For our hands-on review of D-Link security cameras, we’re taking you to a galaxy far, far away.
D-Link, in its extensive lineup of security cameras, instantly reminded us of miniature versions of the beloved “Star Wars” droid R2-D2.1 Don’t you agree, looking at that above photo?
Well, fictional robots aside, this was how we dove into our review of D-Link: with a dose of sci-fi inspiration. For this review, we’ve acquired two D-Link models: the DCS-8525LH (pictured on the left below) with pan and tilt function and 1080p video resolution; and the DCS-8630LH outdoor spotlight camera (right).
Join us as we guide you through our hands-on experience with D-Link cameras, analyzing their features, power, performance, and protection for our home.
As with most high-tech security products, this one was not a perfectly smooth experience; rest assured, though, that if we can master a D-Link camera, anyone can.
So let’s dig in!
Combing through D-Link’s company profile,2 we learned they launched in 1986 in Taiwan, originally called Datex, with an emphasis on network adapters and routers. Cameras, we discovered, didn’t enter their galaxy until about 30 years later. Nowadays, we’re seeing a handful of cameras in D-Link’s fleet, with lots of innovative features and great customization, as well as affordable prices.
But an important thing to note about this company is that they don’t make it easy to quantify and even compare the cameras they actually sell, and some models aren’t even available in the U.S.
It’s not uncommon in this business for camera brands to frequently change and update their inventory. And it’s not just limited to “legacy” brands like D-Link and the entry-level Swann Security System we unpacked not long ago. Indeed, bigger names have undergone huge shifts in their home security inventory over the years, as you might recall in our full Samsung camera review. In our experience, it doesn’t tend to affect the quality of the camera itself.
We were slightly turned off by D-Link’s product names; we think using model numbers like DCS-12345 doesn’t help consumers because they don’t mean anything in layman’s terms, and they’re another reason these cameras are a little difficult to find online. We’re still trying to make sense of it all ourselves, to be honest.
As we navigated our way through D-Link’s website, we learned about their IP surveillance equipment, network video recorders, Wi-Fi range extenders, complete Wi-Fi systems, routers and more products related to connectivity in D-Link’s lineup. Information about the brand’s cameras, however, remained sparse.
So, from that, we concluded that this brand is markedly different from the Rings and Arlos of the industry, which focus heavily on cameras. This isn’t like many other security companies we’ve interacted with, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, in our view. We’ve seen mostly positive reviews on D-Link’s products from folks who occasionally point out the difficulty of finding and purchasing specific D-Link equipment.
FYI: For a more camera-focused home security experience, we still recommend the big names simply because we know the products inside and out, and we trust their reliability. Visit our handy home security comparison guide to see how D-Link stacks up to other security brands in the industry.
It did beg a question for us, though: Does the lack of emphasis on cameras mean the cameras themselves don’t work very well?
With that, here’s more on our unboxing and installing experience with D-Link cameras.
After receiving our D-Link “D-livery,” we found the unboxing process to be relatively smooth with both cameras. All mounting hardware is included and organized efficiently in the box, so we didn’t have to untangle wires and handle lots of small parts. So far, so good.
Some of you might be familiar with D-Link because of its connectivity products, like Wi-Fi routers and range extenders, which have been around a lot longer than its cameras have. But if you’re not, we have good news: D-Link’s cameras, like their other products, are quite easy to install, and we were fully operational with both cameras in their rightful place in our home within 15 minutes.
Keep in mind that this type of fast installation is standard procedure for DIY home security products across the market, and D-Link, for us, was no different.
FYI: For a truly user-focused camera app experience, check out the potentially life-saving thumbprint safety feature we found in our Canary camera analysis.
Initially, the process couldn’t have been simpler. Similar to our Ring DIY camera experience, D-Link’s cameras are wireless, so everything synced up pretty well: Plug in, power on, open app, sync our two cameras, and watch the magic happen. From there, it was just figuring out the best positions and angles, and interacting with the D-Link mobile app for full smartphone control of our cameras.
Once we’d finished syncing the cameras with our app to initiate setup, we mounted our outdoor D-Link camera to one of our porch pillars, on the side facing the street, like so:
And that, folks, is how you install a D-Link camera. For more install tricks and tips, head over to our camera installation guide.
But first, we got some serious hours in with these D-Link cameras that we want to share. Let’s break down some more details from our day-to-day interaction with D-Link, starting with the outdoor camera.
