Whereas Logitech (with its Alert 750e Outdoor Master System) and Swann (with its DVR-4 2600 4 Channel DVR & Camera Kit) emphasize ease of use, Trendnet focuses on delivering maximum performance and flexibility. Instead of making all of the design decisions for you, Trendnet assumes that you know exactly what you need, and the company provides the building blocks you need in order to realize your vision. The upside of this approach is that you get exactly what you want in a video-surveillance system and can expand it as your needs grow. The downside is that you must know precisely what you want and how to put it all together.
Adopting this à la carte method, we put together a four-camera system anchored by Trendnet's best outdoor night-vision IP camera (the TV-IP322P, $578) and supplemented with two indoor night-vision cameras (Trendnet model TV-IP121WN, $165 each), one indoor tilt/swivel night-vision camera (Trendnet model TV-IP422WN, $300), and Trendnet's SecurView Pro software (a copy of which is included with each camera).
Each of the four cameras can operate using a single cable: The wireless cameras need only a power cord, and the TV-IP322P can operate on power-over-ethernet (PoE), so you don't need an electrical outlet near where you deploy it (Trendnet supplies an AC power adapter, in case you don't want to deploy a PoE switch). We tested the setup with Trendnet's eight-port PoE switch (model TPE-S80, $218). This five-piece package would cost $1426--slightly more than Logitech's surveillance system and considerably more than Swann's--but it delivers excellent service, it's extremely versatile, and it can be upgraded to support as many as 32 cameras (including eight PoE devices; you can deploy more PoE cameras with a larger PoE switch).
Unlike the Logitech and Swann systems we reviewed, most of Trendnet's cameras rely on a host PC running on your network to store recorded video (the TV-IP322P is equipped with a high-capacity SD Card slot and can support up to 32GB of local memory, though Trendnet doesn't put any memory cards in the box). Swann's system comes with its own DVR, and Logitech's cameras can run independently of the PC, recording video to their onboard memory while the host PC is sleeping. Unless every camera in your setup has onboard memory, as the TV-IP322P does, the system must run Trendnet's SecurView Pro software nonstop.
The SecurView Pro software can support any of Trendnet's comprehensive collection of IP cameras, regardless of their resolution and feature set. The model TV-IP322P camera, for instance, boasts a resolution of 1280 by 1024 pixels. In contrast, the other Trendnet models and the Swann cameras we tested have a resolution of 640 by 480 pixels, and the Logitech Alert cameras deliver video resolution of 960 by 720 pixels. Check a box in the SecurView Pro software's user interface, and the program will automatically scale each camera's video window to maintain the appropriate aspect ratio. Check another box, and the software will offer a pop-up window for controlling features specific to each camera, such as pan/tilt or audio recording.
Trendet's TV-IP322P is one of the most impressive IP cameras we've seen to date, thanks in large measure to its detailed resolution, strong night-vision capabilities (working at distances of up to 66 feet), industrial-strength housing, and comprehensive connectivity features. In addition to its PoE support, the TV-IP322P can support two-way audio with ports for an external mic and speaker, for video intercom configurations. It has general-purpose input/output ports for integration into an alarm system, it can generate email alerts, and it can stream real-time video to a smartphone--with support for h.264, MPEG-4, and MJPEG compression algorithms--all without requiring a host PC.
The camera is protected by an IP66-rated weather- and vandal-proof enclosure. An enclosure's IP rating (the acronym stands for "ingress protection") represents its ability to protect against solid objects (indicated by the first digit) and liquids (indicated by the second digit). An IP rating of 66 means that the enclosure will prevent any dust from getting inside, and will protect against high-pressure water potentially entering at the enclosure from any direction.
The indoor Trendnet cameras we tested--models TV-IP121WN and TV- TV-IP422WN--delivered very good daylight performance, but their night vision was weak compared to Logitech's Alert cameras, Swann's Pro 580 cameras, and Trendnet's own TV-IP322P outdoor camera. Factor in the host PC and Trendnet's software, and any of Trendnet's cameras can produce motion-triggered video recordings, generate email and SMS alerts, and perform all the other functions you'd expect of a high-end video-surveillance system.
The Bottom Line
Trendnet's TV-IP322P is a big-ticket camera, but its high resolution and expansive feature set justify its high price tag. The SecurView Pro software that controls it is equally powerful and can support up to 32 cameras, but the software is also complex and difficult to master.
The other two Trendnet cameras--the TV-IP121WN and the TV-IP422WN--are merely adequate: Their night vision is weak, and their resolution equals that of Swann's analog cameras. But when you put the pan/tilt model into "patrol" mode, the camera automatically pans and tilts in accordance with a predefined pattern to cover more area than either Logitech's or Swann's models.
Building a facility-wide IP camera system using only Trendnet's TV-IP322P cameras would be prohibitively expensive, especially if you don't need an outdoor camera in every location. Trendnet recently announced an entirely new line of indoor IP cameras, and we'll take a look at those as soon as Trendnet sends us evaluation units.
Note: This review is part of a roundup of video surveillance systems. For more, read our introduction to the roundup.