Test Drive: X10’s Ninja Pan ‘n Tilt Kit

Wayne N. Kawamoto
Managing Editor, www.smallbusinesscomputing.com

Like almost everyone I know, I’m sick of seeing those many pop-up Internet ads that tout X10’s surveillance cameras. It’s not just the frequency of the ads that bother me, it’s the underlying message. While the cameras have a legitimate use for helping business owners monitor rooms and property, and also work as “nanny-cams” to see what’s going on at home when you’re not there, the ads imply that you can watch attractive female models.

I know that sex sells, but just hinting that customers can use these cameras to become high-tech peeping toms is in bad taste. But aside from the suggestive ads, X10’s Ninja Pan ‘n Tilt Kit, which consists of a wireless surveillance camera, robotic base, and accompanying software, is a relatively affordable system that does let you effectively monitor rooms and areas from afar-without making wired, cable connections.

The XCam2 Wireless camera, a wireless video camera that transmits live video to a TV, VCR or PC, is the core of X10’s surveillance system. The second key component is the Ninja Pan ‘n Tilt base, a robotic platform that lets you adjust the camera’s view. The complete Ninja Pan ‘n Tilt Kit also comes with the necessary transmitters and receivers, PC adapters, software, and power supplies.

With the video camera mounted on its robotic base, you can use the accompanying wireless remote control, or use the PanTilt Pro software on a PC to adjust the view of the camera right or left, or up and down. The motorized head of the robotic base competently moves the camera through a range of 180 degrees horizontally and 70 degrees vertically.

Picture quality is adequate and comparable to what you get from most low-cost security cameras. For a security device, the wireless camera and base is rather conspicuous-the device is some seven inches high. A plus, the device is almost silent when it moves the camera around. If you like, you can mount the Ninja base and camera onto an included bracket that may be permanently mounted to a wall.

The remote offers advanced options. A slick Ultra Sweep & Scan feature lets you store up to four positions for four cameras, and with a press of a button, you can automatically sweep through these stored positions. This is useful when you want to monitor different areas of a home or business. For example, in a home, you can effectively monitor the driveway, street, backyard, and front door. The remote also lets you scan between four cameras and control the position of each (as long as they are each mounted to a NINJA Pan ‘n Tilt base).

Interestingly, for a security device, the Ninja Pan ‘n Tilt wireless camera kit isn’t all that secure. While the device can transmit on four different channels, anyone who has owns a similar system can receive your transmissions and view your images. Depending on the application that you may have in mind, you should consider the system’s lack of security.

The Ninja Pan ‘n Tilt Wireless Camera Kit arrives from X10 in a lot of little boxes. While setting-up and configuring the system to work with a television is logical and straight-forward-I was up and running in less than 10 minutes, hooking the system up to a PC is far more involved.

The PC installation is something of a pain because X10 makes you download all of the hardware drivers and software-the system lacks a CD-ROM disc with the necessary drivers and software. Even more of a problem, the system comes with almost no written documentation. And even though I accessed the X10 site to view the device’s online instruction manual, I found that the documentation lacked depth.

With the right software and a continuous Internet connection, the system is designed to send images through the Internet. And if you purchase extra hardware from X10, you can add motion detection capabilities. Should something set off the motion sensors, the camera is designed to automatically upload images to X10’s Web site or to a hard drive.

In all, the Ninja Pan ‘n Tilt Wireless Camera Kit does what X10 says it will. It’s a decent system that offers the advantage of a robotic base and is fairly affordable. Keep in mind that X10 runs lots of specials, so if you’re considering the purchase of a Ninja Pan ‘n Tilt Wireless Camera Kit, it’s best to wait and keep your eye out for the best deals that can save you money.

Ninja Pan ‘n Tilt Kit – $259.99
www.x10.com, 1-800-675-3044

Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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