Need a completely wireless security camera, that can be moved around the house to suit your needs? Reolink has the device for you: the Reolink Keen, a $130 battery-powered wireless security camera with two-way audio and night vision. On top of that, it comes with a motion sensor and alarm – making it an all-in-one mini security kit. Use the coupon code “vrqhlu3z” for 10% off when purchased directly from the Reolink online store.
Check out what we thought of the Keen, then read on to find out how to win one for yourself.
Specifications and Design
In the box you’ll find:
- Reolink Keen camera, plus four CR123A batteries
- Black mounting bracket for the camera, plus fixings (optional)
- Separate motion sensor, with one battery, plus wall bracket and fixings or 3M mounting tape
The Reolink Keen has all the features you could wish for in a wireless security camera:
- 1080p video recording @15FPS max with a wide angle lens
- Night vision
- Micro-SD slot for local recording events on motion detection, though a card isn’t included in the package
- 355° horizontal pan, 105° vertical tilt
- Speaker and microphone for two-way audio (and the alarm)
With the main camera available only in black, it’s a neat little package but marred by the fact that the separate motion sensor is white.
Two antenna stick out the back, with one presumably being for Wi-Fi and the other for the wireless motion sensor.
Should you wish to also mount the camera permanently to the wall, a bracket is provided. This would give you better coverage in the area below the camera when mounted high, which would otherwise be limited by the range of motion and the position of the base.
Setup and Operation
Setting up the camera was remarkably simple, and uses an ingenious 2-way system of QR codes. Using the smartphone app, the process begins by scanning the the QR code on the back of the camera – this encodes the MAC address such the app can find the device later with a unique identifier. Next, you enter your Wi-Fi details on the app. The app itself then generates a QR codes and displays it on screen, which you then hold about 20cm in front of the Keen camera. The camera reads the QR code from your mobile screen, which encodes Wi-Fi access details, and connects to the network. It worked first time for me, and the voice feedback from the camera gives a clear indication that each stage is successful. Apparently QR codes do have a purpose in life, after all.
The separate motion sensor is a simple case of pulling off the battery tab – it’s automatically linked to the camera, so there’s no further setup needed other than physical installation. You can either use the included mounting screws, or the custom shaped piece of 3M tape. The manual recommends that the camera’s viewing angle and PIR motion sensor should overlap — though this doesn’t quite make sense given it’s a pan-tilt camera, and the viewing angle can therefore change quite dramatically.
I asked Reolink why they designed the motion sensor to be separate and they told me it’s so that the detection angle can be adjusted separate to the camera. Given that most of the time you’d want to record the area where motion is detected, this just feels like lazy design. The colors are mismatched, and this is the same motion sensor included with every other Reolink solution. It certainly could have been integrated into the camera unit: other manufacturers have managed to do so. As it is, you’ve got the camera part of the package that runs wirelessly, and can be moved anywhere in your home; and another part that can only be screwed to the wall.
It’s also worth noting that the Reolink Keen is currently incompatible with the official Reolink client app for desktops, so you’re limited to using the mobile app for all management and remote viewing. Hopefully they’ll update this at some point.
Image quality in “clear” mode is superb, and uses around 1500kbs (configurable up to 2000). “Fluent” mode reduces bandwidth to a few hundred kilobits, with lower resolution – but it’s still perfectly useable just to keep an eye on things. Initiating a manual recording will save it to your phone; the micro-SD card appears to be reserved for motion activated automatic recordings.
Listen, Talk Back and Alarm
The camera includes both a microphone, enabling you to turn on audio for the remote video stream. It’s quite sensitive, so I could easily hear relatively small noises in the environment and everything that was said. There’s also some speakers, so you can talk back remotely. They’re not particularly loud though, so a lot of noise on the other end will drown out your voice, but they’re functional.
The speakers are also used to sound a loud alarm on motion detection. This can be manually activated from your phone, or run on a schedule. You can also disable the audio element of the alarm, and just have it send push notifications to your phone/email, and record a clip to the local micro-SD card. Both a high and low quality video are saved simultaneously, so you can search through and preview captures easily, while still having a high quality one to pass over to the authorities if needed.
While I certainly appreciate when a device can run completely wirelessly just on batteries, there are two things that annoy me about the Reolink Keen camera. The first is that you don’t have a choice: it’s battery only – four CR123As to be exact. If you happen to mount the camera near a power socket, it doesn’t matter, because you can’t use it anyway. I have other devices that run off similar batteries, in a much smaller form factor, and those have managed to cram a micro-USB connector and power regulation circuit into a much smaller product. It’s just a shame the Reolink Keen doesn’t.
In addition, the four batteries it does use are a little obscure – the same type high capacity 3v style used for camera flashes. You can purchase rechargeable versions, but as far as I can tell, you need a special recharger, not a generic multi-charger.
That said, after a few weeks of use, the battery level indicator still says 100%, so I’m confident you won’t be changing batteries all that often.
Win a Reolink Keen!
Should You Buy The Reolink Keen?
The fact it’s completely wireless is going to be very useful for some people. The separate motion sensor however feels like lazy design that ultimately limits the device. Why make something 100% portable, and then require part of the package to be screwed into the wall? Although it will last a long time off the batteries supplied, I would really have liked the option to power it over micro-USB. These negatives aren’t deal breakers in and of themselves, so I could easily overlook them if the device integrated well into the rest of the Reolink ecosystem – but it doesn’t. You can’t get your Reolink DVR to stream from the camera and record to its internal drive, nor is the Reolink Keen viewable through the Reolink desktop client. Using the keyfob on the main DVR system to secure your home doesn’t activate the alarm on the Keen camera. It’s a distinct device and must be managed separately through the mobile app.
I’m sure the Keen will be a useful device for a niche market, but ultimately I can’t recommend it when Reolink themselves sell more robust and value packed solutions, like the ADK8-20B4 that we reviewed before. Though wired, that includes 4 cameras, and 24/7 recording feature to the included DVR unit.
If you just want a single camera that you can check on via a mobile app, then there are cheaper devices out there that offer similar feature sets. The Reolink device is certainly easy to set up and reliable, but comes at a slight premium.
Easy to set up and reliable, but those wishing for a more expandable and integrated system should look at Reolink’s other solutions instead.