DEPENDING on how your place of abode is laid out, it’s quite likely your gaming setup (especially for PCs) isn’t near your front door, and there’s no way to know whether a knock at the door is the postie delivering parcels, the next door neighbour asking if they can borrow some tools, or a door-to-door salesperson trying to sell you solar panels.
Who among us has not had to hurriedly go AFK while rushing to the front door in mid-match, only discover that the caller was not, in fact, in relation to anything that needed your urgent, gaming-interrupting attention?
If only there was some way to see who was at your door from the comfort of your gaming space. And there is – the product I’m reviewing here!
The SwannBuddy wireless video doorbell is exactly that – a wireless (2.4Ghz) doorbell with a 1080p video camera and motion sensors.
It’s designed to be mounted outside in the usual place you’d expect to put a doorbell; there’s a very serviceable mount included in the box along with screws for attaching it to brick, timber or sheetrock surfaces or adhesive pads for mounting to aluminium window frames. There’s also a small screw at the bottom of the mount to securely attach the camera to the mount, in case anyone has any ideas about wandering off with it.
There are two ways to power the camera – via the internal battery (which lasts for a few months and is easily recharged via USB), or by wiring the system into an existing doorbell 12v power supply (there are connector cables included for this).
There’s also a standalone chime included, which you can put anywhere in the house and which will chime when someone presses the doorbell button. It works very well and you can select from several different chimes, too.
The way the SwannBuddy works is pretty much what you’d expect – there’s a motion sensor in the doorbell which detects when someone is approaching your front door, and sends an alert to your smart device; it also starts recording and uploads the recording to the internet as well. Pressing the doorbell button also activates the alert/recording process, too.
The device is controlled via the Swann Security app, which lets you configure the SwannBuddy, receive notifications, livestream from the doorbell, access/replay recordings, communicate with people at the doorbell, and all the other stuff you’d expect the app to do
The SwannBuddy does everything Swann say it will, but I found it slower than I’d like on the notification and connection front.
The device would detect the postie was coming to my front door and alert me to the movement detection, but by the time I’d opened the app and connected to the camera and started streaming, the postie would have delivered the package, got back on the postie-trike, and left by the time the video was streaming to my phone.
The SwannBuddy has two-way communication capabilities, so if your visitor sticks around for long enough for the camera to connect to your phone you can talk to them – whether it’s asking a delivery person to leave a package in a safe place, letting someone know you’re running late at the shops and will be home in a few minutes, or even letting your significant know you’re in the middle of a raid and can’t come to the door to help them carry the groceries in, sorry about that.
While the sensor reportedly uses motion and heat to detect activity, I found it oddly inconsistent with its sensitivity on the standard settings, sometimes picking up cars driving past on the street outside, yet not picking up one of the neighbourhood cats coming to visit. I got a lot of false positives from the unit – it’d alert me to movement, I’d connect to the camera, there’d be nothing there. Depending on the view from your front door (and if there’s much foot/vehicle traffic past it), you may or may not have similar issues, but it’s something to be mindful of.
At close range (ie, someone being right at the front door and/or pressing the doorbell) it was fine, although there was still sometimes a noticeable delay between the person pressing the doorbell button and my phone receiving an alert that someone was pressing the button (the external chime worked perfectly, however).
There is an internal SD card and it also records to the cloud -the video quality of the recordings is very good (even in night mode) – and those aspects of it work well and exactly as you’d hope.
While advertised as a WiFi doorbell, you absolutely can connect to it via your mobile phone when away from home, and receive notifications and talk to callers no matter where you are.
It is worth noting the unit only works on the 2.4Ghz frequency, and the range will depend on several factors including where your wireless router is located, how far away it is, and the building materials of wherever you live.
It’s still a shame the big attraction (real-time door monitoring) doesn’t work quite as well as it could. It is important to stress the product does do what Swann claim it does – just not as well optimised as I’d hope – and I’ve still found it to be a net benefit to my smarthome setup.
There’s still plenty of use for the SwannBuddy – the actual doorbell aspect works just fine, and it’s a useful security tool for keeping an eye on the front door to your home if you’re not there.
It has an RRP of AUD$199 which isn’t too bad considering what you’re getting; the unit is well made, the battery will last for a long time and can be recharged, and it’s still a genuinely useful product which can help reduce gaming interruptions and also let you know when all that stuff (maybe including some of the items from our Gift Guides?) has been delivered too.