Reviewed by Louise Totton
We have been loving our Hive Smart Home system of late – it started out as a convenient way of controlling the heating without having to go into the garage to switch the heating on, and it’s fair to say that it’s mushroomed somewhat! My partner and I both love anything gadgety and tech related, and we’ve been having a great time getting to grips with the smart bulb and smart plug that we got before Christmas. But it’s always seemed that Hive is such a powerful system, it would be capable of so much more than acting as a timer for lights and plugs.
We’ve been considering home security a lot recently following a spate of break-ins and opportunist car thefts in the area recently, and Hive have plenty on offer to help keep your home and your possessions safe and secure. Just a quick note first to say that you will need to have either a Hive Hub or Hive Hub 360 in order to use any of the Hive products mentioned in this review. The Hive Hub connects all of your Hive products and allows you to then use your smartphone, tablet or laptop as an interface to control your devices or set schedules. The Hive interface also supports IFTTT (IF This Then That) commands, allowing you to use Hive sensors and known facts (sunrise and sunset times etc.) to set actions and commands to take place within set parameters, but more on that later. We were sent a Hive View Outdoor (RRP: £179), a Hive Door/Window Sensor (RRP: £29) and two Hive Motion Sensors (RRP: £29) to review, and we used them alongside the Hive Smart Bulb and Hive Smart Plug that were already in the house.
Hive Outdoor View Security Camera
We thought we’d install the Hive View Outdoor first – according to our weather app, we had a clear window of a couple of hours before the wind and rain of Storm Dennis was due to hit, and we were keen to get everything up and running before then. The camera system comes securely packaged in a box which contains:
- Hive Outdoor View Camera
- Magnetic Mount
- 7.5m Power Cable
- USB Plug
- Rawl Plugs
- Cable Clips
- Size 0 Screwdriver
Unlike lots of outdoor security cameras, the Hive Outdoor View camera has a permanent power supply, via a 7.5m cable. This does mean that you will need to either be a reasonably competent DIYer and happy to drill a hole through the wall of your house, or opt for Hive’s installation service which costs £89. We decided to fit the system ourselves which meant that we’d need some pretty basic DIY tools: a Phillips screwdriver, a stepladder and a power drill with a 6mm drill bit. We were lucky and were able to use an existing drilled hole in the house where our old TV aerial had previously been which made the job somewhat less daunting. If you do need to drill through the wall of your house, you will also need an SDS power drill and a 12mm masonry drill bit which is long enough to drill through an external wall.
I have to say that installation of the system was a complete doddle – it just couldn’t have been easier. You do need to make sure that wherever you wish to site the camera needs to be within 7.5m of a plug socket as the camera relies on mains power rather than a battery. I was initially a little disappointed that the camera wasn’t battery powered, but in retrospect, now it’s fitted I think it’s great that I don’t have to worry about needing to replace batteries or charging the camera.
Fitting the camera was a case of feeding the cable through the hole in the wall (and obviously drilling one if there isn’t one ready for you to use) and screwing a small screw to the wall to mount the camera. Again, we were fortunate that we didn’t need a drill for this bit as we have a wooden pergoda on the back of the house, so we were able to mount it directly onto the wood rather than the stonework. Having said that, the screw isn’t huge so fixing it to the wall wouldn’t be a difficult job either. Once you have the screw in-situ, the magnetic mount slips over the top and the camera simply attaches via magnetic connection. From there, all you have to do is use the included cable clips to tidy the cables and the system is ready to set up – it literally took us 15 minutes from start to finish and it was totally stress-free.
Pairing the camera to the Hive Home Hub was just as easy. If you already have a working Hive system, all you need to do is add the camera to your interface which takes around 5 minutes and you’re up and running. The camera’s status can be viewed in the same way as all of your other Hive devices on the app, and tapping the camera in the app will allow you to either ‘Go Live’ for a live view of what’s going on outside your house, or you can scroll through your stored clips. The camera doesn’t have any onboard storage for clips, so you have an option of either going subscription-free and keeping a rolling 24 hours of clips available, or subscribing at £3.99 per month for access to 30 days of clips. Whichever option you pick, you always have the ability to download a clip from the cloud to your phone where you can store it safely, should you need to use it in future.
All of the camera’s settings are changed via the app which is great as once the camera is mounted you can almost forget about it. The app allows you to set the detection type – you can choose ‘people’ or ‘all motion’. We initially set outs for all motion but found that because we have a lot of trees and shrubs in the garden coupled with all of the cats that live in the area, the camera was reporting too many incidents so we switched it to detect people and we are really impressed! There haven’t been any alarms from swaying trees or resident cats since we did that, and it does very reliably pick up anyone who makes their way into the garden. You can also set up to four ‘activity zones’ via the app. These are great if your camera also happens to point onto the footpath and you don’t want notifications from pedestrians who happen to walk into the line of sight of the camera. With these, you set the zones on the app and you will then only get notifications if someone enters the activity zones. If the area of interest is in the far side of the garden, you can even pinch to zoom so you can see in greater detail what’s been happening.
The camera also has sound detection, whereby it will alert you and record a clip when it detects sound as well as movement. We’ve been trying the camera in some really high winds and heavy rain, so we found that allowing it to trigger based on sound was creating a lot of notifications, but I imagine in calmer weather it would be absolutely fine. The camera also features another really cool sound function – 2-way communication. So if motion is detected, should you wish to, you can ask the intruder what they’re doing in your garden and even wait for a reply!
