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 … good luck finding them.
You see, 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. On Amazon and other retailers, you can find D-Link cameras that you can’t find on their website. Some cameras are listed there, but they’re not for sale. Others are for sale on the website, but nowhere else. This wasn’t a big deal for us, but just note that you might have to do a little searching.
We’re also 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.
That said, we did our best to highlight all of D-Link’s cameras in this product chart:
|Camera Type||Key Features|
|DCS-8526LH||Indoor||Full HD, 360-degree pan & tilt, motion tracking, ethernet port|
|DCS-8525LH||Indoor||1080p HD, pan & tilt, two-way audio, sound/motion detection|
|DCS-8300LH||Indoor||1080p HD, night vision, 2-way talk, 137-degree viewing angle|
|DCS-8010LH||Indoor||720p HD, two-way talk, night vision, 120-degree viewing|
|DCS-8000LH||Indoor||Motion/sound alerts, small frame cam, 120-degree views|
|DCS-8600LH/LT||Outdoor||1080p HD, works with Alexa, IP65 weatherproofing|
|DCS-8630LH||Outdoor||Full 1080p HD, weatherproof, person detection, color night vision|
|DCS-8600LH||Outdoor||1080p HD, weatherproof, two-way audio, 7m night vision|
|DCS-932L||Indoor||720p HD, sound and motion detection|
|DCS-5030L||Indoor||720p HD, pan & tilt, night vision, app-based controls|
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 many other security companies we’ve interacted with. 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.
It did beg a question for us, though: Does the lack of emphasis on cameras mean the cameras themselves don’t work very well?
Let’s unbox, get them set up and find out!
After receiving our D-Link “D-livery,” we found the unboxing process to be relatively smooth. 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.
Now, some of you might have been 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: like those other products, D-Link’s cameras are quite easy to install, and we were fully operational with both cameras in their rightful place in our home within 10 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: If you’re unfamiliar with D-Link and worry about its relative obscurity in the market (remember, they’re best known for their wireless routers), we still think you’ll be impressed with the installation experience. Buying the cameras themselves, on the other hand, is the difficult part. But once you find the cameras you want, we think you’ll like how they perform and protect your home.
Initially, the process couldn’t have been simpler: 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:
Then, we waited.
Strangely, after several minutes of beaming our D-Link outdoor spotlight camera onto a relatively busy stretch of road, with walkers and bicyclists and school buses and all manner of vehicles bustling by at all hours of the day … we weren’t getting any notifications.
We knew, at this point, we’d already gone in and enabled motion-triggered notifications. That’s pretty easy to do, thanks to D-Link’s focus on automation and “rules.”
This “rule,” pictured in the above screenshot, was the default for our outdoor camera, which we named “Porch.” You can name it pretty much whatever you want, within reason, of course. But we felt that “porch” was a much better name for our camera than “DCS-8630LH.”
But, back to the mysterious lack of notifications! Clearly there was plenty of activity out there that any security camera, even the lowest-quality, would be able to detect.
We floated a few theories. Perhaps the placement of our camera, not necessarily the camera itself, was the culprit. Or, could it be the strength of our home Wi-Fi, which tends to fluctuate throughout the day?
At that point, 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 look at the options for video resolution (very important!).
We did this because, in our previous tests of Wi-Fi security cameras, we learned that the strength of a camera’s video resolution makes a big difference in how it performs day-to-day. You might get crystal-clear video from a suped-up 4K resolution Lorex camera, but what good is all that beautiful footage if your Wi-Fi isn’t strong enough to process it, or takes too long to find a channel to load it?
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. Higher resolutions, especially above 1080p, require a lot more bandwidth. If your internet connection isn’t 100% reliable, using cameras with lower video resolution usually makes things run smoother.
Of course, if we had a terabyte or more to spare in our home Wi-Fi package, this might not be a problem. But generally, when you’ve got loads of functions in one app trying to interact with one another, on top of all the other gadgets in your house simultaneously straining that one network, you’re going to get some slowdowns.
Our first thought in remedying this was to reduce the video resolution on “Porch.” Many security cameras, like D-Link, also let you adjust resolution, which is quite nice for scenarios like this. It might compromise the detail you get from your camera view, but it doesn’t compromise the number of alerts you get. In our tests of SimpliCam, for example, dropping the resolution from 720p to 480p yielded no difference in quality – from the naked eye, at least.
So we turned to our app and found – after a few minutes of searching – the place to adjust the resolution.
And, regarding those extra few minutes of searching: This is a theme we began seeing in D-Link’s app. Controls we thought would be in one place, well, they’re somewhere else entirely. We’re not sure why we were forced to work our way so deeply into the app just to change the video resolution. Shouldn’t this be part of Device Settings, which is right under the hamburger menu on the upper left corner of the app’s home page?
Can I speak to a manager here?
For minor gripes like this, we have to dock just a couple points for user-friendliness. In our opinion, an intuitive, smooth app experience is one of the most important attributes in a security camera, or any security product at all, for that matter. For simple, basic controls that might further smooth out our camera experience, why should we have to search high and low to find them?
So when we finally found what we wanted, we switched our 1080p resolution down to 720p.
