Want to keep an eye on things back home while you're away on a trip? The iZon Remote Room Monitor ($129) is an unobtrusive camera that can stream video to your iPhone or iPad, even when you're thousands of miles away.
Click to EnlargeLike an overly fat tube of lipstick, the iZon Remote Room monitor is basically a large cylinder. At 3.4 inches high and 1.25 inches in diameter, it's small and unobtrusive. Toward the top is the lens, and below it is a small microphone and an LED. We like its clean white finish, but a black version should also be offered, for those who want to conceal it better. The back of the iZon has a miniUSB port, which is used to power the device (it comes with a nice long cord and a wall plug).
The bottom of the iZon is curved and magnetized, so it can rotate easily in the included base. This is a nice feature, as the camera lens itself can't rotate. The iZon also comes with screws and anchors, so you can mount it to a wall or ceiling.
Getting the iZon up and running was pretty straightforward, taking a solid 10 minutes. First, we downloaded the free Stem:Connect App to our iPhone 4S, and created a free Stem account. Then, we plugged in the iZon, which automatically starts beaming out a Wi-Fi signal. Then, using the Stem:Connect app, we connected to the iZon via Wi-Fi, and configured it to connect to our home wireless network.
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From that point, whenever we opened the app on our iPhone, we could see video from the iZon camera. Here, we could also configure the camera to send us alerts whenever it detected motion or sound, and to automatically upload video from those events to our private YouTube account. We liked that we could adjust the sensitivity of the settings, which will be useful for anyone who has a cat.
When you open the app, each iZon camera you registered (you can theoretically have up to 200 on a network) shows up as a thumbnail displaying the image currently seen by the camera. Beneath are three icons: A person (for motion detection), an ear (for sound detection) and a sun (for the LED light on the camera); if any of the icons is blue, it means that that particular feature is activated.
Sure enough, when we turned alerts on, then walked in front of the camera, a message popped up on our iPhone within seconds. In the app, we opened the Alerts section, where it listed each incident with the date and time and a small thumbnail, and, in theory, lets you view the YouTube clip. Cleverly, recordings begin about 5 seconds prior to the alert, so you can see the person as he's walking into the frame.
The iZon records VGA video at 30 frames per second, which is fine in theory, but less so in practice. Its low-light performance leaves something to be desired, too. Even in a moderately lit room, our face registered as a blur as we walked about 10 feet in front of the camera. While colors were fairly accurate, it felt like we were watching previously unseen footage of Bigfoot.
You can also view live video from the camera on your phone or iPad. When you're on the same network as the camera, you can view live video for as long as you like, but if you're viewing remotely, you're limited to 5-minute increments. It's an odd limitation, but we didn't find it particularly annoying.
While it doesn't offer the best recording quality, the iZon Remote Room Monitor works fairly well, and, at $129, doesn't represent a huge investment. But it could buy you a little peace of mind, which is just as valuable.