Picture this: a fed-up county sheriff wants some security cameras installed in her jail. She is told that this will take two years and $20 million dollars. Frustrated, she goes to Costco and buys a Lorex security system for less than $800, installing it herself. The next day, the camera catches a brawl between inmates. That’s a lot easier than spending $20 million, right?
That’s a real story about Laurie Smith, sheriff of Santa Clara, California. Lorex is just one of a few security systems that you may have noticed at your local wholesaler like Costco or Sam’s Club. Lorex, along with Night Owl and Swann, make up a large bulk of the global DIY home security market.
Today, I’m going to compare an eight-channel system from Lorex, the XHD301-84-B-1 system from Night Owl, and the SWDVK-445802V system from Swann. I’ll be looking at their similarities, differences, system components, monitoring options, customer support systems, and mobile apps. As you can see from Smith’s story, time is of the essence, so let’s get started right away.
Before we get into the meat of the review, I want to talk about what these systems have in common.
- No sensors: all of these systems are only composed of cameras and a hard drive- there are no sensors whatsoever.
- Lack of professional monitoring: you’ll have to self-monitor your security system through its respective app.
- DIY installation: install the Lorex, Night Owl, and Swann security systems completely on your own.
How do the Night Owl, Swann, and Lorex systems differ?
- Smart platform integrations: while Night Owl and Swann both integrate with Google Assistant, Lorex has no smart platform integrations.
- Pricing: the systems range from just under $200 to almost $350.
- Amount of cameras: Lorex and Night Owl’s systems come with four cameras compared to Swann’s two.
Like I said before, I purchased Lorex’s 8-channel security system, Night Owl’s XHD301-84-B-1 security system, and Swann’s SWDVK-445802V security system. Really rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?
Let me reiterate that the Lorex, Night Owl, and Swann security systems only consist of two main parts- cameras and a hard drive. All of the systems give you a 1 TB hard drive, which can hold about 500 hours of footage. While Lorex and Night Owl’s systems come with four cameras, the Swann system I purchased only comes with two. Of course, all of the systems come with the necessary cables and mounts.
These security systems are truly bare bones. There are no sensors, key fobs, panic buttons, alarm panels, etc. Basically, all you’ll be able to do is livestream footage of your home through a mobile app. If that’s enough for you, then keep on reading. If you’re looking for a more involved system, check out our review for the SimpliSafe security system.
Wondering which camera is the best? Let’s dig in a bit more.
Both the Night Owl HD Wired Bullet Camera and Swann’s thermal-sensing camera have 1080p HD video display, the industry standard. Lorex’s Super HD 4 MP camera, however, takes it a step further. Their video display has twice as many pixels, making for an incredibly clear picture. If you want the highest-quality footage available from a security camera, Lorex is your go-to.
Unfortunately, none of the cameras can zoom in, and Lorex and Swann’s cameras have narrow fields of vision of 89 and 102 degrees, respectively.
All of the cameras have infrared night vision, which I prefer over a bright white light because it won’t be conspicuous. The Night Owl and Lorex cameras also give you a color night vision option. The more the merrier, I suppose!
Aside from great video display, the cameras are pretty basic. Obviously, they use local storage through the hard drives included with the systems. As far as cloud storage goes, Night Owl doesn’t offer any, Swann gives you a Dropbox but only for photos, and Lorex offers two days of free cloud storage. None of the cameras have two-way audio or any artificial intelligence features, which is disappointing.
All of the cameras are waterproof so you can use them indoors or outdoors, which I love. Now let’s move onto professional monitoring (or lack thereof).
Remember when I said the Lorex, Night Owl and Swann systems are bare bones? Unfortunately, none of the companies provide any professional monitoring options. Instead, you’ll monitor your cameras through your mobile app. That means that you’ll be responsible for your home’s security 24/7, which may seem freeing or daunting depending on how you look at it.
Lorex, Night Owl, and Swann Moving Policies
As all of these systems are self-installed, you can pick them up and move them to your new home yourself. There are no additional fees required, a huge advantage of DIY installation.
I’ll be honest- Lorex, Night Owl, and Swann don’t exactly kill it when it comes to customer support. The average of each company’s customer support ratings was no more than three stars. The only bright spots were Swann’s Amazon and Better Business Bureau overall ratings along with Lorex’s Google rating. When I took a look at the Amazon reviews of the Swann system I bought, howeverI could see that half the reviews mentioning customer support were positive while half were negative. Tough crowd.
