Tom Lohr is an avid home DIY enthusiast. He prefers to spend the money he saves on new tools and gardening supplies.
The Good and the Bad
We live in uneasy times. People are calling for less police presence at a time when crime is increasing. Now more than ever, you need to take your home security seriously. With fewer police, response times will increase as well as the odds of you needing their assistance.
A good camera system is a pivotal piece of any home security package. Not long ago, installing security cameras mean mounting ugly, bulky units that also required running power wires and video cables. Not only was the installation of those systems intrusive, it was costly. Fortunately, we live in the 21st century and the advent of WiFi and nano electronics has fostered some decent video surveillance systems that are easy to install, require no wires or cables and are affordable.
One of the more popular systems is Blink. Blink consists of cameras slightly smaller than a computer mouse that operate using your home's WiFi signal. The ease of installation coupled with barely noticeable cameras keeps the customers rolling in for Blink. After researching several options, I chose to install a Blink system a little over a year ago. So, after a year in, I offer you an unbiased review of the systems pros and cons to help you decide if it's for you.
Blink is probably the most affordable system that actually works. You can get set up with a two camera system for less than $200. That's not chump change, but it is comparatively inexpensive.
You can start with one camera if you like. Each starter system comes with a small hub, also about the size of a computer mouse, that must be plugged into an outlet in your home. That hub connects to your WiFi signal and the cameras connect to the hub. Each hub can support up to ten cameras. That's a lot of surveillance.
Pro: Wireless and Battery Operated
The cameras come with two lithium AA batteries. After they run out, you have to replace them with lithium batteries only. Using WiFi for communication to the hub and batteries for power, you can mount the cameras just about anywhere. Screw in the mount, pop the camera on and you are set. It is literally a 5 minute or less task. If you ever move, taking your security camera system with you is a breeze.
Pro: Works Well With Alexa
Blink is a great company. So great, Amazon bought it. Since it is owned by Amazon, it should come as no surprise that Blink works well with Alexa. You add the cameras just like any other device. You will need to run an “If This Then That” or IFTTT routine to get it to work using voice commands, but that is simple to do. Additionally, once you have it connected to Alexa, if you have an Echo Show (an Echo device that has a video screen), you can do a visual check by simply saying “Alexa, show me front door.” As long as your camera is named front door it will display real time video on the Echo Show.
Pro: Customizable Detection Area
The Blink cameras have a wide angle view. Probably more than you need. If you leave it as it comes set up, you will end up getting countless alerts because anything it sees it reports. One of the really useful features is the editable detection zone. Once your camera is set up, you order the camera to take a picture of the area. That picture will be displayed whenever you access the app. In the app, you can tell the camera to ignore certain areas in that zone. The field of view of the camera is divided into 25 zones. You can touch one of the zones and it will gray out and ignore any movement. Each of those 25 zones are divided into 12 sub zones, so you can really fine tune what areas you want to ignore.
Pro: You Can Use the Alert Signals to Activate Other Devices
You have to use an IFTTT routine to active Blink cameras. But you can also use that IFTTT function to cause an alert to active other IFTTT compatible devices. Whenever I go out of town, I aim a very bright shop light out of my back window, turn it on and plug it into a smart plug that is plugged into an outlet. I set up my system so that IF my camera in my back yard senses movement (the “THIS” part), THEN it then it sends a signal to turn on the smart plug (the “THAT” function) and my backyard gets flooded with light (my neighbors love this). You can do the same with a siren or any device.
Pro: It Has an Awesome App
You use an app on your smartphone to control the Blink system. It is super easy to use and has a good interface with the cameras. If you get an alert on your phone, you just open the app and watch the recorded video clip. Between detecting movement and sending you an alert and having viewable video is about 10-15 seconds. You can also choose, for any reason, to do a live look in from the camera. Even when it's not in the “armed” condition.
Pro: A Weather Proof Option
If you mount cameras outside, and you probably will, Blink has a weather proof model. Mine has been through, snow, rain, ice and blistering heat with no ill effects. The indoor version is much cheaper, and the indoor version that has to be plugged in is even cheaper. Mix and match to build an affordable system the fits your needs.
