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Blink XT security camera review: Blink and you definitely won't miss it

Alan Martin Matt Breen
5 Feb 2020
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
150
inc VAT

Blink’s offer of free cloud clip storage is tempting and the price is right

Pros 
Long-lasting battery
Crisp 1080p video
No subscription fees to worry about
Cons 
No two-way audio
The mount isn't very flexible
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You may not be familiar with Blink and that’s a little bit odd given it’s owned by the biggest ecommerce retailer on the planet. Founded via Kickstarter in 2014, Blink – which specialises in wireless Wi-Fi security cameras – was snaffled up by Amazon just three years later.

That’s confusing, because Amazon also bought Ring, which sells exactly the same kind of product, but with far more prominence on Amazon’s digital shelves. So why would you pick the Blink XT over the Ring Stick Up Cam? How does free cloud storage and two years’ battery life sound?

Blink XT security camera review: What you need to know

Like other security cameras, the Blink XT is a battery-operated IP camera designed for the home. It can be wall-mounted, records clips up to 1080p in resolution and has a PIR (infrared) sensor to detect movement. When activated, it will capture a short clip and upload it to the cloud, catching burglars (or, more often, cats) red-handed.
 
The big selling point of the Blink XT is that it promises a (capped) lifetime of free cloud storage for these clips, where most rivals require you pay a subscription for that.

Blink XT security camera review: Price and competition

Not only that, but the Blink XT is competitively priced, too. It starts at £150 for one camera and the hub to connect it to your WiFi. You can get more to match your needs and a five-pack goes for £500, with extra cameras costing £120 each. You can tie up to ten to a single hub.
 

 
That puts it in a strong place when compared to its rivals. The aforementioned Ring Stick Up cam costs £179 and requires a paid subscription to get the most out of it. Other options such as the Arlo Pro 2 and the D-Link 2802KT have some free cloud storage and competitively-priced subscriptions but require a significant initial outlay – around £300 each for a single camera package.
 
If you want to go cheaper, two other options spring to mind. The BT Smart Home Cam is cheap and cheerful at £60 but comes with some significant drawbacks and the non-XT version of Blink which costs £130.
 
A word of caution before we go on, though. This isn’t the first camera we’ve seen that promises free cloud storage without a subscription. So did Y-Cam back in the day and it ended up withdrawing the offer because it proved unsustainable. With Amazon’s resources, that’s less likely to happen to Blink but nothing is impossible.

Blink vs Blink XT: What’s the difference?

In short, the Blink XT is more expensive because it’s better. It’s weatherproof, so fine to use outside, and it also captures footage in night vision, which the original Blink does not. On top of that, it can record in 1080p rather than 720p video (though that's the default for battery-saving reasons). In short, if you can, it’s well worth paying the extra: there’s a lot of extra value in that £20.
 
Other than that, it’s the same all the way. Both are provided with two non-rechargeable AA Lithium batteries that last two years and both have the same free cloud storage included for no hidden extra costs.
 
Pleasingly, both the Blink and Blink XT run on the same hub, so canny buyers can get the best value by mixing and matching to their needs. Just remember that the hub is capped at ten devices and that the more cameras you have, the faster that cloud storage allowance will fill up.

Blink XT security camera review: Features and design

So let’s start with that free cloud storage as it’s the main selling point. The catch – in so far as it is one – is that it’s capped to two hours’ worth of footage. At this point, Blink will start overwriting old footage with new, although you can also set it to automatically delete clips that are over 3, 7, 14, 30 or 365 days old should you wish to avoid clutter.
 
Two hours doesn’t sound like very much but, by default, Blink captures five-second clips, and that means your personal storage allowance can store up to 1,440 events before it starts deleting the earliest. This is a camera for security, rather than making home movies, so most people will probably find this more than adequate. Frankly, if 1,439 things have happened around your house before you decide to back up a video, then you’re probably not organised enough to be much use to police inquiries anyway.
 
You can adjust the length of video capture but, not only will this impact the number of clips you can keep in your cloud allowance it will also have a knock-on effect on battery life, which is one of the Blink XT’s other strong suits. From two Lithium AA batteries, the Blink XT will keep going for two years, the company reckons, which is hard to argue with.

 
It makes these calculations based on 4,000 five-second recordings per year, or just under 11 recordings per day. Whether your mileage will vary depends on where you place the camera and how much traffic the area in question gets. For me, my cats set off the outside camera around 15 times per day, so I can expect it to last a little less but it’s unlikely to up my battery budget by much.
 
If the notion of getting more than ten notifications draining your battery life every day worries you, it’s worth noting that it is possible to adjust the sensitivity of the camera’s motion triggers. You can also arm or disarm the Blink XT with the simple tap of a button within the app and even set it to automatically come to life at certain times of day. If you only want the cameras active during office hours, or at night, then that’s very easy to ‘set and forget’. You can always check in with a live view at any time, whether or not the motion sensing is armed or not.

In the app there’s also the option to set ‘activity zones’ where certain areas won’t trigger the motion sensor. That means you can, say, keep an eye on people encroaching on your parking space without filling up the cloud storage with people innocently strolling by.
 
But what about the quality of the footage itself? Well, it’s pretty good, all things considered. The Blink XT can record at 1080p (though by default it's set to 720p for battery reason) at up to 30fps, and it’s certainly solid enough. Here’s a clip captured outside in daylight conditions so you can see the kind of quality to expect with the default 720p. Note, for the purposes of this example I’ve upped the recording time beyond the default five seconds.
 

 
And here’s a night-vision capture for comparison.
 

  If you want to switch it into 1080p footage, this is the kind of difference you can expect. I moved it side by side with the original Blink, so you can play 'spot the difference'. Note: You may need to change the settings by pressing the cog on the YouTube embed below to switch to 1080p.

Blink XT, enhanced-quality footage

Blink, best-quality footage

As you can see, most people would probably be happy enough with 720p and a bit more battery life.

There are a small handful of drawbacks I found with the Blink XT.  The first is that I’d sometimes find the camera had recorded a clip where I couldn’t see any motion at all. I’m not sure if it started too late and missed the action or if it was just a false positive but that’s not a huge problem. On balance, I’d rather it were oversensitive.
 
The second is that it’s not the most flexible camera to set up. It comes with a mounting kit, but this is just a simple hinge mount that can only be adjusted in the vertical plane. There’s no twisting and angling involved here if you want it wall-mounted.
 

Finally, there’s a microphone in the Blink XT but no speaker so there’s no two-way communication. In other words, if you spot a burglar in your home, you can’t confront them remotely. Other cameras, even the super cheap BT Smart Cam, offer this feature, so it’s a little disappointing not to see it replicated here.

Blink XT security camera review: Verdict

 
If you’re sat reading those drawbacks thinking “I could live with that”, then yes, I agree with you. For me, the Blink XT sits in the sweet spot between being complacent and over the top. It offers a simple set up, peace of mind and no ongoing subscription costs at an appealing price and battery life is simply stunning.
 
Hopefully, you’ll never have to consult the footage it’s gathered but, if you do, you can be sure it’ll be there when you need it.

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