Smart Home Reviews

Yi Home Camera Review: The Ultimate Wireless Security Camera?

The Yi Home Camera has been on the market for a while now. However, it’s been limited to the Chinese version which is designed for the Chinese market. With Yi’s presence rapidly growing outside of its homeland, the company has begun to release “International” versions of some of its products, featuring English UIs and support.

The Yi Home Camera is the first in it’s home security range. Packing a 720p sensor, wifi connectivity, night vision and app support, is this $50 home security camera a winner? Read on to find out!

I want to say thanks to GeekBuying for sending me a sample to review. Support Home Theatre Life and purchase the Yi Home Camera from them using the button below. Use coupon “SHHPEOXT” to get $7 off!

Check Price at GeekBuying

Alternatively, it’s also available from Amazon.

In This Review

What’s in the Box?

Yi Home Camera Inside The Box

Inside the box, you’ll get:

  • Yi Home Camera
  • Micro USB cable
  • USB Power Supply
  • Instruction Manual

Yi Home Camera Review: Design

Yi Home Camera 4

The Yi Home Camera follows the company’s modern design aesthetic. Using rounded edges and a nice matte texture, the camera blends in well with modern surrounds. I’ve opted for the black model but it’s also available in white for those that prefer a lighter color scheme.

The stand can be tilted, allowing you to aim the camera exactly where you need it.

All the smarts however are located in the top of the unit. This houses the camera itself, the unit’s micro USB port (for power) and it’s microSD card slot (for storage).

Yi Home Camera Micro SD Slot

Yi Home Camera Review: Using It

Using the Yi Home Camera is incredibly simple. After downloading the Yi Home app (available on Android and iOS) and creating a Yi account, just tap the “+” button to add a camera. The app will guide you through the rest of the steps like connecting the camera up to your wifi network. In just a couple of minutes, you’ll be able to monitor your Yi Home Camera from your smartphone wherever you have an internet connection.

The app is the only way to control the camera but offers everything you need. There’s dedicated sections for viewing your cameras, alerts, albums or your Yi profile.

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When monitoring your Yi Home Camera via the app, there’s plenty of functions available, including capturing video or images, scrolling through recorded footage or even speaking through the camera’s built-in speaker. You can even monitor the camera remotely without any configuration. It’s so incredibly simple to set up.

There’s also comprehensive per-camera settings, allowing you to customise a surprising amount on the camera. From being able to deactivate the status LED (for stealthy installations) to setting custom alert regions and schedules, it’s all here. I really liked the fact that I could specify an alert region, as it let me focus on “at risk” areas and avoid false alerts.

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Recording is handled via the microSD card. The camera can be configured to record continuously on a loop or only when motion is detected. I found that motion recording was usually sufficient though high risk areas will probably want continuous recording.

Speaking of alerts, the Yi Home Camera uses push notifications on your smartphone to alert you if the camera detects any motion. When this occurs, a 6 second clip is uploaded to Yi’s servers, allowing you to see what’s triggered the camera. This can be disabled but it’s incredibly handy, allowing you to see if there’s anything to be worried about at a glance.

That said, I did find it frustrating that there’s a slight delay of a few seconds between getting an alert and being able to view the 6 second sample. It’s not a massive issue but something to be aware of.

Yi Home Camera Review: Image Quality

A security camera is useless if it’s image quality isn’t up to snuff. Thankfully, the Yi Home Camera’s 720p sensor offers a reasonable resolution whilst it’s 111° wide angle lens allows you to capture an entire room in the frame.

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Though it’s not particularly high resolution (the company does make a 1080p version that’s considerably more expensive), I found 720p was sufficient. I found that I rarely had issues identifying people from the full resolution images. Obviously, a higher resolution would be better but you need to remember that the Yi Home Camera is under $50.

Night vision is about the same, offering about 3-4m of visibility thanks to the inbuilt IR LEDs. However, like most night vision, it’s not as clear due to the lack of light.

