Gone are the days when you could leave your door unlocked even during the night and not worry about anyone breaking into your property and, while I know that it was more of a rural thing, my point still stands since people are a lot more concerned about security nowadays than some decades ago. And for good reason since you do need to have some sort of surveillance system if you want to make sure that nobody steals your packages, breaks into your car or trespasses your property for any other reason and, as you may expect, you can go the professional (but more expensive) route, where you get a set of cameras and a base station to store the footage locally or go the ‘DIY route’ and get yourself an affordable camera that should allow you to view the footage directly from a proprietary app and which will survive the outdoor weather conditions.
That’s where the Tenvis T8863D camera comes into play, promising both day and night monitoring (1080p video), local and Cloud storage for the captured footage and the case was built to withstand the outdoor elements, while also allowing some positioning flexibility (it can rotate horizontally and vertically). There are some more expensive solutions from Netgear (the Arlo Pro 2) or from Google (the Nest Cam Outdoor), so I think it will be interesting to see if the affordable Tenvis T8863D can match some of their features and even challenge the necessity of a more expensive outdoor camera.
A quick glance towards the Tenvis T8863D gives it away that the camera was mainly designed to be mounted outdoors, so it doesn’t have that minimalist, living-room-friendly feel, instead, it looks quite similar to the traditional bullet CCTV cameras, sporting a rectangular main body with rounded corners and it’s almost entirely covered by a white matte finish, except for the front area which holds the camera sensor, the IR sensor, the motion detector and the microphone. The material choice seems to be mostly zinc alloy, but there are also some plastic parts (such as the additional top cover, the front section and the antenna) and some metallic elements for the adjustable arm. This type of design isn’t that unobtrusive (like the dome-shaped ones), but that’s not its purpose, instead it will do great at letting anyone know that the area is under constant surveillance, so they should steer clear.
Furthermore, the device measures 3.54 x 2.50 x 2.50 inches (only the base body, the fully extended arm adds another 3.54 inches) and weighs 14.1 lbs, so it will stick out a bit when mounted on the wall, especially because of the antenna (which is detachable and omni-directional); it’s also important to know that this is not a battery-powered camera and it will have to be connected to a power source and either to a wired Ethernet switch or router to gain access to the Internet or to the wireless network. Since the camera is advertised as outdoor-suitable (it will of course work great indoors, as well), then there are some expected design elements, such as the rugged body (the zinc-alloy case suggests that the Tenvis T8863D is quite rugged) and it should have some protection against rain and dust ingress. The camera is indeed IP66-rated, which means that the device is completely protected against dust ingress and it will also do great when there are powerful jets of water directed towards its enclosure.
This also means that it cannot be submerged under water, but it will do fine even during powerful storms – the problem is that storms do come with lightnings and, as expected, the camera will not survive a powerful electricity shock (there are few devices that will), so, if you decide to put the camera out in the open, make sure to add some protection against lightning (it is still better to mount it on a wall and not on a pole).
How about winters? Tenvis says that the camera should remain operational between -4 to 140 degrees F, so it should do fine in some mild winters (Canadian winters may prove to be too much). Besides the front-facing camera lens and microphone, the Tenvis T8863D also has a speaker positioned on the bottom of the case, so it does support two-way audio, making it easy to speak to however is at your door or to just scare any trespasser (or wild animals that may want to go through your trashcan).
As I mentioned before, there is an arm attached to the main body of the device (it’s non removable) which supports a wide range of motion (such as the maximum 90 degrees vertically and 355 degrees horizontally) and it ends with a round metal plate used to mount the device on the wall: use the three screws provided in the package. But, by default, the arm will not become rigid and you will have to use the Allen key from the box and rotate the screw from the base after you found the suitable position, so the arm will stay in place (make sure to mount the antenna first). From the bottom of the plate, there is a thick 16.7-inch cable attached to the main body of the camera which bifurcates towards the end into two cables, one for the connection to the power cable and the other to an Ethernet cable – inside the package, Tenvis has added an additional extension cable for the power connector (although I would have preferred PoE support, but you can’t have them all at this price point).
You should know that the cowling (the top cover) is held to the body of the camera by a single screw and it can be moved forwards or backwards (or even removed) as a way to reduce the glare from the sun, but be aware that if it’s too forward, it can interfere with the IR sensor during the night; also, I noticed that there are some design imperfections on the front, around the lens.
Note: Inside the case, the Tenvis T8863D is equipped with a Goke Microelectronics GK7102 SoC 7GKN20383 and a Realtek RTL8188FTV 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz WLAN chip.
Setup and Functionality
After you have selected the place where you want to mount the camera, you should download and install the AISEE app to your preferred mobile device which will require that you either log into an Existing Account or Register a new one (when I tested the Tenvis TH661, I used the Tenvisty app, so I’m not really a fan of this fragmentation, I prefer one app to rule them all). To register a new account, you will have to receive a registration code either via email or SMS (it will require your phone number) and afterwards, you will be able to add new devices to the app.
At this point, it’s best to power on the Tenvis camera and connect it to a router (otherwise, it will continue to say that it’s ready to be connected once every few seconds, which is very annoying) and then, from the app, tap ‘Add device’. You can Add it Manually from the list or Search for the Device; the latter requires that the WiFi and Bluetooth to be enabled on the mobile device. I chose to add the camera manually, so I selected the Security and Sensor, followed by Smart Camera and, when prompted, I entered the WiFi password to the 2.4GHz network (it won’t work with 5GHz).
