Hardware Reviews Smart Home

Netatmo Welcome review: Is facial recognition a gimmick for a home security camera?

Netatmo Welcome review
Facial recognition is key to the Netatmo Welcome's success ('cos there are keys in the picture, see?)

Netatmo Welcome Review Price: £150 from Amazon

One thing separates the Netatmo Welcome from the growing crowd of home security cameras: facial recognition. To answer our own question, it’s certainly no gimmick. Netatmo has thought long and hard about how to make this is a useful feature.

Let’s start with how it works. Once you plug in and pair the Welcome with your network (all you need is an Android phone or iPhone), it will start recording faces that walk past. Over the course of the first day, it will probably have enough data to ask you to identify a face, and within a week everyone will be recognised.

“So what?” you might wonder. Well, when you receive a notification, you take notice. Netatmo won’t bother you with a message if it’s a recognised family member, but it will if it detects a face it doesn’t recognise. It’s also intelligent enough to notice that you’re all out of the house because it hasn’t seen anyone for a while, and will let you know that movement has been detected.

Having tested four different security cameras over the past month, and felt like I was drowning in notifications on occasion, that’s an incredibly clever feature.

Another thoughtful touch is that you can set Netatmo not to record the movements of family members, protecting their privacy.

Netatmo Welcome review: Home improvements

Netatmo Welcome review
The Netatmo Welcome can recognise lollipops at 50 paces. And your children too

I also love that Netatmo continues to improve the Home. It was released back in 2015, so by this point you might expect updates to be minor bug fixes alone. Not here. In the past month, for example, Netatmo updated the Welcome so it can recognise your pets.

It’s also added support for Dropbox since release. Where many security cameras upload footage to the cloud, and restrict viewing to the past seven days or start charging a fee, the Welcome stores footage on the microSD card.

That saves money (no cloud storage costs) but does mean that a thief can nick the Welcome and take all your recordings. Although it does automatically save a photo of any faces recorded – so your thief will be identified – that’s not as good evidence as video.

Handy, then, to have the option to link your Dropbox account and upload video there.

Netatmo Welcome review: The cons

Image quality is equivalent to that of a decent smartphone. The Welcome records at Full HD – so 1,920 x 1,080 – to provide a detailed image, and providing light conditions are good it will capture all the details you need. There’s also infrared to capture videos at night, and again this works effectively.

What you don’t get is a 180-degree view (unlike D-Link’s similar Omna security camera), which means a clever thief could creep around the side and disconnect the Welcome before it starts recording. Note, too, that this is an inside camera only, and it needs both a power and network connection to work.

Other negatives? While it will record sound, the Welcome doesn’t have two-way audio, so there’s no way to talk to people – rival systems do offer this ability. Likewise there’s no siren, so if you do spot a thief all you can do is call the police – by which time it might be too late. The Netgear Arlo system includes a blaring siren as standard.

Netatmo Welcome iPhone app
Netatmo keeps on updating the Welcome’s features as well as the apps

 

But – and this is another area where Netatmo deserves praise – such features are available as add-ons. Or at least, soon will be. I haven’t tested it, but Netatmo has announced the Indoor Security Siren, which you can set to go off in an unknown face appears, or manually set off. The siren can also be triggered when Netatmo’s Tags (a three-pack costs $99 in the US but we’ve yet to receive pricing in the UK) detect that a door or window has been opened.

Netatmo Welcome review: Should you buy it?

It’s a little frustrating that the Tags and the Siren aren’t yet available in the UK, but even the prospect of their arrival shows that Netatmo is continuing to build on the Welcome’s talents.

Is face recognition a must-have? Not quite: systems such as the Netgear Arlo don’t feature this, but still provide a compelling security solution (especially for outdoor use).

However, face recognition is a definite bonus for an internal security camera, and one I’d find hard to live without. That’s why the Netatmo Welcome gains a Big Tech Question Recommended award.

Netatmo Welcome review
  • Features
  • Ease of use
  • Image quality
4.3

Overall

The Netatmo Welcome gets better with age, while facial recognition both improves privacy and means you take notice of notifications when they appear

About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email tim@bigtechquestion.com

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