Uniden WDVR4-2 HDD review: Wireless home security system misses with its software

Uniden's system has nice hardware. Too bad the software isn't up to par.

According to research data, consumers spent more than $28 million last year on home security, a number expected to balloon to nearly $47.6 million by 2020. Electronics manufacturers appear to be enjoying a veritable gold rush of internet-connected locks, motion sensors, and cameras.

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Keep tabs on the security of your home from anywhere with Uniden WDVR.

One of the latest is Uniden’s WDVR4-2 HDD, an affordable home or small business security system that wirelessly connects up to four cameras. The WDVR has a DVR-equipped base station that plugs directly into an HDMI-equipped television or can be controlled remotely from mobile apps.

Installation

Uniden’s WDVR is designed for effortless installation: Aside from a drill and screwdriver, everything you need is in the box, including Ethernet and HDMI cables, camera stands, and mounting screws. I installed cameras near the front and rear entrances of my home, which only required drilling three holes at each location with a 3/32-inch bit, using the stand as a guide.

Because the front installation required the use of a ladder, this was the most laborious part of the otherwise stress-free process. Although the cameras are wireless, they still need to be plugged into AC power; this is the only real weakness, since not everyone will be able to properly conceal cables, leaving them exposed to potential intruders.

uniden wdvr ipad record schedule

Uniden WDVR offers up to five different scheduled recording sessions to fit any lifestyle. Pictured here using the iPad app.

Uniden includes two convenient 17-foot cords with breakaway sections for those who need shorter runs. Otherwise, that’s the extent of outdoor cabling—a small antenna screwed onto the back of each camera creates a wireless 2.4GHz link with the receiver within a maximum range of 650 feet.

Making the connection

Uniden includes two identical indoor/outdoor cameras in the core package, housed in handsome gunmetal grey with a weatherproof durability rating of IP66. (Additional cameras can be purchased for $150 each.) Surrounding the lens are a PIR motion sensor and six infrared LEDs capable of recording up to 40 feet away in near total darkness.

The plastic WDVR receiver measures 7 inches square by 2.5 inches tall, with three green status lights on the front for power, link, and disk activity. Inside is a 1TB hard drive capable of recording up to 120 days straight from a single camera, or half that time when using both cameras.

Around the back are ports for HDMI, USB, Ethernet, and power, along with optional micro-SD card slot, antenna connector, and on/off switch. Uniden recommends plugging the Ethernet cable directly into your router for best results, but I had no problems using it with an inexpensive hub connected to an Apple AirPort Extreme.

uniden wdvr ipad motion area

To cut down on false motion detection, Uniden WDVR users can select quadrants of the screen to be ignored.

Eyes everywhere

The bundled cameras come already paired to the receiver, which powers up in about 15 seconds. There’s a large fan inside the unit which kicks up the noise level by a few decibels, so you’ll want to invest in a longer HDMI cable to keep things quiet.

The hardware records color (black-and-white in night vision mode) at a maximum resolution of 640 by 480 using H.264 compression—it’s no HD, but DVR playback largely matches live streaming quality. There are two quality settings with the highest recording about 15 fps, which means video isn’t very fluid (this is a security camera, after all!). You can plug a mouse into the receiver for on-screen control, but the easiest method is the free Uniden WDVR app for iOS or Android.

Connecting from smartphone or tablet is a snap. Point the device camera at the QR code on the bottom of the receiver, enter the default password (123456, which should be changed after installation), and tap the Play button. The app connects quickly over local network, but if that’s unsuccessful or you’re using cellular data, it takes a few more seconds when switching to remote mode.

Remote access

Like many Internet-connected security products I’ve used, Uniden’s system pairs well-made hardware with poorly designed software. The UI is unintuitive with little forethought to look and feel, although the apps offer full control over the receiver settings. While the cameras include microphones, sound can be heard only over HDMI—unfortunately, there’s no audio playback at all from the apps.

Each camera can have independent settings for motion sensitivity, using only the hardware sensor or in tandem with one of three lens detection levels to help reduce the number of misfires from rain, snow, or flying insects. There are also options to eliminate sections of the screen from detection.

Live and recorded video can be streamed on up to three devices at once, and configured to receive push notifications when motion is detected. Schedule mode instead allows one or all cameras to record all day, every day or at up to five intervals of your choosing. A double-tap on each camera image makes it full-screen, and there’s a capture mode for saving still images to the Camera Roll.

uniden wdvr iphone notification

While set up for motion activity, Uniden WDVR can send push notifications when movement is detected—but the alerts aren’t very detailed.

Bottom line

At $400, Uniden WDVR isn’t the cheapest home security option around, but the solid wireless hardware coupled with motion detection, night vision, generous 1TB storage capacity, and mobile access make it worthy of consideration.

My biggest complaint is the weak software: The user interface is clunky and not very intuitive, and it’s not clear what most buttons actually do. This is something Uniden will hopefully rectify in a future update.

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