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Tom's Holiday Buyer's Guide 2008, Part 1

Logitech Indoor Video Security System
$230 for Master system (camera and receiver)$188 for indoor add-on camera$202 for indoor digital clock-spy camera$189 for outdoor add-on cameraBy: Ed Tittel

As far as I can tell, this Logitech video security offering is like the old advertisement for Lay’s potato chips: once you start down this road, there’s no way you can buy just one! The Master (MSTR) system includes one wireless camera plus a wireless USB-attached receiver for your PC, along with software that lets you set up and configure your cameras. If you visit the Logitech Web site at, you can use the MyCameras link there to log into your cameras remotely and see what they’re seeing any time you like.

But the basic master system just gets you started. You can purchase additional indoor and outdoor cameras for under $200 each. There’s even a "spy" version that looks and acts just like a digital clock available for just over $200 that’s perfect for observing what your babysitter is up to while you’re away from the house. All of these cameras feed into the Logitech WiLife Command Center software, which can display live, streaming video from up to six cameras—more than enough to keep a close watch on a house or a small business.

The real beauty of the Logitech WiLife products is that they make all the capability and coverage of a CCTV (closed-circuit TV system) surveillance system available at a very affordable price, with no requirements to run cable or manage complex wireless network configurations. All of the networking gear you need is included as part of each camera and the WiLife USB receiver that’s sold as part of each master system. It’s based on the HomePlug powerline technology that uses home electrical wiring for network connections and transport (devices must be plugged in anyway to get AC power). As soon as you plug a Logitech camera into any wall outlet, UPnP technology enables it to transmit video to a Windows PC through the WiLife receiver. In turn, this makes the video available to Windows and the Logitech Command Center software, which can stream that video to the Internet on demand through the Logitech MyCameras Web page. Cameras also pick up images in color and offer 15 frames per second (FPS) at 640x480 or 320x240 resolution.

As soon a Logitech camera detects motion in its field of view, the camera signals the Command Center to start a digital recording of the event. It stores the video on your PC so you can access it at your convenience. Command Center can even create an alert by sending a message to your e-mail or cell phone when recording begins. Command Center can specify motion zones within the video frame, so you can define up to 16 areas of a frame (a driveway, doorway or hallway) but exclude outside street traffic visible through a window. Because Command Center records only when motion is detected, you can store weeks to months of video on a typical PC hard disk.

We can’t guarantee that Santa will show up after you install your video surveillance system, but he probably won’t mind bringing one to friends or family this Christmas.