You don't have to look far to find a home security camera with big names like Logitech, Google, and Netgear all offering up systems for keeping an eye on things. There are also some newer players with cameras you might want to consider. For example, the Xiaomi-funded Yi Technology. This Chinese firm has released a few home cameras, but the new version of its Dome Camera stands out from the crowd. Unlike other cameras, this one can actually rotate to get a full 360 degree view of a room, and it has built-in motion tracking. Unlike the old Dome Camera, this one also shoots 1080p video.
There are certainly some things to like about the Yi Dome Camera, and I can fathom use cases where it makes more sense than a Nest or Circle, but there are also some odd caveats you might consider deal breakers.
|Field of View||112-degrees|
|Cloud storage||7-days free, 30-days $10/month, 60-days $15/month|
|Price||Only $80 for a 1080p security camera.|
|Rotation||You can see the entire room, if positioned well. Also includes motion tracking.|
|Local storage||There's a microSD card slot for local video storage without a cloud plan.|
|Audio||Very loud and clear audio with almost no lag. Cool hands-free mode.|
|Free cloud storage||You get a week of motion detection videos saved in the cloud for free.|
|Design||Larger than other cameras and not the most attractive object. Not suitable for use outdoors.|
|Setup||It talks to you during setup. I found this pretty annoying.|
|Rotation again||It doesn't tilt down at all and will rotate up so far that the cowling blocks the shot. The mechanism is also loud.|
|Video||The field of view is only 112-degrees.|
|Panoramas||It's a neat idea, but the results are lacking.|
|Notifications||Not enough options; for example no geofencing, SMS, or email. Strange notification delays.|
|Plans||They're rather convoluted and don't offer much beyond longer backups. Continuous recording plans only support one camera.|
Design and setup
The Yi Dome Camera looks like a larger, clunkier Logitech Circle. I suppose that's unavoidable to a degree. It needs all the hardware to move around, whereas the Circle and other cameras just remain pointed in the same direction until you move them. The housing isn't weather-resistant, so this device is only for indoor use. I also think it feels cheaper than many of the other cameras I've tested.
The camera itself is in a spherical section at the top with a cowl around it that contains the motors. Unfortunately, the motors make a fair bit of noise when the camera moves; it's like a grinding sound that's loud enough to hear in a reasonably quiet room. It rotates 115-degrees vertically and 345-degrees horizontally. When you factor in the angle of the lens, you can see everything around the camera. I will note, however, that it doesn't tilt down at all. That's weird considering many of the promo images show the camera angled down. That means placing it on a high shelf is not going to be ideal. It does tilt up very far. So far that it actually slips under the cowling, which doesn't do you any good. It seems like someone screwed up here.
The Dome Camera can be placed on a flat surface with the built-in stand, or you can use the included mounting bracket to attach it to your ceiling. You can technically mount it on a wall, but I wouldn't recommend it. As soon as you rotate left or right, the image won't be right-side-up anymore. If you choose to put the Dome Camera on the ceiling, there's a 180-degree flip in the settings that sets everything right.
On the back of the unit is a recessed panel with a reset switch, microUSB power, and microSD card slot. I appreciate the inclusion of local storage, which is rare on consumer security cameras. One thing you won't find in the Yi Dome Camera is a battery. When it's unplugged, it stops working. This is something most of its competitors have. Being able to place your camera someplace else for a few hours is very handy, so I can only assume Yi was looking to keep the price down.
The setup process was not the worst I've seen, but it was far from the best. I made the mistake of plugging the camera in before I had the app open. The camera then told me (in words from the speaker at high volume) that it was waiting to connect. I had to create an account, verify my email, and then log in before I could get it to stop. The app produces a QR code for pairing, which you show to the camera. I wasn't sure how close I needed to be for the camera to recognize the code (it turns out pretty close). It took about 10 seconds to register, then another 30 seconds to come online. It's important to note this camera only works on 2.4GHz WiFi.