Right off the bat, we liked that D-Link cameras are pretty easy to control with their mobile app, which allow us to set automations and “rules” for how the camera should perform.
This “rule,” pictured in the above screenshot, was the default for our outdoor camera, which we named “Porch.” In the event a person or “abnormal” sound is detected in live view, the camera automatically starts to record, turns the spotlight on, and sends us an alert.
Pro Tip: You can name the camera pretty much whatever you want but we felt that “Porch” was a much better name than “DCS-8630LH.” One word of warning, though: If you have another wireless device installed out there, you might want to name the camera something more specific than “porch” to avoid confusion.
So that was our first takeaway using D-Link cameras: They’re easy to use and control in conjunction with the app. Now let’s move on to discuss a few more features as we dove in deeper.
In our previous tests of Wi-Fi security cameras, we learned that Wi-Fi strength makes a big difference in how the cameras perform day to day, right down to how clear your video recordings will be. In our hands-on Night Owl camera experience, for instance, we didn’t have to worry as much about our Wi-Fi connection because those cameras were wired to our home. But with our wireless D-Link cameras, this connection was a factor so we set our cameras to record at a lower video resolution. Overall, it made the whole setup run smoother, and it’s something we definitely recommend doing if you’re planning to add multiple security cameras to your home.
After a somewhat slow start loading live view and interacting with the app, we checked our Wi-Fi speed and discovered it was running at a bit less than half of its max-400 bps output. Sure enough, it looked like our Wi-Fi was being stretched too thin.
To try to relieve some of that strain, we decided to go into the app and lower the video resolution (very important!). That’s the first place we went, simply because we knew we didn’t have a terabyte or more to spare in our home Wi-Fi package at that moment.
Pro Tip: If you start to see slowdowns in your security camera’s performance like we did, it’s a really good idea to check out those video resolution settings. For more tips on getting a smoother home security experience, check out our updated security camera buying guide.
So while lowering resolution might slightly compromise the detail you get from your camera view, it doesn’t compromise the number of alerts you get. In our tests of SimpliSafe’s SimpliCam, for example, dropping the resolution from 720p to 480p yielded no difference in quality – to the naked eye, at least. We don’t think you’ll notice it, either.
We tested several angles for our D-Link outdoor camera, knowing it would fit pretty much anywhere we put it – it’s small, lightweight, and not very obtrusive in appearance, in our view, As seen above, this one went right above our Ring Doorbell, where the two cameras could go toe-to-toe in a race to see which one catches the porch pirate first. (They both lost. No pirates.)
Here, we started receiving person and sound notifications that matched what we had set up in our rules and automations tab, and the app began interacting with the camera, giving us more ways to see what this device could do.
In its previous perch, the camera didn’t always respond as fast or as smoothly, so we noted this as we continued our series of tests. Not only did moving the cameras around give us more information about the nuances and quirks of this camera, it also presented a teachable moment: You can’t place these cams just anywhere.
That said, with D-Link, we found that as long as the location of your camera is within range of your Wi-Fi router and isn’t being obstructed by any large objects, you should have no problem.
FYI: D-Link’s firmware update was pretty long for us: 10 minutes for each camera, in our estimation, which isn’t a huge deal, but longer than, say, a pair of budget-friendly Wyze Cams. If you want snap-your-fingers setup, we recommend giving Wyze a try – they’re neat little devices.
D-Link’s motion detection control center, called Scenes, is where you give the cameras more information about how you go about your day and get better, richer recordings.
With the app, any D-Link device we’ve got synced to it works in accordance with that scene. If we had D-Link smart plugs attached to our home’s lighting, for instance, we could enable “Home” to turn on the lights when we enter our front door, and switch our cameras to privacy mode.
When leaving home, the reverse sequence – turning off the lights and walking out the door – would then trigger the “Away” scene, when all cameras turn on again. And so on and so on. We really like how D-Link is smart in this way.
Once we’d dotted all those i’s, we could now look upon our camera’s view.
Sounds pretty cool, right? Now, let’s set all these neat features onto a new target: the D-Link indoor camera, aka DCS-8525LH.
When it comes to futuristic design, our D-Link Pan and Tilt indoor camera clearly looks the part. (The above pic, by the way, looks like the lights around the lens are purple. They’re actually red!) But we really wanted to know if the camera’s out-of-this-galaxy build would translate into equally impressive performance.
