There's a familiarity in Blink's marketing campaign for the XT2 that spans generations of tech products. It's cheaper, faster, wireless, and has double the battery life. While these are "boring" bullet points this day in age, they're important points to a product whose entire purpose is to not only monitor your premises 24/7 but to also do it wirelessly and on 2 AA batteries without having to change them for 2 years.
At 25% cheaper than the first-generation Blink cameras, the Blink XT2 is less than half the price of Nest's Outdoor Cam yet it doesn't require any kind of subscription for an entire year's worth of video storage. Our 2-camera review unit retails for $179, but we've seen it as low as $99 as of this review.
But does the cheaper cost and wireless nature make this an ultimately worse experience than a comparable system from a company like Google Nest? Let's start with what's in the box.
An Easy Setup
Our 2-camera review unit was a standard retail box that contained the camera, camera mount, 2 screws for the mount, 2 AA Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries, stickers, and an installation guide.
Setup is as simple as you would hope. Download the Blink app and create an account. Unpack the sync module and scan the QR code on the back. Plug it in and wait for the green light. Unpack your first camera, drop the batteries in, scan the QR code, and then go mount it where you want.
It's really as simple as it gets, and there's really nothing to configure out of the box just to get it working.
Now for the annoying part: the cover design. I strongly dislike the cover design. There aren't many times when I would use the word hate to describe a product, but that cover really needs a new design. It's incredibly difficult to pull off without feeling like I'm breaking the thing, and it doesn't ever feel like it fits snuggly back on the unit either.
After having used the Blink XT2 for several weeks at the end of summer, including a slew of torrential downpours and windy Summer storms, I'm confident the product design adequately protects the precious electronics inside. I just wish it weren't such a pain to open. It's also IP65 rated for water and dust resistance, so unless you're taking it for a swim or the cover isn't all the way on, there's little worry that the camera won't last in any outdoor condition.
Thankfully, Blink rates the battery life at a whopping 2 years with the included AA batteries, but they also didn't pack in Dollar Store brand batteries either, so your mileage may vary depending on the brand you replace them with.
While it's wireless and also runs on 2 AA batteries, the Blink XT2 can record an estimated 80,000-seconds of video on just those two batteries. That's double the rated 40,000-seconds from the original Blinks. Unlike Nest, however, there's no constant recording feature, so you'll be relying solely on the motion detection feature in most cases.
The video feed can be viewed live at any time, and there's even an option to always record live viewings for later storage, meaning if you're feeling rather paranoid (or if something fishy is actually happening), you can leave the live feed open and have it record everything that's seen.
Clips for motion detection record for 5-seconds by default but can be extended to 60-seconds if you so desire.
Wireless Has Its Negatives (And Positives, too)
Be warned, though, that the decision to go wireless means Blink has to have some way of extending battery life. Those methods can result in a lower quality overall experience, when compared to a wired camera, depending on where you place the cameras. These cameras connect via both WiFi and to the Hub, which gives a range of options and helps consumers find the best network setup for their configuration.
There are no options for increased WiFi range at the expense of battery life, though, and it's clear that some consumers will simply be unable to use the XT2 the way they want if the units are too far away from a good connection. There's nothing Blink can do about poor WiFi reception outdoors, especially with brick or block homes when the router is inside, but the hub could help alleviate issues by placing it outdoors or close to a window facing the cameras.
The biggest issue with battery life savings isn't the WiFi range though, it's the 10-second retrigger time. This means that the camera waits 10 seconds between each recording to check for motion again, leaving, at minimum, a 10-second window for a crook to sneak past your cameras.
There's a minute possibility that someone could falsely trigger the camera's motion detection by throwing something and then passing by in this window, but there are more than enough variables to prevent this from happening. Longer recording times would make estimating the retrigger window virtually impossible, and multiple cameras would help cut down on dead zones as well. It's a worry, for sure, but not likely a reality.
The video quality is plenty high, and at 1080p resolution with a maximum of 30 frames-per-second you won't have to worry about blurry or low-quality footage. An infrared light emitter just below the camera means you can see perfectly in the dark, even all the way across your yard, and the 110-degree angle is plenty wide to see all around the unit. That's 20-degrees narrower than Nest's 130-degree angle lens, but it likely won't have much effect in most circumstances and ultimately produces a less distorted image.
