VTech VC931 HD Pan and Tilt Home Monitoring Camera review: Solid security at an affordable price

VTech might be synonymous with cordless phones in most people’s minds, but the company has also put out a succession of reliable baby monitors, many of which we’ve reviewed. It’s not a big leap from baby cams to security cams, and the VC931 HD Pan and Tilt Home Monitoring Camera shows the company is as adept at helping you keep your house as safe as your other precious assets.

The VC931’s ball-shaped design takes its cue from vintage webcams, a look home security monitors have moved away from over the last few years. Despite its somewhat dated appearance, this camera is packed with the features security DIYers prize: motion detection, night vision, two-way talk, and even a sleep mode for privacy. You also have your choice of video storage options—you can save video directly to the camera or to the cloud. Video resolution, however, maxes out at 720p.

Setup is exceedingly simple. Just plug the camera into a wall outlet, download the MyVtech Cams app, and follow the on-screen prompts to pair the camera and connect it with your Wi-Fi. Once the process is complete, you’ll able to view the camera’s live feed, but if you want to record video—either continuously or only when activity is detected—you’ll need to supply and insert a microSD card into the camera’s base or opt for one of VTech’s cloud storage plans, purchasable in-app. Unfortunately, you can’t do both. Opting for VTech’s rolling 7-day or 30-day cloud options automatically disables local recording on the camera. That’s a bummer, as it’s always prudent to have a backup of your recordings.

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The VC931 pan-and-tilt camera lets you assign up to four preset camera positions.

Basic camera operation is pretty straightforward. You select the VC931 from the camera list in the app (it supports up to 10 cameras) to access its live view. A scrolling toolbar on the bottom of this screen includes controls for activating/muting the microphone and speaker, recording video, taking a snapshot, setting the night vision mode, and changing the camera’s resolution.

You pan and tilt the camera by swiping the live-view image in the direction you want the camera to move. There’s almost no lag between the swipe and the camera’s motion, and the camera rotates in short, controlled increments. Some gesture-based pan-and-tilt cameras have a tendency to overshoot, sometimes swinging all the way to the end of their axis, with the slightest swipe. Having to repeatedly recalibrate your camera angle is more than an inconvenience when there’s an actual intruder in your house—it can mean not capturing forensic evidence. The VC931’s precise movements made me confident I’d be able to locate and track activity easily during a real-world break-in.

Even better, you can save up to four camera positions as presets. Once you calibrate an angle you want, you just long press one of the preset buttons accessible from the toolbar. As with the manual pan-and-tilt, the presets were instantly responsive and accurate.

I had no desire to scrub through hours of footage of our house pets getting into mischief, so I switched the camera from continuous recording—its default mode—to motion-triggered recording in the settings. When motion is detected, the camera pushes a generic time-stamped alert to your phone. You can tap the alert—after you unlock your phone—to get directly to your live feed and see what’s happening.

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All videos are saved in a serachable timeline according to which recording method—local or cloud—is used.

A note here, though: The MyVtech Cams app includes a helpful tutorial overlay that walks you through all the app screens the first time you launch it. If you don’t check the “never show again” box, it will launch this tutorial every time you reopen the app. As I found out, that includes when you open the app from a motion-detection alert. If you don’t want to have to frantically swipe through several how-to screens when you’re trying to investigate potentially criminal activity in your home, be sure to deactivate this feature after your first viewing.

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