The D-Link DCS-930L Wireless N Network Camera

Internet-connected cameras are great for monitoring areas in your home, office, or small business or for keeping an eye on pets or children from virtually anywhere in world. Rather than connecting a webcam to a PC, the D-Link DCS-930L Wireless N Network Camera connects to your home network via a wireless or wired Ethernet connection and, once set up, runs independent from a PC.

The DCS-930L is a very user-friendly device, with just one button that activates the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) function, which makes it easy to connect to a wireless network. It also has an Ethernet port, a pinhole reset button, a power adapter, an internal wireless antenna, and a small stand for positioning on a table or shelf.

The camera installation process makes no assumptions whatsoever about technical knowledge. After inserting the included CD-ROM into your PC and selecting a language, the installation wizard walks you through setting up the stand and plugging in the camera. The software then finds the camera automatically, prompts you to set a new password, and guides you through the process of creating a free mydlink account.

The mydlink account allows you to access the camera settings securely from anywhere in the world, without having to make the camera visible to everyone on the Internet. Once the account is set up, rather than having to navigate to the IP address assigned to the camera, you can point your browser at the mydlink web site and access the camera.

The mydlink account allows full access to the camera, not only to monitor the live video stream, but to control the various video and audio settings, set passwords, and change network settings as well. Since a single mydlink account supports up to 32 cameras, even relatively large buildings can be covered easily with a single account and login. Using the administrative features requires either Java or ActiveX, and you can choose which you want to use.

The camera supports resolutions of 320x240 or 640x480, at between 1 and 30 frames per second, with excellent color and good performance even in low-light conditions. While this resolution does not compare with high-end 720p or 1080p cameras, such HD cameras are also much more expensive โ€” five to 10 times more expensive. The microphone on the camera works well, with adjustable volume. The camera controls are enough to handle any usual situation, providing control over compression, brightness, contrast, saturation, and digital zoom. You can even flip the image if you want to mount the camera upside-down on a ceiling. However, the power cord for the A/C adapter is about 3 feet long, so mounting up high may require an extension cord.

The camera also has a motion detection setting โ€” it can email you or open a browser window if movement is detected within view of the camera, which is ideal for a security applications. The motion detection sensitivity is adjustable, allowing you to monitor an outdoor area, for instance, and detect people but not birds and other small animals. The motion detection function also divides the image into a 5-by-5 matrix, and can be set to detect motion in any one or more of the areas.

As for adding the camera to a wireless network, WPS makes it incredibly easy โ€” you simply press the WPS button on the camera for three seconds, then press the WPS button on the wireless router. If the router doesn't support WPS, setup is slightly more complex, but not complicated. The camera can also be configured to use a wired Ethernet connection, which makes the initial configuration of the camera even more straightforward.

Once you have a mydlink account and the camera has been positioned and networked, it's a simple matter to automatically email videos at pre-selected intervals or capture video only when motion is detected. Video can be streamed to a browser window, emailed as a file, or saved to an FTP server. D-Link provides free iPhone, iPad and Android applications that allow you to access the cameras via a smartphone as well giving you the flexibility to view live feeds while you're on the go.

The manual for the camera covers all aspects of connecting the camera wirelessly, including security settings, video quality settings, and compression capabilities as well as how to use the mydlink account to access one or multiple cameras.

With a street price around $85, the DCS-930L provides a lot of functionality per dollar. It's simple to install and use, and it enables property monitoring or keeping track of children or pets from any Internet-connected PC. It's suited equally well for either a business environment or a home setting.

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