Other than changing the batteries earlier than advertised, my cameras have been maintenance and worry free.
Pro: Temperature Alerts
The cameras have a thermometer built in and you can set it to send you an alert when it reaches whatever you set the temperature threshold at. This is ideal if you do not have a smart thermostat and you want to keep an eye on your home's interior temperature while away.
Con: Actual Battery Life
Blink claims two lithium batteries will last two years. They might supply power, but they definitely cause the system to function less effectively after 8 months or so. My cameras began to not trigger on for obvious objects (like me or my dog) more than 10 feet away. A fresh set of batteries restored them to their normal effectiveness.
Con: Terrible Speaker
One of the cool things about modern security camera systems is that not only can you see someone if they are near your camera, but you can talk to them as well. Blink cameras have the ability for you to speak and listen via the camera. You should be able to hold a conversation. If you live in the country, this might work well, but the speakers in the Blink cameras are so weak, that if there is any road or other noise nearby, they will never hear you.
Con: False Alarms
Fortunately, there is also a sensitivity setting for each camera. You have to play with it to get it set to the sensitivity level you want, but it helps cut down on false alerts. What is not good at is ignoring light movement. I live near a busy street, occasionally a turning vehicle's light beams will sweep across my porch. The camera detects those moving light beams as a moving object and I get an alert. For some some reason, is also detects flashing lights wether they are in an ignored zone or not. Any time an ambulance, fire truck, police or utility vehicles with flashing lights drive by my house, I get an alert.
Con: Future Compatibility
This is purely speculative, but I foresee Blink being replaced by the Ring system. Why? Because Amazon owns them both. Eventually, Amazon will want to merge both systems. If Ring becomes the dominate system and it swallows up Blink, then Blink cameras may not be compatible with Ring devices. Then it will become like Apple; once your device is old, they stop supporting it, hoping you will buy a new one. Amazon is a lot like Apple: they both like money and selling new devices is a good way to make it.
Con: Data Storage Money Grab
For those of us that purchased the Blink system before April, 2020, we get free but limited cloud storage of videos captured by the cameras. I have never exceeded 20% of the amount of free storage I am allotted. After that date, Blink introduced some newish hardware upgrades that altered the data plan. For cloud storage, you have to purchase a monthly or yearly subscription of cloud storage. It's only about 30$ a year per camera, but it's still money. The only other option is to either purchase or upgrade to the newest sync module, the Sync 2. The Sync 2 has a USB port that allows you to save videos to a USB thumb drive. It seems the “new” Blink design was made primarily to steer consumers toward a data storage plan. Frankly, it's a step backward.
Con: Changing Lineup
It used to be Blink cameras were either the XT or XT2 model, with the XT2 being the all weather version. While still available, they are being replaced by the Blink Indoor, Outdoor and Mini models. The XT cameras are not compatible with the new Sync 2 module, meaning you cannot use the USB drive for storage, again steering you to a data storage plan. The crossover of the previous and new systems is confusing, and not all components are backward compatible.
Con: No Monitoring Service
Many systems offer a monitoring service which will notify the police when certain conditions have been met; like a detection of someone in your house. I never cared for those services. I can call the police myself if someone is on or in my property without authorization. Still, some folks like that service, but you won't be able to use one with the Blink system.
To Blink or Not to Blink
Crime will likely to continue to increase and any security system is a good investment. While not perfect, the Blink system will meet your basic video monitoring security needs. It is feature rich for the price point and super easy to setup or move.
Would I recommend Blink and purchase it again? Absolutely. However Blink has really ticked of its customers and fans with the new pay for cloud storage greed, as well as changing the lineup of cameras without really improving the devices much. Still, it remains the best bang for your buck available. And money is important. Just ask the Blink developers that designed the pay for storage scheme.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 25, 2021:
This is a very informative and thorough artilce about Blink. Thank for this information.
Ben Reed from Redcar on January 25, 2021:
A thorough review of an interesting product.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on January 24, 2021:
Informative and useful.