Swann Floodlight Security System review: Fairly decent security cam with floodlights

Hardware Reviews / Reviews / Security / Tech
Swann Floodlight Security System

If you’re looking for a DIY option, the Swann Floodlight Security System offers fairly decent, albeit with minor issues, and relatively consistent performance.

8.6/10 average rating

It’s unfortunate times when the days of leaving your doors unlocked are long gone. There are plenty of security companies offering home security options but not everyone wants to pay a huge monthly fee to have their home monitored. Fortunately, there are DIY options and our Swann Floodlight Security System review takes a look at a 1080p security camera with automatic floodlights, local and cloud storage, and night vision. Read on to see how it performs.

Specifications

The Swann Floodlight Security System Wi-Fi Series has the following features and specifications:

  • Video Resolution: 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels)
  • Viewing Angle: Wide 125º
  • PIR Thermal/Motion Sensor: Yes, True Detect™ PIR
  • Sensor Range: Up to 32ft / 10m, 270º
  • Infrared Night Vision: 32ft / 10m (B&W)
  • Floodlit Night Vision: 100ft / 30m (Color)
  • Brightness: 2500 lumens
  • Color Temperature: 5000K
  • Video Storage: Internal & Secure Cloud (Fees apply to 30 day cloud storage option)
  • Audio: Microphone & Speaker, 2-Way Audio
  • Siren: Yes, up to 75dB
  • Operating Temperature: -4ºF to 140ºF/-20ºC to 60ºC
  • Indoor/Outdoor: Indoor & Outdoor (weatherproof IP65 rated)
  • Power Source: Hard Wired. Connects to existing wiring
  • Working Voltage: AC 100~240V 50/60hz
  • Power: 30W
  • Wi-Fi Frequency: 2.4GHz (wireless range up to 65ft/20m)
  • App (iOS & Android): SAFE by Swann
  • ATTENTION: THIS PRODUCT HAS UNTERMINATED ELECTRICAL WIRING. IN SOME COUNTRIES THIS PRODUCT MUST BE INSTALLED BY A LICENSED ELECTRICIAN. CHECK LOCAL LAWS & REGULATIONS.
  • This product must be installed on a vertical surface. This product should not be installed on a horizontal surface, such as a ceiling.
  • Camera Dimensions: 2.68” x 2.36” x 4.72”/68mm x 60mm x 120mm
  • Overall Dimensions: 9.5″ x 9.5″ x 6.7″/ 240mm x 240mm x 170mm
  • Weight: 2.44lbs/1110g

What’s in the box

  • Floodlight Security System
  • Mounting Bracket & Hardware
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Theft Deterrent Stickers
What's included with the Swann Floodlight Security System
What’s included with the Swann Floodlight Security System.

Design

The Swann Floodlight Security System looks like a pair of floodlights with a camera component attached. The main unit is circular in shape with a hole in the middle for the mounting bolt and cap. Located on the left and right side and slightly above the mounting hole are the two floodlights. Squarish in shape with rounded corners, the floodlights have a plastic frame around them with a bit more of a flange on the top. On the inside of each floodlight near the base is an adjustment knob while on the opposite side is a locking nut. Loosening the locking nut will allow you to use the adjustment knob to move the floodlights to their desired position.

Centered below the mounting hole is the camera unit. The camera unit has a rectangular shape with rounded sides. While the entire Floodlight Security System unit is white, the front face of the camera unit is black. This area houses the microphone, night detection sensor, infrared LEDs, LED indicator, and speaker/siren. The Swann logo is printed in white just above the speaker area. At the bottom of the camera unit is a white inverted dome. This dome houses Swann’s True Detect passive infrared (PIR) motion sensor.

The dome houses Swann's True Detect passive infrared (PIR) motion sensor
The dome houses Swann’s True Detect passive infrared (PIR) motion sensor.

Located on the back of the camera unit is the reset button. Just below this, the camera unit is mounted to the base by way of a solid arm with a locking collar. Loosening the locking collar allows you to adjust the camera unit by way of a ball swivel mount. Once positioned, tightening the locking collar holds the camera unit in place.

The back of the base unit is sealed and has three wires coming out of it. There is a black live wire, white neutral wire, and a green/yellow ground wire. We’ll discuss these more in the installation section. There is also a foam gasket and all the mounting hardware you need to mount the system on an existing junction box, which isn’t included.

