Now we’ve all got our budgets.
Some of us only have so much money we are willing to spend on home security, right?
Not everybody can afford to arm their house like the Louvre protects the Mona Lisa … and maybe you don’t want to. Maybe you just want a reasonably priced camera that can keep an eye on your home or alert you when your baby is crying.
That’s why I love the DIY security industry. There’s just so many affordable options.
Take the YI (pronounced “ee”) Home Camera for example. It’s one of the most affordable cameras on the market. I was surprised to see that the average price for it was only $50.
I’ve got to be honest though: When the camera arrived at my doorstep, I had a real “this is too good to be true” moment. It’s hard for me to imagine that a camera could be any good at a price so low, you know?
But I’m always down to be pleasantly surprised and I’m willing to give anything a shot.
Let’s see what the YI’s got going for it.
On the box, the YI looks like your standard home security camera.
- 1080p HD video for clear viewing.
- 4 x digital zoom to lock in on objects of interest.
- Wide angle lens (at 112 degrees) to capture as much of the room as possible.
- Lens distortion correction to avoid that “fishbowl” effect that sometimes occurs with wide-angle cameras.
- Night vision to catch all the things that happen in the dark.
- Two-way audio to communicate with people in other rooms.
- Motion detection to trigger recording specifically when there is motion in the area.
- Baby cry detection for parents with young children.
- Local and cloud storage to review footage.
Most of these features are what you can expect for most cameras on the market nowadays, so I wasn’t initially wowed by the product. I mean why should I, considering the amount of money I spent?
But I knew the only way I’d know if this camera is actually any good is by giving the YI a spin.
It was time to unbox!
When I pulled the YI out of the box for the first time, I was shocked by how thin it was. The camera lens itself is only about 32-millimeters wide and its white base is much, much thinner. The camera is about 114-millimeters tall and after weighing it my hand, my guess is that it doesn’t weigh more than four ounces. Even though the frame and the lens are made out of plastic, the camera is much heavier than it looks.
From a profile view, the YI appears very discreet — like it’s the Internet of Things’ best kept secret or something. The word “minimalist” and “trendy” keep coming to mind when I look at it and I can see how it could be easily hidden in a room with more of a white decor.
Personally, though, I’m not a huge fan of the design. It simply just isn’t my taste. If you prefer another color, I found out that the YI actually comes in black as well.
The base is adjustable, which is cool. I can tilt it forwards and backwards if I want. If for whatever reason I need to detach the lens from the base, I can pop it right out, too. If I want to mount the YI onto the wall, I can twist the frame off and drill screws through the three holes on the base. That function isn’t intuitive, though. I actually found this out by playing around with the camera a bit.
As for the power input, the YI comes with a micro USB power cord which connects to a standard USB wall plug. At the back of the camera I also found the small hole to insert a micro SD card for memory. Unfortunately, an SD card didn’t come included so I’m going to have to go out and get one if I want to have any local storage.
The setup for the YI was amazingly easy. It took me about five minutes tops to get my live stream up and running.
Basically, all I had to do was download the YI Home App, connect to Wi-Fi and point the camera at the QR code that showed up on the app. The app guided me through the entire process.
I’m happy to say that I didn’t have any Wi-Fi connection issues this time. There have been many times when I’ve set up other security cameras and they had trouble syncing up with my mobile device due to my internet connection. Sometimes my Wi-Fi wasn’t strong enough or I wasn’t close to my router, which made for a very frustrating experience.
But with the YI, I had everything ready to go with no hiccups whatsoever.
Security Baron Necessary Features
Now that we’ve got everything set up, it’s time to see if the YI Home Camera passes the Security Baron Necessary Features Test. Here at SB, we’ve created a set of standards that we think determines whether or not a camera holds up to industry (and consumer) expectations.
It’s only fair that we give the YI the same treatment.
I have to give this camera top marks in the video clarity department. The moment I got the live stream up on my phone, everything appeared so crisp and sharp. It was amazing. Having that 1080p HD recording — which is an industry standard — is so clutch. In order for me to have peace of mind, I need to be able to see what’s going on. If there is any blurriness in my footage, that’s when I know the cam is not what I’m looking for. With the YI, I don’t have the worry about that. I can also zoom the camera up to four times from my app. This is a great option to have if I want to look closer at something in the room.
Because of the lens distortion correction, there isn’t any weird image bending in the footage, which can happen when you’re using cameras with wide-angle lenses. The YI gives you a 112 degree viewing angle, which in my opinion is pretty underwhelming. Most cameras come with a 120 viewing angle or above to cover as much of the room as possible.