You can even zoom into the video within the app to get a closer look but, as it's a digital zoom, won't actually enhance the image outside of just making it bigger.
Granular Motion Detection
Motion detection has been enhanced significantly over the first generation camera. By default, users can enable up to 25 separate detection zones, represented by a grid placed over the camera's footage. Advanced mode breaks each of these 25 zones down into 12 additional, smaller zones that enable far more granular motion-detection capabilities than before.
That's a total of 300 possible detection zones that can be configured, which is some serious granular control over motion detection.
I never had any issues with motion detection in my testing and rarely had a false positive because of where I placed my cameras and how I configured the detection zones.
Clips are saved in the cloud and are stored up to one full year without any kind of subscription fee. This means that the Blink XT2 isn't just a less expensive camera up-front; it's also the most cost-effective camera to own in the long-term. Clips are 5-seconds long by default and hundreds of them can be stored automatically in Amazon's massive cloud, all accessible via the Blink app.
Clips are set to auto-delete after 14-days but can be retained for 3/6/14/30 days, as well as a full year if desired. Clips can also be downloaded for long-term storage on your own drives at home, and can even be shared from directly in the app so you don't have to deal with file sharing.
Motion detection notifications are delivered via the app only, so no options for additional notification via SMS, call, or email. A bonus weather notification can be delivered when the camera gets too hot or too cold, helping extend the longevity of the device
One of my two cameras is sitting in the direct sun for half the day and never had any issues with overheating, despite the Summer heat and strong sunlight.
One of the coolest features of the camera is the two-way audio, which both allows you to hear what's happening around the camera and talk through the speaker on the camera via the app. A blue push-to-talk button in the live feed of each camera provides a quick, simple way to use this feature. The speaker on the cameras is a little too quiet though, and although the maximum volume can be heard outdoors, it's not particularly loud and you'll need to enunciate loudly when speaking through it.
The Smart Home Experience
When it comes to arming and tying into the rest of your smart home devices, the Blink XT2 offers most of the functionality you would expect. There are direct tie-ins to Amazon's Alexa virtual assistant and all the products that revolve around Alexa integration. There's even an Alexa skill that will show video from the camera on an Echo Show screen, which can be completely voice-activated and doesn't need app interaction.
Native IFTTT support means greater compatibility with basically any smart home gadget, and in my review, I tied the arming and disarming mechanism to my Nest Secure alarm system. Any time I armed the system, motion detection was activated on my Blink XT2 cameras. Disarming the system performed a disarm on movement detection for the cameras, as well. You can find all the IFTTT recipes for Blink here, which works for both first and second-generation cameras.
Folks who don't have other smart home gadgets to tie arming and disarming to can use the simple scheduling feature within the Blink app, which can be found by tapping on the name of your system on the main app screen. Scheduling can be done every day in half-hour increments, and multiple arm/disarm actions can be done throughout the day.
So what about privacy? Amazon has seen its fair share of controversy lately with its Ring doorbells, and the company has learned a thing or two about providing privacy options to users because of events like that.
One of the biggest intrusions into our lives is surveillance, and although this product is strictly a surveillance product, it still offers ways to have a little peace of mind and know that someone isn't spying on your daily life. Audio can be turned off completely, keeping you from wondering if someone might be hearing your conversations even when they can't see you. You can also enable or disable the blue recording LED on the front, which is a stark contrast from Google Nest's camera products that force the recording LED to be on at all times.
Comparing Google Nest's outdoor cameras and the Blink XT2 is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Yes, they're both outdoor-rated security cameras and offer recording functionality, but the wireless nature of the Blink XT2 puts it in a different category of security camera altogether. It also requires no subscription to get everything the product offers, unlike Nest, which requires a monthly fee to unlock all features.
You'll be missing some advanced detection features that Nest provides, but the value of wireless combined with the fact that there's no added cost to the product after initial purchase makes it an easy recommendation to anyone who wants the peace of mind that surveillance can bring without the hassle of wires or the annoyance of a monthly fee.Blink XT2 - Amazon