Monday, 9 April 2012

Update: Loftek Sentinel D1 Review

Despite the Loftek Sentinel D1 CCTV camera that I reviewed recently performing well when first installed, I regret to report that it unfortunately developed a fault within 2 days of installation, ultimately necessitating my returning the unit for a refund.

The fault manifested itself by the camera stopping working during a pan movement on day 2 of operation. I had thought perhaps that it might be a temporary fault that could be easily rectified. Being a professional geek, I tried all of the obvious solutions before concluding the problem was with the unit itself:

1)     Resetting the unit, both using the power supply itself and the reset button on the cable bundle.

2)     Hard-wiring a connection to the camera to check if it'd lost network configuration settings somehow (it hadn't).

3)     Checking whether my router's signal had for some reason stopped reaching the location of the camera (located only 10m from the router, on the outside of my property). Both my mobile phone and my laptop could 'see' my router from the camera's location without difficulty, leading me to conclude that the problem was definitely with the camera's own ability to communicate over that distance, rather than being a problem with the router itself.

4)     Despite the fact that (3) above tended to rule out any problem with the router's signal, I tried alternative channels on the router, including auto-channel select (which should find the best available channel), with no success.

5)     Bringing my router out to my garage, less than 1 metre from the camera, did cause the camera to begin being able to transmit on the network once again. This conclusively proved that the problem wasn't with the configuration settings, power to the camera or a mechanical issue with the camera, but was definitively a camera to router signal propagation issue. [If it had been a router to camera propagation issue, then my other wireless devices wouldn't have been able to communicate from the camera's location whilst the router was in its usual indoor position. Also, it was clearly a fault that had developed, rather than simply being a characteristic of the camera, since the camera itself had been able to communicate with my router in its indoor location for the initial 48 hours after first installation.] Unfortunately, I couldn't leave my router outside in the garage just to allow the camera to work over a much shorter distance, as it would then be out of range of my hard-wired internet connection, negating the purpose of having a wireless camera in the first place.

I contacted Loftek to give them a fair chance to recommend a fix to the problem. Unfortunately, their technical advice appeared limited to suggestions that frankly I could have got by watching an old episode of The IT Crowd. They said to try changing the router's channel (I hadn't told them that I'd already tried that, but I had explained in my e-mail that other wireless devices could connect to my router over the same distance, which should have ruled out frequency interference as a possibility). In their only other suggestion, they actually used the phrase "try switching the camera off and back on again". Really, any techie that still gives the old "try switching it off and on again" advice to someone that's demonstrated they're reasonably technically proficient should be deeply, deeply embarrassed. 

So, with regret, my ultimate conclusion about the Loftek Sentinel D1 is that it was a good idea, but the unit itself is so unreliable as to make it unworkable in practice. Going by the mass of traffic to my blog with search terms such as "Loftek Sentinel D1 wireless doesn't work" since posting my review, I'm guessing I'm not the only one that's experienced difficulty.

Good luck, dear readers, with your own technical woes. I hope you have better luck making this product work than I did. If not, try switching it off and.......never mind.