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TP-Link Kasa Cam Outdoor review: An affordable but flawed security camera

At just $60, TP-Link’s latest security camera, the Kasa Cam Outdoor, model KC420WS, would seem to provide a no-frills approach to home surveillance. Simple-looking on the outside, you’ll find a surprisingly full-featured camera under the hood—with just one major downside.

The baseball-sized orb attaches to a multi-hinged joint that delivers full flexibility in positioning and aiming. It boasts an IP65 weatherization rating, meaning it’s impervious to dust incursion and that it can withstand being sprayed with a jet of water from any direction. It should be mounted to a wall or beneath your eaves, courtesy of three screw holes in the base, but—like many modern outdoor cameras—it doesn’t come with any accessories for bookshelf-style use. It could otherwise easily be adopted for use inside the home.

The rest of the camera’s specs are equally solid. There’s a 4K image sensor that supports resolution of 2560 x 1440, and a lens with a 110-degree field of view—not too wide and not too narrow. Two-way audio is included for real-time communication. Video looked good and crisp, although images can be a bit dark during the day.

Two forms of night vision are provided: “Full color,” thanks to the presence of dual spotlights, or black-and-white, with the help of infrared illumination. The range of both night vision modes is about average. The spotlights aren’t overly powerful, so I’d recommend sticking with the standard infrared unless you’re looking to scare off potential intruders. There’s also an onboard siren, if you want to up the ante.

Connectivity is via 2.4GHz Wi-Fi and the Kasa Smart app. Setting up the camera via the app is a simple, if slightly dated, process in which you manually connect to the camera’s temporary Wi-Fi network and then bridge the camera to to your home network.

The Kasa app isn’t the most intuitive and seems tuned for those who sign up for one of the paid tiers of TP-Link’s Kasa Care subscription plans. For $3/month or $30/year, you can access cloud-based video history, share video from the app, and get snapshots in your push notifications. For $10/month or $100/year, you get all the same—plus support for up to 10 cameras.

With no subscription and a microSD card, you can still get a lot of use out of the camera, including the ability to record 24/7 and capture clips based on motion detection. You can install a card with a capacity up to 256GB under a tiny hatch held in place by two screws. No card is included with the camera. Bizarrely, you can’t record clips on demand. The good news is that the paltry 3 bucks for a month of service doesn’t seem excessive, and I expect most users will happily pay the cash for the streamlined ease of use it provides.

On the whole, I found using the KC420WS to be easy once I’d figured out how to navigate its slightly odd layout, and its handful of settings are thankfully simple to understand. Activity zones, for example, can be set to ignore motion outside of a preset area, and various detection modes can be configured, including the ability to record motion only if a person is detected. You can also configure the camera to start recording if its microphone detects sounds. Motion sensing was spot-on in my testing, and I found notifications were delivered quickly and reliably.

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