Looking at the Swann Floodlight Security System leaves no doubt that it is a security camera with some pretty beefy looking floodlights on it.

Installation

Before you install the floodlight camera, there are a few steps you should take first, namely making sure the Wi-Fi strength where you want to install the floodlight camera is strong enough. Once you’ve confirmed that, you can proceed to the actual physical installation of the camera.

While my installation was a bit different than what others may experience, I’d plan on an hour or less if you have an existing fixture you’re replacing, or up to two hours if you don’t. Unfortunately, I fell into the latter category. Even so, the installation was a breeze, even for a non-electrician. On that note, before we continue, if you at all feel uncomfortable doing a self-install, by all means, contact a licensed electrician. In addition, the instructions do warn that in some jurisdictions, the light must be installed by a licensed electrician.

All you really have to remember is to turn off the breaker associated with the fixture your replacing, and to match colours. It really is that easy. Swann provides everything you need if you’re going this route, including grommets, screws, and a mounting bracket.

Once you’ve killed the power and removed the old light fixture, connect white to white, green/yellow to your ground (or other green wire), and black to black. Screw the mounting bracket on the junction box, then apply the foam gasket to the back of the camera unit. Once you’ve done that, screw the camera unit onto the mounting bracket using the included bolt, and finish off by capping it. Once in place, you can then adjust the floodlights and camera by loosening the locking nuts, locking collar, and adjustment knobs as required.

Once you’re set up, turn the breaker back on and proceed to the software section for details on how to install and pair the system to the app on your smartphone.

For those of use not using an existing fixture, the installation will take a bit longer and require a few more materials. In my case, I used an extension cord (it was cheaper than electrical cable and a male plug end), low profile junction box, and a vinyl siding styled box cover. Altogether it cost about CA$40 for the extra parts. At any rate, I cut a proper sized hole in my siding, mounted the junction box to the wall, and covered it with the box cover. I then drilled a hole just thick enough to slide the extension cord cable through the wall of the garage.

Once that was done, I cut the extension cord the length I needed, leaving the male end on the piece I needed with the female end attached to the scrap bit of cord I didn’t. After feeding it through the hole, I then joined the white, green, and black wires to the floodlight camera accordingly using the marrettes (twist-on wire connectors). After that point, it was pretty much the same installation as to an existing light fixture. All said and done, that took about two hours or so.

Either way, the installation was pretty easy and the instruction diagram is pretty straightforward and easy to follow. If you need more assistance, Swann does have an installation video as well.

Software

Once you’ve completed the physical installation, you’ll need to download the SAFE by Swann app, create an account, verify email, continue with the setup. Setup is pretty straightforward and the app does a fairly decent job of walking you through it.

When opening the app, you’re greeted with a dashboard. In my case, it consisted of a recent snap of the camera view and two square buttons side by side below that for quick light and siren toggling. If you have multiple supported Swann cameras, you can add them as well and further customize your dashboard. Along the bottom is an icon for the currently active mode on the left. Pressing the icon will allow you to quickly change the active mode. On the right, is an icon for activity which, when pressed, brings up your cloud storage video clips.

Selecting the main image will bring you into the live video stream for the camera. Pressing either the light or siren buttons below will toggle the lights or siren on or off depending what it’s current state is. When the light is on, you can also adjust the brightness (from 0-100%) of the light. This setting is saved after you turn it off so you only have to adjust it as needed.

There’s the usual hamburger menu in the upper left corner which gives you access to your cameras, pairing cameras, activity, modes, user manual, about, support, and the ability to sign out. When selecting My Cameras, you can then go into settings and add a cloud storage subscription if you wish. More on that in the Performance section below.

The Modes selection lets you set if the cameras are armed or disarmed for Home, Away, and Night Mode. The activity selection lets you view past recordings from the cloud. In order to view the videos stored on the camera, you actually have to go to My Cameras > Settings > Camera > View Camera Backup. Likewise, you set the camera sensitivity in My Cameras > Settings > Camera as opposed to with the arming/disarming in the Modes selection tab. Not only that, when setting the sensitivity, you’re setting it for the currently active mode so you’ll have to make sure you’re in the right mode before you go into the settings to change it. You can also set the light duration and the siren volume and if it goes off when triggered here as well.