But I suppose I could buy more YI’s if I wanted to cover any blind spots. It’s so inexpensive, having an arsenal of YI’s isn’t a bad idea.
I’m pretty sure I could squeeze that into my budget.
The night mode is excellent as well. When I switched off the lights, I noticed that the video was just as clean.
Many cameras use LED illumination to activate their night modes, but the YI uses infrared (IR) lighting. I much prefer IR. Why? Because the video quality is much clearer and it doesn’t blind you with such a bright light.
If you have LED illumination shining like it’s the Second Coming, you better believe an intruder is going to notice and rethink their tactics. They might do whatever it takes to get the camera to stop recording their schemes.
In this case, it seems like the YI will do a great job at being discreet. You can be confident that it will catch those sneaky intruders without giving itself away.
The YI takes a major “L” in this category because there is absolutely no form of facial recognition with this camera.
Sure, there are motion and sound activated notification settings that let me know when someone is moving around the room. But I’ll have no idea if that person is a stranger that I should be worried about, or if it’s my friend coming in to feed my fish … Or in the more annoying case: It could just be my cat futzing around with a dustball she found on the floor.
In my opinion, it’s important to have a camera that can distinguish between the people (and things) that are moving about your house. You don’t want to get notified for unnecessary reasons.
To the YI’s credit though, you can change the settings for your alerts and alter the sensitivity to your camera so your phone isn’t blaring every time something moves or makes a sound. You can even designate the activity areas so that the camera will only send you notifications for areas that you care about.
I don’t want a “ping” every time a bird flies by my window, you know?
The audio is crystal clear with the YI, which is dope, and the two-way audio is a great way for me to communicate with others when I’m not in the house or simply just in another room. I just need my phone and Wi-Fi to connect to the app and I’m free to spook to crap out of anyone who enters my home.
The volume can get pretty loud, too, so I don’t have to worry about others being able to hear me.
Depending on your needs, two-way audio can be just a fun way for you to order your kids around, scare an intruder or just talk to someone in another room.
Think walkie-talkie but better.
I set up the YI in a flash so I give it A+ marks in this department. The app was super easy to use and follow.
I’m always happy when I don’t have to read a lengthy instruction manual — or keep them. Anyone have that drawer where you keep all of those mini instruction booklets for your gadgets just in case something happens?
Because you never know, right?
Well now that there are more and more products like the YI with apps that can guide me through everything, I think I can start putting those manuals in the recycling bin.
Save the trees!
Anyway, having a security camera that is convenient to set up means that I can rely on it to work quickly and keep working for as long as I need to use it.
I think storage component to the YI is great. It comes with the standard local and cloud storage options, some of which is free.
With a 32GB micro SD card I can record up to about a month’s worth of footage. That’s a pretty long time without having to think about emptying my memory or buying a new card.
YI also offers free 7-day loop recordings in their cloud storage, which is awesome. If I need more memory on the cloud, I can subscribe to 15-day or 30-day plans by paying $9.99 a month or $14.99 a month respectively. With both plans I can store footage for up to five cameras.
I think that’s pretty affordable and generous considering I can add more devices at no extra cost.
Smart Platform Integration
I have to give the YI another “L” for this category.
There’s no smart platform integration whatsoever. No Alexa. No Google Assistant. No Apple Home. No IFTTT. It doesn’t even pair up with other devices from the same brand.
As the Internet of Things continues to grow, more and more devices are coming with the ability to pair with each other to make life more convenient. The YI is behind the times in this case.
There’s no question. For $50 you get a lot with the YI.
I mean you get 1080p HD, two-way audio and amazingly clear night vision. The YI might be missing some things, but if you’re bargain shopping and don’t need all the fancy features, I think this camera is a great buy.
To all the parents with newborns in the house: This is a great feature as far as I can tell.
I don’t have a baby, but after testing my own cries (fake of course), I found out this camera can hear me up to about 16-feet away. Once the camera caught the sound of my sobs it sent me a six second clip of my sad, sad face.
Of course, because this camera is so good at picking up sounds, I imagine that it would be triggered by other things that you’d rather not be bothered by. Again, you can adjust the alert settings from you app and make your camera less sensitive to noise.
As I said before: The app is excellent. I didn’t find it buggy at all. In iTunes the YI Home App received nearly five stars, and in the Google Play store, it received the same high ratings.
Good job developers!
When I opened the app, I found it really easy to navigate. On the bottom row, you have the cameras, alerts, cloud storage and profile buttons. On the top, you have an image for the last footage that you recorded. Click on that image and you’ll immediately go to the live stream. In the top right corner, you can tap on the plus button and add another camera if you want.
I thought it was all super simple, straightforward and easy to use.