In the camera’s motion settings, we had a bit more control than we did with the outdoor cam, simply because of that pan-tilt action. Like the Arlo camera suite we unpacked last year, we were able to block out certain spots in a grid over our D-Link camera’s view that we wanted the camera to pay extra attention to. We also ticked up our motion sensitivity slider to see if that would yield more recordings. But we caution against going up too high here, lest you start getting flooded with notifications.
Did You Know: Motion sensitivity controls are pretty standard in camera brands these days, and they’re especially useful for getting the most detail out of your recordings. For more ideas, visit our full roundup of cameras with the best motion sensing.
For this camera’s indoor adventures, we decided to beam it into our kitchen, where two hungry preteens can often be found doing one of three things: asking when it’s time to eat, telling us they’re hungry, and ignoring authority and eating anyway.
Teenage angst aside, what impressed us about this camera was the Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) feature. Like something straight out of “The Jetsons,” we watched as our D-Link camera panned slowly and smoothly from one side to another as we controlled its motion from our smartphone. This gave us more coverage than the Zmodo cameras we got our hands on; it also meant we didn’t have to pick up the device and manually move it to get different points of view.
So this was a smooth experience. But, going a step further, we wondered if the camera would use its pan-tilt functionality to automatically follow an object or person, rather than merely let us follow it manually, like a joystick in an old video game (also really cool!).
In other DIY security cameras we’ve reviewed, this feature was commonly known as Motion Tracking.4 While D-Link doesn’t have automatic tracking, we do know that this is an expensive and pretty rare feature these days. In the aforementioned Google’s Nest Cams lineup, for instance, we were able to see the perks of motion tracking in real time. As soon as that camera had fixed onto an object in its view, we watched it track the object, zoom in, and sometimes even name it (if it was a person the camera recognized).
But, keep in mind Nest Cams are significantly pricier than D-Link. Stay tuned for more on pricing below.
For now, what we had in our D-Link indoor camera was a neat Pan and Tilt feature, but one that only works manually and is not motion-triggered. We’re not necessarily discouraged by this, and we embrace any feature that lets us keep an even closer eye on our home and all the valuable things in it. That said, would we love to see D-Link incorporate automatic motion tracking into this camera? Yes, indeed.
As you can see, D-Link provides a ton of smart home customization on their DIY cameras. We suspect the reason is that they’re really trying to push the fully integrated smart home philosophy to the masses; a house full of thermostats, kitchen ranges, printers, smart speakers, Wi-Fi routers, and the aforementioned smart plugs, that can all be harnessed together in a series of fluid, automatic actions. It’s even got a fancy name: If This, Then That, or IFTTT3.3 We’ve been using systems with IFTTT for years, and we can tell you it’s a great way to automate your home.
So, with all that in mind, we grew to appreciate D-Link’s adherence to automations, rules, and scenes. Is it a bit less intuitive compared to more robust security camera companies, especially the high-ranking and high-tech Nest Cams? Yes, we believe it is.
But this is the level of control smart home aficionados (like us!) really love: let’s see how close we can get this camera to be exactly what we want, from setup to everyday use, so that we don’t have to keep tinkering with it every time conditions change (like day to night, home to away, etc.). It’s a bit of an unorthodox approach, but one we ultimately enjoyed.
All told, we got two well-built, highly customizable and well-performing cameras in our D-Link package. Since they typically retail for under or near $100 (which will probably vary depending on where you’re shopping) for each cam, we can justify the lack of motion tracking and other features like facial recognition.
That said, we did our best to highlight all of D-Link’s cameras in this pricing chart. And, we covered the entire brand’s pricing and package options in our D-Link pricing guide, as well.
|Model No.||Camera Type||Key Features||Price|
|DCS-8526LH||Indoor||Full HD, 360-degree pan & tilt, motion tracking, Ethernet port||$89.99|
|DCS-8525LH||Indoor||1080p HD, pan & tilt, two-way audio, sound/motion detection||$99|
|DCS-8302LH||Outdoor||1080p HD, night vision, two-way talk, weatherproof||$79.99|
|DCS-8300LH||Indoor||1080p HD, two-way talk, night vision, 137-degree viewing||$89.98|
|DCS-8010LH||Indoor||720p video, 2-way rotation, 120-degree views||$59.99|
|DCS-8600LH||Outdoor||1080p HD, works with Alexa, IP65 weatherproofing||$149.99|
|DCS-8630LH||Outdoor||Full 1080p HD, weatherproof, person detection, color night vision||$149.99|
|Indoor||1080p HD, two-way audio, night vision||$89.99|
In our D-Link cameras, had a few convenient, no-fuss storage options to choose from. Since both of our cameras were outfitted with MicroSD card5 ports, we had the option of using that for local storage. But even if we didn’t have a card – and keep in mind, D-Link doesn’t include them in their cameras – we could simply toggle back over to the cloud storage option. From there, we had three paid plans to choose from:
We took note, first, of the basic plan, which at $2.49 per month gives us a decent amount of recording time and video storage. Since we only had two cameras, it looked like the basic plan would suit us well.
