmly setting up the Home Camera 2.
YI isn’t making a single thing confusing confusing. What you see is all you need here.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m far from an expert on cameras, so my judgement comes from exactly what my eyes tell me. Still, I have to provide you with the Home Camera 2’s internal details so you know what’s going on.
- Resolution: Full HD (1920×1080)
- Lens: F2.0 DFOV 130 degrees
- Encoding: H.264 Main Profile, Smart AVC (LBR)
- Enhancement: 3D Noise Reduction
- Advanced Features: HDR, Lens Distortion Correction
- Audio: Built-in microphone / speaker
- WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
The control panel for this home monitoring system is in the YI Home Camera app, which is available for free from the Play Store. Everything done with the Home Camera 2 goes through the app — setup, settings, and operation. During the initial setup, you’ll need to log in to your local WiFi network for the device through your phone or tablet. The next time you’ll have to do that is when you switch WiFi networks.
Each time you launch the YI Home Camera app, a list of your cameras is displayed. This opening menu also has alerts, albums, and your profile accessible.
The big changes for an individual device are done in Settings. It’s where you can turn on/off cameras, rename a device, enable alerts, activate security measures, and manage storage.
Anyone who has ever used a Xiaomi device or that company’s MIUI software will feel right at home with the Home Camera 2’s app. It’s a little too simple for my taste, and I’m sure many of you will agree. The execution is poor, giving the feeling that you’re using a really cheap product. Even the splash screens are head scratch-worthy. It feels like YI rushed to get through making an app for one of its main products. It’s design is way, way too meager.
YI should consider sprucing up its app even if Material Design isn’t what the company wants. It’s current layout is what you’d see in China, but this product is being sold (along with others) in the United States where user interfaces with simple colors and smart animations are greatly appreciated.
The real-time menu gives you a live view of what your camera sees and hears. The options on this screen are for taking pictures and recording videos in addition to watching what’s going on. And the button at the center, my personal favorite, is for speaking to whoever/whatever is in the vicinity of the Home Camera 2. I’ve had plenty of fun watching my dog tip-toe around before abruptly spinning around to face a little camera that had my voice projecting from it. Chances are I was preventing him from stealing a blanket and ripping it apart.
Camera quality is really good on the Home Camera 2, especially when you consider the friendly price tag. Pictures appear without any fuzz, and video streams live without any stuttering. It’s great for you and YI that they could get away with a premium performance here.
The Home Camera 2’s detection new detection features are neat, too — Gesture Detection, Human Detection, Baby Crying Detection. The first two just confirm that someone recognizable is in front of the camera and sends an alert. That last one, though, is a helper for a special group. Parents can use Baby Crying Detection to receive an alert when their little one is letting out inaudible noises and need a little holding time.
Across various purposes, the Home Camera 2 is successful.
This is actually my first time using any home monitoring system, and my takeaway on them after using the Home Camera 2 from YI is positive. Although the app is pretty bare and not very intuitive, the Home Camera 2 itself is a strong performer that sits quietly anywhere you put it. The camera’s clear quality, wide-angle lens, and versatile hinge make for a steal at $129.