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Published by Simon Schoeters

Advance WB-IP02W WiFi-G IP-camera review

Digital baby monitors are expensive, around €150 for one with an infrared camera. They don't last very long (as most baby stuff) and aren't very hackable. They mostly come with an extra screen module. A proper geek has to do better, so off I went, looking for a cheap, infrared-enabled IP camera.

Finding a camera

There are a lot of webcams out there in different ranges, so I should probably list my requirments first:

  • Cheap, as cheap as possible
  • Network-enabled, as I don't want an extra computer sitting around
  • Usable at night (day view is a plus)
  • Hackable, as I want to reuse it for something else when the baby gets older
  • Able to integrate with my home WiFi network

There are a lot of cheap motorized cameras out there, and I couldn't care less. They look clunky and I don't need the extra features. There are cameras from well established brands and cameras without names. I went for the “I can always throw it away” approach and got me the cheap Ad(i|v)ance WB-IP02W WiFi-G IP-camera for €70.

Installation

The camera comes with an antenna, wall mountable support, ethernet cable, power cable and manual in French and something that sounds like English. The package includes a mini-CD with the installation tools.

The camera manufacturer, Advance or Adiance (can't really make out the name from the logo), doesn't seem to have a website. Google doesn't help, and the French manual only mentions a support link to the French importer, Suza, who has nothing more than a simple product page.

I hoped the camera would have a web interface so I wouldn't have to install any software. It turns out you do, a small application called “IP Camera Tool”. There was no mention of Mac OS X support, though. Well, I did find a Mac OS X version of the application that even works on Lion on the tiny CD. What a surprise! I wouldn't dare stick the mini-CD in my MacBook Pro, as it would probably never come out again, so I booted an old Linux PC in the attic to copy the application to a USB stick.

Configuration

Once you get the application installed and the camera connected, you can configure its IP address and access its ugly web interface. There are two modes: “ActiveX Mode” and “Server Push Mode”. The first one requires ActiveX, so I have never tried it (you'll need a Windows PC with Internet Explorer to do so). The second one looks more like your router's web interface.

You can configure the camera's DHCP, DDNS, e-mail, FTP and alarm settings from this interface. You can set it to upload or mail pictures when it detects movement at a certain threshold. It doesn't feel very polished, but it works.

Video Feed

Another section of the web interface gives access to the video feed. It's nothing more than a stream of images with some brightness and contrast settings, but it works. I noticed a delay of around 5 seconds when using WiFi; ethernet is a little faster.

You can access the feed directly at http://user:password@ip-address/videostream.cgi if you don't need the web interface. I use it with my smartphone, for example.

The colors look horrible (black looks more like purple). This is something I expected, as most cheap cameras seem to have this issue. Here is a screenshot for comparission; the left side is taken with the Advance WB-IP02W WiFi-G IP-camera, and the right side with an iPhone 4S in the same light conditions:

IP Camera vs. iPhone

The infrared image is actually quiet nice. The image is bright, and you can clearly see details in a really dark room. The six infrared LEDs seem to do a good job.

Conclusion

The Advance WB-IP02W WiFi-G IP-camera is what I expected it to be: a cheap, infrared camera with decent images in dark rooms. I can directly access the video feed over HTTP, allowing me to use the camera with my phone.

Negative

  • Not a plug-and-play camera; be prepared to jump through hoops.
  • Information is difficult to find: bad manual and no website.
  • Install tool comes on a mini-CD. Please, give me a USB stick, or better, a download link.
  • Software needs to be installed to configure the camera.
  • Really bad color callibration; black looks like purple.

Positive

  • Cheap, €70 in Belgium
  • Video feed accessible by URL
  • Decent night vision quality
  • Includes a Mac OS X version of the installation tool

Read More

Troy Hunt has a really thorough review on what seems to be the motorized version of this camera over on his blog.