HiKam A7 Outdoor Security Camera: Budget Friendly and Alexa Compatible
Reliable email alerts, Alexa compatibility, ONVIF third party support, and reasonable image quality make this budget outdoor security camera a fully featured device at a fraction of the price. It's let down by an outdated user interface, and right now setting up Alexa is a bit kludgy.
The HiKam A7 is a budget option for outdoor security, and offers a feature not seen on other budget outdoor cameras: Alexa compatiblity, so you can view the live feed though an Alexa Show or Spot device. At just $60, you could buy two, three, four of these for the same price as a Ring, Netgear Arlo, or Nest Outdoor.
So do you get what you pay for, or is this device just as capable as more expensive brands? Let’s find out, and at the end of this review, we’ve got one HiKam A7 to giveaway to a lucky reader. Read on to find out how to win it!
Installation is Simple, But You’ll Need a Power Socket
In the box you’ll find the camera itself, 12V 1A power adaptor, mounting bits, and waterproof Ethernet cable cover.
Installation is simple, involving screwing the mounting bracket to a wall or ceiling, then bolting the camera to the bracket. Alternatively, you can just screw the device straight to your wall and bypass the mounting plate. A hex tool is also provided to tighten and relax the mount for repositioning.
If your plan was to eventually use the device wirelessly, I’d suggest leaving it unmounted for the time being in order to add the Wi-Fi details first and check those work before locking it in-situ.
One major drawback of the HiKam A7 is that you’ll need a power source: it can’t use Power over Ethernet, so you’ll either need a breakout cable to pull 12V from your PoE line (which drives up the overall cost), or use the included mains adaptor. There’s also no solar power option, unlike the Reolink Argus Pro we looked at a few weeks back.
Setup the HiKam A7
Start by downloading the HiKam app, and creating a new account. Curiously, you’re instructed that you’ll need a different account for each copy of the app that you’ll be using. So if you have two phones, you’ll need to create a unique account login for each. On top of that, if you forget your password, there is no reset option: you’ll need to just create a new account.
I can confidently say HiKam is an established company, because their app looks like it was designed at least 5 years ago, with a graphical UI that hasn’t been updated since. It’s terribly antiquated, and mostly devoid of any HiKam branding. This is as barebones as they could get away with really, the weakest part of the whole package–but that’s fine since my interest in the A7 was primarily its ability to integrate into other systems.
To add your camera, the easiest option is to plug it into a spare Ethernet port on your router (read our networking guide if you’re unsure about switches, routers and hubs). Then click the + button. It should automatically scan and discover it. The initial setup password is 123 (and you’ll need to choose a new one that doesn’t start with 0). After that, you’re free to reconfigure the network options to Wi-Fi instead.
You can also select the Other -> AirLink option when adding a new device and attempt to connect it straight to your Wi-Fi, but this isn’t as reliable, as many routers block the initial setup packets. This did work fine for me though.
I decided to site the camera overlooking my car park, where I can grab mains power from inside the garage. Since there’s no Ethernet cable here, I configured the Wi-Fi to use my Unifi Outdoor+ connection . This is a powerful outdoor antenna which broadcasts 2.4GHz, but obviously your setup may be different and if you don’t have a Wi-Fi signal at all outside then you’re going to be even more restricted as to where you can mount it.
View the HiKam A7 with Alexa Show/Spot
For me, the biggest draw of the HiKam A7 is third party integration. Not only is it compatible with Synology Station via the standard ONVIF protocol, but they’ve also released an Amazon Alexa Skill. That means you can call the camera up on your Echo Show or Echo Spot to view the live feed. That’s previously been the domain of significantly more expensive brands, at least when it comes to outdoor cams.
So how does the Alexa support work? First, you’ll need to email support to enable the feature on your account. They told me this was due to stability issues–it’s a beta firmware, so only enabled to those who actually want it. That said, I didn’t experience any issues, and they said it will be rolling out publicly after Christmas or sooner if enough people ask for it, so it may even be available to all when you read this review. This is obviously a bit kludgy, but I found support to be very responsive. It is open to everyone, it’s not a private beta test–anyone can opt in to get it.
