Trendet’s Internet Camera Monitor kit, which consists of a seven-inch LCD and a wireless IP (Internet Protocol) camera, is a versatile video-surveillance system that doubles as a networkable digital picture frame.
In case you’re wondering what differentiates an IP camera from a web camera, the key is that a web camera relies on a PC to make its video available to a network. A web camera typically connects to a PC’s USB port, and it cannot operate properly without a host system. An IP camera is more or less a standalone device. It connects directly to your network and can be monitored directly—even over the Internet, if properly configured.
Features and Design
Although the LCD measures only 7 inches diagonally (with a 16:9 aspect ratio), it’s surrounded by a bezel that’s more than 1.5 inches wide. Trendnet includes a couple of cardboard borders, but these printed designs are only slightly less ugly than the eggshell-colored enclosure itself. (Oh well, at least they didn’t use faux wood.) The display comes with an adjustable foot, but can also be hung on the wall. It has built-in speakers and a line-out jack for connecting headphones or higher-quality powered speakers.
The LCD connects to your 802.11b/g/n network and displays the video feeds from up to four IP surveillance cameras simultaneously. The cameras can be connected to your router with either a wired or wireless connection, but the display does not have a wired Ethernet port. The kit comes with one Trendnet model TV-IP110 camera and can support as many as 16. Only four feeds fit on the screen at one time—in a four-by-four grid—so you must page through the other three sets. We tested the display with two wireless cameras, the other of which was Trendnet’s model TV-IP422. Unlike the bundled camera, this one features night vision and a tilt-swivel motor.
TRENDnet TV-M7 Monitor & Controller
Poor documentation rendered the setup process more difficult than it needed to be. We typically run our 802.11n wireless network in 802.11n-only mode, which means only 802.11n devices can connect to it. The user manual neglects to mention that the display is an 802.11g device, and it took us about 15 minutes of cursing to figure out what the problem was. Once we’d reconfigured our router to operate as an 802.11g/n network, everything came together quickly.
We examined the box later and found this disclosure: “Works with wireless n router set to b/g/n mixed mode.” The fact that that sentence isn’t printed in anywhere in the manual is just plain dumb. Both the camera and the display do support all the most common wireless security protocols, including WEP, WPA and WPA2 (with both TKIP and AES encryption).
TRENDnet TV-M7 7 Monitor
The quality of the display is higher than what the typical IP camera is capable of producing, which makes it well suited to its other role as a digital picture frame. The display has 512MB of onboard memory, plus a memory card reader. There’s also a USB port for transferring photos, videos, and audio files from a PC. The device won’t work as a USB host, however, so you can’t expand its meager storage capacity by plugging a USB thumb drive into it.
We were keen to explore the TV-M7’s support for streaming photos from Picasa and Flickr until we learned that we’d have to set our accounts on those services to allow anyone to download our photos. No thanks, we’re not giving up our privacy—and control over our kids’ digital likenesses—for the sake of convenience. Fortunately, we can just as easily access photos from a NAS box plugged into our home network.
The kit comes with a credit-card-size remote control that’s used for both setup (typing in your network’s SSID and passkey, for instance) and for daily use. You use it to switch from picture frame mode to surveillance monitor, capture snapshots from the IP cameras, rotate and zoom in on photos, play videos, adjust the volume and so on. It’s too bad that the remote can’t also send commands to the cameras, because the tilt/swivel feature on TV-IP422 is useless without any means to control it.
TRENDnet TV-M7 Camera
We’ve always relied on our computer and its display to monitor our IP cameras, and their video window invariably gets hidden behind myriad others as we work, completely destroying their effectiveness. After living with Trendnet’s TV-M7 for a week, we’re hooked on the idea of a dedicated display. The display is small enough and light enough that we can even pick it and up take it with us when we leave our home office and retire to the media room for the evening.
Improvements we’d welcome: A faster processor, to speed up the user interface; more intuitive software for setting up the IP cameras; a more in-depth printed user manual; and a robust solution for remote viewing over the Internet (Logitech’s WiLife system has everyone beat on this score, although it’s limited to eight cameras). Still, the package comes recommended.
- 16:9 aspect ratio
- Built-in speaker
- Built-in media-card reader
- Remote control
- Can’t control tilt/swivel camera
- Limited to 802.11g
- Can’t act as a USB host
- Not the most attractive enclosure