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Verdict

Yi Home Camera 2

The Yi Home Camera is an excellent device for home security. Whether you’re wanting to keep an eye on your kids or guard your house against intruders, the Yi Home Camera works well and is a steal given its budget price tag – particularly given that competitors such as DLink offer similar features at significantly higher price points.

Pros

  • Solid security camera for the price
  • Excellent mobile app
  • Night vision and Wireless Connectivity

Cons

  • 720p resolution may be too low for some
  • No Windows or web-based UI for viewing cameras
  • Some people may have concerns with China-based servers

Getting One

The Yi Home Camera is available from GeekBuying and Amazon.

Use coupon “SHHPEOXT” to get $7 off at GeekBuying.

Check Price at GeekBuying

Mipow Playbulb Candle Review: A Smart Candle, Seriously

The Mipow Playbulb Candle is a unique bit of smart LED lighting. Adding Bluetooth to the humble LED candle, Mipow gadget allows you to set the right ambience from your smartphone.

But is this gadget a must-have or just a gimmick? Read my Mpow Playbulb Candle review to find out!

I want to say thanks to GearBest for sending me a sample to review.

Check Price at GearBest

What’s In The Box?

Mipow-Playbulb-Candle-Review-Inside-The-Box

Inside the box, you’ll get:

  • Mipow Playbulb Candle
  • 3 Scent Chips
  • Instruction Manual

I was a little disappointed that no batteries were included so make sure you have some AAs handy.

Mipow Playbulb Candle Review: Design

There’s not to say about the Mipow Playbulb Candle design except that it looks like a candle.

The unit is  symmetrical, tapering at the top and bottom. The whole thing is made out of white plastic: matte for the base and translucent for the body.

Mipow-Playbulb-Candle-Review-Front

Inside the unit is the LED flame, the scent chip holder, wind sensor and power switch.

Mipow-Playbulb-Candle-Review-ButtonThe bottom of the unit unscrews to reveal the battery compartment for 3 AA batteries. The base also doubles as a tealight candle if you want to light things up old school.Mipow-Playbulb-Candle-Review-02

Mipow Playbulb Candle Review: Using It

A flick of the power switch immediately brings the candle to life with a pleasing glow after a second.

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The candle is controlled via the Playbulb X app (iOS/Android) which allows you to set the candle to one of the million supported colors. A host of other modes are also available, including rainbow and pulsing.

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You can even turn the candle on and off on a schedule, though it’s a little simplistic.

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For more info on the app, check out my Mipow LED Smart bulb review.

The candles light outputs matches a tealight candle pretty well. It’s perfect for ambience though don’t expect it to replace your lamp.

Mipow-Playbulb-Candle-Review-04Unlike the bulb, the candle can even be blown out like  a real candle. You can even set it up to turn off all your Mipow lights at the same time.

If you flip the Playbulb over, you can use the base to hold a normal tealight candle too. It’s a useful inclusion but not as fun as a smart candle (wow, never thought I’d write that!).

The scent chip is a nice addition but will likely be inconsequential to most. Each color seems to have a different scent. They’re subtle but noticeable. I wasn’t able to find where you buy replacements from though.

Mipow-Playbulb-Candle-Review-05Should You Get It?

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I really like the Mipow Playbulb Candle. A lot of people will argue a smart candle is ridiculous but I personally loved being able to set the right atmosphere from my phone. Couple it with the Mipow Smart LED bulb and a Logitech Smart Control and you can get that cinema ambience all from your smartphone.

It’s definitely a niche product, but if you’re wanting to add some smart lighting, the Mipow Playbulb Candle is an appealing option.

Getting One

You can buy the Mipow Playbulb Candle from GearBest for around $19.99 for a single candle up to $49.99 for a pack of 3.

Check Price at GearBest

Alternatively, it’s available from AmazonBanggood or AliExpress.

