Hanwha Techwin's Wisenet-SmartCam N1 is a feature-rich camera that's affordable and encased in a tried-and-tested design.
The Wisenet-SmartCam N1 from former Samsung subsidiary Hanwha Techwin is a plug-and-play indoor home security camera with smart features, smartphone connectivity over Wi-Fi, and only a few caveats. As is the case with nearly every intelligent home monitoring system on the market, the SmartCam N1’s issues are mostly tied with availability and subscriptions. What’s more, it’s priced competitively at $149.99 (plus it's $20 off for the next 48 hours) and sets a rather good bar in terms of value. It is worth noting that the SmartCam N1 version is currently only an option via Sam’s Club. That’s not expected to be a timed exclusive either so prospective buyers will need access to that store or pay a service fee to pick one up. Setting those things aside momentarily, the SmartCam N1 isn’t necessarily any less worthy a competitor in the security segment and is definitely worth a deeper look.
With regard to specs, the Wisenet-SmartCam N1 is a two-megapixel camera that’s software settable to record in 1920 x 1080, 1280 x 720, or 640 x 360 resolutions at a viewable length of 32-feet. The field of view is set horizontally at 112-degrees by a vertical range of 62-degrees for a diagonal field of view of 130-degrees. Smartphone software allows for 4x zoom and video is shot in HDR quality before being compressed via H.264 format and stored either in the cloud or via micro SD card. A 16GB card is included in the package and a 15-day free trial of the optional subscription is currently available for cloud storage and additional features. The camera is powered by USB Type-C cable and a proprietary USB adapter at 5V/ 2A while connectivity is enabled over dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth Low Energy. Face recognition, human detection, and both motion and sound detection are part of the package as well as both day and night modes, two-way voice communications with echo cancellation, mobile push alerts, and video timestamping.
Hardware and Design
SmartCam N1’s hardware is not at all rated for outdoor use but does feel solidly built with one or two exceptions we discovered during the installation process, which we’ll discuss momentarily. It’s a white, pill-shaped design encased in plastic surrounding a centrally-placed camera lens. A microphone is embedded along the black camera surround at the top and a speaker lines the bottom. Those are both built into the lip of that raised surround and remain out of sight unless viewed at just the right angle. LED status indicators are also embedded just below the lens while the USB cable for powering the N1 nestles deep inside a bottom-facing port after weaving cleanly through the mounting portion. The latter of those design decisions makes setting the camera up with wires out of sight and mind or at least cleanly tucked away much easier. A plastic bracket knob is situated at the back of the camera module for easier installation and repositioning. A reset button and micro SD slot line the leftmost edge.
From a design perspective, the N1 can be placed on a flat surface or mounted to a wall or ceiling rather easily. The appropriate anchors and screws are included to allow for that and a silicone flap at the front covers up that hardware to keep everything looking clean. As mentioned above, Hanwha Techwin has opted to make this particular device only available in a white-on-black coloration but there is a shiny silver line wrapped around the edge that adds some personality. Shape and proportions don't necessarily break any molds here but, overall, it has a very minimal aesthetic that should fit in well in almost any environment.
Setup and Installation
Getting the camera installed is easy and, for most consumers, won't likely take more than 5 minutes once a decision has been reached with regard to placement. To begin with, the bracket needs to be disconnected from the camera by untwisting the threaded bolt that holds the camera to the frame. Then the silicone mount cover needs to be removed, allowing the wall or ceiling to be marked for drilling. The manual provides easy-to-follow instructions with regard to the depth of the resulting holes and which size bit to use. The holes allow plastic drywall anchors to be inserted first, providing a secure fit. The camera is actually light enough that those don’t necessarily need to be used but it’s probably a good idea, especially if the camera is being mounted to the ceiling where the full weight will be pressing against the screw heads. Once the bracket is installed to the wall, all that’s left to do is thread through the USB Type-C power cable, re-attach the camera to the wall bracket, and set the position after plugging the camera in.
Once that’s complete, the Wisenet SmartCam+ application will walk users through connecting the camera to a network. That’s completed by connecting the phone to the SmartCam N1 via Bluetooth and then the camera itself to Wi-Fi following the app’s setup wizard and can be done in just a minute or two. In fact, setting up the required Samsung SmartCam account is probably the longest step after getting the camera mounted but the account is free and new accounts get a free 15-day trial of the associated subscription service. That subscription, meanwhile, is also required to unlock browser-access to camera feeds, recordings, and events. Moreover, it's required for any and all features beyond human detection, face recognition, or sound detection notifications, live feed on-demand via the applications, and two-way communications. That means it is required for sorting captured video via individual faces and gaining access to cloud storage, among other things.
Compounding on top of that, the subscription currently costs $4.99 per month - and is ordinarily $6.99 per month - to retain up to 30 days or 10GB of footage. That can be bumped up to 120 days or 100GB of footage for $24.99 per month - ordinarily $29.99. Although not at all expensive, the pricing will add up over time. That could be an issue for some users and is something to be aware of, even if most of the best features are not dependent on a subscription.