Camera settings screen in SAFE by Swann app
Camera settings screen in SAFE by Swann app.

When set to the highest sensitivity, the camera would pick up every vehicle driving by or every person walking by the sidewalk. Unfortunately, the app doesn’t really show you with a diagram overly what each sensitivity range covered. After some trial and error, I found a sensitivity that only triggered when someone actually walked up and across the driveway, which is what we wanted during the day. Fortunately, you can set Home, Away, and Night Mode configurations. In my case, I set it lower during the day and for night time, I set the sensitivity to the highest it would go. After that, it’s just a matter of remembering to switch the system to Night Mode before going to bed.

The My Camera > Settings also allows you to name your camera, update your Wi-Fi, and Sync to Phone Time. Lastly, you can update the firmware for your camera in the My Camera > About section. While you can’t check for updated, the dashboard will display a message indicating that a firmware update is available if one, in fact, is.

The app isn’t too bad but I did have to email support and consult the manual a few times to initial figure out how to change a specific setting or update the firmware. It could definitely do with an overhaul or, in the least, moving around of some of the settings so they’re better grouped and made more apparent where they are located. Additionally, having to go into separate screens to view the cloud and local storage is a bit strange as well and these could be combined in a single area as well.

Overall, though, once you get used to it, finding settings and viewing your past videos is fairly simple and easy.

Ease of Use

Once set up and paired with the app, the Swann Floodlight Security System basically runs itself. As indicated above, you can use the app to adjust the sensitivity of the motion detection. As well, you can adjust what happens and how long it auto-records once motion is detected.

When an alert notification comes through, touching it will open the app and take you to the main screen. At this point, you’ll have to touch the live view tile in order to view what’s going on. To be honest, it’d be nice to have it open the live view automatically from a notification to save time. More often than not, by the time the live view was launched, there was nothing to be seen on the screen.

As for the other features, it’s pretty straightforward to toggle the floodlights on and off, toggle the siren, view both live and archive clips, and enable the voice feature.

Performance

Initially, we encountered some performance issues with the camera and the app. When checking live view on the app, it loaded as quick as 3 seconds or sometimes not at all. As far as receiving an alert? Sometimes it was instant, other times it was a minute or two later. There were also some issues with viewing the archives. Sometimes, captured motion video showed up a couple of minutes later, sometimes not until the next morning. I was definitely baffled as my phone indicated a solid Wi-Fi connection while standing right underneath the camera.

Live View is Unavailable screen in SAFE by Swann app
Live View is Unavailable screen in SAFE by Swann app.

After going back and forth with Swann support, with nothing really resolved, I ran a Wi-Fi analyzer and noticed that my Wi-Fi network was on the same channel as many others in the area. I switched my Wi-Fi to a different channel and immediately noticed an improvement in the camera’s reliability when it came to viewing through the app. That’s not to say it’s perfect, but it was definitely much better and, in my opinion, acceptable.

As mentioned above, the system notifies you of motion with a notification on your smartphone. Pressing it opens the app but doesn’t take you directly into live camera view, wasting what could be precious seconds. Most of the time, we had to wait a few minutes for the clip to show up under the archives in order to see what the motion was about. On that note, the camera does a great job of capturing about 5 seconds before the motion that triggered it as well as the 25 seconds afterward.

The system also triggers as often as each minute. Even though we are home most of the time, we opted to leave the camera alert and capture mode always on. While this was o.k. for the most part, it did pose a challenge while the kids went out front to play basketball as it would trigger every minute.

During testing, and the occasional legitimate motion event not triggered by testing, the system did a decent job of capturing and storing the motion event. The camera itself provides seven days of clip storage. While I couldn’t get an exact storage size from Swann, they assured me that it is ample enough to store seven days of clips, based on each clip being roughly 5.47 MB in size for a 1080p mp4 file. If the card was 1GB, that’d be enough to store approximately 180 clips.

Live view at night with floodlights off and no overlay in SAFE by Swann app
Live view at night with floodlights off and no overlay in SAFE by Swann app.

In addition, Swann offers two days of cloud storage for clips for free and an optional 30 days of storage for US$4.99/mth or 49.99/year. This isn’t a bad deal as both plans allow you to store 30 days of clips in the cloud and up to 5GB of video clips which is plenty. You can also download and share recorded clips as well as have access to premium call support for this price.