Mipow LED Smart Bulb Review: $14 Bluetooth-Controlled Light Bulb

The Mipow LED Smart bulb is one of a growing number of smart appliances. Featuring an inbuilt Bluetooth radio, RGB LEDS and an E27 screw, is the Mipow LED bulb a must have accessory or a useless gadget? Read our Mipow LED Smart bulb review to find out.

I want to say thanks to GearBest for sending me a sample to review.

Check Price at GearBest

What’s In The Box?

Mipower-Smart-LED-Bulb-Review-Inside-The-Box

There’s really not much to say about inclusions as I wouldn’t expect too much to be packaged up with a light bulb.

Inside the box, you’ll get:

  • 1x Mipow LED Smart Bulb
  • 1x English instruction manual.

Mipow LED Smart Bulb Review: Design

For a change, I really can’t say much about the product’s design. It looks light a slightly more modern light bulb.

Larger than a standard light bulb, the Mipow bulb is cylindrical. Most of the bulb is made of metal, with a white translucent cap to diffuse the RGB LEDS and lead to more uniform color distribution.

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It looks nice and would fit well in most modern light fittings that favour exposed bulbs.

However, the light beam is slightly more directional than a traditional bulb due to its design.

The bulb is only available as an E27 screw so you’ll need to make sure your lamp or light fitting supports it or get pick up an appropriate adapter.

Speaking of fitting, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got enough clearance to fit the bulb in. I didn’t have any issues but some smaller lamps may not have enough room to accomodate the smart bulb’s slightly larger frame.

Mipow LED Smart Bulb Review: Using It

Using it is dead simple. Just screw the bulb into your  light and turn it on. The bulb will automatically switch on its Bluetooth radio, ready to connect with the Playbulb X app on your smartphone (Available on Android and iOS).

The bulb is set to white initially but stays on the last color next time you turn it on thanks to its inbuilt memory.

The light’s 5W of power is distributed between 10 warm white LEDs and 4 RGB LEDs, leading to much more light when used “traditionally”, rather than colored. The white light is good enough for normal use (~280 lumens). When colored, it’s works well for changing the look of a room. I got some pretty cool effects using it to light up the back wall of my home theatre.

Mipower-Smart-LED-Bulb-Review-Colors-01

The light bulb is controlled entirely from the app. Those looking for support for web services such as IFTTT will be disappointed, though the unit is a fraction of the cost of bulbs that support web services.

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After selecting a specific light (or a group of lights you’ve created, up to 5), you’ll get a color wheel that lets you set the bulb’s color to any of the supported 16 million colors.

There’s also presets for red, green, blue and white, a slider for setting the brightness, from max to completely off and a toggle that changes the bulb’s color when you shake your smartphone.

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The app generally works well but lacks a little polish. The light bulb responds surprisingly quickly and everything is pretty intuitive. I did experience the occasionally oddity such as the color change in Candle mode not working or rarely the app didn’t connect to the bulb on the first tap but these are minor issues.

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There’s also a couple of lighting effects to spice things up: pulse, rainbow, different rainbow (!?) and candle. They all look pretty cool, though the flicker effect in candle mode is too subtle unless you’re in complete darkness.

Speaking of flicker, there really wasn’t any noticeable during testing. The light from the Mipow Smart LED bulb remains consistant.

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You can schedule the bulbs to turn on and off at a certain times but complex schedules aren’t supported, like different on/off times on the weekend.

If you’ve got Mipow’s other products (such as the Mipow Playbulb candle), there’s some pretty cool integration such as color sync and blowing out the candle can actually turn off every other item in the group.

Should You Get One?

Mipower-Smart-LED-Bulb-Review-02

The smart lighting movement is growing rapidly and the Mipow LED Smart Bulb is a great way of dipping your toes in without breaking the bank at a measly $14.

Though it lacks more advanced features such as IFTTT integration, it’s also a fraction of the price of more advanced alternatives such as Philips’ Hue range.

If you’re wanting to play around with LED smart bulbs, you can’t go wrong with the Mipow LED Smart Bulb.

Getting One

The is available from GearBest for under $15.

Check Price at GearBest