Hive View review

Hive may still be a relative newcomer to the North American market, but the connected home division of energy-giant Centrica has been quietly building a comprehensive product portfolio in the United Kingdom for over five years.

Now with two smart thermostats and a range of smart plugs and door and window sensors under its belt, the Hive View USCA9000570 ($200) is the company’s new smart security camera. It represents Hive’s latest collaboration with award-winning designer-at-large Yves Behar. With a resume boasting Hive’s Active Heating thermostat, the August Smart Lock, and most recently Samsung’s “The Frame” TV, Behar knows a thing or two about designing compact, stylish devices that integrate seamlessly in the home. Expect more than a touch of innovation as we get hands on with the Hive View.

A camera that goes anywhere in the home

In a saturated marketplace like smart security cameras, pinning your hopes on a great spec sheet simply isn’t enough. While Hive View ticks many of the boxes you’d expect to find on a modern smart cam, one major difference is a feature Hive is calling “Grab and Go.” The cuboid camera – available in a choice of black and brushed copper or white and champagne gold, hangs elegantly from its magnetic base but can also detach and be placed anywhere in the home.

Wi-Fi connectivity and an hour worth of rechargeable battery life means that you can use the Hive View to capture spontaneous family moments without the creepiness of persistent monitors like Logitech Circle or Google Clips. It’s sufficiently versatile to keep an eye on the front or back door when you’re out in the yard or to check on that automatic pet feeder when away for the weekend.

Beautiful lines soften a sturdy build

The Hive View may look great, but it’s also well-built — feeling sturdy and robust despite its graceful lines. The camera’s magnetic socket/power connector snaps smartly to the base and is strong enough to hold the camera around a vertical 360-degree axis. That said, tap the camera body with a little force and it will come off the base. We would have preferred a little extra strength here – as we saw recently on the Swann Smart Security Camera’s magnetic mount. Busy households with fun-loving kids may prefer to keep Hive View out of harm’s reach.

You can see the love that has been lavished on Hive View’s design.

But you can see the love that has been lavished on Hive View’s design. A metallic circular base – again magnetic – snaps onto the bottom of the stand, adding weight and style. Wall-mounting capabilities, a generous three-meter power cable, and included wall anchors and screws add practicality to the list too.

The stand can rotate 270 degrees, with additional forward and backwards movement that maximizes flexibility. Even the “mini-me” cuboid power supply mimics the design of the camera body. All of this effort results in one of the best-looking smart cameras available on the market today. If you’re the kind of discerning consumer who likes their technology to make a statement in the home, Hive View should be on your wanted list.

Under the hood, Hive View delivers fewer surprises. A generous 130-degree wide-angle lens and 1080p HD video provides parity with leading competitors, while night vision, intruder detection, an integrated microphone and speaker plus dual-band Wi-Fi are all expected on a modern, indoor smart cam. Compact dimensions (88 x 145 x 88mm) mean there’s no room for local storage, so if you need coverage greater than the last 24 hours, you’ll be asked to fork over $6 a month for extended cloud recording and playback.

Slow registration experience

As with most smart cameras, you’ll need to register an online account before you can use the Hive View. Here, some of Hive View’s initial luster begins to fade. Create the account online and, in the usual way, the company promises to send you a confirmation email with a link to click, allowing you to complete setup. That’s fine, if a confirmation email arrives in good time. Ours took well over 10 minutes to turn up, which dented our confidence somewhat.

Subsequently, we found that Hive’s arcane password rules prevent the use of special characters, which was another blow – particularly from a security perspective. Oh, and you can’t start the password with a number either. But you have to have at least one number – somewhere. A device that looks and feels as good as Hive View deserves better – as do Hive’s customers.

Thankfully, once through the pain of registration, setting up Hive View was simple enough. A free Hive app, available for both iOS and Android devices, hosts the initial configuration. You’ll be guided through automated steps to connect the camera to your Wi-Fi network and, following a quick check for updated firmware, you’ll be ready to check out the Hive dashboard.

Simple, clear, and convenient dashboard controls

The Hive app is designed to control the full range of the company’s smart home devices. They include heating controls, door and windows sensors, and the Hive View camera, so it has the potential to be more complex than standalone smart cam apps. That said, Hive’s software designers have done a great job in creating a clear and relatively simple dashboard interface that provides easy access to the Hive View’s monitoring features.