Once enabled, you’ll need to update the firmware on the camera via the app to version 1.19. Then after enabling the skill (available both in Europe and the US), you’ll be asked to link your account, and you should see your camera listed. Then just refresh your Alexa smart home devices.
Once it’s setup, usage couldn’t be simpler, just ask Alexa to “show me” plus whatever you named the camera. For some reason, it complained of multiple devices when I named mine “car park”, despite only a single device being listed, so I opted for “outside” instead. You can see a demo in the review video. However, I found it to be really slow to access the feed: a good 5 seconds or so of watching the “Waiting for Hikam” screen before I could see anything useful.
The HiKam App, and Motion Alerts
The HiKam official app, as mentioned, is rather barebones. It gets the job done and allows full configuration of all your devices simply, but it just feels like it was designed ten years ago. For a company so progressive in supporting Alexa, it’s a sharp juxtaposition.
When viewing the feed, buttons are difficult to see thanks to their translucent grey on translucent black shading. The microphone button in the middle gives the impression that it sends your voice; but in reality, it does nothing. No audio is transmitted. You can also turn on the audio stream from the camera, take a snapshot, and switch between SD and HD streams, but that’s it. There’s no zoom controls, or other image adjustments.
Enable motion alerts is simple, though I found it would inexplicably turn itself off sometimes. There are five levels of sensitivity, and a “human detection” mode, though I found the default level three was too sensitive for outdoors, with rain and wind causing false alerts. Email alerts were reliably sent and included 3 snapshots of the event, which is good because a single one may be slightly too early or too late to record the actual trigger event. It did go to spam folder initially, but you can tell Gmail to not do that.
Unless you have an SD card inserted, the in-app alert list is pretty useless, and won’t even display a thumbnail of the event. It’ll just list the date and time.
There’s also a free 72-hour cloud backup service. You only get very short clips, but this also requires your own SD card to be inserted, so it’s not an alternative to local storage, it’s an enhancement.
Synology Surveillance Station
The HiKam A7 also integrates nicely with Synology. It’s great to find devices that support third party software, so you’re not locked into using a manufacturer specific app. The camera was found straight away, and nearly everything worked as it should. Event detection from the camera wasn’t supported though, so you’ll either need continuous recording, or use event detection on Surveillance Station itself.
HiKam A7: The Best Budget Alexa-Compatible Outdoor Security Camera?
This is as far as I can tell, the cheapest outdoor Alexa compatible camera you’ll find on the market at the moment, and despite being budget friendly, you still get all the features you’d expect. You’ll find configurable motion detection with app or email alerts, night vision, local SD card recording, and reasonable HD image quality. It’s not the best option for an indoor camera: there are certainly cheaper devices out there if you don’t need a waterproof housing.
But, it is sometimes a case of you get what you pay for. If you’re only going to need one to cover your front porch, I would perhaps opt for the more expensive, more reliable devices, officially endorsed by Amazon.
The smartphone app isn’t amazing: it works, but looks quite antiquated. But then again, you probably won’t use the app other than for initial setup. With ONVIF standard protocol support, you can use numerous third party applications of your choice to view the livestream and record events, such as Synology Surveillance Station.
You are a little restricted as to where you can place it since it does require a 12V 1A power source, either via the included wall adaptor or otherwise, and there’s no internal battery. But with the option to run over Ethernet or Wi-Fi, the HiKam A7 is overall a good budget option that’s relatively easy to set up, has good image quality, reliable Wi-Fi, and a good feature selection.
- Alexa support for Echo Show and Echo Spot to view live feed, albeit slow.
- Integrates with Synology Surveillance Station.
- Wired or wireless, in one package.
- Status LEDs for the camera and Ethernet cable.
- Smooth set up.
- Budget-friendly price at around $60.
- Email alerts send three images.
- No PoE, needs 12V power adaptor.
- Only one-way audio, no talkback.
- The app is antiquated and as barebones as you can get.
- Requires you to email them to enable Alexa integration (currently).
- Multiple passwords for multiple devices could get annoying really quickly.