Here’s D-Link’s subscription overview plan breakdown:
|Video History||1 day||7 days||14 days||30 days|
|Number of Cameras||Up to 3||Up to 3||Up to 5||Up to 10|
But before we made our selection, we remembered something we’d noticed during setup.
D-Link has a free option, too. And it’s not too shabby compared to other camera brands we’ve tested. In fact, we think it’s rather generous of them to give us a rolling 24 hours’ worth of recording and up to 50 clips. And, even if we added a third camera to our fleet, we could still stick with the free plan, as long as we didn’t use up our storage too fast (which, in our case, is what the MicroSD card is for).
Did You Know: MicroSD cards are a great way to store and organize video clips for most security cameras, especially if you’re not fond of “the cloud.” Keep in mind, though, the cameras do not include MicroSD cards; you still have to buy those separately.
By now, we know this is nothing new in cameras; Reolink’s camera plans include free cloud storage, too, but it’s worth noting that Reolink’s free plan only covers one camera.
By contrast, to D-Link’s credit, we didn’t have to shell out any extra money for a subscription to get the best day-to-day experience out of our cameras this time. D-Link’s free plan suited us just fine.
When we hear people talk about app functionality, the word that most often gets thrown around is “intuitive.” An “intuitive” app experience, they say, is the ability to move around the app with relative ease, and the ability of even the least tech-savvy user to master the technology they’re controlling.
Overall, D-Link cameras handle app functionality relatively well; this is surely not the most intuitive app experience we’ve ever had in a security camera, but pleasant enough. Features worked when and how they’re supposed to, which isn’t always a given, either.
In our observations, all certainly wasn’t perfect with our pair of D-Link cameras; there was the occasional loading or recording delay, sporadic and unexplained app crashes, and occasional false notifications from D-Link’s app. While these drawbacks ultimately didn’t undermine an otherwise high-performing camera, we do think there are better cameras out there for the price.
Yes. You can use your Amazon Alexa device for voice control of your D-Link cameras, and you can display your camera’s live view on an Amazon Echo Show.
D-Link’s cameras are quite literally all over the place. Retailers like Best Buy and Walmart sell some D-Link models. D-Link’s website, itself, sells some camera models. Amazon is probably the best place to find them, but prices vary; keep in mind there might be better deals out there, so we recommend taking a few minutes to price-shop before you buy.
Our outdoor spotlight camera stands at 4.85 inches and weighs 12.2 ounces. Our indoor pan and tilt camera stands at 4.38 inches and weighs 11.7 ounces.
The company is based in Taiwan, but since its inception in the late 1980s, D-Link has now become a global brand, with a presence in 60 countries.
D-Link also makes home Wi-Fi networking systems, Wi-Fi routers, Wi-Fi range extenders, smart plugs, network video recorders, and USB adapters.
Lucasfilm, ltd. (2020) Databank: R2-D2. https://www.starwars.com/databank/r2-d2
D-Link Corp. (2018) About D-Link: Company Profile. https://us.dlink.com/en/company/about-dlink
Sowers, P. VentureBeat. (2017, May 24) IFTTT now lets any developer build and publish applets for others to use. https://venturebeat.com/2017/05/24/ifttt-launches-new-maker-tier-to-let-any-developer-build-and-publish-their-own-applets/
Techopedia.com. (2020) What is Motion Tracking? https://www.techopedia.com/definition/31558/motion-tracking
Wikipedia.com. (2020, Sept. 14) SD Card. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SD_card
Jaime Fraze is an experienced digital editor in the tech, business and food spaces, having produced content for clients ranging from Fortune 500 corporations to fledgling nonprofits for more than 15 years. As a wife, mother and homeowner, she understands that buying home security products can be confusing and overwhelming. That’s why Jaime has constantly strived to ensure that every piece of content she produces has met SafeHome.org’s rigorous standards, and that her readers come away with the power to make better, smarter decisions. Learn more about Jaime here