If you like your technology to make a statement, the Hive View should be on your wanted list.

A control tab provides a live view of the room being monitored, which enlarges to full screen when your phone switches orientation. Below the view, you’ll find a list of captured events. Tap on a listing to view a 20-second video recording of the event.

The settings page allows you to quickly tweak Hive View’s features. Switch the video quality from the default 720p to 1080p resolution, rotate the image, toggle the night vision, change the motion and sound detection sensitivity, change notification options, and more.

A couple of features are worth picking out of the range available. Hive View’s intelligent motion detection can distinguish between people and other objects, so you can set the camera’s motion detection to trigger only when a person enters the frame. That saves pet owners from the frustration of multiple false alarms as the family pooch wanders around the house through the day.

Hive View Compared To

Notifications can also be scheduled, allowing owners to disable alerts at times when the family is home. Unfortunately, at this point, Hive View doesn’t integrate with third-party smart home devices, so the schedule can’t be automatically enabled when you leave the house or disabled when you return. The features available out of the box certainly offer a degree of ease and convenience that’s comparable to mid-range competitors, but there’s room for growth.

Reasonable daytime image quality, but night vision stands out

Like most smart cameras we’ve reviewed at this price point, Hive View’s image quality is reasonable, but not spectacular (even at maximum 1080p resolution).  The 130-degree view offers plenty of width for home monitoring, and while a fish-eye effect is noticeable at the edges, the distortion is not too distracting.

That said, the image quality does suffer from a lack of sharpness, with jagged lines throughout. We also found that bright daylight entering a window was significantly overblown, which may cause issues detecting (or at least recognizing) intruders peering in. While the Hive View’s image quality competes with peers in the sub-$200 smart cam marketplace, it can’t touch more accomplished (if pricier) performers such as the Netgear Arlo Pro 2.

Conversely, Hive View’s night vision was much more impressive, effectively illuminating a darkened room to provide clear images of contents and occupants. We much preferred the performance of Hive View to the recently-reviewed Swann Smart Security Camera, finding the Hive camera to offer wider, brighter and clearer imaging.

A solid entry into the smart cam market, with room for improvement

While Hive may still be a relatively new brand in the North American market, Hive View’s graceful lines, simple controls and dependable features represent a solid debut for this smart home camera. Aside from a poor registration experience, we found Hive View to be responsive and easy to get along with. But from a features perspective, there’s certainly room for growth.

We’d expect a $200 smart cam to offer more granular imaging and monitoring controls – the ability to tweak brightness or contrast settings and configure more precise monitoring zones. A lack of third-party smart home platform integration is a gap and would certainly unlock new features and possibilities for Hive View owners. We’d also love to see a local storage feature to accompany Hive’s cloud subscription service. It’s a standout feature on the cheaper Swann Smart Security Camera and provides more comprehensive coverage for homeowners who prefer to manage their own security records.

Warranty information

Hive View comes with a one-year warranty.

Our Take

At $200, the Hive View is a little pricey for what it delivers, and you’re certainly paying a premium for what is a well-crafted device. But if Hive’s developers roll-up their sleeves and build out an extended feature set for their debut camera over the coming months, then the Hive View may yet have the brains to match its beauty.

Is there a better alternative?

At $150, the Swann Smart Security Camera doesn’t quite offer the same stylish swagger as Hive View, but is more practical and versatile. Compact, weatherproof and wireless, it can be positioned indoors or out and offers local recording. For a more comprehensive home security solution, we’d recommend the Netgear Arlo Pro 2, which offers higher quality imaging as well an integrated siren.

How long will it last?

While Hive is a relative newcomer to the North American market, it’s backed by energy-giant Centrica, so don’t expect the company to be disappearing any time soon. Hive has been growing rapidly in the UK over the last five years and, courtesy of a strong development team and platform acquisitions, we can expect a steady stream of product enhancements and new lines to emerge over the coming years.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you like your tech to make a statement in the home and you’re happy to pay the premium for the privilege, then Hive View will be a beautiful addition.