Video and audio
The version of the Yi Dome Camera I've been testing is the newer 1080p one. The 720p can be had cheaper if you want to save some cash. The video quality is overall very good, but not as crisp as what I'm used to seeing on the Circle. I feel like it's more compressed than other cameras, but it'll get the job done in good light. However, the viewing angle is only 112-degrees. That's substantially narrower than other cameras. So, it's a good thing it rotates. The exposure isn't bad, but it seems a little prone to blown out light areas. The lag between real life and the feed is about a second, which is similar to other wired security cameras. It does seem to take longer to connect after starting the app than I'd expect; maybe three or four seconds.
There's a ring of IR LEDs around the camera lens that flip on in low light. They're capable of illuminating 15-20 feet in front of the camera, which should be enough for most rooms. IR brightness seems a bit uneven, focused more in the center. The video compression is more obvious in the dark, but there's still sufficient contrast to make everything out.
The audio seems solid to me—sound from the speaker is loud and the microphone is very sensitive. There are two different modes available on the Dome Camera. There's standard intercom mode you get with most cameras where you press the button to speak, then release and listen to the reply (only one party can talk at a time). Hands-free mode lets you open a line to the camera and just start talking. Both parties can talk freely in this mode.
App and features
The Yi Home app works with all the company's home security camera products, so you can mix and match dome cameras and the regular stationary version. The main screen shows your cameras in a vertical list with a navigation bar at the bottom. It links directly to the camera list, alerts, album, and your account. The navigation bar changes when you open the camera interface, but the live feed is always at the top of the screen. The navigation bar just changes what's shown on the bottom half. You get the directional controls, location bookmarks, motion tracking settings, and alerts. It's overall a very efficient interface.
In the directional control panel, you have a virtual joystick that can be used to move the camera around manually. It'll do that by itself if you activate motion tracking, but only if there's something moving in the narrow field of view. The auto-cruise mode helps with that by spinning the camera around from time to time. This feature can be set to only activate at certain times of the day as well.
Notification options are lacking compared to other cameras. You can turn on motion and crying baby detection independently, but not simple audio triggers. There's also no geofencing, so you'll have to use time-based scheduling if you don't want the cameras pushing alerts all the time. You can at least set a notification cool down period so you aren't bombarded. The notifications are only pushed via the phone; there's no SMS, no phone, and no email option. Push notifications are also substantially delayed for me sometimes (this is unrelated to the cool down).
There's one other distinctive feature here: panoramic photos. The camera spins around and captures a full 360 degree panorama of the room. It's a neat idea, but the execution isn't great. There's a panorama below as an example. You can see several places where the image isn't stitched together properly and it has issues with exposure consistency.
The way Yi's cloud plans work is a bit confusing. If you don't have a subscription, only your recorded events will be uploaded. They're available for 7 days, but videos and photos you capture from the camera manually are not uploaded (they are saved on your device). For $10 per month you get unlimited uploads of motion detection events that are stored for 15 days, and $15 gets you 30 days of storage. There's also a premium tier with 15/30 day storage for a full video feed. That's $10/$20. The trade-off is that you can only have one camera on that plan whereas the standard event-only version allows five of them. I don't think these are the most attractive plans, but there is the microSD card slot if you just want to store video locally.
The Yi Dome Camera has some undeniably cool features you don't get in other cameras. If you can set it up in a good place, it literally sees the entire room with its rotating stand. I wish it wasn't so loud, and the inability to tilt downward is annoying. You might be able to see almost as much with a well-placed stationary camera. Plus, the necessity of a power cable and no battery mean the Dome Camera can't be placed just anywhere. The panoramic image capture was also a disappointment for me due to poor stitching.
Yi Technology says you can mount the Dome Camera on a wall, but I found the app isn't smart enough to rotate the video properly in that instance—looking to the side means your video will be sideways. Ceiling mounting is fine with the aid of a 180-degree flip setting. The included mounting bracket is easy to install too. When you choose a spot, the video looks nice in daylight and night vision.
The notification options and plans aren't as compelling as what you get with more expensive cameras, but the Yi Dome Camera is competitively priced. You're looking at $80 for the 1080p version, and the Logitech Circle (my current favorite for indoor cameras) is around $150 each. If you're interested in a budget security camera and have a good place to put the Dome Camera, it's not a bad choice. Just keep the drawbacks I've mentioned in mind. You can pick the Dome Camera up on Amazon.