Our Yi Dome Camera 1080p HD rating: 5/5
It all started when Mr. Homeupgraded’s brother got a Yi camera for watching his betta fish.
At the time, we had a Nest Cam pointed into our daughter’s crib for stealthy baby spying. But, after being on the receiving end of a bunch of high quality fish videos and snapshots, we realized that a Yi camera, which retails for about 1/3rd the price of a single Nest Cam, would make a much better baby monitor than Nest Cam.
Since we’re not rich (see: baby), we don’t shell out $10/month for Nest Aware, which is the only way to review footage from earlier or save clips from your Nest Cam.
However, Yi lets you do all that and more – for just the cost of the camera. It saves clips to an optional SD card (which you buy separately) so you can review clips and pick which ones you want to save to your phone. You can also share the stream, and it’s easy to take snapshots with a single button touch – all features that the Nest Cam either doesn’t have, or locks up behind Nest’s $10/month Nest Aware subscription. (Yi offers a cloud service, too, if you want off-site backup and more footage than you can fit onto the SD card.)
Basically, the fish had a better camera than our baby. There was only one thing left to do: we bought a Yi Dome Camera and put it to the test as our new baby spy cam.
TL;DR: The Yi camera put Nest to shame. I think I’m going to eBay my collection of Nest Cams and start over with Yi.
Yi Dome Camera at a glance
- 1080p HD video (there’s also a cheaper 720p version with the same features)
- Complete 360° coverage – 112° wide-angle lens, 345° horizontal & 115° vertical rotation range for that you can navigate manually (through the app) or set up to automatically scan the room – you can also get a Yi camera that doesn’t rotate or pan but the price is the same
- High quality night vision (up to 3 meters in pitch dark) thanks to 8 built-in 940nm infrared LED beads, with no LED glare (some cameras have a brighter red ring of LEDs for night vision)
- Crying baby sensor sends a “Crying baby” alert to your phone
- 2-way audio sounds about as good as being on speakerphone
- Optional SD card storage – supports up to 32GB card (here’s ours) so you can save videos to the camera
- Optional cloud service – for a monthly fee, store unlimited camera footage in Yi’s cloud
Yi Dome Camera unboxed
What’s in the box
- Yi Dome Camera itself
- White micro USB power cord, with micro usb on one end and usb on the other
- USB adapter
- Mounting base and screws for mounting the camera on a wall or ceiling
- Setup instruction and a couple advertisements for other Yi products
The cord seems to be about 5′ long, which is great for running it behind the baby’s dresser.
Nest app vs. Yi app
Both apps look nice, but if you compare feature sets it’s no contest: Yi beats Nest, hands down.
On the left, you’ll see our Nest Cam app offers very little beyond viewing a live stream of footage. If you pay Nest’s $10/month subscription fee, you’d get little thumbnails representing stored video clips. If you don’t pay their fee, you get half a screen of wasted space and no way to look back in time.
On the right is the Yi Home app, with buttons for useful actions. You can toggle audio muting, record video from the live stream, turn the microphone on/off, take a snapshot that gets saved directly to your phone’s photos, and switch to full-screen mode. There’s the timeline you can navigate to see recent events, and those same events are saved in a list elsewhere in the app. You can adjust whether the camera streams in high definition or standard, and even view its transfer speed with your WiFi.
Here’s a little guide I made for the Yi control menu in the center of the screen. There are even more options, but these are the ones I use most of the time when checking on my baby.
Yi gives you “premium” features for the cost of the camera – no monthly fee
These features are all available for free on a Yi camera.
There is no free Nest equivalent. Seriously, none – if you want to grab a pic of what you’re looking at through your Nest Cam, you have to take a screenshot with your phone. (And you probably have to turn on device rotation and actually turn your phone 90 degrees if you want the screenshot to be full-screen.)
If you want to see what happened an hour ago, you’re out of luck – unless you’re a Nest Aware subscriber. If you want to save video as something is happening live in front of your camera, there’s no way to do it – unless you’re a subscriber.
Basically, Nest charges $10/month for features you get for free with a Yi camera, and a Yi camera costs about 1/3rd what a Nest Cam does.
More things to love about Yi camera
There’s a full-screen mode in the Yi app and it’s accessed via button in the Yi app. You don’t have to turn off the portrait orientation lock on your phone itself. This makes it very fast to get into full-screen mode and take advantage of every inch of your phone’s screen.