And then, once again, we waited.
And still nothing.
After a couple of other tweaks to try to resolve our issue – to no avail – we began floating a new theory.
Could this relatively narrow, weight-bearing wood beam keeping our porch from toppling over be blocking our Wi-Fi’s range?
We weren’t sure, exactly. But rather than waste our time continuing to troubleshoot, we simply moved the camera to another place on our porch.
That place is next to our front door, 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.)
With that little location adjustment, we began to see some improvement. We started receiving person and sound notifications, for one, which meant the app was interacting with the camera.
So while we have no concrete proof one way or the other, we’re pretty confident that it was, indeed, the pillar’s fault. Bad pillar! But also, a teachable moment: you can’t place these cams just anywhere. If 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.
Now, we could finally see how the camera performed in real time, and get a good feel for its features and technology.
FYI: Early in the setup process, we were alerted to a firmware update for both cameras. This ended up taking up to 10 minutes for each camera, making it a much longer update time than some other cameras we’ve reviewed like Ring and SimpliCam. For those, getting a firmware update meant a maximum 2-minute wait. For us, it was a noticeable downside, but not a major one.
For an outdoor spotlight camera that costs $149.99 retail, we had somewhat ambitious expectations for our new friend “Porch.”
With the camera in a more effective position, we wanted to take a look at the landscape in our live view. To do that, our first stop was into the app’s home page.
We do want to note that “home” in this context has a sort of double meaning. On the one hand, it’s the “home” page of our D-Link app. But that’s not all. It’s also the “home” setting of your camera, which brings us to another slightly unconventional (but really cool) feature of this app: Scenes.
In D-Link, we were prompted to choose a scene for our cameras. In doing this, any D-Link device we’ve got synced with our app 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 we leave the house, 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.
As you can see, D-Link provides a ton of 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 IFTTT.3 We’ve been using systems with IFTTT for years, and we can tell you it’s a great way to automate your home.
Sounds pretty cool, right?
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 like Ring and Arlo? 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 we 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.
Greetings, R2-D2. Can we just call you that instead of 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.
Our first stop, from there, was Motion Settings.
Here, we were able to block out certain spots in a grid over the 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.
Did You Know: Motion sensitivity controls are pretty standard in camera brands these days, so this feature in D-Link was not new to us. We get a lot of use out of features like this when we’re trying to follow up on earlier incidents, like a critter’s mysterious appearance inside a fenced-in property. (In other words, how’d you get in here, you naughty little trash panda?)
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.
What impressed us initially about this camera was the Pan and Tilt 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 a traditional camera from a global brand like Zmodo or Ezviz, and it meant we didn’t have to manually move or adjust the camera to get different points of view.
Pro Tip: This camera offers two options for using the Pan and Tilt feature. If you choose the Tap option, you’ll see little arrows appear around the perimeter of your camera view in the app. You can tap on each arrow and watch the camera move accordingly. If you choose the Swipe option, you can swipe back and forth and up and down to set your desired angle.
So, a smooth experience there. But, going a step further, we wondered if the camera would use its pan-tilt functionality to automatically follow an object or person.
In other DIY security cameras we’ve reviewed, this feature was commonly known as Motion Tracking.4 When we tested out Google’s latest camera release, the Nest Cam IQ, 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).
Those cameras came with artificial intelligence-based facial recognition, which our D-Links also don’t have. And, as an aside, they’re significantly pricier than our indoor D-Link.
So, 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 motion tracking into its cameras, especially the ones that already have pan and tilt functionality? Yes, indeed.
All told, we got a well-built, highly customizable and well-performing camera in our D-Link DCS-8525LH. And, for a retail price of just under $100 (which will probably vary depending on where you’re shopping), we can justify the lack of motion tracking and other features like facial recognition. (That aforementioned Nest IQ camera, we’ll have you know, costs a couple of hundred dollars more.)
In our D-Link cameras, we were most impressed with our camera’s ability to move easily from one storage option to another. Since both of our cameras were outfitted with Micro SD 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, but if you want more details on this, feel free to head over to our pricing and plans page:
|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 happened to remember 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 Micro SD card is for).
Did You Know: Both D-Link cameras we tested have Micro SD card inputs, which is a great perk. We’ve seen a couple cameras that offer this, but not many. It’s a great option for local storage or if you’re not fond of “the cloud.” Keep in mind, though, the cameras do not include Micro SD cards.
By contrast, we know brands like Reolink and Zmodo offer free cloud storage for their cameras, but with significantly fewer benefits: Reolink’s free plan only covers one camera, and Zmodo’s free plan only includes 12 hours of recording time. For those brands, in our view, it’s definitely more sensible to spring for a paid subscription.
But, 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.
In the case of D-Link, we think there’s ample room to improve in that space. An app that is clunky, slow or otherwise deficient goes a long way toward tainting the overall user experience of the camera, and that experience played out similarly for us.
In our observations, the handful of recording failures, sporadic and unexplained app crashes, and occasional false notifications from D-Link’s app, ultimately worked to undermine an otherwise high-performing camera. Was this a deal-breaker for us? Not really, but it’s something to note. With that in mind, we 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