This $US40 ($54) Security Camera Is an Affordable Way to Keep an Eye on Your House

This $US40 ($54) Security Camera Is an Affordable Way to Keep an Eye on Your House
The TP-Link Kasa Spot camera (KC400) is a $US40 ($54) camera with similar features to the pricier competition. (Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo)

When all you need is an extra set of eyes to keep watch over your home, you don’t really need to spend hundreds of dollars. I’ve been testing cheaper solutions like the $US40 ($54) TP-Link Kasa Spot camera (or KC400), which offers around-the-clock recording with a microSD card and crisp 2K-resolution video. You can place it anywhere or mount it to the wall, and if you’re looking for a no-frills security camera that lets you keep an eye on your stuff while you’re away, the Kasa Spot camera is a deal.

TP-Link’s Kasa gadget lineup features other smart home accessories you can control with the Spot camera, including smart bulbs, smart plugs, and light strips. If you’re looking for connected home abilities without the expensive ecosystem, TP-Link’s Kasa is one way to get started. The only downside is that while its products work with the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice commands, they don’t work with Apple HomeKit.

TP-Link Kasa Spot (KC400)

WHAT IS IT

A smart indoor security camera

PRICE

$US40 ($54)

LIKE

Choice of cloud or local storage available, ample night sight, affordable

DISLIKE

No Apple HomeKit support, no backup battery, no two-factor authentication

Basic Necessities

The Kasa Spot camera is as plain as security cameras come, which is fine if what you’re after is utility. The camera is about 3.5 inches tall and a little over two inches wide, so it fits anywhere there’s space on your bookshelf or mantle. There is also mounting hardware bundled in the box, so you can stick the Spot camera in the corner of the room to look down below. The base of the Kasa Spot can be pivoted nearly any way, including all the way flat against a wall.

I tested the Kasa Spot camera on a bookshelf overlooking my office. There’s a 3.05 m micro-USB power cable included, along with a speaker on the back and a physical reset button and microSD card slot directly on the side of the camera. You’ll have to buy the microSD card separately.

I made the Kasa Spot camera guard my toys.  (Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo) I made the Kasa Spot camera guard my toys. (Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo)

The KC400’s specs are also basic, but not embarrassingly so. The camera can capture 2K video, up to 2560 by 1440 pixel resolution at 15 frames-per-second (fps). However, I did most of my testing with 720p resolution video to save my bandwidth.

The camera has a 106-degree field of view and five infrared LEDs for handling the transition to night vision. It offers a visible range of up to 30 feet. There’s an embedded two-way microphone as well, and though it sounds a tad muffled when you use it, it helps you catch someone’s attention.

The Kasa Spot camera also has some standard privacy features. It has a tiny LED indicator that flashes red when recording and green to show it’s on and connected to the cloud. But on the flip side, there is no two-factor authentication required to log in, nor can you invite another person to safely share in managing devices.

Basic Security

The Kasa Spot camera can lay flat in its mount if you need it.  (Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo) The Kasa Spot camera can lay flat in its mount if you need it. (Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo)

To set up the Kasa Spot camera, you’ll need the Kasa app for iOS or Android. If you’re already using other TP-Link smart devices, you can add it to your lineup of devices laid out in the app. I like how quick it is to shut off the KC400 and put it into privacy mode by simply tapping the power button on the app’s main screen. It’s much easier than doing so in rival apps like Nest and Blue by ADT, which require you to dig into the camera settings to shut them down.

The Kasa Spot camera offers cloud storage, called Kasa Care, which you can use if don’t use a microSD card. You can pay $US3 ($4) a month or $US30 ($40) a year for 30 days of video history per camera through Kasa Care. There is a $US10 ($13) per month deal for up to 10 cameras if that’s your jam. If you don’t pay for the cloud service, you’ll still get alerts but won’t have the ability to replay footage or enable manual recording.

Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo, In-House Art

Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo, In-House Art

The Kasa app (shown here on Android) bundles the Spot camera in with other devices on your network.

Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo, In-House Art

Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo, In-House Art

Tap on the camera’s name, and then you’ll see a preview of what the Spot camera sees.

Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo, In-House Art

Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo, In-House Art

There are additional settings that let you adjust the motion sensitivity and how often the camera should automatically record after detecting motion.

Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo, In-House Art

Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo, In-House Art

You can also schedule on and off times for the Kasa Spot camera.

Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo, In-House Art

Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo, In-House Art

The night vision on the TP-Link Kasa is clear enough to distinguish objects. I took this screenshot right before dawn and was pleased by the sharp preview.

The KC400 sends alerts any time motion is detected. There’s an option for it to tune into sound, which is helpful if you have a smoke alarm in an adjacent room or the other side of the door. There is also an optional person detection feature available, but it’s not like Google’s Nest, in that you aren’t storing the face and associating a name. The camera doesn’t identify anyone you have coming through, only that they were human-like.

The camera is effective at sending push notifications whenever it detects motion. I’ve been running it for a few months now, and it got to the point I needed to set up a schedule in the Kasa app so that my phone would stop buzzing from the flurry of motion alerts from me sitting at my desk. The KC400 lets you adjust motion sensitivity and set how long the motion should occur before the camera starts recording. You can set all that up through the Kasa app.

Turn the Kasa Spot camera to its side to insert the MicroSD card for 24/7 recording.  (Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo) Turn the Kasa Spot camera to its side to insert the MicroSD card for 24/7 recording. (Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo)

I was OK being limited to the check-in method with the KC400 since I have other security products watching over my domain. But you do have to have a microSD card inserted to be able to look through footage. I used a 64GB card, which TP-Link says can handle anywhere from 128-192 hours of recording, depending on the video resolution. After formatting the card, which you can do through the app, I noticed the timeline started to fill up with a scrubbable timeline. If you select the option for person detection, the timeline will separate the motion-activated events by colour, making it a cinch to scroll through and find the action.

The Kasa Spot’s daytime video is impressively detailed enough to parse, even zoomed in on a 720p video. The only time I saw the preview start to blur a bit was when there’d be too much glare coming in. The night vision on the KC400 is also relatively well-lit, so you can see the contrast between objects without squinting too hard.

The Kasa app distinguishes between whether it detected a person moving into the frame or merely a bit of movement right in the timeline.  (Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo) The Kasa app distinguishes between whether it detected a person moving into the frame or merely a bit of movement right in the timeline. (Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo)

Very Basic Smarts

You’ll want to use the Kasa app to manage your footage, especially if you plan on checking in through the viewfinder. While the Kasa Spot camera is compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, not all features will be available within those third-party apps. For instance, while you can call on the camera preview on a Google smart display, you can’t see the preview within the Google Home app on your smartphone. The same goes for Echo Show devices, but with the Amazon Alexa app.

Unfortunately for committed Apple users, the Kasa Spot camera is not HomeKit compatible. There is no workaround with IFTTT, either, and though there are basic abilities available there to turn the camera on and off, there’s no way to have motion trigger another smart gadget action.

The TP-Link Kasa Spot camera is as basic a security camera as they come. The benefit here is that you’re buying the camera from a trusted brand like TP-Link, which has had some success in the smart home space due to its affordable products. The Kasa Spot camera should be in the running if you feel like a pricier cam has too many bells and whistles. It’s also a much more affordable option than most other cameras — even more so than the outdoor-capable Eufy SoloCam E40.

If you want sophisticated features like facial recognition and up to 4K high-resolution video feeds, you’ll want to splurge for something like the new Nest Cam or Netgear’s Arlo cameras. But if you’re just looking to watch over a room or two, the Kasa Spot is a great deal.