This all-in-one, all-weather surveillance solution is certainly convenient and cost-effective. It’s easy enough to set up and your recordings are Full HD, but don’t expect broadcast TV image quality. A tiny sensor and slow frame rate deliver a jerky and pixelated picture, but it’s good enough for basic security duties.
Upgradeable to eight channels
Provides all you need in one box
Can be wired or wireless
Jerky, blocky image quality
Not readily compatible with Mac
Poor resolution at night
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HomeGuard launched in 2007, a Chinese brand which sells a broad range of security devices in 30 territories that includes the UK (after being reintroduced here this year). The company has put together this all-in-one solution for easy and instant four-way surveillance suitable for a small to medium-sized business.
The HomeGuard Wireless Full HD CCTV Kit (HGNVK88304) comprises of four waterproof bullet cameras with Wi-Fi built into each one. There’s also an NVR (network video recorder) with 1TB of internal storage, negating the need to take out a subscription for a cloud-based recording service.
HomeGuard has even included the screws you need to attach the camera brackets to a wall or ceiling. This system is also expandable to eight video channels by purchasing up to four more IP cameras.
The hardware can be either wired, or wireless with instant Wi-Fi connectivity, and video is captured in Full HD as the product name suggests, which makes the price of £499.99 (around $660, AU$910) look almost too good to be true.
The four bullet cameras are a familiar form factor and appear well-made with their steel casing and metal hinged brackets. They measure 182 x 64 x 64mm and weigh 363g. A metal hood keeps the sun’s glare and the worst of the rain away from the glass lens cover, and the cable runs inside the metal tube of the bracket to make the design fairly tamperproof.
The only vulnerable part is the plastic antenna of the Wi-Fi module, which is essential for giving you a fairly wide (900m) Wi-Fi range. Each camera has two cables dangling from it, one for power and one for Ethernet if you prefer not to rely on Wi-Fi. They are not compatible with PoE (Power over Ethernet) so you will need to use the 12V power supplies – which have frustratingly short cables.
The NVR is a plain black box that contains a 1TB Seagate hard drive and a Wi-Fi module for connecting up to eight cameras. It looks like a router at first glance, and you will need to position it quite close to your existing router in order to connect the bundled Ethernet cable, which is rather short.
The plastic case is rather flimsy and when we pressed the reset button on the front, it caved in. The button still worked perfectly well, fortunately, but it’s clear the NVR doesn’t have the same level of build quality as the cameras.
At the rear of the NVR you will find ports for connecting your router and monitor (via HDMI or VGA), a power source, and two USB devices. One of these devices is the bundled mouse which is how you control the GUI via a monitor, and the other is for backing up recordings onto your own external USB memory.
Here are the full specs of the HomeGuard Wireless Full HD CCTV Kit:
Type: NVR/IP camera kit
Mounting: Wall/ceiling bracket included
Night Vision: 30m
Motion sensor: Yes
Local video storage: 1TB
App support: Android/iOS
Each camera has an IP66 rating – meaning they can cope with being drenched by rain – and the LEDs clustered around the lens enable a claimed night vision range of up to 30m. Their resolution is 1920 x 1080, which is impressive, although the frame rate is only 15 fps (frames per second), which sounds rather limiting, while the sensor is a measly 2-megapixels.
The NVR is fitted with a 1TB Seagate drive, as mentioned, which can record up to eight days of continuous footage on all four cameras in standard definition. However, we would recommend that you record in HD, so if you need more space, you can fit your own SATA drive of up to 4TB.
Live footage from the four cameras can be viewed on a monitor or TV in up to 1080p resolution, and by using the included mouse to navigate the on-screen menu, you can record H.265 data onto the internal hard drive.
Installing the HomeGuard kit is particularly easy thanks to the use of a smartphone app, handy QR code readers and Auto-Pair technology – or at least it should be. We found that the iOS companion app couldn’t read the QR code printed on top of the NVR, which meant we couldn’t go any further using the app.
However, the NVR also generates a QR code which appears on your monitor and this time, the HomeGuard app recognized it, so the rest of the installation was a breeze. With Auto-Pair making an instant Wi-Fi connection between the NVR and each of the four cameras, you don’t need to type in any passwords. It’s just a case of connecting their power leads and positioning.
The interface is navigated using the bundled mouse and we found that it wasn’t especially user-friendly in that it took us some time to work out how to set all of the parameters and recording schedules.
The iOS and Android apps are a little more intuitive although still littered with functions that do not apply to this product. The same apps are designed for use with systems that include two-way audio and lens movement, which are of no use to these particular cameras.
Usually, wireless CCTV systems take some setting up and tweaking to get going, but the HomeGuard system worked as expected right out of the box. The default mode is standard definition, but if you switch to HD using either the app or the on-screen interface, you will see four fairly bright and vivid images from your four video feeds. You can view one screen at a time, or all four in split-screen, and you can zoom in on any image using the mouse to draw a rectangle around the area you’re interested in.
Crucially, this system can record at 1080p resolution, which is the minimum you should consider when buying a surveillance system – but that doesn’t mean your security cam footage looks like an HDTV broadcast. The image here is blocky, pixelated and very juddery. It is good enough to see the detail you need, but no more.
HomeGuard claims that you can read car license plates, and you can, but only in daylight and only if they are within about 10m. Even then, the image is so indistinct that it’s hard to decipher, whereas if you look out of the window yourself, you could read the numbers and letters at a glance. With a moving car, you have no chance.
In low light conditions, the results are worse (naturally) and the claimed 30m night vision is something of a stretch. Night-time footage is black and white, car number plates are nothing more than a white oblong, and it’s difficult to tell men from women, let alone recognize the face of anyone passing by 30m from the camera.
The image quality is limited not only by the camera’s very small sensor (2MP) but also a very slow frame rate (15 fps). Moving objects like a walking person are given an odd staccato effect. Now, we’re not expecting a movie-like picture performance, but most cameras claiming Full HD quality look better than this.
That said, the HomeGuard system worked fairly well overall and captured video that is good enough for surveillance purposes, so long as you aren’t expecting much detail in your overnight footage.
The companion app is better implemented than many other CCTV systems and it gives you quick access to recordings while you’re away. You can access them on your PC too, although doing so on a Mac browser is a little more convoluted.
Overall, the HomeGuard Wireless Full HD CCTV Kit is a very immediate and affordable way to protect your premises without the expense of a professional installation, or a cloud subscription.
Everything you need is in the box and with Auto-Pair making all of the wireless connections for you, it really is easy to set up. It is quite easy to use too, thanks largely to the companion app, and 1TB of data storage is just about enough for most people’s needs.
The cameras record in Full HD, although their quality is limited by small sensors and slow frame rates, so don’t expect TV-quality playback. It’s just enough for effective surveillance.
Our only other niggles are the frustratingly short power cables that limit the placement options of the cameras, and the feeble reset button on the NVR, along with that unreadable QR code sticker. However, these minor flaws aren’t going to stop us recommending the HomeGuard CCTV Kit to any SMB looking to install its own security system on a modest budget.
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Jim is a seasoned expert when it comes to testing tech. From playing a prototype PlayStation One to meeting a man called Steve about a new kind of phone in 2007, he’s always hunting the next big thing at the bleeding edge of the electronics industry. After editing the tech section of Wired UK magazine, he is currently specialising in IT and voyaging in his VW camper van.