Pros

Great video and audio quality; software makes reviewing video fun; unique daily timelapse; free recording

Cons

Limited battery life; occasional wireless drop outs; slight lag in live feed; server issues during registration

Star Rating

The Circle

Introduction

We've tested a number of wireless cameras over the past few years, some of which you can find reviewed on our site, others which simply didn't merit a full review. The truth is that it's easy to market a wireless security camera full of neat-sounding features, but it's harder to make it actually work. That's what we've found recently with several security cameras marketed by California-based startups backed by significant amounts of venture capital. Of course, we're not going to name names here, because that's not done in the mainstream tech press (oh, did we just name names?), but there are a lot of heavily-promoted products that we wouldn't recommend to anyone. That's despite the surprisingly-positive coverage major tech sites give these clearly half-baked products.

So when we saw that Logitech released a new security camera in the Fall of 2016 to very little fanfare, but with some interesting specs, we reached out to our contact there. What had Logitech brought to this oversatured market, we asked, and why were the few published reviews at big tech sites so darn negative? Logitech has been around long enough "to know when to hold 'em, and when to fold 'em," as Kenny Rogers once said. We just couldn't believe that it would throw its name behind a mediocre product, especially given that it has the engineering talent to pretty much flatten any startup out there....

Read on to find out if the Logi Circle Cam is a cut above the rest, or just another disposable entry in the home security cam arena.

We'd like to extend a special thank you to Logitech for providing a sample of the Logi Circle Wireless Camera for review.

Description and Features

First things first, what's up with the name? Is this a Logitech product, or is there a new company called Logi? Well, the box tells us that this is "logi by Logitech." And our gut tells us that Logitech was a little worried about launching its Smart Home products without a short, catchy name like Echo, or Nest, or August, or Wink, or Canary, or Arlo, or Ring. We agree the name Logitech is a little too, well, "techie" to make it stand out in the Smart Home market, so hopefully Logi will fair well in that regard, although a new and completely different sub-brand name might have worked even better.

All right, with that out of the way, we can get into specifics regarding the Circle Cam. In the box, you'll find a  number of parts, the most obvious being the camera itself. But due to the additional functionality of this camera, which we'll discuss in a moment, it has a few extra parts you might not find in other products. First you have a heavy disk that serves as the power ring, which interfaces with the camera via two metallic bands that contact two tiny prongs on the bottom of the camera. It's permanently attached to a 10-foot long, extra-thick power cable. This cable is detachable at the other end, where it plugs into the AC power adapter via a standard USB Type-A connector. We're not sure if Logitech chose a thick, flat power cable to carry more current, or to add a little style, or to prevent tangling, but we will say it's a bit harder to route due to its resistance to bending. Additionally, we wish Logitech has offset the prongs to one end of the adapter or the other. As it is, it's very likely that the adapter will interfere with other power adapters plugged into adjacent outlets.

parts

The last component is a simple plastic disc that serves as the foot of the camera when sitting on a flat surface, but can also be wall-mounted using included mounting hardware (screws and plastic anchors). The three mounting components fit together seamlessly using strong magnets; the camera sticks to its charging disc, which likewise sticks very solidly to the mounting disc. This is a pretty slick system compared to the awkward plastic clips we've seen on cameras from other brands, which are susceptible to snapping with extended use. Because of the large magnets embedded in each part, this camera and mount has significant weight to it, which for the most part is innocuous enough, although some users may take issue with it during mounting, or when it comes crashing down when the dog gets to it.

The Logi Circle uses a 135-degree wide-angle lens, which means it offers a lot of coverage despite the lack of pan-and-tilt functionality that cheaper wireless IP cameras offer. Our guess is that the cost of a proper wide-angle lens is actually more than the pan-and-tilt mechanism, which is why you see the two different approaches being used. For just about any user, pan-and-tilt is a gimmick with little benefit, although if you need wider than 180-degree coverage (which can only be achieved by setting a pan-and-tilt to rove side-to-side), a pan-and-tilt model is your only option. Overall, we definitely like the wide-angle approach. The Logi Circle can be manually tilted up and down from about 15 degrees beyond vertical to 5 degrees below horizontal. The negative tilt is great for monitoring cribs from above, for example, whereas the vertical position makes sense if you're attaching the Circle to the wall, in which case vertical postion translates to horizontal.

Circle Safe

Now, let's get down to price, or more accurately pricing. When it comes to security cameras, we think most of the startup camera makers are hoping to recoup losses they may accrue through sales of their cameras with subscription fees. This includes startups that are startups no more, like Google-owned Nest. Google didn't pay over $3.2 billion for Nest because it thought it could make that up on selling $200 cameras. It hoped to hit up users with fees (and sell a lot of personal data). And from what we gather, most users of Nest as well as competing "security" cameras are likely paying those fees, because without recordings these aren't much good as "security" cameras. Said another way, a $200 Nest Cam is worthless as a security camera unless you pay a $5-$15 monthly fee. That makes these $200 cameras sound more like rental products to us, ones you rent at a rate of around $120 a year on average after you've purchased them.

So how does the Circle change all that? Somehow, someone in Logitech's marketing division was able to convince the bean counters that a $200 security camera that actually did what it was marketed to do was a viable concept. Imagine that! The Logi Circle is therefore a breath of fresh air, providing legitimately-free recordings of all "events" (i.e., motion) over the past 24 hours, presumably for the life of the product. What's even better, the smartphone (and PC) applications allow you to access these recordings very easily, with tags every time the camera detects motion, so you can jump right to the good stuff (or the bad stuff, as the case may be). Of course, there are subscription plans available, as detailed in the chart above, but we think they are very reasonable, costing 1/3 to 1/4 of what competitors are charging. Admittedly, these aren't 24/7 recorings (rather, they only catalog times of motion), but they are probably all you need. The one caveat is that the device won't keep a record of sounds where there is no motion, which could be a problem for something like footsteps or glass shattering off camera, or a baby crying without moving.

In addition to saving recordings longer (for an impressive 31 days!), the premium plan offers person detection, tailored alerts, and custom timelapse videos. Again, we commend Logitech for choosing the "truth in advertising" approach, marketing a product that provides all the basic services without requiring an additional expenditure, while offering enhanced services for an additional cost.

The Circle has a number of notable featuers that we haven't touched upon yet, including its built-in battery, its advanced night vision, and its dual-band 802.11n networking. We'll discuss all of these features on the next page, in the context of real-world performance. But before we get there, we need to discuss one feature the Circle does not have: Smart Home integration. This has been raised as a dire concern in other professional reviews, but in our opinion, having tested a number of security cameras that integrate with our Wink/Echo-based Smart Home network, this is simply misguided criticism. The only functionality a camera can add to a Smart Home setup is motion-based triggering, like lights turning on or an alarm sounding. But for 99.9% of users of the Circle, these features just wouldn't be utilized. Unlike some of its competitors that falsely market their cameras as home security solutions (which of course would require actual sirens and professional monitoring), Logitech doesn't claim the Circle will do things it cannot. Simply put, we view this as a pro, not a con.

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