Arriving late to a crowded market, Logitech recently released their Logi Circle Portable Camera just in time for the 2015 holiday shopping season. They’re grabbing up prime end-cap space at retailers around the globe, hoping to make an impact in the home security camera realm. Our testing found this device has certain features remniscent of the offerings by both Arlo & Withings. Let’s see why that is, and how it compares to those devices and others.
Before we get started, a quick background on some of these devices. Earlier this year we performed a huge shootout/comparison that included the Withings Home (you can find that article HERE). And more recently I posted my full review of the Arlo Smart Home Security Camera System (check for that blog post HERE). You’ll find in-depth photos and details about those two systems in those respective posts.
This post debuts my first look at the Logi Circle, hence the photos below are mainly of that unit. Up until now I had put off testing the Logi Circle simply because my personal needs don’t really include this device. They tout it as a “home connection camera” instead of a security device, which I’ll explain more later in this post. Since the Arlo system has met my personal needs quite nicely, I was going to take a breather from testing more cameras. But here I am, sucked into this new hardware, sharing my thoughts with all of you!
Below are photos taken during my testing & comparison of these various devices, including experiences from other units I’ve tested in the past. Later in the article are some video comparisons, too. For sake of easy reading I’ve broken this post down into various categories, so you can understand how these devices compare & contrast one another. Enjoy!
SIZE & MOUNTING
Logitech took their time bringing a device to the market, and it paid off when it comes to size, shape, and overall asthetics. As the photos will show above, their device is significantly smaller than the Withings Home though it doesn’t try as hard to blend in with your knick knacks. Of the three I love the look of the Withings, even if it is a bit big. The Logitech unit is only marginally larger than the Arlo when that unit is used without a standard. With a stand, the Arlo is almost as big as the Withings, and becomes a bit of an eye sore in that form.
However, if you aren’t using the wall mounts that come with the Arlo, you almost certainly need to use their optional table stand. Otherwise you can’t always get the perfect angle that you may desire, since the unit sits simply flat on a surface. Same can be said for the Withings, where their magnetic “plate” stand is required to get any up/down tilt access, and even then it has a relatively limited range. Hence it is brilliant for Logitech to allow pivoting to be built right into the device.
Magnetic mounting is not an option for the Withings device, which can only be placed on flat surfices, with or without their “tilt-allowing” dish. The magnet within the Withings is purely meant to hold it in that dish. But in the case of the Arlo there is a much more powerful magnet built right into the camera, allowing you to place the device just about anywhere you please. And the Arlo also offers an adjustable Indoor/Outdoor mount providing even further options.
With the Logitech you can can take the “magnetic base ring” they include with the device to and mount it permanently with the screws included. And since it is magnetic, it can be on a wall, or even ceiling, and the camera should stick to it just fine. They also include an adhesive command strip, for less permanent installation desires. Or you can just place it on a flat surface of your choosing, as I did during my testing here.
Overall the Logitech and Arlo tied for most diverse mounting options. But I prefer the simplicity of the Arlo, and easy relocation options. We’ll talk more about the wire-free aspects further on, and how moving the cameras around works for all devices here.
Check out the image gallery above and look specifically for the 6 photos that are screen captures of each device. This provided the best way to compare what you’ll see, as 99% of the time you’ll monitor these cameras from your phone. One set of photos shows each camera in the dark with night mode on. Another set was taken, also at night, but with room lights on.
Both the Logitech and Arlo, as you will see, tend to have a bit of a fish eye effect at the outer edges of the image. Yet they tend to provide a more true to life color realization, where the Withings washes out with a lot of yellow under my “dark” test conditions. At my work office, where I ended up moving the cameras for my second half of testing, the Withings didn’t tend to discolor as much and the variance lessened. Because of how my Arlo camera setup is at home, I was unable to test those at work.
On the flip side, the Withings provides a flatter, more accurate shape to the image when compared to the others. Interestingly enough, the Arlo specifications indicate only 110-degrees of view, where the other two are 135-degrees. So where you get a narrower view with the Arlo, both the Withings and Logitech match in angle, but not in flatness.
But in the end, image quality matters more than just color accuracy and viewing angles. And this is where the Withings tends to underwhelm, just like the first time we tested it against other devices. It isn’t just about 720 vs 1080 pixel resolution, as image quality has as much to do with the internal camera hardware too.
In the end then it was the Logitech which provided the most crisp and vivid images of the bunch. Though the Arlo does a great job coming in at a very close second-place, it can’t match the Circle for tight imagery. When you pinch to zoom in, the Withings actually did the best there, though, making it worth considering and holding on for third place. All of them are acceptable for the price.
MICROPHONE & SPEAKER
Because the Arlo is able to be placed outdoors, they opted to omit having a microphone or speaker to meet their weather resistance capabilities. So when it comes to microphone & speaker comparisons, the Arlo has to sit this section out. Keep in mind this also means no sound triggers on the Arlo units.
