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To paraphrase or invoke one of Homer Simpson’s more profound moments, I wouldn’t have thought you could put a price on your family’s safety, but nonetheless, here we are. Tech giants like Google and Amazon will happily sell you devices to monitor your home, and charge you monthly to keep them functioning, but the likes of the ANNKE Crater prove you can achieve similar results on a much lighter budget.

The ANNKE Crater boasts an impressive amount of features in its compact form. Its camera can cover a vast viewing area, panning up to 330° and tilting up to 90°. This allows you to cover virtually any room in your home with a single camera, if your floor plan, furniture arrangement, and availability of electrical sockets complies. Setup is quick and relatively painless, but make sure you download the app before plugging it in, lest you wake the incessant automated voice that asks you to connect.

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Its picture quality is decent, even in SD, but the overall quality of the results will vary depending on the natural lighting of whatever room you place the Crater in. Artificial lighting in a basement, for instance, yields a markedly diminished product — probably enough to identify an intruder, but not as crystal clear as you might like in that instance.

Conversely, I was more impressed with the quality of night mode captures. For low-light captures, they’re pretty clear, and the tracking tech worked well in a totally lightless room. Thanks to the ANNKE Crater, I was able to get a little context for my cat’s odd behaviour in the basement when the family is all in bed.

Unfortunately, the app that controls it all falls on the obtuse side. You can control the perspective of the ANNKE Crater from the company’s app in real time, and the camera responds sluggishly to your inputs, but it’s still novel to see the live-view shift around the room.

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The rest of the app itself feels slightly outdated by design standards. It has a barebones layout more reminiscent of apps from about five years ago, and navigating around it isn’t as intuitive or simple as it should be. There’s a decent array of functions buried within, enabling features like night mode, anti-flicker, human tracking and detection, and the siren.

This brings me to one of the bigger bugbears I found with the ANNKE Crater: false or misleading alerts. The app would often ping with an alert when I could verify that nothing had happened within the room it was monitoring — for instance, a darkened basement den when no one was downstairs. In another instance, the camera’s huge scope would also catch tiny motions on the very edge of its periphery (like the slightest hint of me working at the computer) and ding with an alert that showed nothing in its main, central perspective instead.

If you can catch the alert immediately and spin the camera to see what’s going on, this is useful, but when caught after the fact, like if you’re out of the house, there’s no way to see what set it off. Certainly it’s better to err on the side of being too cautious, but you do need to be mindful of storage space and becoming complacent about ignoring alerts.

Granted, all of this comes in a very affordable package, so I’m willing to forgive the ANNKE Crater some of its flaws. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find another device with this many features at a $25 USD price point. With a little time invested in tweaking its positioning and settings to get the most use (and least annoyance) out of it, it makes a capable home security device — whether you’re watching your home while on vacation, or just keeping an eye on your sleeping infant.

This content was originally published here.



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Brendan Frye

EIC at CGMagazine (@CGMagonline), Veteran of the field with more then 10 years experience. Also Publisher at Nuada Press.