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The notion that you need to pay more to get more from a Wi-Fi security camera no longer seems as true as it did just a year ago. I offer the Hoop Cam Plus as evidence. It offers Full HD (1080p) video, several types of smart detection, geofencing, and other goodies in a unique design for less than $100. Together with the Wyze Cam and the Xiaomi Mi Home Security Camera, it makes clear that “budget” doesn’t need to be synonymous with “bare bones.”
The popular Wyze Cam has sparked a trend toward squat, boxy designs, and the Hoop Cam Plus literally doubles down on short. The top of its circlular module houses the camera while the bottom operates as a base on which the camera can pan 350 degrees and tilt 45 degrees. A speaker, pair of USB ports, and an LED status light are on the back of the base, and on its bottom are a setup button and microSD card slot.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best home security cameras, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.
The Hoop Cam Plus comes with all the features we now expect from a home security camera: 1080p full-color live display, sound- and motion-activated alerts, night vision, two-way communication, and compatibility with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. There are also a couple of small surprises: The ability to set intelligent reminders, and a text-to-speech messaging feature.
The camera pairs with the Hoop Home app. You need to create an account the first time you launch it, then add the camera and follow the on-screen prompts to connect it to your Wi-Fi. The process went smoothly and took just a few minutes in my testing.
The app opens to its home screen, from which you can configure and activate three modes of operation: Home, Away, and High Alert. For each of these you can set motion, sound, and fire-alarm detection to on, off, or Smart. When you choose the last one, Hoop’s proprietary algorithm takes over to reduce the number of irrelevant notifications you receive. I used it for all three types of detection.
You can also create profiles here for each of your family members to use with intelligent reminders. Once you upload a photo and phone number, you can create tasks with assigned dates and times that are sent to the recipient via push notification, SMS, or voice alert through the camera.
The camera’s live feed, which you can access from a toolbar at the bottom of the home screen, provides the usual camera controls for managing two-way communication and capturing video and screenshots of the live stream, plus the text-to-speech messaging, which broadcasts whatever you type into its field in a pleasant female voice. I used it a few times to “speak” to my kids downstairs and it worked well, but using the push-to-talk button is much faster (although less private at your end).
Video quality is excellent, and you can timestamp clips by flipping a toggle in the settings. That’s helpful if you ever need to turn the files over to the police as evidence of a crime. Night vision can be set to turn on automatically in low light, and it provides enough illumination and contrast to see clearly in a completely darkened room.
The camera’s motorized pan-and-tilt can be operated from the directional pad below the live feed or by swiping on the feed image itself. I experienced a bit of latency between when I pressed/swiped and when the camera responded. That wasn’t a big deal when I was just scanning the room, but it made it difficult to track someone’s movement through it as you might want to when alerted to an intruder.
Detection alerts were timely and accurate, and the Smart algorithm kept me from being slammed with notifications every few minutes. Still, I missed the level of control the ability to calibrate detection sensitivity myself provides. The event-triggered clips for the current day are displayed in reverse chronology on the home screen and can be downloaded to your device, shared, or deleted during playback. By default, they are also saved to the cloud for 24 hours free of charge, and can aslo be saved to a microSD card (not included) for longer-term storage. In this case, you can look through your video history by scrolling through a calendar at the top of the home screen.
The Hoop Cam Plus lists for about $80, which is fairly modest for its feature set, especially considering most of its competitors come with the added cost of a cloud subscription. But Hoop was offering the camera for 50 percent off at the time of this writing, putting it in the same price range as the Mi Home, our current pick for best budget home security camera. The Mi Home still has the edge for its more extensive detection-customization options, which give the user a degree of control the Hoop Cam Plus currently does not. But if you prefer a camera that lets you set it and forget it while still delivering solid security, the Hoop Cam Plus is an excellent option.
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The Hoop Cam Plus offers excellent security features at an uncommonly low price (if the current sale lasts).
- Excellent image quality
- Promp and accurate sound and motion alerts
- Clips stored in the cloud for 24 hours at no cost
- Sluggish pan and tilt response
- Limited detection customizations
Michael Ansaldo is a veteran consumer and small-business technology journalist. He contributes regularly to TechHive and writes the Max Productivity column for PCWorld.