Dropcam Echo : Home Security Meets the Cloudby Ganesh T S on August 11, 2010 7:50 AM EST
The Dropcam Echo makes no effort to hide the fact that the hardware is actually the AXIS M1031-W. The front of the camera shows the AXIS logo in addition to Dropcam's.
Our main peeve with the M1031-W is that it is a VGA class camera. With Logitech introducing a 720p IP camera at a similar price point, the supported resolution of the M1031-W is indeed a minus point. However, for people on the go who rely mainly on streaming to the iPhone, QVGA (320x240) streams have a sharp enough quality. Despite the camera itself supporting VGA resolution, Dropcam makes it work at QVGA. As Dropcam is focused on the cloud experience and bandwidth optimization, the initial viewing is QVGA. Higher resolutions (upto 640x480) will probably turn up in a firmware update and it will not be necessary to buy a new camera.
Compared to the MJPEG used by similar cameras in its class, the M1031-W (as configured in the Dropcam Echo) encodes video in L4.1 Baseline H264 and 2 channel audio in AAC. Audio and video bitrates are around 80 Kbps and 60 Kbps respectively. A look at the datasheet specifications of the M1031-W reveals that the hardware has some pretty nifty features like two-way audio and privacy masks which don’t seem to be enabled in Dropcam’s firmware yet.
From an external perspective, the M1031-W lacks the PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) control found in the M1054 (which happens to be the 720p model). Also, the lens is fixed focus in nature, with a horizontal viewing angle of 47 degrees. The PIR (Passive Infrared Sensor) delivers excellent motion detection even in very low lighting conditions. Light from the camera also helps capture images in this situation.
The AXIS M1031-W can be had for $275 or so, but AnandTech advises investing a couple of dollars more and getting the Dropcam instead. The Axis software front end is, unfortunately, not very user friendly. Dropcam’s major innovation is the development of the firmware frontend from the ground up. This interfaces with a cloud backend, which is covered in detail in the next section.