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Swann MaxRanger4K Solar - This Security System Will Go Far

Glenn Hart,
Publish Date
Fri, 24 May 2024, 2:37pm

Swann MaxRanger4K Solar - This Security System Will Go Far

Glenn Hart,
Publish Date
Fri, 24 May 2024, 2:37pm

One thing I've learned about tech over the years is as good as any device may be, there's always room for improvement.

I've found this has been especially true for home security cameras.

As CCTV technology has evolved and become more accessible, features like picture quality, two-way communication and smart motion detection have all improved as well.

And yet...

There are still two things I'd like my cameras to do;

I'd like to be able to mount them anywhere - unrestricted by how far the Wi-Fi or power supply reaches.

And I'd like access to basic features like video storage without having to pay an ongoing subscription.

Is it possible Swann has solved my two major pain points?

The MaxRanger4K solar security system makes some pretty bold claims, the biggest of which are a range of up to 600 metres and something Swann calls "forever charging."

We'll get into all that shortly but first, let's take a few minutes to unpack the MaxRanger4K solar system - and you will definitely need a few minutes, there's plenty to unpack.

The MaxRanger4K system comes in a pack of four, three or two cameras, with the option of a single add-on camera if you decide you need to expand your system down the track. I was sent the two-pack to review but there's a lot more in the box than just a couple of cameras. You'll also find the Power Hub, which is the key to the MaxRanger4K's unprecedented range, a couple of outdoor mounting stands and the associated hardware, plenty of theft deterrent stickers so the baddies know they're being watched, an ethernet cable, a 64GB microSD card, two USB charging cables, an HDMI cable and even a mouse.

Not a bad stash for NZ$1049.95.

But wait... did you say an HDMI cable and a mouse? Like a computer mouse? Yup. That's because instead of accessing the camera feeds and recordings via your phone or tablet - which you can obviously do via the Swann Security app - you can also plug the Power Hub into any display with an HDMI input to create your own on-screen feed.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First we have to set these cameras up and that's a bit boring I'm afraid, because it involves charging everything first, which takes several hours. Each camera has a weather-proof rubber bung at the back concealing a USB port, an on/off switch and a pairing button. In most cases, you'll only need to access these once, as the cameras are pre-paired to the Power Hub and because they're solar powered, they only need an initial charge to get them going.

Which brings us to that "forever charge" claim. It's been my experience with most solar-powered devices they work well at first but once the weather has its way with the solar panels they tend to get gunged up, dirty and generally stop doing what they're supposed to. However, the solar panels on top of each of the MaxRanger4K cameras are not like any other I've encountered before. They're not smooth and glassy but are knobbly and rubbery instead. Who knows if this will work out better (it's only been a week or so at this stage) but so far, each camera is doing a great job of charging itself up every day.

The Power Hub even contains a removable rechargeable cell which will provide several hours backup power in the event of an outage. And of course, it's the Power Hub that's the real key to this system's impressive range.

Unlike some cameras, the Swann MaxRanger4K units don't connect directly to your home Wi-Fi. Instead, they link via their own network to the Power Hub which is hardlined to your router via ethernet cable. The only downside to a system like this is you may be somewhat restricted as to where you can install the Power Hub as it'll need to be within an ethernet cable's reach of your router or access point. However, this becomes a bit of a non-issue thanks to the genuinely insane range of this thing.

Remember, Swann promises up to 600 metres(open air) and 200 metres (typical use) - but even at 200 metres that's so much further than most people's Wi-Fi will reach - especially from inside though external walls, doors and windows etc.

The combination of totally wireless, solar-powered cameras and this unheard-of range means you can put the cameras anywhere... in trees, at the end of fence lines, down long driveways... there's essentially no limitation making this the ideal home security solution for people living in rural settings or on larger lifestyle blocks.

By modern suburban standards, my home is built on a pretty large section 700m2+ so I decided to mount my two MaxRanger4K cameras at opposite corners - one up a palm tree at the very front of my property and one on the fence at the very back. The signal from both Sony STARVIS 4K sensors comes in loud and clear, no trouble at all. And thanks to the powerful, built-in spotlights, that means high definition footage, day or night.

When you think about it, positioning cameras like this, pointing back at your property, makes a lot more sense than attaching them to the house looking out; this way you can monitor several doors, gates and windows at once.

You can then have alerts sent to your phone, tablet or smartwatch, much like most other cameras. These alerts come through in quick time and here's the other big bonus of this system, you don't have to pay extra to store your automated video recordings. These can be saved to the included microSD card, an external storage drive attached to the Power Hub via USB, or in the cloud on your linked Dropbox account.

In my view, this is the very least a camera system you've already spent hundreds on should do - and yet so many of Swann's competitors insist you pay a subscription for the privilege of storing your own recordings. It drives me nuts.

That's not to say Swann doesn't offer its own subscription-based optional extras. These include longer periods of cloud storage, a greater range of specific notifications and extended support, warranty and insurance options. I consider all these to be nice-to-haves rather than have-to-haves - although I do prefer to have lockscreen previews of saved clips as these are usually visible on my smartwatch too.

The point is, I've used cameras that will only offer basic notifications and live-stream without a paid subscription - no recordings available at all. I credit Swann for not holding its customers to ransom that way.

There's a trial period for the Swann Secure+ plans and no, it's not just a month. You can try the extra features like package, vehicle and pet detection for a generous 90 days before you have to decide if they're worth paying for.

As I've already outlined, you can also plug the Power Hub into a monitor or TV for a bigger display of up to eight cameras. Using the included mouse you can easily access your recordings or make changes to your setup instead of using the app.

The only place the MaxRanger4K system doesn't quite deliver for me is there's no way to customise the zones each camera monitors; you can adjust the sensitivity of the motion detection but you can't block out specific areas like busy roads or public footpaths.  Perhaps this is something that could be added in a future firmware upgrade or if not, in the next generation of cameras.

For now though, the MaxRanger4K system absolutely delivers when it comes to a totally wireless security camera. I just checked the app and both cameras are fully charged (as always) and I've certainly never experienced range like this before.



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