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Swann 4K Thermal Sensing Security Camera Review: High-quality video at a price

Swann 4K Thermal Sensing Security Camera outside in the winter.
Swann 4K Thermal Sensing Security Camera Review: High-quality video at a price
MSRP $150.00
“It has outstanding monitoring, but the software and interface could use some tweaking.”
Pros
  • Incredibly high resolution
  • Clear audio gain
  • Thermal sensing reduces false alarms
  • Facial recognition gives you a better idea who is in your home
Cons
  • Installation can be a bit complicated
  • No siren
  • Can't easily set up voice assistant support

Home security cameras are the first line of defense in a security system, but many act as stand-alone systems. It takes only a few cameras to cover the front and back door of a home, but a more comprehensive security system requires more than just a couple of cameras. Swann’s new camera kit is an ideal choice for this — the included network video recorder (NVR) stores footage and allows you to see the feeds from all of your cameras in a single location, usually a TV or an external display. It can connect up to eight cameras at once.

Swann sent an NVR and one of the new 4K Thermal Sensing Security Cameras (PRO-888MSD) for me to test out for myself. The Swann 4K Thermal Sensing Security Camera is packed with powerful security features, including several that I haven’t seen in a security camera before.

Installation and setup: Just a little confusion

Image used with permission by copyright holder

A lot of smart cameras market themselves as being “plug-and-play.” Aside from tapping a few icons on your phone, there isn’t a lot involved in setting up the cameras. This quick and easy process holds a lot of appeal, but it’s something the Swann 4K Thermal Sensing Security Camera does not bring to the table. While the setup wasn’t difficult, less-than-clear instructions resulted in confusion before I realized I should look for a QR code on the NVR rather than the camera itself.

The entire process involved downloading the Swann app, registering an account, and then adding a device. It can be powered independently, but my kit did not include a power cord for the camera; instead, it operates through power over Ethernet, or POE. To accomplish this, I had to connect the NVR to power, connect it to my router via Ethernet, and then connect the 4K Dome Security Camera through a secondary Ethernet cord that was included in the box. Any Ethernet cord works, but there are benefits to using the included cable — it’s one of the longest Ethernet cables I’ve ever seen.

The NVR includes a mouse, which struck me as odd. The setup requires connecting the NVR to a monitor or television and setting it up through an on-screen keyboard. You have to create password and username before you can sync your device through the mobile app.

Again, not difficult, but the instructions were not clear, so it took longer than expected before the system was running. Once it was, however, it went off without a hitch.

Features: Few false alarms

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The 4K Dome Security Camera stands out from comparable security cameras due to its features.

There are three basic modes: Home, Night, and Away. Each has different settings that best fit the current need. For example, Home Mode typically disarms indoor cameras and sets outdoor cameras to detect moderate motion. Night Mode sets the sensitivity for outdoor cameras to a higher level and arms indoor cameras in unoccupied areas. Away Mode arms every camera and sets the sensitivity level to a moderate-to-high setting. However, you can also configure each of these modes to best suit your preferences.

You can also activate Do Not Disturb mode from within the app. This means your cameras will continue to register activity, but you will receive no push notifications. The app also informs you of potential service problems. When I swapped an Ethernet cord for a longer one, the app notified me that one camera had gone offline for two minutes.

More advanced settings include facial recognition with personalized alerts depending on who the camera sees. You will also receive fewer false alarms thanks to Swann’s True Detect system. The Swann 4K Thermal Sensing Security Camera uses thermal cameras to provide more reliable alerts instead of relying solely on motion.

Performance: High-quality footage

The Swann 4K Thermal Sensing Security Camera works great both indoors and out. The camera is built with durability and weather in mind and has an IP66 weather rating. It can stand up to most outdoor conditions without a problem, while the built-in night vision provides visibility up to 200 feet away as long as there is ambient light.

The technical details aren’t too shabby, either. With a 93-degree field of view, high-gain built-in microphone, and easy mounting options, the 4K Dome Security Camera is a solid addition to any home security system. The video footage quality also is fantastic, displaying the footage in nearly real time with minimal lag. You’re treated to clear details even when looking at the clips on a 1080p monitor. If there’s one reason to buy this camera, it’s because of the superb video quality.

Audio is also superb — it picked up sounds other cameras would not. In fact, it managed to pick up the sound of me typing from 30 feet away.

Software: Your basic functions

The Swann app gives you a excellent view of activity around your home and the ability to check the livestream of your camera. You can change the arming mode, check notifications, and play back activity alerts from throughout the day.

Beyond that, the functionality is rather bare-bones. Although you can integrate the Swann 4K Thermal Sensing Security Camera with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, you don’t do this through the app. Instead, you have to first download the Alexa Skill or set up the device within your Google Home app before either smart assistant will recognize the presence of the camera. After that, all you have to do is ask the assistant to stream the feed on your display.

Our take

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Swann 4K Thermal Sensing Security Camera is a durable, powerful security camera, but it leaves out a lot of features that have almost become standard. It lacks a siren and the ability to pan or tilt, for example. Both of these features would greatly increase the functionality of the camera. From the design of the camera, it almost seems like it should be able to move around, but the camera is in a fixed position. The wide field of view makes it useful for monitoring large areas at once, but you sometimes have to get creative with the mounting mechanism to achieve the angle you want.

This camera forgoes some of the bells and whistles in exchange for better performance than a lot of smart cameras. The 4K resolution, high-quality microphone, and the 200-foot night vision are hard to beat, as is the NVR and power-over-Ethernet functionality. For $150, the price point isn’t bad — but you need to combine more than one of these to gain the full benefits.

Is there a better alternative?

If you live in a small apartment, you don’t need a full NVR and camera setup. An all-in-one camera like the Canary Flex ($130) will provide you with push notifications, motion alerts, a siren, and much more. On the other hand, if you want to go completely high-end with your camera setup, the Arlo Pro 4 has every feature you could need, but carries a significantly higher price point. For something more affordable, the Eufy Indoor Cam 2K Pan and Tilt is an amazing indoor camera.

How long will it last?

The build of the camera screams durability. With proper care and installation, this camera should serve you for years to come. Outdoor cameras are more prone to damage just because of exposure to the elements, but even then, you should get multiple years of use. In the event that something does go wrong, Swann provides a 12-month warranty on all of its cameras.

Should you buy it?

Yes, the Swann 4K Thermal Sensing Security Camera excels at its primary job: Monitoring your home. If you live in a larger home and want to connect multiple cameras together and monitor them all in a single place, the NVR makes that as easy as connecting the Ethernet cords into the corresponding ports. Although that could be a bit cost-prohibitive to some users, the clarity of both audio and video provided by the Swann makes it one of the best options on the market.

Editors' Recommendations

Patrick Hearn
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Patrick Hearn writes about smart home technology like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, smart light bulbs, and more. If it's a…
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