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In Use

I found Piper's sound detection more reliable than motion detection, probably due to the use of PIR (Passive Infra Red) sensor vs. video pixel analysis like found on many video surveillance systems. Pixel analysis looks at change in the picture and determines motion, while PIR detects temperature change.

Piper's motion settings also don't let you set motion zones or record specific seconds before or after an event. It does, however, let you adjust sensitivity when you select the "Pet at Home" option, shown below.

Pet at home settings option

Pet at home settings option

Piper has a different cloud storage model than other cloud-connected IP cams we have looked at. Most cameras have a basic free plan and an assortment of paid plans providing more storage, longer storage retention or both. Piper's plan is completely free with no fee-based options, letting you store up to 1000 recorded event "snippets" in Piper's cloud.

The maximum size of each "snippet" is limited to 35 seconds. This means that if you are recording a break-in or other trigger event, all you're going to get is the first 35 seconds. Once an event is triggered you have to manually reset it before it can be triggered again. So you can't rely on Piper to automatically retrigger and capture another 35 seconds of video.

35 seconds x 1000 equals around 10 hours of cloud storage. When the 10 hours is filled up, oldest events get deleted to free up storage. There is no way to get more storage, but you can delete snippets to free up space. Since up to 5 Pipers can be supported with one account, I could see the 1000 snippet limit hit sooner than you might think. The good news is that there is no retention time limit. Recordings stay in your cloud account until you delete them or they are deleted to make room for new ones.

The other unfortunate video "feature" is that you cannot download video or take still image snapshots from the Piper app. So if someone breaks into your home and Piper captures it on video, you can't really give the video to the police. You can only use Android / iOS native screen captures to get a still image. This is a big negative for Piper; downloading video or snapshots should be a basic feature of any security system.

On a more positive note, Piper has battery backup (three non-Lithium AA batteries) and can record video on battery power for 4-6 hours. I tested this and it seemed to work well.

Video and Image Quality

Updated: 8/2/15

Now that the ability to download clips is available, we can show day and night motion videos for Piper. First, let's look at Piper during the day. Note videos download from the Piper Mobile app as a 1536 x 1088 MP4 file. Here's the day video.

Piper nv Motion Indoor Daylight

Right off the bat you'll probably notice two things I mentioned earlier, the very staticy audio and dramatic fishbowl effect. The microphone on Piper is very sensitive and can't be adjusted. It would be nice to see some microphone tweaking options in the Piper app.

The fishbowl effect is largely due to the huge 180° viewing angle. Notice the couch on the right side of the video? It's actually directly beside the camera! The image quality is good, however facial recognition would be low due to backlighting. You might also notice that the Piper videos are always about 35 seconds in length, as noted in the review.

For comparison, here is Canary's day video.

Canary Motion Indoor Daylight

Now let's look at a night video.

Piper nv Motion Indoor Night

The night vision of Piper is pretty good. When compared to Canary's night vision (below) you can see that Piper lights up the scene deeper. This can be seen when looking at the door on the opposite side of the room, which is more lit up with Piper. Everything does look farther away with Piper due to its larger horizontal viewing angle. Video is crisp without any visible lags or delays. In both videos you can see dust particles that are always very visible with infrared light. Overall both cameras look good, especially as I walk within 10 feet of the lens.

For comparison, here is Canary's night video.

Canary Motion Indoor Night

Since I already have them, I'll leave in the screenshots included before I had the video clips. In both pictures, I have markers every 5 feet and am standing at the 25 foot mark.

Piper Day Image

Piper Day Image

The day image has an obvious fishbowl effect, which is due in part to its generous 180° field of view, which is very impressive. The colors are good and the image is sharp. On the right side of the picture is a metal frame that is 4 feet below the camera directly to the side of it.

Piper Night Image

Piper Night Image

The night vision is decent, but doesn't light up the room as Canary did, nor is it as sharp. For comparison let's look at the last camera we reviewed, the Canary.

Canary Night Image

Canary Night Image for comparison

Bandwidth used for video was hard to measure on the Piper since I had trouble getting motion to record on demand. Live Video feeds when on a local network are via Wi-Fi directly to the mobile device and do not go over the WAN through the cloud, so I couldn't measure bandwidth at the router when at home. However, Piper does recommend a minimum internet upload speed of 800 kbps in order for Piper to work well. As noted earlier, bandwidth limits can be set separately for Wi-Fi and cellular connections.

Closing Thoughts

Updated 8/2/15

If you've been trying to decide between Piper / Piper nv and Canary, my vote is for Piper, no contest. Piper simply makes a better all-in-one security system because it can use its sound, light and temperature sensors to trigger security events, while Canary triggers only on motion detection and only lets you look at its temperature and humidity sensors.

The difference between the two products is clear in Table 2, which compares only their security-related and support features.

  Piper nv Canary
Trigger on motion Y Y
Trigger on temperature Y N
Trigger on sound Y N
Trigger on window / door open Y
(requires optional Z-Wave sensor)
Trigger on humdity change N N
Trigger on water detection N N
Two-way audio Y N
Night vision Y Y
Pan / tilt / zoom Y (digital) N
App alert Y Y
Text alert Y N
Email alert Y N
Phone alert Y N
Multiple devices Up to 5 Up to 4
Phone support Y
(US, UK, France, Italy toll-free)
(US only)
Email support Y Y
Chat support Y N
Video tutorials Y N
Save video clips Y Y
Table 2: Security feature comparison - Piper nv vs. Canary

For $30 more, Piper nv not only enhances home security, but also lets you try out simple home automation via its integrated Z-Wave controller. And support was responsive, both via online chat (U.S. East Coast business hours, weekends included) and email tickets.

All-in-one security systems aren't for everyone. But if they fit your needs, I'd give Piper nv the first shot at a place in your home.

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