The amount of surveillance cameras being used in homes is rapidly growing. One feature that people have asked me about is how do I watch my cameras from a TV. The scenario is that it’s late at night, you are in bed, you hear a noise in the house or outside, you want to quickly see what’s going on. You turn the TV on, change the input to where the cameras are and you now have a view of all the cameras without having to leave your bed.
People have solved this in many ways by using a small PC, by using an XBOX running media center, but those are large boxes, cost several hundreds of dollars, and running a browser may be too complex. Basically, all I want to do is turn a TV on and change inputs and have my cameras take up the entire screen and I want to do it for the lowest possible cost.
Recently announced is the UG802 Mini PC. This device is very small, plugs directly into the HMDI port on the back of your TV and is power via USB. It’s also very fast with its Dual Core processor, comparable to modern-day Android tablets like a Kindle Fire. It runs the popular Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system and costs about $60.
This is what comes in the box. The UG802 Mini PC, a short HDMI cable, a USB cable and a power supply.
Basically you plug it into a HDMI port on the back of your TV using the short cable. You then plug a mouse into the USB port (you can use a hardwire or wireless mouse) and you plug the USB cable to a USB port on your TV if you have one. I did not so I plug it into the included power supply.
When you first power it on, you’ll see this screen with some large buttons
The first thing you’ll want to do is go into “Setting” and configure you WiFi. Then after that, go into Apps. Here you will see that you can go into the Google Playstore just like most Android devices. Think of this as a giant tablet but instead of a touch screen, you have a mouse. The mouse works by clicking on objects just like you would tap on a phone or tablet. Right click takes you back a level and scrolling is done via the mouse scroll wheel. You can get wireless keyboard/mouse, but I find just the mouse works great. When you need to type, click in a text box and it will bring up a keyboard where you click on the letter/numbers. Worked pretty well for the few times you need to type.
I installed two apps, Netflix and IP Cam Viewer. I could not find IP Cam Viewer, so I downloaded the APK file from the internet, put it on an SD card and put in the UG802 (it has a micro SD card slot on the side). Then I ran the ApkInstaller to install it from the SD card. Netflix was easier as it found it in the Google Play Store (formerly Google Market). I chose the free version of IP Cam Viewer, so you’ll see advertising links. The “Pro” version is $3.99.
I like IP Cam Viewer because it supports just about any camera imaginable including Axis, AVTech, Dahua, ACTi cameras I’ve tested it with. The first thing is you click on lower part of the screen to bring up the Android menu and then click on the vertical three dots to bring up the application menu. This is what it looks like and along the bottom are button for settings and more importantly, “Manage Cameras”
Clicking on “Manage Cameras” brings up a screen showing all the cameras you have. Clicking on the large + sign button brings you to this screen where you can add a camera. You give it a name, select the make from a drop down that provide an endless choice, then the model if there’s model specific drivers. Then the usual ip address, rtsp port, username and password. You can click the “Test” button to show a snapshot to make sure your setting are correct and then click “Save” to save the camera configuration.
Overall, pretty simple to use and has been reliable over a few days, no software or hardware issues. WiFI reception is good (the router is one room one wall away from the TV). The device is tiny, tucks in behind the TV without any problems. You can leave the app running 24/7 and use your TV remote to quickly change HDMI inputs to view the camera on the TV. I would recommend a wireless mouse so you can control the app remotely. There are remote control looking devices that work like mice and use arrows or gyro controlled to give it a more familiar feel.
This is how the screen typically looks when watching 4 of my cameras. This represents cameras from AVTech, ACTi and Dahua.
The other advantage of this device is you can run just about any Android app, including a web browser (I recommend Dolphin), Angry Birds, Netflix and others. I installed Netflix as I want to be able to watch movies on this TV. It worked really well. When I logged in to Netflix, it instantly came up and when I say instantly, faster than a Roku, faster than a Tivo, and even faster than the Netflix app on one of my TVs. Scrolling is done with the scroll wheel on the mouse. Click on a movie and it starts playing. Doesn’t get much simpler.
Here’s what it looks like when it first starts playing a movie, in this case, my favorite, Family Guy. The Netflix controls disappear after a few seconds.
I would recommend this for anyone that wants to watch their cameras on any TV in their house. I would imagine that like any WiFI device, if the TV is far from your router, you may have WiFi issues. The simplest solution is get a WiFi repeater. Some have gone through great lengths to try to improve the reception but reality is that shoving this behind your TV and having a router that’s 2-3 rooms away is not going to give you the best reception. So you use common sense when using WiFi. Earlier versions did have WiFi issue, the one I have works great.
So now you want one and you want it now. The best place to buy it is in China. I’ve seen an occasional eBay auction but people want too much money for this. The place I bought it from and has the best price is In4Dealz in China. It’s currently $60 and shipping took about 2 weeks, part of that was because I ordered it during a Chinese holiday. Click HERE to go to their website. I’m not promoting their site, just offering it as one place you can buy it from. I got a black one as my goal is to hide it but it does come in a few different colors.
The IP Cam Viewer APK file can be found by Googling for it. There are ways to hack this device and make the Play Store show every single app, but I wanted to keep this review simple and use this device as it comes out of the box. If you are interested in rooting the device, click HERE to find out how.
Lastly, for those that use BlueIris software. You can setup IP Cam Viewer to show a cameras setup in BlueIris but I find that it works best directly configuring each camera. You can always use a browser to view your cameras directly from BlueIris. It’s not IE, so some NVR software will not work this way, but BlueIris will.