The idea of using IP cameras to monitor your home or office via a mobile or PDA has been around for a while now and has had quite a few high profile success stories in the news during this time. There are a number of proprietary solutions on the market such as MySecurity247 but these generally tie in with secure remote hosted servers and come with a subscription charge as well. The latest TV-IP212W from TRENDnet aims to let you do it all yourself as it supports the RTSP streaming protocol so you can access the camera directly from mobiles that support this.
The camera has a 1/4in RGB CMOS sensor, supports 802.11b/g wireless networks and can manage up to 30fps at a top resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. It incorporates an internal microphone and has a socket for connecting an optional speaker allowing two way communications to be held. Motion detection is on the cards and when triggered the camera can send images via email or to FTP or Samba servers. There's also a USB 1.1 port on the side of the camera which can be used to transfer images to external storage devices. Usefully, there's a small button underneath for safely dismounting the device prior to removal.
Installation is simple enough although you will need to start with a wired connection. The bundled IPSetup utility locates the camera on the network regardless of its default IP address and offers options to use static or dynamic IP addressing for the LAN port. Once hooked up you can then move over to the web interface which offers a quick start wizard for tweaking network settings further and adding mail servers for event triggers.
The web interface is a tidy affair although we did find its response could be sluggish at times. The live view page opens with options to select MPEG4 or M-JPEG compression and take manual recordings and snapshots to a destination of your choosing. Snapshots are saved as JPEGs whilst recordings saved as AVI files but for the latter we found playback quality using Windows Media Player to be truly grim with masses of artefacts ruining the view.
Image quality from the live view isn't up to the high standards set by Axis' IP cameras. Colour balance was accurate and motion portrayed reasonably smoothly but try as we might we couldn't get a really sharp focus. TRENDnet claims it as crystal clear but we'd call it slightly fuzzy. There are also buttons above the image for 2X and 3X zoom but being the digital variety you won't see any improvements for distant objects.