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Product Reviews
November 2002


TV-IP200W

TRENDware International, Inc.
3135 Kashiwa St.
Torrance, CA 90505
Phone: 888-326-6061
Web site: www.trendware.com

Price: $499

Editor's Choice Award

RATINGS (0-5)
Installation: 5
Documentation: 3.75
Features: 4
GUI: 4.5
Overall: A-


So how long has it been since you�ve seen that X10 pop-up ad? 5 minutes? 10? Well, as annoying as these X10 ads are, there must be people buying the X10 wireless cameras to support their ever-present advertising. Another company, TRENDware, also has a wireless camera and unlike X10, which utilizes their proprietary X10 protocol, TRENDware�s TV-IP200W is accessible across any IP network. It would be an extreme injustice to TRENDware�s product if we said their product was 100 percent analogous to the X10 camera(s). The X10 line is more focused on the consumer whereas TRENDware is focusing on business applications such as video surveillance in the office, banks, hospitals, daycare, and a variety of industrial and public arenas. Of course, TRENDware also offers this product to techno-savvy consumers that want the ability to remotely monitor their house�s front door or other area of the house from a Web browser anywhere in the world.

In fact, the TV-IP200W supports most browsers since it has a Java application for viewing streaming video. In addition, they offer an ActiveX control for use in Internet Explorer. Furthermore, TRENDware�s TV-IP200W supports both 802.11b wireless and Fast Ethernet, allowing you to view live events with your Web browser across the Internet or Intranet. We tested the TV-IP200W and for the most part were very pleased with the results.

FEATURES
This Internet Camera Server has VGA quality video, automatic snapshot, event notification via e-mail, and auxiliary Input/Output connectors. It can synchronize with an NTP Time Server for displaying the proper time on any video snapshots or the time may be set manually. It features support for TCP/IP networking, SMTP e-mail, HTTP, and other Internet related protocols. It can be utilized in a mixed operating system environment such as Windows and Macintosh. It supports both 10/100Mbps Ethernet/Fast Ethernet and IEEE 802.11b 11Mbps wireless networks. It includes a Windows IPView Application for multiple cameras monitoring, image capturing, and video recording. It supports a maximum resolution of 640x480 pixels and utilizes JPEG image compression. Also, it can take automatic snapshots at timed intervals and e-mail the pictures.

Other features include:

  • Two input connections for sensors/switches;
  • Two output connections for external devices for alarm-based events when input sensor is triggered;
  • E-mail notification with captured images when input sensor is triggered;
  • Compression Rate Selection: five-level, (very low, low, medium, high, very high);
  • Frame Rate Setting: 1, 5, 7, 15, 20, auto (depends on video format);
  • Video Resolution: 160x120, 320x240, 640x480;
  • Brightness/Contrast/Hue Control;
  • Three-year warranty.

OPERATIONAL TESTING
For our first test, we tested the camera on our corporate network (Intranet). We should point out that the camera supports both Ethernet cable and wireless connectivity. We decided to start with an Ethernet cable since that was the easiest. We plugged in the network cable and power, changed out PC�s IP settings to match the camera�s default IP settings, and then launched IPView. IPView was able to search the network and find our camera. Once added, from IPView we were able to change various settings, including turning on DHCP so we could use the camera on our corporate network. After some fiddling of the corporate firewall settings we were up in running in no time with excellent video quality and very good frame rates (up to 30fps on our LAN). For additional security, the product features password protection to prevent unauthorized access.

Next, we decided to try the product at one of the lab engineer�s homes, since we wanted to see how the product would perform across the Internet in a real-world scenario. He already had an 802.11b LinkSys access point and a LinkSys router/firewall installed along with a cable modem for broadband access. The camera supports three modes of operation: LAN, WLAN, and LAN+WLAN. We set it to WLAN and then used IPView�s �search� feature to figure out the assigned IP address. We launched a Web browser and were able to successfully access the camera�s Web server and view streaming video by entering the local IP address 192.168.1.101.

