If you believe tech giants Apple, Google, and Amazon, the smart home of the future will contain myriad gadgets and gizmos designed to automate and simplify your life. Your home will know when you’re there and when you’re away, and when you’re asleep and when you’re awake – responding accordingly with sensors, lights, cameras, and more. But in order for this to all work seamlessly, users need centralized control over all the tech employed in their smart homes. For iPhone owners, this comes in the form of Apple HomeKit, which is what makes D-Link’s $200 Omna 180 Cam HD so interesting: It is the first smart camera with HomeKit integration to hit the market.
If you’re an Android user, you can basically stop reading right here. The Omna 180 is designed specifically, and exclusively, for HomeKit and won’t function without it. For iPhone users, however, there is finally a smart camera on the market that can integrate with other HomeKit-enabled devices. But those who have been waiting for the perfect HomeKit security solution may have to wait a while longer.
Design and features
The Omna 180 has a very unique look. Perhaps in homage to the Mac Pro, it seemingly borrows design cues from a waste bin, with a tall cylindrical body that’s split by a line near the top that gives it the appearance of having a lid. Really, though, we rather like how it looks. It is a bit larger than some competing cameras, like the Canary Flex, but not so much so that you couldn’t find a spot for it where it wouldn’t draw too much attention. Just know that you’ll need a flat surface to set it on, as it doesn’t have any options for wall or ceiling mounting.
At the rear of the camera is a Mini USB port used to power it, while a MicroSD card slot is found underneath the base. There is no power switch – plug it in and it’s on. There is also no battery, nor is the body environmentally sealed, as the camera is designed for indoor use only. This limits its usefulness compared to some non-HomeKit competitors that can be used indoor or out, but this probably isn’t a huge issue for many users.
Beyond HomeKit support, one of the Omna 180’s key features is its wide, 180-degree lens. Placed with its back against a wall, the camera can literally capture an entire room. We see this generally as a good thing, but such a wide-angle lens does come with a strong fisheye effect and distorts objects that are close to the camera. Still, it makes covering a large area very easy.
The beauty of HomeKit is its ease of use.
Video is recorded in Full HD 1080p resolution, which is good for this type of camera. Those pixels are spread out across that vast field of view, however, which means there isn’t as much detail per degree as in cameras with a narrower lens. If you don’t need to monitor a 180-degree swath of space, there are other cameras that will produce higher quality results.
Night vision and motion detection both worked well in our testing. Motion detection works across the entire frame and you can even select the specific areas in which you want it to be active. For example, if your front door and your living room are both in the frame, you can activate motion detection in just the sectors that cover the front door. This will automatically record anyone who comes and goes without saving gigabytes of pointless footage of you watching reruns of The Simpsons in the nearby sofa. You can also opt to receive notifications whenever the camera detects motion.
For full control, motion detection and video recording can both be toggled on and off manually within the Omna app. However, this exists in absence of any sort of rules-based activation (which we discuss in detail in the next section). If you do leave motion detection on, it can lead to a mess of short video files that the Omna app does a poor job of managing. You’ll have to hunt and pick through individual files that are labeled only with a date. There’s no way to simply scrub through multiple clips at once, even if they were recorded back-to-back, to easily locate the moment you want.
Media is saved locally to a MicroSD card, with support for SDXC cards up to 128GB. It is a feature we are pleased to see, but local storage on the Omna 180 isn’t so much of a bonus as it is a requirement, since D-Link currently offers no cloud backup plan. We have faulted other smart cameras for only offering cloud-based storage, but the Omna 180 makes the opposite mistake. While many users will undoubtedly appreciate not having to purchase a cloud plan, those looking for the most secure solution will be left wanting. If a thief swipes the Omna 180 along with your laptop and stash of precious gems, you’ll have no video evidence of who committed the crime.