Both the Withings and Logitech devices have built in microphones & speakers, allowing for 2-way communications. And during our testing both of them worked as advertised. We found the speaker volume on the Logitech was a bit louder, such that it could probably be heard from a further distance, if needed. However, yell too loud and the speaker distorted slightly. There was also a clearer, though more digital sound, from the Logitech‘s speaker. Testing the Withings found the speaker was a bit more quiet and harder to hear if there was background noise.
Both devices did a good job with the microphone, such that the remote user could hear either camera’s subject just fine. However, we did have two issues here. First off, the Logitech unit is not duplex, meaning while you are holding down the talk button remotely, the local subject cannot be heard. This meant that 2-way conversations were only allowing one person to talk at a time. While this is a short-coming on the Circle, the Withings does offer full duplex conversations, which is good. Except that this causes feedback, which we noticed heavily using the Withings to talk remotely. We found that turning down the iPhone’s volume helped a bit, but the local subject could still hear an echo when talking, and the remote user would then have a hard time hearing if the volume was too low.
If you can live with simplex conversations, the Logitech definitely has the best performance here. It was clearer to hear out of the speaker, didn’t have any feedback or distortion, and left us quite pleased overall.
ALERTS & NOTIFICATIONS
When I tested the Arlo originally, I talked a bit about the granularity of notifications. They can be set to notify you not just at specific times of the day, but also by email as well as push notification. With their system you can turn off push notifications within iOS, yet still get emails if you desire. And you can set which cameras provide the notifications, during specific modes, rules, and other settings. As you start configuring these options it quickly becomes clear that the Arlo Wireless platform has security monitoring in mind.
In contast then, both the Withings Home and Logi Circle are more about keeping tabs on your home is a low-key kind of way. In the case of the Logitech device, you can turn on/off push notifications, and nothing more. The only saving grace was that it uses “smart” learning to recognize motion from the same person/pet, and often not inundate you with too many triggers. Logitech has no setting for motion zones, like the Arlo does, or even the Nest we’ve tested in the past. Setting up alerts & notifications in the Logitech app is easy, but the lack of explanation of the icons on-screen made the learning curve steeper than we wanted.
Then there is the Withings, which sits somewhere in between the other two. Navigating the Withings app is a pleasure, being both intuitive, and nicely labled and explained on each page. I liked that the Withings has slider bars for sensitivity of sound, motion, and air quality (we’ll come back to air quality a later). You can also easily turn of/off the alerts specifically for motion, sound, or air sensitity, quite easily. In this regard the Withings could be used for security monitoring, but as we’ll talk about in the next section, you’ll have to ante up monthly to make it work the way we wanted.
If you’re shopping these three devices, and home/small business security is your top priority, the Arlo is the clear champion. For your home, especially for watching just general activity with less focus on safety, the Withings takes a small margin over the Logi, which simply doesn’t have the ability to trim notifications as finitely. However, we haven’t gotten to video quality yet… so keep reading!!
Additionally, the Withings can be a great baby monitor. Look two sections down for more about that, where I discuss the “unique” features across each device, where the Withings has a few other tricks up its sleeve.
VIDEO STORAGE (TIME-LAPSE & DAY BRIEF)
If you want to record the most video possible for the lowest cost, the Arlo platform is going to be your best option. You’ll get 1GB of storage for 7 days, or whichever comes first, all for FREE! At this base no-charge level you are limited to a maximum of five cameras. There are other tiers, should you want more cameras, or longer video retention. Even at the base/free service level you can access all of your videos, settings, and more right from the web portal.
You can also share access to any camera you want with others, easily, and at no charge. However, because the Arlo devices are entirely wireless, there is no continuous recording option as it would suck down battery life too greatly. Hence where the Arlo units are great for basic security, if you need continuous video recording (CVR), the Arlo won’t meet your needs. They also don’t offer a time-lapse review like the other two devices, which is definitely a fun feature, even if not super practical.
Below are some samples from my Arlo devices for your review/sampling. These are the same videos from my full Arlo review a few weeks ago.
Jump over to the Withings platform, and you drop down to only 48-hours of video retention. Worse yet, the recordings are time-lapse method only. If you want true 30fps video recordings of events you have to pay at least $7.95 per month, providing for 7 days of saved videos. Then you also get continuos recording at that price, all day long. Pricing for 30-days of retention jumps to a nickel shy of $20, if you want it.
My testing was conducted at the free level only, for each device here. As such I’m unable to attest to how well the CVR service works. I will say this: the time-lapse captures of motion events was always of poor quality, and was just too brief. It was neat to have a 24-hour recap (time-lapse, see below). But the overall video capturing experience with the Withings is the worst of the three, at least at this free tier.
I’d hope that the experience is greatly improved at the $7.95 tier, but cannot justify paying for a service at this time. Especially when you look at the other free options tested here, which only further hurts the Withings pricing requirement.
Below is both a time-lapse video from the Withings, as well as a single-event video capture. As you can see there is no fish-eye with this device, but the time-lapse fashion, even of the single event, does not make this ideal for security (unless you pay for their services).
