When we reviewed the Piper$195.99 at Dell from Icontrol Networks last summer, we were impressed with the camera’s image quality, ease of use, and the fact that it can control numerous Z-Wave home automation devices. The new Piper nv ($269) is also easy to use and pulls double duty as a Z-Wave controller, but it now delivers sharp night vision video and offers both iOS and Android apps. It boasts a higher resolution CMOS sensor as well, and lets you download clips to your photo gallery. But we were left wanting for its lack of Android support and night vision capabilities, as well as its inability to download recorded video. The Piper nv’s versatility and overall performance put it at the top of its class, making it our new Editors’ Choice for home surveillance cameras.
Design and Features
The Piper nv looks exactly like the original Piper with one exception: The camera measures 5.5 by 3.5 by 2 inches (HWD), and is supported by a silver-colored metal stand.This version sports a ring of infrared (IR) LEDs around the lens. It also comes with a snap-on mounting panel if you want to hang it on a wall. As with the earlier version, you can order the Piper nv with a black or white finish.
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The Piper is much more than a surveillance camera. It uses motion and sound detection to alert you of any activity while you’re away, tracks indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity, and issues local weather alerts. As if that weren’t enough, this multifaceted device also controls and interacts with various Z-Wave home automation devices, including smart switches and dimmers, door and window sensors, and range extenders, all of which are available from Piper and range in price from $40 to $60.
The original Piper had a 2-megapixel CMOS sensor, but the Piper nv uses a 3.4-megapixel sensor with 1,920-by-1,080 (full HD) video resolution. The front of the camera contains a fish-eye lens, a motion sensor, and a microphone for two-way audio communications. The top of the camera holds a very loud 105dB siren, while the back has a power jack and a battery compartment for the three included AA backup batteries. Inside the Piper is a Series 500 Z-Wave controller, 802.11b/g/n networking circuitry, an ARM processor, and sensors for temperature, light, sound, and humidity. The camera’s pan and tilt capabilities provide a wide 180-degree field of view, and the 10x digital zoom lets you get up close and personal.
Live video can be viewed on a smartphone or tablet using an iOS or Android app, but you can’t access the Piper nv using a Web browser. The app’s dashboard is the main control panel for the camera. Front and center is a security wheel that lets you switch between Stay (when someone is home), Away, and Vacation security modes, or you can disarm all security rules. When you change modes, the camera beeps (loudly) for a few seconds and a voice tells you that you’ve entered a new security mode. The left side of the screen shows indoor and outdoor temperature readings, and a status menu below the security wheel lists recent triggered events (motion or sound detection) and the status of any installed Z-Wave devices.
Over on the right are Settings, Events, and Recording icons. The Settings menu is where you go to enable or disable the siren, set the temperature display to Fahrenheit or Celsius, and enable the Pet at Home feature, which lets you set motion sensitivity to prevent small animals from triggering an event. Here you can also set up a Trusted Circle of contacts that will be notified when an event occurs, and adjust video settings to help preserve bandwidth.
The Events and Recording pages list all events and recordings that have triggered the camera, and show the time of day, date, and security mode (Stay, Away, Vacation). Pressing the play icon next to each event lets you view a 35-second video clip, which is stored in the Piper cloud. The cloud will store up to 1,000 clips (free of charge) and then will begin overwriting them when the limit is reached. If you click the arrow on the right the clip will be downloaded to your photo gallery.
At the bottom of the dashboard are tabs to view live video, control Z-Wave devices, set security rules, and view data collected by Piper’s sensors. You can set rules for each security mode for when motion and/or sound are detected and when the temperature reaches a certain threshold. Options include setting the camera to record video; being alerted by text, email, phone call, or push notification (you can check all if you prefer); notifying a member of your Trusted Circle; and sounding the siren.
The Control page lets you set up rules for your Z-Wave devices, and includes timing schedules, temperature thresholds, and lighting conditions. For example, you can have a lamp connected to a smart switch turn on when the Piper’s light sensor says it’s dark, or have your lights turn on and off according to a timed schedule. The Vitals tab brings up a colorful graph that displays indoor and outdoor temperatures, humidity, ambient light and sound, and motion data for the last 48 hours.
Last but not least, the Live Video tab is where you go to view live streaming video. You can view the stream in full screen mode from a fish-eye perspective, pinch the image to zoom in and out, and use finger swipes to engage the pan and tilt features. The bottom of the screen has a brightness slider, a night vision switch, a push-to-talk button, and a button that lists all connected Z-Wave devices. There’s also a cool quad-view button that partitions the screen into four windows for the same video feed. You can zoom, pan, and tilt within each window to view different areas of the room at the same time.