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Features

Most of the cameras I look at in this price range and form factor have some sort of inherent cloud recording. The YI Home Camera 2, at this point, does not, although an FAQ on the YI site seems to indicate otherwise. From what I can gather, full cloud recording is available in China, but not in the US (yet?).

That said, if you enable alerts within the app, 6 seconds of 640 x 360 video is saved to the cloud in the event of motion detection. 6 seconds is better than nothing, but probably not all that useful. I have to ding the YI Home Camera 2 for not having some sort of cloud service, given they compare themselves to Nest Cam throughout their site.

I'm reminded of a local news story not long ago where a couple had two Nest Cams to watch their pets throughout the day. Two burglars broke in to the house and eventually found the Nest Cams and took them, but not before all of the video was uploaded to the cloud. The Nest Cam captured great video and even the burglar's name, I can't help but wonder what 6 seconds the YI Home Camera 2 would display once the camera had been stolen.

Lack of cloud recording aside, the YI Home Camera 2 app interface is nice. Even on Android, the app had sort of an iOS "don't give me a lot of details, just make it work" feel to it. Usually I default to wanting more granularity than that, but I feel it would be perfect for the majority of its target market.

For example, take a look at the composite of three configuration screens below. You can set the camera to detect only humans and the motion sensitivity and alert frequency is simply Low, Medium or High. I tested the Human Detection setting and found it somewhat accurate. It wasn't always spot on, but it seemed to cut down on the number of headlights-in-the-windows types of alerts.

YI Home Camera 2 Alert Settings

YI Home Camera 2 Alert Settings

Yi Home 2 supports activity regions, something I often ding cameras on that lack it. Setting the zone allows you to capture motion only in the zone, and exclude superfluous motion.

YI Home Camera 2 Activity Regions

YI Home Camera 2 Activity Regions

A look at the main YI Home Camera 2 screen shows Live Video with the ability to do two-way audio, take a snapshot, record video, adjust resolution, see current bit rate and all alerts.

YI Home Main viewing screen

YI Home Main viewing screen

YI Home Camera 2 has a few more valuable settings, such as the ability to set a PIN to protect camera viewing in the app. You can also set schedules for recording. Another fun and potentially useful feature is gesture commands. Hold up your hand, the camera acknowledges, close your fist and send a video message to any device that has the app installed. I tested the feature and as long as I was in good light, it worked.

The app's tutorial mentions low lighting being a problem. A very useful feature within the app is "Lens Distortion Correction", basically reducing the amount of "Fish Eye" or rounded edges in the image, it worked well. The camera also is said to have baby crying detection. I didn't have a baby to borrow, so I tried crying like an upset baby into the camera. Either it didn't work, or the camera was smart enough to know I was faking.

YI Home Main Settings

YI Home Main Settings

Video and Image Quality

YI Home Camera 2 recorded at 1920x1080. But as mentioned earlier, only 6 second alerts were sent to the app at only 640x360 resolution. Not acceptable. I don't want to have to pull the SD card or connect the camera to a computer to get my videos. Not only that, the timezone on the SD card did match my timezone. At times I couldn't even find the matching video on the SD card.

I finally just gave up and loaded the 6 second alerts from the app. Bottom line is the camera needs better cloud support. Anyway, let's take a look at a still snapshot at night. I'm going to compare to Nest Cam since the YI Home site compares to Nest Cam. Here's YI Home Camera 2.

Foscam C1 Night Vision with me at 25 feet

YI Home Camera 2 Night Vision with me at 25 feet

For comparison's sake, let's take a look at Nest Cam.

Nest Cam Night Vision with me at 25 feet

Nest Cam Night Vision with me at 25 feet

This is a pretty good comparison, YI Home Camera 2 looks slightly less grainy. I feel you would be hardpressed to tell the difference without the logos overlaid at the image corners.. Even though both cameras have a 130 degree field of vision, the YI Home 2 image looks closer because the app allows for panning of the entire image.

Let's move on to the videos. The thing that frustrated me most about the YI Home app was the delay on alerts. I would try to do my normal motion tests, but the app wouldn't show new alerts, even on the highest sensitivity and frequency settings. I would do several passes, thinking the camera didn't pick me up. Then all the alerts would flood in, typically 3-10 min later! Thinking about the Nest Cam story I related earlier, burglars would be in your house and gone by the time you were alerted, leaving you with a couple of 6 second 640x360 videos.

YI Home Camera 2 Motion Indoor Night

Let's compare that to Nest Cam. Try to pause each of the videos when my face is most distinguishable.

Nest Cam Motion Indoor Night

You can see YI Home's video is just the 6 second alert that I could download from the app, so it's also only 640x360. Recording starts a bit late and I'm almost right up on the camera by the time it starts. Nest Cam wins here, as long as you purchase Nest Aware cloud service, which continuously records and allows you to determine when to start and end the video clip.

I also took some video outside and inside during the day to see how the camera reacts to bright light, even though we need to remember this is an indoor-only camera. The quality is good on the outside video, but it seems like the image processor is struggling to get coherent pixels.

YI Home Camera 2 Motion Outdoor Daylight

The inside video looks a bit grainy compared to Nest Cam, but not bad overall. I say "YI Home" as I near the camera allowing you to hear the sound quality of the YI Home Camera 2. There is no microphone feedback like some cameras have.

YI Home Camera 2 Motion Indoor Daylight
Nest Cam Motion Indoor Day

Lastly, let's take a look at some outside night videos, bearing in mind that YI Home Camera 2 is not an outdoor camera. I didn't take any outdoor videos with Nest Cam, so unfortunately there is no comparison.

YI Home Camera 2 Motion Outdoor night

Outdoor at night is actually really good. It was an exceptionally dark night and it lit the swingset in the background up very well.

To really compare the YI Home Camera 2 against any of the other cameras I've looked at, feel free to check out the YouTube channel which includes footage of a lot of different cameras in similiar conditions.

Closing Thoughts

The YI Home Camera 2 has a lot of potential. The image quality and night vision is good and the app has a lot of attractive features. Get rid of the spamminess and add cloud recording and this camera might be in business.

As it stands though, given $130 for this camera or $199 for Nest Cam, I'd have to recommend Nest Cam just for the ability to record to cloud alone. YI's site promotes "owning your video content" and that's a great pitch. But if the cameras were stolen, the only people owning the content would be the burglars.

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