The performance of the camera is actually quite good in terms of getting and staying connected. Similarly, motion detection, human detection, and face recognition are fantastic and work seamlessly and instantaneously. That’s useful since any delay in notifying homeowners is a delay in possibly preventing a theft or other illicit activity from occurring. Similarly, the use of any of the three alarms available to users is near instant and seamless, although there are some features that seem a bit delayed in terms of the application itself, which will be discussed later on. We placed the camera near an entryway to catch activity to and from our test location and, suffice it to say, we ended up going through and fine-tuning a number of app settings just to stop receiving so many notifications. With that said, it didn’t once pick up on a pet or anything other than a human except in zones where we’d set up custom motion detection areas.
As shown in the images above, however, the camera hardware itself is great. Details are caught with clarity whether in night or day modes and that means that face capturing and human-specific detection work well under almost any circumstances as well. Images are stored to the built-in SD card unless a cloud subscription is purchased. The one issue we found during our test is that Google Assistant integration is far from perfect. In fact, despite numerous attempts to adjust various settings and find the source of the problem, that’s one feature we didn’t get to test. If caused by the latter, it will almost certainly be fixed in the near future since Assistant integration is among the top sales points for this camera.
Ordinarily, users would be able to ask Assistant via the command “Ok Google, talk to SmartCam,” for a rundown of the recognized faces that have visited or a daily briefing. In effect, the feature uses the built-in facial recognition to record and associated faces and names, learning over time with further guidance from the user in-app. With either of the commands, the system would provide a list of recognized people who visited and when. Presumably, that would include notes on unrecognized faces as well.
Setting aside the performance of this security camera, anything and everything is controlled via a smartphone application called “Wisenet SmartCam+.” A sign-in is required through the SmartCam service and an account can be picked up completely free of charge before setting up a name and password for the camera itself. That’s also how a Bluetooth connection is established for connecting the camera to Wi-Fi. The process takes around 5 minutes and, once accomplished, opens a world of functionality through a fairly straightforward interface. The homepage is a central hub for all things SmartCam, which is useful for those who have more than one camera attached. That's also where the entire system of cameras can be either ‘armed’, ‘disarmed’, or set to ‘manual’. The first two options are self-explanatory while the third lets users set each camera’s settings manually for a kind of set it and forget it mode - which we’ll cover momentarily. In the meantime, a ‘contacts’-like icon lets face recognition features be adjusted across the board, allowing individuals to be named, tracked, and merged to help the system learn and enable other features. The context menu, on the other hand, houses SmartCam cloud subscription settings and information, as well as info about the cameras and other similar options
Each of those is very intuitive, requiring no real explanation but more complex options become available once a camera is selected. Doing so effectively takes the user to “live” mode, with a pull-up menu for accessing various human, motion, or face recognition events throughout the stored timeframe (whether longer periods in the cloud or on the 16GB included memory card). A row of icons sits just above that. From left-to-right, the first option allows finer control over what’s stored where via either cloud or card. The second, a camera icon, lets users take a snapshot of whatever is playing on the camera at the time it’s pressed. The third option activates a calling protocol for two-way communication, with the green mic button activating the call while the speaker icon controls volume. The video camera icon is used to control the video quality, allowing users to save some space on the SD card or in-cloud if the camera has been placed in a position that doesn’t necessarily require a high-definition output. Low-Quality mode isn’t great but is still very clear at short distances, for example. The third option allows for a police siren, stereotypical alarm noise, or a dog barking to be played over the speakers on command.
In terms of the performance of the app, there are a couple of things left to be desired. For starters, there is an obvious time delay between speaking in the microphone menu and sound playing over the SmartCam N1’s speaker. That delay also translates to delay in the video, although as noted above the notifications for motion, human recognition, sound detection, or face recognition are nearly instant. So it isn’t clear where the delay is actually occurring but it seems to only be on the streaming side of things. That could also be fixed, presumably, in a future update. Setting those caveats aside, users can filter the view of previously recorded footage by recording type.
There are also a plethora of options available for fine-tuning everything from contrast and brightness to night and day modes and detection methods and events in the settings menu of each camera on the system, allowing for different cameras to be set up for different uses within the same security network. Custom drawable motion detection zones can be set up as well. What’s more, several of those can be set up for each camera so that a device set on a doorway and a couple of windows can be tuned to only send alerts and record if a motion is seen on those three possible entry points. Finally, schedules for arming the camera can be set too so that users don’t need to see a ton of alerts when they’re at home and the cameras integrate with any other of the company’s cameras or security offerings.
Hanwha Techwin brings quite a lot of functionality and plenty of features that would make the SmartCam N1 one of the best cameras available in a market where smart security cameras are abundant, if not for one or two minor issues. Having said that, none of those are necessarily a big deal and any of them could be solved with an update, with the possible exception of the subscription cost. However, that's not necessary to have a great experience with this camera either. Between the multitude of camera settings options, a variety of combinations for notifications and recording scenarios, and classicly easy to blend aesthetic, this is a genuinely solid offering from a company that hasn't slouched on previous devices either. That makes this device worthy of consideration in place of some much more expensive security cameras that are available to buy.