Working with HomeKit
The beauty of HomeKit is its ease of use. The Omna 180 is simple to set up, and if you’ve already gone through the process of adding other devices to HomeKit, it will feel very familiar. You simply scan the code on the back of the camera with your phone and the Omna app walks you through the steps of adding it to HomeKit as an “accessory,” automatically connecting it to your local Wi-Fi network. Once complete, both the camera’s motion sensor and a live video feed will show up in the Apple Home app along with all of your other HomeKit devices. You’ll still need D-Link’s dedicated app to change camera settings, as those are not accessible through the Home app.
With a 180-degree lens, the camera can literally capture an entire room.
We have to give credit to D-Link for being among the first manufacturers to take a stab at making a HomeKit compatible camera, but there are some pretty big limitations in the platform right now. One of the most intriguing aspects of HomeKit is the ability to connect all of your smart home devices through automation. For example, if the Omna 180 detects motion, it can turn on a smart light.
In general, HomeKit brings a lot to the table for automation, giving users the ability to trigger most devices based on their location, time of day, or when another device does something. However, it currently lacks some very basic options common to standalone smart cameras. Want to turn on video recording only when you’re away from home? Can’t do it. Want to turn on motion detection only at night? Again, can’t do it. HomeKit treats sensors, like motion detectors, as “always on” devices that can’t be toggled by your location, a schedule, or other rules. Thus, if you don’t want your Omna 180 to be monitoring you while you’re home, you will need to manually deactivate motion detection and/or video recording within the Omna app, and then remember to reactivate it when you leave.
Furthermore, while live view and motion alerts are available within the Apple Home app, memory card access is not. If you want to play back any previously recorded clips, you’ll need to jump back over to the Omna app. At this time, there is also no way to save or share video clips directly from the memory card. If the Omna 180 catches your cat doing something Facebook-worthy, you’ll need to plug the card into your computer to transfer the file.
Oh, and if this is your first venture into the world of HomeKit, make sure you have an Apple TV as one is required as a hub. While older versions of Apple TV will work with the Omna 180 with limited functionality, only the latest fourth-generation model allows for automation. It’s also required for live streaming when away from home.
D-Link offers a one-year limited warranty along with 30 days of 24/7 basic installation support.Our Take
It’s difficult to review a HomeKit accessory without also reviewing HomeKit itself. As a preview of the smart homes of the future, the platform shows a lot of promise. At the moment, it’s bogged down by limitations that prevent smart cameras from performing up to par. As for the Omna 180, it has a lot to like, but can’t quite realize its full potential. Over Wi-Fi, the live-stream loads instantly with nearly imperceptible lag. Video is recorded in Full HD resolution, two-way audio works great, and the ability to customize zones for motion detection is a nice touch. With better automation options and cloud storage it would easily be among the best smart cameras on the market.
The DT Accessory Pack
Is there a better alternative?
There are two ways to look at this question. If you really want to build your smart home around Apple HomeKit, then the Omna 180 is really the only choice – but others are hot on its heels, not to mention competing products on other home automation platforms. For a general home monitoring camera, the Canary Flex is also $200, offers better automation, and has optional cloud backup (but lacks local storage).
How long will it last?
This is somewhat difficult to tell. The camera is well made, and it is our hope that D-Link (and Apple) will continue to build in new features via software updates. This could conceivably keep the Omna 180 relevant for some time to come. But the camera is a first of its kind, and that’s not always a good thing.
Should you buy it?
If you’re an iOS user and want to connect everything in your smart home through HomeKit right now, then yes — just know that it comes with the usual growing pains of being an early adopter. If you can hold off, we recommend doing so. At $200, the Omna 180 falls a little short of what we were expecting, but it’s still a strong option. We love many things about it, but it’s not quite there yet. Ironically, the camera’s headline feature – HomeKit support – is the source of its biggest limitations. Hopefully, we’ll see more automation upgrades introduced to HomeKit in the future, which should make the Omna 180 a much more compelling buy, at least for Apple users.