Finally we have the Logitech to discuss with regards to video storage and such. Their retention drops to the lowest of the bunch, at a mere 24-hours of rear visibility. This means you really need to stay on top of the videos you want to keep, and download them to your phone before they vanish. All three of these devices allow you to export videos to save indefinitely on your own local storage.
We were pleased to find that the Logitech provides you a true and proper video stream. Each clip is a full 30fps here, so even if they don’t last on the cloud for long, at least they looked great. Video quality was marginally better here than the Arlo, but overall on-par with that device.
Here is a SINGLE event video (motion capture) from the Logitech:
Like the Withings, the Logitech also offers a really nice “day in review” time-lapse, which they call your Day Brief. Because their video recording during the day is real and not just snippets, their time-lapse ends up being much cleaner looking than the Withings before it.
You will notice an improved quality here versus the other cameras, which as have said a few times, the Logitech simply reigns supreme. Check out the time-lapse from the Circle below:
Also, Logitech is not yet offering longer video retention options, but has stated they are working to add this, as well as the web portal, in the near future. For now you’ll just want to remember to download any videos you want before they disapear, a day later!
When I look back at these videos and try to decide on video quality, I clearly was unhappy with the free video quality services from Withings. As for the Arlo versus Logitech, both work fine, but I prefer the 7-day 1GB storage (free!) that the Arlo brings to the table, even if it takes a small dip in crispness of quality. If you don’t need a full week, or you really like the day in review feature, the Logitech may work just fine for you.
OTHER FEATURES (AIR QUALITY, WIRE-FREE)
Each of these devices have unique features that set them apart from the rest of the bunch. However, your specific shopping needs will help dictate if that extra is a goodie, or just a gimmick.
Air quality is something we often overlook in our homes, and Withings knows this so they added an air quality sensor. This allows the camera to scan for VOCs in the air, though I’m not sold on the accuracy of this unit. Combined with that sensor they placed a multi-color light at the base of the camera, which can alert you when the air quality changes.
Additionaly, the Withings can use that light as a soothing ambiance, be it in an adults bedroom, or a child. As a matter of fact, I love the angle that Withings took to market their deviec as a baby monitor, by allowing you to set a timer and lullabye sounds. They even have a notification setting that allows your phone’s microphone to kick in automatically when triggered by sound on the camera, ideal for keeping tabs on junior at home.
Moving over to the Arlo we find my home security system of choice. Each camera is 100% wire-free, with multi-month long-lasting batteries. What is unique about the Arlo here are their weather-proof housings. Coupled with their extensive mounting options these devices are a great outdoors companion. As noted in my prior article, it works great for our outdoor kitty cam, but I also plan to add another camera to monitor my front door/porch soon. Wireless functionality and weather resistant make the Arlo superb where you don’t have outlet access, need access to mount the device outdoors, or even both!
What the Logitech device brings to the table is a bit of a hybrid of these two. It cannot be installed outdoors, but that also means it can have a microphone (the Arlo lacks this due to it’s need to be water-tight). However, it does have wire-free capabilities, and the internal battery can be recharged, rather than needing to be replaced.
Battery life for the Logitech is rated at lasting 12-hours, though the only way to achieve that is in low-energy mode, which for me didn’t record motion triggers. This would be more ideal for remote access I suppose, but I’m still trying to figure out the exact situation where you’d need to run the unit wireless, but only for part of a day. Still having this feature is nice, and might fit someone’s specific needs or desires even if they don’t match mine. If you desire the ability for short bursts of time where you want to move the camera to a non-wired location, superior video quality, and 2-way communication, the Logi Circle is great.
As I said earlier in this article, the Arlo Smart Home Security Camera System is my personal favorite. But then again, my specific needs required the ability to record outdoor footage (weather-proof mounting), and I didn’t care about 24/7 recording. I’m also not sold on VOC/air quality data as a necessity, nor did I care about microphone and speaker hardware. Plus I already have a few other devices monitoring VOCs, so the Withings is a bit redundant for me.
However, I admit that I’m quite smitted with the new Logi Circle Portable Camera by Logitech now that I’ve tested it thoroughly. The device reminds me most of the Withings Home in this comparison, because of the day-in-review footage, the two-way conversation capabilities, and the overall timeline interface. Between those two devices I’d take the Logi Circle for sure, based on higher video quality, smaller form factor, and other details as discussed above. And again, having the opportunity to move it around wirelessly for periods of time is slick!
As you can see, all of these devices have their own pros/cons. Figuring out which one to buy will depend greatly on your personal needs or desires. Some devices are better for security, some are better for recording life’s simple moments, and some are great to recap an entire day of your family, your pets, or your small office.
In the end all of them are amazing pieces of techology. Which one are you going to buy, and why? Sound off below!
P.S. After posting this article, Withings sent me off an email to their recent blog post. What I found interesting is that they are now offering a Withings Home Baby Bundle on Amazon. As I stated above, the Home is really great for this application, more than anything else. Know your strength, right? Good job, Withings, on marketing your device for what it does best; kudos!