As far as features, you can see that each company offers an online support center, live chat, and phone. I appreciate that Night Owl and Swann have 24/7 phone lines, as security issues can take place at any time.
Top System for Customer Support
Clearly, customer support is not Lorex, Night Owl, or Swann’s strong suit, so if you buy any system you can pretty much expect to be on your own. Although Swann has a poor customer rating on the Better Business Bureau, it wins by a small margin over Lorex and Night Owl. Close call!
Lorex, Night Owl, and Swann Apps
As you’ll be self-monitoring your Lorex, Night Owl or Swann system, their respective apps become even more important. Basically, a security system’s app is your mobile command center where you’ll monitor your home’s security. Let’s see how the Lorex, Night Owl, and Swann apps stack up.
The Lorex Secure App
Lorex’s app is where you’ll access video storage, view both a video summary of events and event history, livestream footage, receive notifications, and set activity zones. Activity zones are areas that are especially important to watch, like a front window or your newborn’s crib. Lorex is the only system of the three that allows for activity zones.
Unfortunately, people did not love the Lorex Secure app itself. It received only a 2.3 star rating from the Google Play store and a 1.6 rating from the Apple store. The app is extremely buggy and repeatedly flickers images, logs itself out, and has trouble connecting across multiple platforms, customers say. Sounds like it’s definitely in need of an update.
The Night Owl HD App
The Night Owl HD app allows users to livestream footage, receive notifications, customize channel names, and download and share photos and videos. People liked the Night Owl app slightly better than the Lorex app, but not much, with only a 2.8 rating from Android users and a 1.8 rating from iPhone users. Many of the most recent reviews said that the app had trouble connecting to DVRs, not allowing viewers to livestream footage.
The SwannView Link App
Finally, there’s the SwannView Link app. Here, you can livestream footage, take screenshots, record footage, and review photo and video storage. The app has a decent rating of 3.5 from the Google Play store, the only positive rating of all three apps.
“A good start for basic home surveillance. My S7 connected to my DVR seamlessly (over same internet for initial connection) and the app for the most part is easy to use. I can live view my cameras and also watch video playback on my HDD,”
wrote Torrance Wong in a four-star review. Apple users, however, weren’t as pleased, giving the app only 1.9 stars. Most of the recent reviews mentioned playback issues— I’m sensing a theme here.
Top System App
Clearly, neither Lorex, Night Owl, nor Swann has an app that really knocks it out of the park. All of the apps are pretty buggy and have trouble connecting with their respective security systems, a huge issue. Swann has the best app, however, due to its superior customer reviews. Still, when a 3.5 is the best app rating of any system, you know something is wrong.
The Lorex system I bought costs $319, while the Night Owl system, also with four cameras, costs $350. The Swann system I bought only costs $200, but keep in mind that you only get two cameras. When you average it out, the Lorex system has the best value, at about $80 per camera. Still, all of these systems are reasonably priced.
Recap of Lorex vs. Night Owl vs. Swann
Lorex, Night Owl, and Swann have a lot in common, but overall I would choose Swann. It has superior customer support and a mobile app that Android users liked, which the other companies lack.
Still, you might be on the fence. Let me break it down for you.
Pick Lorex if you’d like…
- Activity zones: you’ll be able to tell your camera exactly where to pay special attention.
- Two-year warranty if purchased from Lorex website: otherwise, you’ll get a one-year warranty.
- Affordability: Lorex gives you the most bang for your buck, at only about $80 per camera when you average out the hard drive.
Pick Night Owl if you’d like…
- Integration with Google Assistant: for those already in the Google ecosystem, the Night Owl system might be a nice addition.
- Customer support available 24/7: Night Owl guarantees that you’ll be helped, regardless if it’s light or dark outside.
- Customizable channel names: this could be useful for someone who wants to add on even more cameras to their security system.
Pick Swann if you’d like…
- Decent customer support: the Better Business Bureau gave Swann a perfect rating overall.
- Good app for Android users: the SwannView Link app has a 3.5 rating on the Google Play store.
- Integrations with Google Assistant: like Night Owl, Swann systems integrate with Google Assistant, enabling voice commands.
- 24/7 customer support: Another similarity with Night Owl is 24/7 customer support, definitely a useful feature for a security system.
To learn more, read our review of the Night Owl system, our review of the Swann security system or our review of the Lorex security system. If neither of these systems sound good to you, check out our list of the best security systems of 2019.