So far I’ve mentioned motion a few times. On that note, the system also uses Swann’s True Detect Heat Sensing technology to help alert you sooner when the system is triggered.

Another neat feature is that the Swann Floodlight Security Camera supports Alexa and Google Assistant. While I didn’t test it with Alexa, I was able to successfully tell my Google Nest Hub to “Show me my garage” and, albeit it after a minute or two, it would live stream the video feed to the Nest Hub by my bedside. While this is useful, the fact it took a bit before it started streaming could also be a detriment as you’d likely miss whatever it was that alerted you to start streaming.

Camera

When the camera is connected live streaming or motion recording, the LED light on the front panel is solid red. As far as the camera quality is concerned, it’s pretty decent given it’s FHD 1080p. The more light available, the better the picture is. When watching the footage, there is a brief second or two when the camera is readjusting to the lights being turned on and during this time the footage isn’t all that clear. That being said, between the five seconds before and the 25 seconds after the lights turn on, there should be enough footage to possibly make an identification from the video clip.

The night vision camera is decent as well and I actually found mixed results with the floodlights at night. When there was nothing parked in the driveway, the floodlight footage seemed to be decent enough. When my white truck was parked in the driveway, I found that the night vision gave a better video image. On that note, we do have front lights that are on all night so that definitely affects both the night vision and floodlight video due to the added light.

Depending on the distance the subject is from the camera, as well as the angle of their face, being able to easily identify someone is hit and miss. The video clips can be downloaded, as well as paused and screenshots taken if you need to for whatever reason.

On that note, the fact the floodlights can be set to come on automatically when motion is detected should be enough to deter a potential thief as they really light up the area, especially when set to 100% brightness. As a further deterrent, the siren can also be set to turn on when motion is detected.

Microphone/Voice Quality

The Swann Floodlight Security System also comes with a siren and two-way audio speaker system. While the audible siren works well enough, it’s not overly loud. While this is good in that it won’t disturb your neighbours in the middle of the night, I felt it wasn’t loud enough to act as an added deterrent when motion was detected. Then again, if the lights and siren come on at the same time, it may just be enough to startle a would-be burglar.

A couple of times, I tried to test the two-way audio speaker with poor results. Not only was the audio delayed but on the app end of things, it sounded really crackly which made it hard to hear the person standing outside. When speaking through the app, the person on the outside had an equally hard time hearing me. In either case, you could make out what the other person was saying, but just barely and often by guessing at a couple of missed words. The delay really makes it an inadequate tool for communication to someone outside. For the record, I experienced this lack of quality both while on the same wireless network as well as when away from home and on an LTE network.

Price/Value

The Swann Floodlight Security System has an MSRP of US$179.99/CA$249.99. Based on its performance and the retail price of competing systems, this floodlight security camera is pretty reasonably priced.

That being said, you can also expect to be out an extra $4.99/month or $49.99/year if you want 30 days of cloud storage instead of just the two days that come with the free plan. Even so, checking with your insurance company may offer up a discount on your yearly insurance premiums if you opt for more online cloud storage. If so, that could be taken into account as a cost offset, making this system a better value.

Wrap-up

There are plenty of options when it comes to home security systems out there. If you’re looking for a DIY option, the Swann Floodlight Security System offers fairly decent, albeit with minor issues, and relatively consistent performance with extra lighting for late-night motion detection capture.

*We were sent a sample of the Swann Floodlight Security System Wi-Fi Series for the purposes of this review.

Swann Floodlight Security System

US$179.99
8.6

Design

9.5/10

Installation

9.0/10

Software

8.5/10

Ease of Use

9.0/10

Performance

9.0/10

Camera

9.5/10

Microphone/Voice Quality

5.0/10

Price/Value

9.0/10

Nailed it

  • Fairly easy to install
  • 1080p video
  • 7 day local, 2 day cloud storage free
  • Bright light for better vision at night
  • Siren option for extra security
  • Records 5s before and 25s after being triggered

Needs work

  • Settings are a bit obscure to find at first in the app
  • Pressing a notification doesn't automatically open live view
  • Had the occasional disconnect from my home Wi-Fi
  • Sometimes night vision would give a better video
  • Siren isn't that loud
  • Two-way speaker is very poor
  • Viewing video from camera storage slow loading

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