100% wireless camera system – Gadling reviews the Vue Personal Video Network

If you are regularly away from home, having a quick and easy way to keep an eye on things is pretty convenient. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reviewing an innovative new home video network system called the “Vue Personal Video Network”.

The Vue package consists of a home gateway box and two small cameras. Home camera systems are by no means new – I’ve had Internet enabled cameras for years – but Vue does something nothing else on the market does. The Vue cameras are 100% wireless – this means no video cables, no network cables and no power cables.

The cameras operate off a single CR123 battery, providing enough power to view 10 minutes of video, every day for a year. The big advantage of this system is that you can grab a camera and mount it anywhere you want. Because the cameras use a “mesh” wireless transmission system, you can mount the cameras up to 300 feet away.

Video quality from the cameras is not bad – it isn’t great, but it is most certainly on par with what most other home video systems offer. The streaming signal from the cameras is in VGA quality (640×480) at 10 frames per second. This is more than enough to see what is going on around your home.

Setting up the VUE system is a breeze – you plug the home unit into your network, then you “pair” the 2 included cameras. In my situation, I went from opening the box, to viewing video in under 2 minutes. Very rarely do gadgets work this easily. The cameras come with a neat magnetic mounting ball, which you can either screw or stick where you need it.

Once installed, you head on over to the Vue site to setup your account. Your first year of access is included for free, subsequent years are $19.95. The web site is easy to navigate, and allows you to view live video from your cameras, view recordings made and enable sharing with friends.

One of the most powerful features of the system is the new Vue iPhone app – this free application offers many of the same features of the web interface, but with the convenience of your iPhone. This means you can start viewing video from your cameras anywhere in the world – as long as you have a data connection.

Video performance from the cameras is surprisingly good – the 10 frames per second is fine for monitoring purposes, and the cameras function extremely well in dark environments.

In the web interface (and the iPhone app), you can select one of three light settings – from bright to dark. Even a dimly lit porch is no challenge for the camera.

There are many uses for the Vue system – but there are also several uses that rule out using the setup. If you need a camera designed for constant monitoring of a location, you’ll need to look elsewhere. The wireless design of the Vue system make it great for occasional video monitoring, but not for anything that needs permanent streams.

Also, because the cameras lack motion detection, you won’t be able to use them as part of your home security solution.

That said – there are plenty of situations where the camera functions better than anything I’ve ever tested – it is great for keeping an eye on your front door (for packages), it works perfectly to check whether you left the garage door open, and it even does a good job keeping an eye on the kids when you don’t need a constant eye on them.

In fact, using the Vue camera to stay in touch with your child(ren) is a really fun and reliable way to do things like read to them at night, or to check how well they are sleeping when you are on the road.

Final thoughts

Despite the minor shortcomings, the Vue systems functions very reliably. Not needing to pull cables to a camera makes the setup very flexible and easy to install. The initial purchase price is $299 – which includes a year of access, the home gateway and two cameras. This is about what you’d normally pay for two Internet enabled video cameras. Additional cameras can be added (up to fifty!) for $99 each.

The Vue Personal Video Network is available directly from the Vue website, where you can also view video demos and learn more about its various features.