The build quality of the camera seems great – the camera itself is a rounded cube shape and it’s very unobtrusive to look at. I did have concerns about the magnetic fitting of the camera and how well the camera would stay up and stay pointed in the right direction. In reality though, the mount is absolutely fantastic and has even stood up to the really high winds and driving rain of Storm Dennis! Because it’s magnetic, it also allows you adjust and reposition the angle of the camera really easily and without the need for any tools, which is great if the kids were playing in a different bit of the garden and you wanted to keep an eye on them. One other thing that I had been a little concerned about with the mounting being so easy and the magnetic attachment is how easily it might be to steal the camera. Whilst you’ll never get rid of this risk entirely, if you place the camera high enough up, any would be thief would have to use a ladder to get close enough to it to be able to cut the wires and steal it, and you’ll get a good shot of them whilst they’re doing that! There’s also a tiny and fiddly screw that keeps the power cable in place that might initially hamper an opportunist thief.
I have to say that the quality of the video recording is excellent. It can record in full 1080p and because of the 130° wide-angle lens, a single camera can see a whole garden clearly. Our garden is a good size and the camera can see nearly all of the main entry to the back of the house and you then have the ability to zoom in on specific areas. The night vision is also fantastic – it’s perfectly clear and the images don’t suffer from glare from streetlights or car headlights. You can see the garden just as clearly at night as you can in the daytime and the movement that it shows is fluid and not jerky at all.
If your internet has a slightly slower connection, you can set the camera to record in 720p resolution – this might be useful if your router is a bit of a distance from where the camera is. We initially found that the camera was taking longer than we would like to upload our videos and make them available to view because the router was at the opposite end of the house. When we reduced the recording quality to 720p and it improved things a lot. We then installed a WiFi extender in the room near to where the camera is installed and that made a significant difference to the signal strength and upload speed.
Finally, the IFTTT functionality of the app is fantastic. If you have other Hive products in your home, such as smart bulbs and smart plugs, you can easily set your Hive system to switch lights in the house on if motion is picked up on the camera outside. This wouldn’t quite work for us in practice because of where we have our camera pointed, but if you have a very enclosed back garden it would work fantastically! You can even set it so schedule, so the IFTTT commands will only work between certain times or if it’s dark which is a handy function alongside being able to set how long the smart bulb or plug will switch on for. This really adds to the security of your home, making it appear that someone is at home, awake and aware of a disturbance in the garden.
We have been really impressed with the camera – it reliably sends notifications to your phone to allow you to your phone if it detects movement outside and you can almost instantly view the clip. You also have the option of Go Live to see what’s going on in the garden right now. With the detection levels set properly, there aren’t many false alarms at all, and the quality of the recording is great. The Hive View Outdoor is a great addition to a household security arsenal.
Hive Door/Window and Motion Sensors
We were also sent a Hive Door Sensor and two Hive Movement Sensors which are fantastic to use alongside the other items in the house. We have put the door sensor on our front door, and installing it couldn’t have been easier. In the box are the two parts of the sensor as well as four strong sticky pads. To install it, all you have to do is pull the battery tab off the back and use the pads to stick one part of the sensor to the door and the other part to the door frame.
You then need to link the sensor to your Hive Hub which, just like everything else Hive related, is as simple as taping the ‘add’ button on your app and following the instructions. It took about five minutes from start to finish and we were all installed and ready to go!
The Hive sensors are where the IFTTT really comes into its own! We have a chest of drawers in the hall where we keep keys, gloves and more – the kind of thing that you need to pick up on your way out or put back when you get in. We have a lamp on the hall table that gets a lot of use whilst we’re putting things away and taking our shoes off on the way into the house, but one of the kids invariably manages to knock it as the switch always falls behind the drawers. We have now plugged the lamp into our Hive Smart Plug and have created an action to make our lives a lot easier. Now, when the door is opened, the door sensor fires an instruction to the smart plug which immediately switches the lamp on, meaning no more walking into a dark house and not being able to see what you’re doing! It also adds piece of mind that if an opportunist thief were to try the door on an evening, the hall would be lit up and would hopefully scare them off sharpish!
The reaction time is virtually instant and by the time the door is open, the lamp is switched on. Just like the camera, you can set different parameters and conditions (only switch on in the dark, be active between certain hours, etc.) and adjusting your instruction is incredibly quick and easy. You could even set it so that when it detects the door being opened between 5pm-6pm (or whenever you get home from work), the heating switches on or gets a boost, so the house is toasty warm when you need it to be!
The Motion Detectors work in a very similar way, but by detecting movement rather than a door opening. We did get a little confused when we were installing these as they don’t actually appear on your Hive dashboard after they have installed! We were baffled as we thought they hadn’t installed, but a quick call to Hive customer service sorted our issue out for us – the sensors had installed and were waiting for us to add to the dashboard separately!
The motion sensors are as easy to put up as the door sensor was, and they come with spare sticky pads too. You can install them either horizontally or vertically and we have put one of ours on the landing upstairs and the second in the utility room as there are two external doors and three windows in there. We have set the landing sensor to switch on our Hive Smart Bulb to a low level for five minutes, if motion is detected between 10pm and 6am. This is perfect for the kids’ night-time toilet trips and means they don’t have to stumble around in the dark to find the light switch! We have installed the second one in the utility room and that one at the moment will just alert my phone if movement is detected between midnight and 6am, but I am going to get a second smart plug and attach it to another lamp or even a little radio.
We have been really impressed with all of the items that we have been sent to try out. The camera is absolutely fantastic, both day and night and the sensors are a great addition if you already have, or are looking to get, Hive lightbulbs or Hive plugs. All put together, the system offers a great way to help to keep your home safe and secure, and we love the customisability and the fact that you can build your system to suit your family’s needs down to the ground. The quality of the products are great and the app is well built, intuitive and easy to use – an easy 5/5 from me!
For more information or to buy, visit www.hivehome.com.