The YI Dome Camera U is an affordable pan-tilt security camera that puts your privacy first. We love that you can close its physical privacy shutter to keep the camera from intruding on your personal moments. For an extra touch of security, you can even create a PIN code in the app to restrict unauthorized access. Aside from the privacy features, this home security camera is adequate for folks wanting simple mobile app controls to check on the house.
YI Dome Camera Review
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Info current as of 06/01/2021. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*Limited to 6-second clips
What's in the box
- YI Dome Camera U
- Power adapter
- Power cable
- Camera wall mount
- Installation hardware
- Product manual
- YI Dome Guard (about $30) is newer and cheaper than the rest but lacks a privacy mode to cover its lens.
- YI Dome Camera X (about $50) is older than the U but has identical features but no face detection—we don't recommend it.
- YI Dome Camera U Pro (about $48) is the only real upgrade, thanks to a higher 2K video resolution.
Although YI Dome Camera U is hardly the only product with privacy tools, we're glad that it acknowledges how software bugs and hacking aren't entirely preventable. When you activate the privacy shutter, the camera pans down so the flat shield on top covers the lens. This means that even if someone manages to intercept your video feed, they won't see a thing.
To further enhance the privacy shutter, you can lock the YI Dome Camera U behind a custom PIN code in the mobile app. Only family members with the code can use the camera or adjust its settings. These privacy-first features alone make the camera a worthwhile alternative to other cheap security cameras.
Smart detection is another valuable tool in the YI Dome Camera U's arsenal. This helps the camera tell if there's a person or sound worth checking out. Person detection is a great way to prevent pets and other objects from triggering too many notifications. We had trouble getting person detection to work with the free cloud storage, but it seems to perform okay when you use a microSD card with the camera.
We also like YI's sound-detection feature, which sends you a notification whenever sound levels exceed a certain threshold. So you can use the unit as a baby monitor while working in the garden or taking a nap of your own. Because the sound detection relies on the loudness of a sound, you can make it more sensitive to listen for breaking glass or other signs of a break-in while you're away from home.
While the YI Dome Camera U supports face detection, it doesn't offer any recognition features to tell friend from foe. Instead, it saves a record of every face that the camera sees so you can review them later. While it's a convenient way to look for unfamiliar faces, it's not much more effective than person detection.
The YI Dome Camera U also comes with a fairly standard feature for pan-tilt cameras: auto cruise. This allows the camera to look around the room and uses smart motion tracking to follow subjects—keeping them in the frame as long as possible. It's not revolutionary but still feels cool to see in action.
Video and mobile app
Based on our research, the video quality on YI Dome Camera U is similar to that of other YI security cameras in daytime and nighttime conditions. The 1080p resolution offers enough detail to read half-inch handwritten text as far as six feet but starts to lose clarity as you move further away from the camera. Facial features are generally distinctive until you hit 15 feet—it helps that many rooms in a home aren't bigger than this.
The camera shows a bright infrared image at night, but the IR LEDs aren't powerful enough to illuminate more than 10 feet from the camera. In general, we found that YI cameras lack strong night vision compared to other brands. The YI Dome Camera U's good enough for watching over your house, but we think Reolink and Wyze offer better quality for the price.
The YI Dome Camera U is compatible with two mobile apps: YI Home and Kami Home, but the difference is entirely cosmetic. It doesn't matter which app you use. Regardless, this app is your portal to setting up the camera, viewing video recordings, adjusting the camera's pan and tilt, and talking with people using two-way audio.
Setting up the YI Dome Camera U is a breeze. All you do is download the mobile app, scan a QR code on the camera, and set up your camera's Wi-Fi connection using a second QR code.
To install the camera, you can put it on a shelf to save time. But you'll find it has a better view of your room if you mount it on a ceiling or wall using the included bracket and screws.
Viewing cloud recordings
The app interface is simple but heavily gears toward getting you to buy one of the expensive cloud storage plans. Counterintuitively, tapping on the Cloud tab won't show you the clips available on free cloud storage. Instead, you need to choose the Alerts tab to see recent recordings.
For a YI camera to record and send activity alerts to the app, we found that you need to put the system in Away mode on the home screen. This is a nice way of knowing that your cameras aren't active, but we'd prefer a way to capture free cloud video in the background without notifications.
Viewing local recordings
We used a microSD card for local storage during our tests of other YI cameras, but it took a Google search to find out how to view these recordings in the YI app. The videos don't have a dedicated tab like the cloud storage and alerts—instead requiring a tap on the camera's live view to show the recording timeline.
While the timeline is an easy way to view recent recordings, it takes a lot of swiping to check out older clips. This is way more tedious than the simple album of clips most other camera brands use (or even the Alerts tab in the YI Home app).
Connecting the microSD card to a computer isn't any better since it organizes clips into folders for every hour of the day—potentially creating 24 folders a day for you to sort through. When a camera can record days or weeks of footage, you're suddenly looking through hundreds of folders.
Local storage on YI cameras records all motion detection events regardless of which smart detection settings you use—smart detection applies only to cloud storage. The only way to control when local recording runs is to schedule when the camera turns on and off.
We're not big fans of YI's bare-bones customer support. The online help center has useful information to help you learn how the cameras work and fix some problems, but it doesn't explain beyond telling you where to turn on specific settings. This light approach works well enough for simple issues, but there's no technical background for more experienced users to fall back on. YI Technology isn't wholly without good customer support, but you need to visit the YI Community forum to find it.
YI Dome Camera vs. the best cheap security cameras
|Privacy pick||Top pick||Outdoor pick||Video pick||Smart home pick|
YI Dome Camera U
Wyze Cam v3
Reolink E1 Pro
Eufy Indoor Cam 2K
|Cloud storage||Starts at $4.99/mo.*||Starts at $1.99/mo.*||None||Starts at $0.00/mo.||Starts at $2.99/mo.|
|Max microSD size||Up to 32 GB||Up to 32 GB||Up to 128 GB||Up to 64 GB||Up to 128 GB|
|Smart home||Amazon Alexa,|
|Amazon Alexa||Amazon Alexa,|
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*Amazon.com list price as of 06/01/2021 at 2:11 p.m. (MT). Read full disclaimer.
The YI Dome Camera U won't win any contests for video resolution or innovative features. But it's a great option for privacy features. We also like that it comes with people and sound detection. Unfortunately, YI's cloud storage plans aren't competitive with other major camera manufacturers, but the microSD card slot should be enough for most folks.
How we reviewed
We weren't able to test the YI Dome Camera U directly for this review. Instead, we relied on our recent experiences testing other YI cameras (actually Kami) and online research for our evaluation. We paid particular attention to videos and screenshots from the YI cam while comparing them to the Kami Mini we had on hand. There weren't really any performance differences between the models, so our conclusions are the same.
We also thoroughly examined the YI Home app to discover strengths and hiccups that make or break the user experience. Check out our testing methodology to learn more about how we review products.
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*Amazon.com list price as of 06/01/2021 at 2:11 p.m (MT). Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Safewise.com utilizes paid Amazon links.
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