So I know for $50 I’m not getting everything with the YI. And that’s okay if I’m fine with not having the capabilities that some of the other cameras have.
For example, the YI does not have:
- Geofencing. This would allow me to mark off certain areas that I would like to track. Anyone with a mobile device stepped foot in that area, I would get an alert telling me a certain person has entered the space. Could come in handy if I wanted to know who’s moving about my home.
- Alarms or sirens. This could be useful if I wanted the neighbors to know that someone broke into my house.
- Privacy feature. There isn’t a specific privacy feature with the YI but you can leave it on continuous recording or set it to record only when it gets triggered by sounds or motion. A privacy setting would just stop the recording completely when you have friends and family in the home. If I’m hanging out with my peeps, I don’t necessarily need to pull all the security stops.
- Smart home integration. Again, this is a major bummer. How cool would it be to tell my Google Assistant to “Arm YI Home Camera!” I’d feel like Spock or something.
YI Home Camera vs. Other Cameras
So the YI isn’t the only affordable camera on the market and each of these affordable cameras come with their pros and cons. For you to find the best bargain buy on the market, I think it would be smart for me to compare them and see if the YI is the best of the best (for $50).
It reminds me of Honeywell’s Home C1 Indoor Camera, the Arlo and the Tend Secure Lynx.
Honeywell Home C1 Indoor Wi-Fi Security Camera
The Honeywell Home C1 Indoor Camera is slightly more expensive (around $60) and comes with advanced technology that the YI simply does not have.
Honeywell equipped their camera with geofencing and Alexa integration. Its field of view is also impressively wide with a 175 degree lens.
However, here is where the YI wins: It has much better storage options. Honeywell will only give you 24 hours of free cloud storage with local storage up to 8 GB. Remember, the YI offers 7 days of free cloud storage and up to 32GB on an SD card. Also the C1 records in 720 HD, which is not as clear and crisp as the YI’s 1080HD.
This is the priciest option out of the three ($89.99) and I don’t think it’s that much better than the others if I’m being honest.
What’s cool about the Arlo is that it’s wireless, weather proof and comes with free seven-day cloud storage. It can pair up with Google Assistant and Alexa.
But it’s viewing angle is even worse than the YI at 110 degrees. Both the C1 and the YI have two-way audio. The Arlo does not.
Personally, I don’t think this camera is the best buy unless you want a camera that can be placed outside.
Tend Secure Lynx
The Lynx might only be about $10.00 more than the YI, but I think it’s worth it.
It comes with all the perks that the YI has: 1080p HD, two-way audio and night vision. But it also comes equipped with the oh-so-coveted facial recognition feature. Plus the viewing angle for the Lynx is much wider at 120 degrees.
If I had to choose between the two cameras, I would definitely purchase the Lynx over the YI. No question about it.
(Check out my more in-depth review on the Tend Secure Lynx here.)
The Customer Experience
Regardless of how the YI stacks up against the competition, I had a pleasurable experience with the camera so far. But I was wondering how other customers felt about the product, too.
From my research it seems like people had these good things to say about the YI:
- Extremely easy set up. Like me, consumers said that everything went super smoothly.
- Great night vision. People noted that there was pretty clear footage, even when the infrared light was off.
- Compact and durable. Unlike me, customers seemed to like the design and if any pets knocked it over, they found the camera was just fine.
People seemed to be upset about these concerns:
- Privacy infringements. Many people complained that they had to sign new privacy terms that would allow YI to share and use footage recorded from their homes. If the consumer didn’t sign the terms they couldn’t access their cameras. This seems suspicious and odd indeed, but I didn’t have this problem when I set things up.
- Not great to point out the window. Some people who wanted some outdoor footage found that the infrared light causes a glare when it was pointed out the window. The glare made it harder for people to see the footage.
- Connection and notification issues. Some complained that their camera would disconnect or that they had to keep resetting alert settings. This wasn’t my experience, however.
So maybe the YI Home Camera didn’t get the most raving reviews (even though I think it’s a pretty decent camera).
YI is actually not known for its home security devices. The Chinese-based company is most famous for their action and stereoscopic video cameras. Don’t judge YI by their inexpensive home cameras. They’ve got some pretty heavy, high-tech artillery at their disposal.
Bottom line: The YI is a pretty great camera considering the price. I was pretty surprised with how many quality features it came with:
- 1080p HD video
- Night vision
- Motion and sound alerts
- Two-way audio
For a camera valued at 50 bucks, I’m pretty set.
However, if you’re someone who is looking for a camera that comes with more comprehensive technology, the YI is definitely not for you. Just be prepared to take a little more change out of your pocket.