The Soliom Bird S60 outdoor wireless solar home security camera sure looks the part. It's a beautiful piece of hardware that includes a 1080p night vision camera with a solar panel "wing" wrapping around it. The whole package looks like a real deal, so out of the box, it sets a high expectation.
Alas! It turned out to be the worst camera I've used, mostly due to its horrid mobile app. At $140, the Soliom is much cheaper than other alternatives, like the Arlo Ultra. But considering how unreliable it is, I wouldn't recommend it until better software is available.
Soliom Bird S60: A mixed bag solar-powered Wi-Fi outdoor cam
The idea of the Soliom is quite simple. It's a battery-operated Wi-Fi outdoor security camera. What makes it unique, however, is the integrated solar panel that continuously charges the battery during the daytime. As a result, in regions with lots of sunlight, you won't need to worry about it running out of juice.
And power-wise, this can work. The battery, on a full charge, had enough power to keep the camera run for close some 10 hours on ends in my testing.
By default, the camera only records when there are motions so you won't use up more than a few hours of battery life every night. On a sunny day, the solar panel continuously replenishes the charge so, with conservative use, the camera can generally last by itself.
In case you want to charge it manually, there's a micro-USB port on the underside and an included USB cable that you can use with a phone charger or a computer's USB port. You can also plug the camera in if you want to use it in areas with short daylight. Doing so, however, would compromise the camera’s water resistance.
According to Soliom, the Bird S60 is IP66 certified weather-resistant. IP66 means the camera can withstand all weather conditions. During my testing, the weather was beautiful, but the camera indeed survived me spraying water on it with a garden hose on multiple occasions.
Setting up the Soliom is easy. The camera includes more than enough accessories for you to mount it on a wall. More because there are three crews, but I only needed one to keep mine firmly attached to a wooden fence. OK, I was just lazy.
Out of the box, the camera's battery is half-full. Turn it on via the button on its underside, and it's now ready. The only thing left to do is use the Soliom mobile app to link the camera to a Wi-Fi network.
The app setup part was also a no-brainer in my test. I just needed to follow the onscreen instruction. A couple of things to note:
- The camera only supports 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. So make sure you don't try to connect it to a 5GHz network.
- After the setup process, the camera remains linked with the app -- you can manage it from anywhere as long as your phone or tablet has access to the Internet. It's quite interesting since there's no requirement for a login account.
In all, I was able to set everything up in less than 10 minutes. Unfortunately, things started to go downhill from there.
Inconsistent hardware quality
While the Soliom looks good, its internal hardware is not all of high-quality. Examples are the built-in mic and speaker. With these two, supposedly you can remotely talk to the person near the camera using your phone. In reality, though, you can't. The camera's speaker is too quiet - it can hardly crackle a sound. The mic is also lackluster -- there's a lot of static in a recording.
Decent image quality, short videos
Supporting 1080p, the Soliom has good image quality for a still photo. Things are clear enough, and I could read a license place from some 10 feet (3m) away.
Its video quality leaves a lot to be desired, however. Most of the time, the recorded motions are choppy -- things either move too slowly or too fast due to missing frames. More often than not, the recorded video lasted just a few seconds. By the way, by default, the camera record only 8 seconds of footage at a time which is not enough for any security purposes.
The camera's night vision works, but with similar quality and issues as that of day time.
Soliom Bird S60: Badly designed mobile app
The Soliom app is the only way for users to use the camera. As such, how well the app works determines the S60's user experience. And unfortunately, there are just so many things wrong with this app.
First, the app requires access to the phone's mic, storage, and camera to work. If you deny access to any of these, it won't even launch. This bizarre behavior actually made me concerned about my privacy -- you should always think twice before giving any app access to your phone's camera and mic.
While I understand why the app wants access to the phone's hardware parts -- for example, the mic is necessary for the intercom feature to work --, I don't see why it would need it. To make the matter worse, if you manually remove the app's access to the phone's storage, that will disassociate the camera with the app, meaning you'll need to do the setup part again.
