My little furry buddy and I have been living with the Tenvis JPT3815W-HD. There's a lot to tell about this budget IP camera. For starters, it's definitely not the best camera out there; it has flaws. However, it provides a lot of bang for your buck.
Installation of the Tenvis JPT3815W-HD
Installing the Tenvis JPT3815W-HD is pretty straight-forward. You can connect it to your network using either WPS or an Ethernet cable. WPS is an easier option. However, it's not always the most secure. If you choose to go this route, Tenvis' WPS button is located behind the camera, right below the antenna. Press it for 3 seconds and the camera's indicator light will blink green, which means it is looking for available Wi-Fi connections.
If WPS doesn’t work, you can temporarily hook up your camera using an Ethernet cable and setup Wi-Fi using the Tenvis app on your smartphone or by using the TENVIS Search Tool on your computer. The app and computer software automatically detect any Tenvis IP camera connected to the same network. Alternatively, if you're using a smartphone, you can scan the QR code printed underneath the camera.
From a privacy perspective, WPS doesn't make me feel protected. But, I do have another privacy related concern - every camera comes with a default username and password, which you will provide the first time you access your camera. I'm afraid that most users won't change the default password. The default username and password is the same for every JPT3815W shipped, so if you don’t change it, your camera will be left vulnerable to hackers (of course it's slightly protected as the hacker would also have to enter your camera's IP address).
Video Quality: Day & Night
There are technically two versions of this camera. There is the JPT3815W and the JPT3815W-HD. The JPT3815W has a max resolution of 480p and sells for $41.99. To be clear, I tested the JPT3815W-HD. At $65 it is a bit more expensive, but it offers HD 720p video. Well, kind of.
Though advertised as an HD-ready camera. This is partially true. It can record and store HD videos to your SD card, but streaming HD videos is another story. At first I thought the problem was my internet connection - which is crappy at times. However, I found that even at optimal internet speeds, the video quality is still grainy and not crisp. I wouldn't say it's bad, because so long as the lighting conditions are good, streaming video looks okay.
The ability to pan and tilt is one of the best features this camera offers. You can control pan and tilt through the app or your computer, allowing a sweeping 360-degree look around the room. The camera is quiet when panning and tilting, which makes it less noticeable, but the green indicator light detracts from its anonymity. Fortunately, you can turn the indicator light off in the camera’s settings.
The camera’s night vision ability is also decent. When it gets dark, its 10 IR LEDs automatically kick in. While Tenvis says it can see up to 32 feet in the dark, during testing, it could only see clearly up to around 20 feet away. Beyond that, everything is a shadow.
Cameras these days have all sorts of sensors. Unfortunately, JPT3815W only has two—a motion sensor and a sound sensor. When it senses motion or when it hears a loud sound, it sends a notification with 3 snapshots to your email. It should be mentioned that JPT3815W-HD only sends alerts to 1 email address. The ability to send to multiple email address would have been great, or better yet, notifications through the smartphone app. Unfortunately, Tenvis is missing this very important feature. Unless you are connected to your inbox 24/7, the chances of receiving a notification when you are out and about are rather slim.
Aside from notifying you, JPT3815W also saves 15-second clips of events to your microSD card or FTP device.
Motion detection is an area where the JPT3815W shines. You can easily turn the motion sensor on and off using the app or your computer. In the app, simply touch the 'Settings' icon which takes you to a menu where 'Motion Detection' can be customized. From the menu, you can turn motion detection off, or change its sensitivity to low, medium, high, or max.
Using your computer to set up motion detection opens up a useful feature—Detection Zones. You can have as many as 4 detection zones, each with sensitivity levels from 0-100. It’s a useful feature because you can lower the sensitivity so it won’t alert you of moving tree branches outside, but it is a shame that it can’t be accessed from the app.
One thing you have to know about this camera is that it is not pet-friendly. I have a 5 pound dog, so I set the sensitivity to the lowest level. To my frustration, I was alerted almost every time my dog walked past the camera. So if you have a pet, consider getting a more pet-friendly camera like Piper or Piper NV.
Sound detection is kind of a hidden feature. Like the Detection Zones feature, it can only be activated using the TENVIS Search Tool on your computer.
Sound detection worked well when I tried it. I set its sensitivity to 50, and hours later, it notified me when my dog barked at the mailman.
JPT3815W-HD uses the New Tenvis app, an app designed for most Tenvis IP cameras. The app doesn't have a lot to offer. You can use it to watch live videos, use two-way talk, capture images or record videos to the SD card, playback events, and change the cameras' settings (well some of them).
The app gets the job done most of the time, except for a few instances when the feed froze, this happen more frequently when connected to a different network than the camera.
Aside from your smartphone or tablet, you can also use your Mac or Windows computer to monitor Tenvis with the help of TENVIS Search Tool software. The software searches all Tenvis cameras on your network and gives you their IP addresses. These IP addresses will take you to a web interface in your browser where you can view live feeds from your camera, change settings, and access extra features, like Motion Detection Zones and sound detection. Unfortunately, it doesn't work with Chrome browsers since Chrome no longer supports NPAPI plugins, like the one Tenvis uses to display live video feeds on your browser.
Will I use this camera at my house? No. Not only do I have a pet, but I have serious concerns about my privacy. I'm not a fan of WPS, I'm not a fan of default passwords, I'm not a fan of accessing my camera online using its IP address, blah, blah, blah. On the bright side, the Tenvis JPT 3815W is budget-friendly, it pans and tilts, and it has motion and sound detection. What it lacks is any sort of smart feature. And as much as security cameras are evolving, I don't think Tenvis is headed in the right direction.
If you want something smart and something that can be friends with home automation devices, I'd recommend a camera like iSmartAlarm's SPOT. It doesn't pan and tilt, but its ability to play with smart home devices, IFTTT partnership, and its more advanced app makes SPOT's value exceed that of Tenvis'. I would also recommend Blink, which is a cordless camera in the sub-$100 category.