ProsUnique and attractive design; simple but brilliant privacy shutter; wide-angle lens; battery backup
ConsBuffering delays; no onboard storage; other components of the MyFox security suite are not as compelling
The smartphone made a lot of things possible, but perhaps the most compelling thing that it has allowed is the advent of an interface to just about everything in our lives, well beyond voice conversations, texts, e-mails, and the Internet. Smartphones have in essence spawned a world apart from the world wide web, where we can interact with all of the people in our lives as well as all of our devices. So it's not surprising that over the past few years, we've seen an explosion in new connected products, many of them focused on the Smart Home. We'll be reviewing one of those here, the MyFox Security Camera. While it's certainly not the only player in this large and growing market, it has some unique features that set it apart, as well as some unfulfilled promise as the ultimate security device. Our review will flesh out all the things MyFox has done right with this camera, as well as the areas where it still has potential to set itself apart.
We'd like to extend a special thank you to MyFox for providing this review sample.
Description and Features
First off, the MyFox camera doesn't have a particularly catchy name like some of its competitors (NestCam, ahem...). MyFox may want to take a hint here: give your next product a name, no matter how silly it sounds, and people will love it! The MyFox camera has a retail price of $179.00, and we know that a lot of folks will cry foul right away, but hold on a minute and let's look at that in perspective. Yes, the most popular "high-end" cameras go for $200, so MyFox is going to have to come really close to matching their functionality, but at the same time, there are any number of Chinese knock-offs going for between $100-$150, and we've tested a bunch of them... none of them come close to the MyFox. Perhaps that's because MyFox, which was founded in France, is keenly aware that a slick user interface, with proper grammar (in English!) and a well-designed website are big selling points to English-speaking consumers. Ironically, we were sometimes taken to MyFox's French-language website when we sought out information on the MyFox camera, so perhaps there's a bit of fine-tuning to do there, but otherwise, everything looks premium from the outset, which is not something that can be said for most cameras that sell for less than the MyFox.
The MyFox camera itself is extremely attractive, coming in at 1.7" wide and 3.5" in diameter. Yes, diameter, rather than depth or height, as it is indeed circular in shape. That alone sets it apart from the competition, which often end up looking a little too much like E.T, the extra terrestrial! Again, MyFox scores points here for thinking outside of the box in making a Smart Home product appealing right from the outset. So much about the user experience form Smart Home products will need to appeal to consumers' desire for attractive, easy-to-use, and fun devices. If the Smart Home industry is going to free itself from the confines of tech enthusiasts and enter the mainstream, where we find appliance manufacturers, it's going to have to work a lot more like a refrigerator than a computer peripheral. You plug it in, it does its job, and it generally looks good doing it....
But how about the actual features of the MyFox camera? Well, there are plenty, and in fact they might just put the MyFox camera above its direct competitors, but we'll say more on that on the next page. In short, MyFox has the following cutting-edge features:
- A motorized privacy shutter that guarantees you that the camera isn't recording you when you're home - this simple innovation gives users a whole lot of piece of mind, because having a camera lens watching over you, even when you know the camera is shut off, is just a little too "big brother" for a lot of people.
- If-This-Then-That (IFTTT) functionality, allowing you to connect the MyFox camera to various other devices in the home, as well as to your GPS-based location as determined by your smartphone. The most obvious "recipe", available on the MyFox site, is for the privacy shutter to close when you arrive home. Again, simple but brilliant!
- A 130˚ wide-angle lens, which provides a crystal-clear 1080p image in both daylight and darkness (via a night-vision mode), as well as motion sensing capability.
- Two-way communication, allowing you to speak and listen to people (or pets!) at home while on the go with your phone.
- A zoom mode that allows a true 4x optical zoom (not digital!), meaning you can zero in on something in an image with enhanced clarity, just like you would with a point-and-shoot camera (and notably not with a smartphone).
- One-hour battery backup.
You also have the option of purchasing two recording plans, one for 24 hours at $4.99/month and one for 7 days at $9.99 a month, with download capability and no contracts required. Of course, you have live streaming always available at no cost, but for security purposes, that's not quite enough, hence the optional plans for consumers looking for a true security device (using the MyFox camera as a baby or pet monitor works just fine out of the box).
As we mentioned, the smartphone app is both attractive and easy to use, and we've provided a screenshot here showing what it looks like in Privacy Mode. Clearly, nothing's visible, but any "owners" on the account can turn Privacy Mode off, so it's not tied to one smartphone, a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to making Smart Home devices actually work for a family, rather than one techie member of a family.
Now, there is one more feature that deserves attention, as it in theory makes the MyFox camera so much more powerful than all of its competitors. And that is its integration with the full MyFox security suite. That includes door sensors, keyfobs, a siren, and a wireless hub, which together constitute an entire home security system. We say that this integration could in theory be MyFox's winning feature because in practice, we had a lot of trouble getting all of the suite's advertised features to work. For that reason, we're not reviewing the full suite here, as we can't whole-heartedly recommend it in its current state. The biggest disappointment, as it relates to the MyFox camera, is that entering your home with a MyFox keyfob in your pocket should disarm the alarm and lower the privacy shutter on the camera, via the "auto-recognition" feature, as MyFox calls it. But we found that it was incredibly unreliable, more often than not failing to shut off the alarm. This system error also lead the alarm to sound when we entered the home through the front door with the keyfob in our hand.
Clearly, MyFox has more work to do on its alarm suite, but the MyFox camera works just fine as a standalone product, and that's why were reviewing it here. It stands on its own merits, going toe-to-toe with the best security cameras out there, while clearly trumping all the cheaper me-too devices that have flooded the market over the past few years in great number.