The fact that the app is so adamant about getting access makes me feel there's an evil ulterior motive on the part of Soliom. In reality, though, this might just have been the work of some lousy software developers.
Ambiguous user interface, limited settings
The second bad thing about the app is its the wording of the interface. It's just bad English, making it hard to figure out precisely what a setting means.
For example, there's this "Dormancy time" setting which has the value of 15, 30, 60 seconds or "Not dormant." It seems that this is the idle time before the camera shuts itself down until the next motion is detected. However, when I picked "Not dormant," that effectively made the camera record continuously until its battery ran out. (By the way, if you select this value and wait till the battery runs out, you'll need to charge it using the USB port before you can change the setting.)
Another example is when viewing a recording, the zoom function is called "switch," the loop function is called "cruise," and the on/off switch for sound is labeled as "voice." Quite confusing.
Also, there are not many customizations in regards to video. For example, by default, there's a time and date stamp embedded on the recording, and there's no way to remove that. You can't create zones, either, in case you want to ignore certain areas within the camera's view.
Intrusive and annoying notification
The app can automatically send notifications to your phone when motions are detected. By itself, this feature is not a big deal since all camera apps can do that. What makes the Soliom app different, in the form a massive pain in the rear, is the way its notification works.
By default, each time the camera detects motion, the app would pop up a message that looks like there's an incoming call. When this happens, the notification would take up the phone's entire screen and kicks you out of whatever app you're using, including when you're already on the phone with somebody.
The worst is, even when I turned off the notification for the Soliom app, the notification still popped up. After a while, I found out the way to turn it off: Change the value of Accept call to "Notification" (rather than "Call in"). Why this setting is called "Accept call," I have no idea.
Terrible security footage management
Part of why you'd have a security camera is so that you can view what has happened after the fact, and the Soliom Bird S60 fails in this regard so miserably.
Upon launching the Soliom app, you need to access the camera's live footage before you can view any recorded videos or change any settings. Consequently, if the camera is unavailable (i.e., out of battery, broken, or stolen), you won't be able to view any recordings at all. This design makes the camera's cloud storage completely useless. Worst of all, the bad guy can just destroy the camera, or steal it and rest assured they remain invisible.
Even when the camera is available, viewing existing recordings can be a pain. The footage appears in a 24-hour timeline dial that you can swipe back and forth. The problem is the timeline view is only useful if you want to look at the recent recordings. To view videos of previous days, you'll have to swipe a lot. And since the timeline only shows hours, you'll have to resort to the time stamps on the video itself to know to which day it belongs. It's also important to note that the timeline doesn't always work; at times, when you want it to stop at a point in the past, it just jumps straight to the live view.
Even when it works as expected and you find that particular recording you want to keep, you can't just download it. Instead, you'll have to tap on the record button and have your phone record it as part of its gallery.
In all, the way the Soliom manages its security footage ultimately defeats its primary purpose as a security camera. In other words, it can be entirely useless as a surveillance solution.
Soliom Bird S60: Good battery life
As mentioned above, I accidentally found out how long the Soliom's battery lasted in on a full charge by picking the "Not dormant" setting -- some 10 hours of continuous usage. After that, with the Dormancy setting set at 15 seconds, the camera has never run out of battery since.
A security camera's battery life depends a lot on its usage. I tested the Soliom Bird S60 in my backyard -- which generally doesn't have a lot of actions at night --, and at publication, it has lasted for days without running out of battery. So the camera's solar power works out well. If only its mobile app worked equally well, this would make an excellent security cam.
Soliom Bird S60's Rating
Nice wire-free hardware design, weather-resistant
Decent image quality
Crude and intrusive mobile app
No access to cloud footage when the camera is unavailable
Short, choppy video recordings
2.4GHz Wi-Fi only
Inconsistent overall performance
The Soliom Bird S60 outdoor wireless solar home security camera has a beautiful hardware design and a practical solar-power concept. Unfortunately, due to the awful mobile app, the camera is far from reliable enough to work as a security solution.
As of now, most of its camera-related functions either don't work or work inconsistently. If you still like its solar power idea, at least wait until a new major software update is available before getting yours.