Next, we enabled the DMZ host feature in the LinkSys router to allow external (Internet) users to view the camera. We then attempted to have another TMC Labs engineer access the camera�s Web server by entering the external IP address of the LinkSys router (24.44.227.190). By using the DMZ host feature, the LinkSys router should be able to route the external IP address to the internal. Unfortunately, when we entered 24.44.227.190 into our browser, the camera�s Web page would not load. After a half hour of troubleshooting the LinkSys firewall, we were stumped as to why it would work on our corporate intranet but not across the Internet. We knew we had the firewall settings setup properly, so we were about to give up when one of the lab engineers recalled that some broadband providers block port 80 (default for Web servers) to prevent broadband users from setting up home Web servers on the ISPs broadband network.

With this theory in mind, we logged onto the camera Web server�s configuration page via the local IP address to see if we could change the default port setting. As luck would have it, we were able to define a secondary port, so we chose 8081. We typed 24.44.227.190:8081 into our browser to force it to connect to that port number and voila! We were successful! Nevertheless, we certainly wished the documentation mentioned that some ISPs block port 80 to save us the time troubleshooting.

One of our lab engineer�s was able to keep an eye both on his front door and his two dogs faithfully waiting by the entrance for the master to return (Figure 1). The quality in this picture doesn�t do the camera justice. There were low lighting conditions and sunlight was hitting the camera causing overexposure and hence a darker image. For a better example of the camera�s quality, check out Figure 2 which is the screen for modifying the camera�s properties within the IPView application. From this screen we can optimize the contrast, brightness, hue, compression rate, and other settings to get the best image. Then the preview window shows what the image would look like.


Figure 1: Video stream across Internet slightly dark due to lighting.


Figure 2: IPView's camera properties screen.

We should point out one important feature is that after logging onto the camera�s web server, we could change any of the various settings that we were able to also change within the IPView application. From our browser we were able to change the image properties such as resolution, compression, etc.

PERFORMANCE
Using the Java method for viewing streaming video certainly caused a performance hit on the PC�s processor. A Pentium 1 GHz was hitting 99 percent CPU utilization for the browser, which slowed down our PC. A test on another lower end PC also utilized 99 percent CPU time. Due to our experience with other Java apps running in Internet Explorer utilizing 99 percent CPU time, we believe this to be related to Java�s limitations and not a flaw within TRENDware�s software. When we used the ActiveX control, we experienced 40 percent CPU utilization at �Medium� compression and just 25 percent CPU utilization at �Very Low� compression. We didn�t notice any CPU slow down when we used ActiveX.

As for frame rate performance, TRENDware claims frame rates of 30fps@QCIF, 20fps@CIF, and 3fps@VGA. We confirmed these frame rates as accurate when we set the compression rate to �medium� (default) and tested the frame rates. We could actually improve from 20fps to 30fps at CIF resolution (320x240) when we changed the compression to �Very High.� The image had more artifacts due to compression, but was actually pretty good in quality in comparison to the video quality at the �Medium� compression setting. Thus, if frame rates are more important, or if squeezing the video into tight bandwidth is a concern, then increasing the compression rate was beneficial.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
It would be nice if the camera supported streaming to Windows Media Player or RealPlayer. The camera uses a fixed lens with no zoom capability and a manual focus, thus a zoom and auto-focus would be nice. Although the camera has two input connectors for connecting alarms, motion sensors, etc., we would like the camera to have a built-in �motion detection� capability that automatically triggers an e-mail. Finally, it would be great if the camera had an embedded microphone for streaming sound in addition to the video.

CONCLUSION
The TV-IP200W is a very user-friendly and very flexible IP-based video camera. The fact that it supports the wireless 802.11b standard makes deployment even easier -- no need to snake Ethernet or worse -- a coax wire to the camera. We liked that it supports any Web browser for displaying the streaming video, thus no need for expensive B&W or color closed-circuit TV monitors. In addition, we liked its security features, its ability to connect to alarms systems, as well as trigger e-mails or upload images to FTP servers. This camera�s versatility makes it an excellent choice for just about any video application and we highly recommend it.

[ Return To The November 2002 Table Of Contents ]



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