Afterwards, I had to take the camera and place it on front of the screen, so it can read the displayed QR code and once I heard a prompt, then I knew that the app registered the camera; after that, I could see the message that the ‘Device (was) added successfully’ and could begin streaming the footage to your mobile device. Every time you will open the app, you will have to select the Smart Camera (the application supports multiple types of devices), which will take you to a dedicated camera area, where you can see a window with the live video recorded by the camera, as well as the Signal strength (I didn’t know why it was always set at 0, despite the camera connecting just fine to both the router and the smartphone – and that’s when I realized why the Ethernet cable connector had that protection: it was because the camera can also connect wirelessly, so it is a protection against water and dust), the data and, a bit lower, you will see a speaker icon which, by default, is set to disabled – enabling it, will allow you to hear the camera’s surrounding sounds captured by the microphone; next to the speaker, there’s the HD/SD icon (tap on it to change the resolution of the captured footage – the max is 1080p) and further to the right, there’s an icon to let you see the live video in fullscrean mode.
Underneath the live footage window, there are some options for you to explore, such as the Screenshot (tap on it to take screenshots of the video), the Speak option (allows you to speak with a person which is in front of the camera), the Record (tap on it to start recording the footage – it will automatically save in your phone Gallery), the Playback (it requires an SD card to be installed or a subscription to the Cloud storage) and the Alarm, which, when you tap on it, it will take you to the Detection Alarm Settings that include the enabling/disabling of the Motion Detection Alarm, the Alarm Sensitivity Level, which can be Low, Medium or High. There is no documentation to what is the trigger distance for each setting, but, in my tests, I found that when it was set to Low, the maximum distance that will trigger the alarm was about 17 feet and it takes 2-3 seconds for the app to send the message to the phone; the medium setting would trigger the alarm up until about 22-23 feet and the high sensitivity would trigger the alarm up to about 30 feet.
It really depends on the light source and the amount of ample movement as it sometimes would not register anything at all and the close range detection is, as expected, the most accurate, but it’s worth noting that it’s not entirely about distance, but about what triggers the alarm so, for example, when on high sensitivity, even a small bird or larger insect would trigger the alarm if it would enter the field of view (and if it’s close enough – it will detect it even at about 2 feet away) – I noticed that the sensor requires some sort of cooldown as it will not detect motion until a few minutes have passed since it has previously sent a notification.
Next to the Alarm option, there’s the Photo Album, where you can view any captured photos or videos and lastly, there’s the Cloud Storage (tap on it to choose between the available paid subscriptions – there is no free trial, although, at the time of reviewing the device, the trial was one cent). At the top of the window, on the right, there’s a ‘Pencil icon’ which, when tapped, it will take you to the Settings area. Here, you can change the Device Name, Location and view the device Information, pair the camera to Amazon Echo and Google Home smart assistants for voice commands or use IFTTT to create various types of automation with conditions between it and other smart devices.
Further down, there are some Basic Settings (which include the ability to Flip the Screen or add/remove the Time Watermark from the video, as well as enabling or disabling the IR Night Vision), the Advanced Settings (where you can set the sensitivity of the sensor or create a Schedule for when it would activate – I would have liked to be able to select a specific portion of the screen that would trigger the sensor), the VAS (Cloud based subscriptions), Share the Device, send Feedback to the manufacturer or view the Firmware Information. Be aware that this types of devices (from the IoT spectrum) need to be periodically upgraded and if too much time has passed since the last firmware update, then the manufacturer is no longer supporting it, something that you need to take very seriously considering the possible risks that it may pose, since it is a security device.
This was the app, but how about the footage itself? Well, it’s alright during both the night and during the day and as you can see from the images, you won’t be able to read the cars’ license plates from a distance higher than about 150 feet – for near-home security, this is more than enough. If the camera was indoors, I noticed that when it was raining outside and it was a bit darker, the IR sensor will think that it is dark and would always run – this happens especially if I put black objects in front of the camera, covering only partially the view (such as an Asus router that I forgot was in the way).
Considering its price tag, the Tenvis T8863D is a surprisingly well done outdoors-suitable camera, capable of capturing a decently clear footage during both the night and the day and the motion sensor would detect movement in an acceptable fashion (especially at no more than 20 feet). The build construction is solid and it does give the impression that it will survive outdoor conditions for a long time, but the application is probably the sole odd element. I mean, it offers pretty much anything you would expect from a budget IP camera, but it needs some small adjustments (such as the 0 percent signal to be replaced by ‘Wired connection’ or the various low-case or translation errors) and most importantly, it sometimes needs to be restarted to show the footage (the app, not the phone). Other than that, if you need to have some part of your home or yard constantly monitored, but you don’t have the budget to go for the more expensive options, then the Tenvis T8863D is an adequate solution ifn you can get over some of the app’s shortcomings.
Check the product here:
- Rugged exterior
- Can capture 1080p videos
- Motion sensor
- Local + Cloud storage available
- The motion sensor can't be set to a specific area
- Sometimes the app needs to be restarted to show the live footage