Event timeline or continuous recording
The timeline of events makes it easy to review recent clips by dragging your finger around in the timeline. These events are also saved to the Alerts tab of the app, where you can review and download clips.
Alternatively, you can set the camera to constantly record. It records in a loop and automatically overwrites old footage to record new footage. I’m not sure yet how much footage it holds – I turned on continuous recording 5 days ago and it still hasn’t started overwriting old footage. With a 32GB SD card, it holds at least 5 days worth of footage.
Save clips is easy
If you’re reviewing footage and you see your kid doing something cute, it’s easy to drag the timeline to where you want the clip to begin and record off the recorded footage. The clip gets saved to your phone.
Compare this to Nest Cams, which are really only for live streaming unless you cough up a monthly $10 fee per camera for their cloud backup storage. It’d be nice if Nest would let me back up to an SD card or my local network storage, but no, it has to be their expensive cloud solution or nothing at all. :\
Yi cameras also offer live video recording. If you see something interesting happening, you can tap a button and start recording instantly. This video is saved to the camera’s SD card and your immediately downloaded to your phone.
Share your stream
It’s easy to share your camera’s stream with family or friends. Just have them create a Yi account and then invite them via email. (You can also revoke access just as easily.)
Alert log and crying baby alert
Crying Baby alert. It lags behind the actual cry by about a minute, but so far it has correctly identified cries (and only occasionally mistaken other noises for cries).
If you want to review all the recent crying baby alerts, they get saved into the Activity Alerts tab for quick review.
A variety of cloud backup options. If you need the extra peace of mind granted by uploading your footage to a cloud, then Yi’s cloud service has several options to pick from.
The most intriguing option is the uploading mode, where you can select to upload only motion detected videos for up to five devices or you can upload a 24/7 stream from one camera. If you have five Yi cameras, that’s a screaming deal compared to what it would cost to have Nest Aware on five Nest Cams. You also get the first month of Yi cloud for free.
Yi’s subscription plans are available in the app itself:
We don’t have the subscription, since we only use the camera to see if the baby’s awake or just making sounds in her sleep. We like to review footage from the past night, but we don’t have much need to monitor her crib 24/7 or make backups of her sleeping.
Yi vs. Nest hardware
Both our Nest Cams and our Yi camera are 1080p. The image quality is great in both daylight and nighttime.
There is, however, one very noticeable difference between the two cameras: the Nest has a ring of red LEDs around its lens when it’s in night vision mode, but the Yi camera does not have these red LEDs.
This is fantastic because our baby would stare at the Nest Cam in the dark, probably because the red ring catches her attention. We haven’t found her staring at the Yi camera in the dark. Whatever Yi did to avoid the red ring of LEDs in the dark, I’m glad they did it.
Also, you can even disable the Yi’s little blue “on” light (through the app) to make the camera completely invisible in the dark.
Things we don’t love
The Yi camera is awesome enough to reward it 5 stars, but there are just a couple things we hope they improve:
The camera can’t look “down” enough to see into a crib without some assistance. Even though the camera has a huge range of motion, it couldn’t look “down” enough to see into a crib that it’s about 2 feet away from. We had to slide something under our camera to get a good view of Peach’s crib. We will probably mount the camera on the wall, eventually, but for now… it’s gotta live on the dresser…with a book halfway under it.
The camera snapshot shown on the app’s main page is stale. It might be hours out of date when you open the app. (It seems to display whatever you were last looking at, or where you left the timeline.)
You have to tap the preview to get an updated image. I suspect this stale image problem is a bug that might get fixed in the future.
The bottom line
It’s like getting all the stuff Nest charges you a monthly fee for, for free – and that’s after you buy a camera that’s 1/3rd the price of a Nest Cam. Even if you need a cloud backup, Yi’s plans are more reasonably priced, especially for multiple devices.
We love the dome camera’s ability to pan the room, and at the time we got it, the dome camera was priced the same as the stationary Yi camera. Heck, you can even get a 4-pack of Yi cameras for less than the price of a single Nest Cam.
Best of all, we think it’s a fantastic baby monitor. The image quality is excellent – even in the dark and through her crib slats, we can tell which way she’s facing, if she’s still got her pacifier in, and listen for her breathing on the microphone. The cry alerts are useful, too.
If you need a great baby or home surveillance camera, get a Yi camera and a 32GB SD card. You won’t regret it.