Ecobee SmartCamera review: If you can tolerate a subscription, this security cam has more features than most

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Ecobee SmartCamera review: If you can tolerate a subscription, this security cam has more features than most

Ecobee builds our absolute favorite smart thermostat, and its new SmartCamera with voice-control security camera is just as innovative. But this is a super-competitive space, and Ecobee doesn’t bring quite enough to the table to justify this camera’s $179 price tag (and not-so-optional subscription).

This camera can also act as the hub of a broader home security system, however, so we’ll publish a separate review of that entire ecosystem soon. This story focuses on the SmartCamera’s abilities as a home security camera and an Alexa smart speaker.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best home security cameras, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.

The Ecobee SmartCamera isn’t the only security camera to integrate Alexa. The Honeywell Home Smart Security Camera from Resideo does the same trick, and that device has been on the market since late 2018 (we reviewed it as part of Resideo’s home security bundle). Ecobee’s camera is much better than Resideo’s, but it also costs almost $100 more than Resideo’s camera by itself.

ecobee camera installed Michael Brown / IDG

The Ecobee SmartCamera is both a security camera and an Alexa-powered smart speaker.

Another worthwhile exercise is to compare Ecobee’s camera to the Arlo Pro 3. While that indoor/outdoor camera must be purchased as a two-camera starter pack with a base station for $399, additional cameras go for $199 each—just $20 more than Ecobee’s.

And where Ecobee’s strictly indoor, AC-powered device is limited to 1080p video, Arlo’s battery-powered camera boasts 2K resolution. On the other hand, none of Arlo’s products incorporate a digital assistant, and they can’t be incorporated into a broader home security system.

The Ecobee SmartCamera has a dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter onboard, plus a Bluetooth 5.0 radio for making the initial connection to your mobile device (there are apps for Android and iOS). The camera was very easy to set up. There’s an 8-core CPU onboard running at 2GHz, 1GB of LDDR4 RAM, and 4GB of flash memory (none of which is used for onboard video storage. More on that in a bit.) The camera can be tilted forward or back on its weighted, one-inch-high conical stand for placement on a flat surface, or you can mount the stand and camera to the wall.

Recording video costs extra

If you don’t pay for Ecobee’s Haven smart home service, which costs $5 per month ($10 per month if you want it for more than one camera), the Ecobee SmartCamera is strictly a live-view device. It won’t record video at all, it has no local storage, and you won’t receive motion-detection alerts without a subscription.

In that sense, as is the case with Ring’s video doorbells and security cameras, a Haven subscription isn’t really all that optional. Ring’s $10-per-month service plan, on the other hand, includes twice as much storage (30 days versus 14 from Ecobee), and you get professional monitoring if you also purchase its Ring Alarm product. I’ll compare Ecobee’s full home security offering, and contrast it with Ring’s, in a separate review.

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