The most impressive feature of the Logitech Alert video surveillance system is the quality of its cameras, both in terms of the resolution of their video (960 by 720 at 15 frames per second) and their physical construction (the cases are fabricated from zinc, not plastic). The downside is their cost--and the fact that you can't deploy more than six cameras.
You'll need to buy a master system that includes either one indoor or one outdoor camera (priced at $300 or $350, respectively), and then purchase additional cameras for $200 (indoor), $230 (indoor with night vision), or $280 (outdoor with night vision) each. For our evaluation, we set up a four-camera system consisting of two outdoor cameras, one indoor camera, and one indoor night-vision camera. Assuming that you start with a master system that includes an outdoor camera, this package would cost $1060. (All prices are as of June 13, 2012.)
The setup we evaluated utilizes HomePlug AV powerline networking. In this kind of networking, electricity and ethernet data packets (including audio and video) travel over the same cable. This arrangement means you must have an AC receptacle within the vicinity of each camera you deploy, but you don't need to string cable from your router or your computer to make any connections; you just plug Logitech's HomePlug AV adapter (included with each master system) into an outlet near your router. Logitech provides a 10-foot ethernet ribbon cable with each camera, but you can purchase longer cables if you need them (a 50-foot cable is priced at $20, and a 100-foot cable costs $40). Each camera must be connected to a somewhat large HomePlug AV adapter (the indoor model plugs directly into a receptacle; the weatherized outdoor models, which have short pigtail plugs, should be secured to a wall).
Since Logitech routes the cameras' video through its own servers, you don't need to futz with port forwarding or other complex router settings to enable remote viewing of your cameras. You can view live video from any PC, smartphone, or tablet with Internet access. To view recorded video or to control the system remotely, however, you'll need to sign up for Logitech's Web & Mobile Commander service (first year included, $80 per year after that).
We encountered no problems in our evaluation, but you should note that powerline networking can be problematic in some environments: If your home or facility has poor-quality electrical wiring, or if your circuits must also support machines that draw high amounts of electrical current, for example, powerline networking might deliver poor performance or fail altogether. If that describes your situation, or if you just don't like powerline networking, Logitech also offers the same outdoor and indoor cameras set up to run on Power over Ethernet. The outdoor PoE model costs $240, and the indoor model is priced at $190 (currently Logitech does not sell the indoor night-vision camera configured for PoE). In addition to buying the cameras themselves, you'll need to deploy a PoE ethernet switch to support these models (such devices start at about $80 for a four-port Fast Ethernet switch).
All cameras are equipped with microphones and motion detectors. You can fine-tune the latter using Logitech's software, drawing independent zones within each camera's field of view, and adjusting the camera's sensitivity so that only large objects or significant motion will trigger the camera to record. You can also set up the software so that when the camera detects motion, it can send you an email or dispatch an instant message to your phone with a clip from the video. In our experience, however, this setting generated so many messages that we soon turned the messaging feature off.
Logitech's cameras save motion-triggered video recordings to an on-board MicroSD card (a 2GB card is provided, but the cameras can support cards with up to 32GB of storage space). If you have a Dropbox account, you can set up the cameras to transfer recordings to the cloud automatically. Even without Dropbox, however, you can put the host PC to sleep when you're not using it for other tasks, and save energy. When the PC is awake and Logitech's software is running, the program will automatically prompt the cameras to archive their recordings to the host PC's hard drive.
Although Logitech's cameras each carry a very good wide-angle lens, we wish that the company also offered a pan/tilt model. And if the cameras were outfitted with a speaker output, you could build a two-way video intercom system around them.
The Logitech Alert system is top-shelf in nearly every respect: The cameras are rugged, they produce exceptional resolution, they record audio, they don't rely on a host PC, and they're easy to install and configure--even for remote viewing. We also appreciate the fact that they're available in both powerline and PoE configurations, just like the Trendnet TV-IP322P. The one drawback is that the system is limited to a maximum of six cameras; although that isn't a problem for most homes, it might be inadequate for some businesses. If you're looking for a video surveillance system you can deploy quickly, and if the six-camera limit isn't a deal-breaker for you, we can't recommend a better choice. The Swann DVR-4 2600 is almost as easy to deploy, but it's limited to four cameras and has a more restricted range.
Note: This review is part of a roundup of video surveillance systems. For more, read our introduction to the roundup.