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The RLC-511 offers fantastic image quality, ease of installation, and rock solid desktop software that can grow into an extensive security system, at an affordable price.
The problem with security cameras is that you either pay through your teeth for a professional solution, or you’re stuck with budget devices that can’t be integrated and need their own custom mobile app. But it needn’t be so: Reolink offer great value devices without ongoing license fees, with comprehensive software solutions for the home and professional market. The Reolink RLC-511 is their latest security camera, with an absolutely stunning image quality thanks to a 5MP sensor and 4 X optical zoom. It runs on Power over Ethernet, so installation is a breeze.
Read on to take a closer look, and at the end of this review, we’ve got one of the Reolink RLC-511 to give away to a lucky reader.
Design and Specifications
- 3 x 3 x 5 inches, not including the mounting arm
- 5MP sensor, up to 2560 x 192opx maximum resolution
- 4X optical zoom with focus controls
- PoE power
- MicroSD local recording (optional)
- Desktop and mobile client
- No ongoing fees
Inside the box you’ll find:
- RLC-511 camera itself
- 1m Ethernet cable
- Waterproof Ethernet connector shield
- Mounting screws and template
- Hex tool and mini screwdriver
- “24 Hour Video Surveillance” sticker, and a quick start manual
Including all the required tools is thoughtful, but probably unnecessary, since you’ll need a larger screwdriver and possibly drill to mount it anyway.
The first thing that struck me about the RLC-511 is the size. The main body of the camera is 3×3 inch square, around 5 inches in length, not including the bulking mounting arm. For that reason, it just isn’t practical to use this inside a family home. As an outdoor security camera though, it’s actually much better to have something so obnoxiously bulky to act as a deterrent. Potential burglars certainly won’t miss it.
Of course, the bulky size isn’t just for show. The RLC-511 houses a 4X optical zoom lens and 5MP sensor, offering an unrivaled picture quality. Reolink calls this “Super HD”, though that’s not a technical standard. What is clear, however, is that the image quality from the Reolink RLC-511 is higher resolution than competing devices that cost twice as much. It’s also rare to find an optical zoom at this price point: most offer a digital zoom, where the image is simply blown up and pixelated. The RLC-511 actually moves the lens and allows for refocusing, giving a sharp and detailed picture even when zoomed.
PoE stands for Power over Ethernet, a method of delivering electrical power to low current devices using standard Ethernet cabling alone, reducing the number of cables needed and making installation simpler.
A breakout cable for a DC adaptor is also supplied should you want to power it through standard means, but a separate power adapter is not included in the package. You can also use PoE with a power injector, which still allows you the convenience of running a single Ethernet cable to the camera, as long as it goes past a power socket at some point where power can be injected. Again though, a power injector is not supplied. Reolink assume you already have the right infrastructure already if you’re purchasing a PoE camera.
If you don’t already have a PoE system, but like the look of the RLC-511, you’ll be pleased to know they also offer a wireless model, the aptly named RLC-511W. It works over Wi-Fi, and needs a more traditional power source.
Installing the RLC-511
As as a PoE device, assuming you have the right infrastructure, installation is a breeze. In my case, that meant running a new Ethernet cable through the loft from my PoE-enabled Ubiquity UniFi switch, and dropping it through the eaves of the roof. The trickiest part was fitting the waterproof cover for the Ethernet connector, as the cable clip I’d already crimped on was too large.
Once plugged in, setup is a simple case of opening the Reolink app, and scanning the QR code on the device. I’d advise you to set this up before actually mounting it though, so you can open the live stream to position it correctly.
Since this is a fixed position bullet cam, there is no pan and tilt, and the optical zoom feature is only to the center of the field of view. You’ll likely need to spend some time tweaking the angle of the camera, but that’s relatively simple using the included tools.
If you haven’t already, check out the review video for some sample footage. I’ve blurred my license plate and YouTube has probably compressed everything a little, but you should get an idea of just how sharp it is. No words are needed: the image quality is the best I’ve seen on a security camera so far.
Night mode is equally stunning, with bright IR LEDs illuminating the scene. I could see significantly further in the camera feed than my actual eyes could, even once they’d adjusted to the lack of light. That’s impressive. The only downside to such bright LEDs is that the reflections completely obscured my license plate, though this may have just been the angle of reflection.
Reolink Desktop or Mobile App
I can’t stand devices that only work with a mobile app, which why I’m such a fan of Reolink. They provide a full desktop NVR client for Mac or Windows, free of charge and with unlimited licenses. The client is a fully featured native application for Windows or macOS (as opposed to a web wrapper, though you can also access the camera feeds through a web browser if you wish). You can view multiple live feeds, watch previous recordings, and configure cameras.
If you’re looking to build out a larger system, the desktop client is a compelling reason to stick within the Reolink ecosystem. It’ll allow you aggregate all of your camera feeds, whether those are from solar-powered units like the Argus Pro, indoor battery powered wireless devices like the Reolink Keen, or wired analog cameras like the ADK8-20B4 kits. You can add up to 32 devices, though a single device can be a hardware NVR with up to 8 cameras attached. I’m not doing the math, but that’s a lot of cameras. There’s no ongoing costs or additional licences needed, just the initial purchase cost.
The mobile app also happens to be one of the better-looking ones I’ve seen: it’s clean, modern, and responsive. Options for all your devices are easy to configure, and you can even share your cameras with family and friends so they can keep an eye on things while you’re away. The app offers push notifications for motion events, as well as email alerts (though you will need to add your own SMTP email server. Gmail works, but you have to allow insecure app access).
Compatibility, and Third Party NVRs
The Reolink RLC-511 isn’t just a great camera for use within a Reolink-only environment though: it’s also fully supported by Synology Surveillance Station and other third party systems via the industry standard ONVIF protocol.
The only missing piece of the puzzle is Alexa support. With Echo Show and Spot gaining in popularity, Reolink could easily dominate the market by adding that feature, but I’ve never had a clear answer on when (or if) that’s coming. On the other hand: it’s easy to be lured by gimmicks, and if I had to choose between a reliable desktop client or Alexa screen support, I’d choose the desktop software any day.
Should You Buy the Reolink RLC-511?
The RLC-511 offers fantastic image quality, ease of installation, and rock solid desktop software that can grow into an extensive security system, all at an affordable price. Local SD card recordings mean there are no ongoing storage costs, and the software can expand to as many cameras as you need without additional licenses. The lack of two-way audio and Alexa-support may be a deal breaker for some, but consider whether those are truly features you need in a security camera, or simply gimmicks.
- Stunningly good picture quality
- 4X optical zoom
- Ease of installation thanks to PoE
- Professional desktop software
- ONVIF feed for third party software if needed
- No talkback audio
- No Alexa support
Enter the competition below to win a Reolink RLC-511 for yourself!