Swann Wire-Free Security Camera review: get face detection without a subscription

The Swann Wire-Free Security Camera doesn’t hide its best features behind a paywall

Swann Wire-Free security camera review
(Image credit: Swann)
T3 Verdict

The Swann Wire-Free Security Camera tempts with its wide-angle lens and face detection that won’t cost you extra, but it struggles for video quality, and offers less strong night performance than rivals.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Very wide angle

  • +

    Face detection and 7-day cloud storage are free

  • +

    Vehicle, pet and heat detection

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Video quality issues

  • -

    Night vision isn’t great

  • -

    Some won't like the need to recharge

Welcome to T3's Swann Wire-Free Security Camera review. Swann is a very big name in CCTV, and its security expertise is also available in wireless cameras such as this, so you can build your own collection of Wi-Fi cameras and connect them to your router.

With a totally wireless design that's all the rage among the best security cameras – including the new and very similar Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera – this aims to bring a lot of convenience for building up your home security, while also offering excellent value.

It offers some interesting and very useful features – and doesn't require you to pay for a subscription to access all of them, unlike some competitors – but there are  limitations too. Let's discover the pros and cons of this smart security camera.

Swann Wire-Free Security Camera review: Price and features

Swann Wire-free security camera

(Image credit: Swann)

The Swann Wire-Free Security Camera is $149.99 / £149.99 / AU$249.95 for a single camera. The available multi-packs vary from country to country: in the UK there’s a twin pack for £289.99, in Australia you can buy up to 4 cameras at once for AU$849.95 and in the US you can get five cameras for $499.

It's worth noting that at the time of writing, multiple retailers are selling the single camera with big discounts.

Many of the specifications here are standard for this kind of camera at this price: motion sensing, customisable mobile alerts (with rich notifications including images if you’re a subscriber), weatherproofing for outdoor use and two-way audio so you can talk to visitors or hear what’s happening. But there are some interesting differences between the Swann and similarly priced rivals.

One of the key selling points here is that you don’t need to shell out for a subscription in order to enable key features. The Swann enables you to save video to the cloud and keep it for 7 days and to back up the most recent two days locally. It also gives you face detection for up to 10 people, something rival cameras usually charge for.

Additional storage is available for $4.99 / £4.95 / AU$6.95 a month for one camera or $14.99 / £12.95 / AU$19.95 for up to 10 devices. This gives you 60 days of cloud storage plus vehicle and pet detection, rich notifications and camera insurance that will replace a stolen camera if you can produce a police report.

Swann Wire-Free Security Camera review: Setup

Swann Wire-Free Security camera pairing

Pairing is as simple as scanning a QR code. Once paired, the camera is locked to your account as an anti-theft measure.

(Image credit: Future)

The Swann camera comes with a strong magnetic mounting stand, screws and wall plugs, a 3M adhesive strip and warning stickers to deter villains. Once you’ve installed the app you can register the camera by scanning the QR code printed on the bottom. There’s an optional solar panel you can use to extend the camera’s battery life. 

Like many wireless devices the Swann creates its own Wi-Fi hotspot that you connect to in order to configure the camera. We couldn’t get the automated setup to work but setting the camera up manually was simple and quick thanks to the on-screen instructions. When you pair the camera, it’s locked to your Swann account as an anti-theft measure – when someone else tries to set it up, Swann's servers won't let them, because it's still matched to you. You can remove the camera from your account any time, though – even if it's not on your network any more.

The Wire-Free Security Camera only works on the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band and needs to be within 20m of the router or access point. The 6,000mAh rechargeable battery should last for around 8-10 weeks before needing recharged. It takes about six hours to recharge via the supplied microUSB cable. Alternatively, you can get packages that come with solar panels, to extend the life.

Swann Wire-Free Security Camera review: App and usability

Swann Wire-Free Security camera modes

The Modes feature enables you to set different levels of security depending on when you're home or away or whether it's day or night.

(Image credit: Future)

The Swann Wire-Free Security Camera doesn’t require a subscription to enable its core features but you will need to create a Swann user account to use the app. It’s available for iOS (11.0 or later) and Android (8.9 or better). It works with Google Assistant and Alexa.

The app is divided into four panels: Modes, where you can set the options for day, night and when you’re away – so for example you might disable motion detection when you’re home to save battery but have it set to the maximum when you’re away; Playback, which enables you to view your locally stored or cloud-stored video; Live View, which connects to your camera(s) and lets you see their live view, battery life and Wi-Fi connection status; and Device Settings.

Motion detection is very good, with very few false positives. You can also use heat detection and vehicle detection to further reduce the risk of false triggering.

Swann Wire-Free Security Camera review: Image quality

Swann Wire-Free Security Camera outdoor

Image quality in daylight is good but not great. Night vision is infra-red only.

(Image credit: Future)

The camera here is a 1080p ultra-wide angle camera with a 180-degree field of view and motion sensing. Its motion detector has a range of up to 8m, and the night vision has the same 8m range. Audio range is up to 5m. As with all wide-angle cameras the image has noticeable lens distortion that becomes more prominent the further from the centre you get.

Although the camera is capable of 1080p resolution, we found the image quality was often poor, with lots of artefacts and flat colours even in daylight. Live streaming suffered from very noticeable lag and stutter, even when the unit was positioned next to the router, and connections often dropped. We've tried other wireless cameras in the same spots and had no problems.

The same issues were present at night, and the lack of illumination other than the short-range IR lamp meant that things got very fuzzy a fairly short distance from the camera. Compared to the illuminated, colour footage of rival devices such as the Arlo Essential Security Camera the night vision mode here was disappointing.

The sheer width of the lens is a draw here for sure – you can simply cover more space from a single unit. But while you'll be able to see generally what's going on, we just need the compression quality of the video to be higher.

It's quite possible that it's something that can be improved via a software update, but we can only judge what's in front of us now, and that's only okay at best.

Swann Wire-Free Security Camera indoor

The wide-angle lens means you need fewer cameras to cover large spaces, but there's some distortion at the edges.

(Image credit: Future)

Swann Wire-Free Security Camera review: Verdict

Swann Wire-free security camera

(Image credit: Swann)

The Swann Wire-Free Security Camera is something of a mixed bag. Its unusually wide field of view means you need fewer cameras to cover the same area, and the ability to use face recognition without having to pay for a subscription is a nice touch we wish rivals would also adopt. Combined, they make it really tempting when it comes to value alone. But the video quality is not up to the same level as rivals, and night vision is more limited too. 

As discounted prices, the Swann definitely has a place as a budget buy if you don’t need smartphone-quality video and want smart features without a monthly fee. But as a wireless security camera overall, we'd recommend looking to the Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera or Ring Stick-Up Cam (Battery) first.

Carrie Marshall
Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).