Logitech’s new Logi Circle ($200) is the company’s newest entry into the home monitoring space in the form of an HD Wi-Fi camera that’s uniquely portable and designed to not only monitor your home but allow you to stay in touch with what’s happening back home when you’re away, whether at work or on vacation. Circle also provides two-way audio features, night vision, as well as a promise of smarter filtering of what actually gets captured with its Scene Intuition feature, and a new hyperlapse video feature to give you a quick daily visual summary of what the camera has captured.
The Logi Circle ships in a cube-shaped box reminiscent of the iPods of yesteryear, with the small spherical camera and base front and center as soon as you open the box. Packed in below the actual camera unit, you’ll find a ring-shaped charging dock with a 10-foot USB cable attached, a magnetic wall mount, and a USB power adapter. The camera incorporates a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that promises up to 12 hours of battery life, and can be placed on the ring to be powered or recharged as necessary. The ring is also designed to fit onto the magnetic mounting base so that you can optionally keep Circle powered when it’s mounted in a standard location — the attached USB cable is long and uses a flat design that should help to more discretely route it to a power source. For now at least, Logitech doesn’t appear to be offering the ability to purchase additional charging rings or magnetic wall mounts separately.
Circle will both operate and charge when connected to the docking ring, and the general idea of this design seems to be that Circle is best kept in the same location most of the time, where it can be connected to power. But it also provides the flexibility to be easily relocated anywhere else in your house from time to time, where it can run off battery for several hours before needing to return to its home base. Although the camera does not rotate on its base, the base can be placed on the ring and/or magnetic dock in any orientation, and the magnetic dock allows Circle to be mounted on a wall or even a ceiling. Circle can also be tilted upward or downward on the base in about a 100-degree range from facing directly upward to angled slightly downward below the horizontal position. The wide angle lens provides a 135-degree viewing field.
Circle is designed to be used with a companion mobile app — no web interface or PC/Mac option is available — and Logitech has focused on making the process of getting Circle up and running as painless as possible. After installing the Logi Circle app from the App Store, it automatically detects any powered up Circles within range via Bluetooth and then automatically pairs them with the same Wi-Fi network that your iOS device is connected to, setting up a user account in the process. Configuring additional iOS devices to access your Circles is then simply a matter of logging into the same account that was configured during the initial setup process.
Once Circle is up and running, the app immediately switches to a live view of whatever your Circle is seeing, with controls on the right that can be used to view clips of any previously recorded activity — Circle will record and store up to 24 hours of activity to Logitech’s cloud servers, regardless of whether the iOS app is running or not, so you can pop in and take a look at recent clips at any time. Additional options can also be found by swiping from the left side of the screen, providing the ability to toggle features such as the speaker, microphone, and LED, as well as engage power saving mode, night mode, update the firmware, and more. Push Notifications can also be enabled from here to alert you whenever Circle detects something interesting happening so that you can check in.
The Circle app doesn’t currently provide any features for saving or exporting video — however, Logitech provided us with access to a beta version scheduled for release in the next week that will provide the ability to save or share any selected video clip, either to the iOS camera roll or to any other app available in a standard iOS Share Sheet. While the videos are saved out in their original resolution, one limitation worth noting is that the date and time of the exported clip doesn’t appear to be preserved, although this might change before the final release.
This is where Circle’s smart filtering “Scene Intuition” feature comes in. In an effort to save power and minimize the amount of recorded footage you have to sift through, Logitech has designed Circle to only record what it considers interesting activity, and the company claims the feature will learn and adapt to what is relevant motion and what is simply visual “background noise.” For example, Circle will ignore movements such as curtains fluttering in the breeze or the breathing of a resting pet. Clips that contain more interesting and relevant motion are also highlighted in blue in the Circle app. Similarly, the Circle app also provides a “Day Brief” feature, available below the “Live” button, that will quickly create a 30-second hyperlapse video clip summarizing everything interesting that Circle recorded over the course of the day. It’s a fun and neat feature, particularly if you have pets or kids, although it’s worth noting that there’s no way to select or edit what Day Brief collects, and the cutoff point for it is fixed at midnight — if you don’t generate your Day Brief before you go to bed, there won’t be any way to get at it the next morning.
While Circle promises to deliver 12 hours of battery life, we found that estimate to be a bit optimistic, and seems to be largely dependent on how much Circle is actively recording and whether it’s being used in “Low Power Mode.” The latter mode drops the frame rate from 30 fps down to a more conservative 10 fps, although the video resolution remains at 720p in either mode. We found typical battery life to be more around the three-hour mark when used in standard mode in a room with a moderate level of pet activity; although overnight use in the same room in low power mode got us closer to the promised 12-hour life, it still fell short by about 2.5 hours. This means that most users will still end up needing to use Circle while connected to a power source — as noted earlier, the included accessories make this easily achievable — but we definitely appreciate the easy portability of Circle and see how it could be very handy for specific situations.
The Logi Circle is probably best viewed more as a fun social camera than as part of a home security system, and in that capacity it does a great job — it’s a useful way of staying in touch with pets and kids when you’re away from home, but it lacks any kind of integration with other home automation products. Logitech’s Scene Intuition is clever and seems to work well, and the Day Brief feature is definitely something fun and unique. The two-way voice communication is also a nice addition — it’s a neat way to talk to your pets when you’re away from home. The only major downside is battery life, but we have a hard time seeing this as a serious negative when you consider how few Wi-Fi cameras are portable at all, and with Circle, users don’t necessarily need to rely on the battery.
It’s also important to keep in mind that Circle doesn’t offer a lot of configuration options, so users insisting on more control will likely be disappointed, but what Logitech has focused on here is providing a straightforward camera that will just work for those who simply want something they can drop in, and in that sense, Logitech has succeeded with a functional and versatile, yet user-friendly solution.
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Compatibility: iPhone 4S or newer, iPad 3 or newer, iPad mini, iPod touch 5G or newer running iOS 8.1 or later.